Saturday, July 26, 2003

"River tries to help the Captain but just succeeds in confusing him. Inara takes on a new client and the crew of Serenity have the offer of a lucrative job."



SUMMARY: "River tries to help the Captain but just succeeds in confusing him. Inara takes on a new client and the crew of Serenity have the offer of a lucrative job." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and "Firefly" are the gift and property of Joss Whedon. No infringement of copyright is intended.


A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

They were going to Boros. Inara had business there and Mal had heard of a job going. Details were sketchy but then the whole 'verse was like a patchy line drawing not fully inked in. Some bits had pretty much no colour. Others blazed with it like the neon lights of some casino seducing the unwary to part with their money on the rigged tables for the illusive promise of sating their greed. Easy money. Or so they thought. Huh. It was early. He was first to rise. Probably because he slept in snatches. Couldn't remember the last time he had gone right through the night unless you counted the four days Simon had drugged him. He was still more than a little vexed about that though another part of him acknowledged the boy had saved his life. It had been his longest period of sleep in years. Least. Since the war. The war. *Wu de ma*. Why couldn't he leave that cross behind him? Was he destined to spend eternity with the gorram thing strapped to his back? He poured himself a coffee. It was hot, black and bitter but it sharpened the senses dulled by weariness. His wound had pretty much healed. Hardly hurt at all unless he moved too quickly from a moment of stillness.

He took his seat at the empty table and thought about Inara. Hated that she whored herself and shrugged it off to him as business. Not that there was anything wrong in that but it was like a burr under his saddle. Irked him. An itch he could not scratch. She was a fine woman and had many talents. Shouldn't have to debase herself like that and call it a living. She was better than that. Why settle for scraping the barrel of humanity to gather coin when she could rise above such things and hold her head high the equal of any of them? She should be able to choose who she gave herself to, for love not money. Affection not financial gain. Yet he seemed to be the only one with a problem with it. It hurt him that she held herself so cheaply. Not that he would ever say so. He had a pretty good idea she had already figured that part out. Her being so smart and all. He didn't mean to lash out at her so much. His scathing words a form of self defence when no blow had been struck. As if he could somehow pre-empt the pain of her actions before they could ripple back to him and catch him unawares. It was not his business yet that made no difference. She was on his boat. Part of his crew by association if not fact. How could he protect her when she repeatedly put herself at risk like that? It disturbed him. Offended his sense of rightness. And somewhere deep inside a quiet voice was offended in a much more personal way. Best not go down that road. It being a painful dead-end and all.

He had almost drained his mug when he felt eyes on him. River. How long had she been standing there just a few feet from his right shoulder? She looked so small and young. Lost and lonely. Fragile. He had a feeling that even if every soul in the 'verse stood shoulder to shoulder with her she would still be alone. It put a shiver in him that chilled the bone. He did not like to think of her like that. "*Ni hao ma*, River?"

River took a couple of steps towards him and reached out slowly to touch his chest. He froze, his mug half way to his lips, and just looked at her. "*Hen teng*."

He shook his head gently and put his mug down. "No, it's not painful any more mei mei."

River flattened her palm over his heart. That was not what she had meant. For a moment they were like statues. More being said in the silence than with words.

"*Bang ji le*." He mumbled to himself. "First one up and I get the cryptic craziness all to myself."

River shook her head and smiled softly at him. He froze and waited for her to tell him whatever was on her mind. "Lost." She said softly. "Like Simon." That shook him though he tried to hide it. "Lost? Who's lost? Simon?"

"You're lost."

"River, I'm not lost. I'm right here, *dong ma*?"

"*Ni bu dong*."

He sighed and pushed his chair back intending to stand up. River sat in his lap without asking and looked at him. He gave in gracefully and settled back, one hand raising to gently brush her hair. An almost absent minded soothing gesture though truth be told he was the one who felt most in need of it. "How about you just tell me what's troublin' you, *xin gan*?"

"So much hurt, *tengtong*."


River placed the fingers of her right hand over his mouth to cut him off. "No speaking. Listen."

He smiled at her gentle assertiveness. His smile relaxed her but her eyes still shone like sad lamps across a mist laden pool. "Simon doesn't understand. About the nightmares. Can heal the body but not the soul." She paused. "Your job."

He stiffened slightly with surprise not alarm but her look was so gentle that he willed himself to relax again. To radiate calm. The last thing the poor girl needed was for him to go off on one of his angry sprees. It was just that she had a way of touching things that were all twisted up inside him. Memories, feelings, things that haunted him night and day. That gave no rest to his 'verse weary soul. She gave him a serious look, her voice so quiet that if she had not been sitting in his lap looking straight at him he would have missed them for sure. "When they ask you to go with them, don't go. *Tinglui*."

"When who asks me?"

Her head tilted. "You will want to go. Have to go. But the time's not right." She looked at him again, all in focus and sane for a creepifying minute or two. "He hasn't forgotten you."

"Who?" He whispered. Not sure he wanted to know the answer.

River smiled reassuringly. "The acorn never falls far from the tree but in the Autumn all the leaves are lost. They just get blown away."

"River, I'm not going anywhere."

"They need you here."

'They' not 'we'. He looked at her for a moment nonplussed. Surprised how much the words hurt him. She tilted her face as she considered him, like the vanes on a windmill the angles of her face caught the muted light and reflected it back at him. He did not realise he had spoken until the echo of his words tinged his cheeks with a dusky pink flush. "You don't need me?" He wanted to kick himself. What did it matter to him if River didn't need him? She had Simon and he was her brother. All the family she needed.

"Don't need you." She said softly but devoid of malice. Watching his reaction. She dazzled him with a sudden mischievous smile. "Already got you."

"Is that a fact?" He challenged. Amused. But she could see the sparkle in his eyes and knew he was pleased.

"Got you now but not if you go. Lose you forever if you go."

Her sudden change from happy teasing to sorrow cut him to the quick. He patted her hair, wanting to reassure her. His expression serious. "That's okay *mei mei* 'cause I don't intend on goin' anywhere."

"Intentions don't make maps. Water sometimes flows uphill if you turn the pages upside down. Good things carry pain as well as laughter. Until the well runs dry."

"Now you're creepifying me again, River. Maybe we should go get Simon?"

She put her hand on his arm. "*Tinglui*. Stay where you belong. Where you are needed."

Somehow her words moved him. Touching him deep. "I belong here, River, so don't you go frettin'." He said softly. Did she think he would leave her unprotected? He would never do that. "Ain't goin' nowhere so you just hush, *dong ma*?"


"I promise, I'll remember. Happy now?"

She nodded, smiled and laid her cheek against his chest so she could feel and hear his heartbeat. Her arms wrapping around his waist as her eyes closed. Content. He sighed softly and cradled her in his arms. His coffee forgotten. His mind drifting trying to puzzle together the pieces of her conversation. He thought about River and Simon. All they had been through. They were just kids. What had been done to River was wrong. An evil that twisted his gut with anger and revulsion every time he thought about it. Yet even broken River was still genius enough to know what had been done to her. To be able to see what was broken in each of them. In him too. Sometimes it terrified him how naked he felt in her eyes. As if she had stripped his soul bare as easily as Kaylee did Serenity's engines. But would River's gift save her or ultimately drive them all to madness? He felt a wave of sadness and kissed the top of her head tenderly as if she were precious to him. If he ever found the men who had done this to her he would take them apart cell by cell until the notion of what Reavers could do seemed no more than the loving touch of absent friends.

Unseen in the doorway Shepherd Book took a step back as he watched the Captain's eyes close for a few moments and his body still as if in prayer. His arms a protective circle around the sleeping girl. There was a strange expression on the Preacher's face. Almost a look of reassessment. He watched a minute or two longer then retreated quietly back down the corridor. Soon the bustle of the others rising for breakfast would shatter this brief communion. The Shepherd needed to clear his mind. To think. Only one way he could do that. Making his way to the cargo hold he sought that calm centre of the Bushido. What the ancient Japanese Samurai called the 'Code of the Warrior'. Book was a well read and learned man. Knew many disciplines of martial arts. The Japanese and Thai as well as Chinese. From Shan Yu the torturor philosopher to Lord Shang and Sun Tzu. He knew all of the nine hells of Chinese mythology and the Japenese hell of Jigoku. Of the various heavens he cleaved towards that of Christianity. The One God seeming less complex and confusing than the many of other creeds. In the end they were all ciphers. Markers. Symbols for immutable truths written in the very fabric of eternity but no less real to him. He was a Preacher by design not birth. A warrior by choice. A man of intellect by nature. A stubborn purveyor of wisdom both ancient and modern to feed the fashion of his faith. He sought out the weaknesses in all men then chose his path among their strengths. No fear assailed him. No possibility of failure entered his reckoning. Neither was he concerned about the passage of time. He had patience unending. Why live in haste when the outcome is already assured?

It was only the journey that mattered. The Tao, the Way, the Path. Above all he knew better than anyone that you must *hui tou shi an*. Look Inwards For Salvation.

* * * * *

They reached Boros four hours ahead of schedule. Everyone was happy. Jayne felt his spirits rise at the prospect of another job. All this waiting around in the Black did not sit well with him. And just sitting did not fill his purse with coin. Inara sent a wave ahead to let her contact know that she would arrive early. The Guild had already logged her two appointments and arrangements were well in hand for a suitable meeting place for her clients. The Captain tried to hide his distaste. Make pleasant with the Companion and not throw knives, even the verbal kind. Secretly pleased Inara was slightly puzzled at his restraint. Often he was as abrupt, offensive and brittle as a scalded cat but today he was calm, measured and - dare she think it - civilised? Oh, she could still see that look in his eyes but it was muted. A polite gloss to make his attitude bearable while deep down she knew it did not change a thing. It was just as well she had never given in to the possiblity of getting to know him better. They had too many ways in which they could hurt each other.

"How long will you need, Inara?"

"The two days contracted should be enough. And you?"

A dry almost-smile touched his lips. "I'll be meeting with a contact. Seems there may be a job shifting cargo."

Her eyebrows rose just a little. Not at the prospect of work for the crew on Boros. She knew that already from the table conversation the day before last. It was his attitude that made her watch him more closely. Trying to read between the words to the meaning unspoken. "Who is your contact?"

A flicker of amusement drifted in his eyes. "Some petty thief I'll hazard. Leastways no one of means." But the dig was not barbed this time. Just a reminder of words she had flung in his face a time or two before. "Name's Anderson. Fled a month or two back from some Core planet that didn't like the notion of free trade with the Outer Planets. Them as form the Rim Worlds need supplies too. Alliance didn't agree. They wanted their cut on the choke-hold. Anderson didn't argue, just pulled up his stake and moved on."

She saw a look of admiration in his eyes. As if he would have done the same faced with the same inflexible choices. But then Malcolm Reynolds would not fly under any Alliance flag. Not even one of truce.

"What's the cargo, Mal?"

"Don't rightly know. Figure I'll find out soon enough." He levelled her a look. "Why so interested, Inara?"

She gave a little shrug and continued walking down from her shuttle. He eased himself into her pace. "Just hoping Anderson is not going to be more trouble than gain."

His eyebrows rose before he could hide his surprise. Did she know something he didn't? He took a moment. A pause as they reached the descending ramp where the others were beginning to gather waiting for it to fully extend so she could depart. She still had not told him why she was not using her shuttle but it hardly mattered as their business dealings would be finished later today giving Captain and crew the chance to stretch their legs on Boros and replenish the ship's supplies before Inara returned and they could be on their way. "Is there something you want to tell me, Inara?"

She gave a little shake of her head. Flawless composure gifted him with a little smile. "No. Just be careful."

"You too."

Kaylee hugged her then with smiles and nods to the crew Inara descended the ramp where another Companion was waiting for her. The Captain watched them exchanged polite hugs then turn and walk away arm in arm. Jayne sauntered over to him chewing on something in his mouth. Could have been anything from the remains of his breakfast to a lump of compressed liquorice he had picked up on Persephone. Never did aid a man's digestion to contemplate the things that man put in his mouth. "Where's the meet takin' place, Cap?"

"Place called *Pang Zhu Fanguan*."

The big man frowned as if the sun was in his eyes. Sure he must have misheard. "A restaurant?"

Wash spoke up before the Captain could answer. "It's one of the best restaurants on Boros. 'If' you can find it."

The way he said the word 'restaurant' made it sound as if it might just have well have been on the dock. As if the place were somewhat disreputable. The Captain slanted him a look. Zoe had one arm draped loosely around Wash's neck. They looked good. Comfortable together. Not that he would admit that the notion of them being together had grown on him. They were good for each other which meant it was good for Serenity. "What do you know about the place, Wash?"

He gave a little smile. Kaylee tucked herself in beside the Captain, his arm automatically circling her so she could relax against him. The Preacher watched and listened as if his mind was distracted, thinking about something else. Something far away though he was keenly aware of everything that was said. Jayne flicked an eye towards the Shepherd then dismissed him from his mind. He was itching to get going but didn't know the Captain's timetable. It never paid to rush Mal but he sure hated hanging around.

"Not much. Very *renao* and their *chashaobao*..." Wash rolled his eyes. "Let's just say you've never tasted pork like it."

Jayne's eyes fastened on his. He was already salivating. "Real *zhuron*?"

Wash smiled at him. "Yeah. Real pork. Or, at least it's meat." He glanced at Zoe. "It is meat isn't it, sweetie? Please tell me it's meat?"

"It's meat, husband." He began to relax into a smile when she continued.

"Not sure 'what' kind of meat..."

At Wash's expression the Captain chuckled then he was all business. "Okay, enough of the funnin' around. I meet Anderson in just under four hours. Jayne, I want you to come with me." The big man's face lit up. "Just go easy on the *zhuron*. This is work, *jide*? No getting side tracked by your stomach."

Jayne scowled. "Aw Mal!" He bit off anything else he was going to say. Why did Mal have to take all the fun out of things? But Mal was no longer paying him any attention. He was remembering what River had said earlier. A feeling shivered through him like someone walking over his grave. In hob nail boots. Both River and Simon were inside the ship. No sense in taking unnecessary risks. If everything went well he intended to let them have an hour or two off the boat to stretch their legs but not yet. Not until he was sure it would be safe. Zoe noticed his distraction. "Sir? *Shenme shi*?"

"Nothing, Zoe. Everything's shiny. Just thinkin' is all."

She gave a nod that said she would accept his explanation. But her look was thoughtful.

* * * * *

Jayne was brimming with anticipation. The winding path to the restaurant was kind of aggravating but it helped him build up a fine appetite. The Captain was loose limbed but alert, his eyes cautious and skimming the crowds as they wove through the marketplace following the instructions they had been given to the letter. Kaylee would love it here. So many sights and sounds. Tables filled with pretties to coo over and gawk at to her little heart's content. Once the deal was done perhaps there would be time for a little relaxing. Some fool was singing while sawing away at an ancient erhu. He paused to listen. Not to the boy's voice but to the instrument itself. The erhu was like the Chinese forerunner of the violin but it had a voice and haunting sadness all of its' own. He stood frozen in time, lost in fragments of the past that had once been so sweet. Back on Shadow they had a ranch. Over forty hands to run it, the Chinese foreman Cheng kept a close eye on everything from the moment the sun rose to the second it set. Mama kept a generous table in keeping with her warm heart. His Uncle had returned alone after him and Mal's father had gone off to fight in another war. He had been too young to understand the full weight of it but even at the tender age of seven he knew his daddy wasn't coming back any time soon. It took a few more hard years to realise it would be never.

The lilting drift and saw mesmerised him. In his mind's eye it was Cheng sitting cross legged on that dirt floor. His weathered hands cradling the instrument like a lover. Then the boy stopped singing and flowed into a tune he recognised. His voice still the erhu sang unaccompanied and was the better for it. The tune was My Last Night. Something pricked his eyes and he had to turn his head away. Fast visions written in flames of quiet passion that licked at his memory leaving trails of joy and pain. The family and hands together round a spit roast. Neighbours arriving to join in the impromptu celebration of crops gathered and sold and cattle gone to market for top dollar. They brought home made pies, warm potato salad, chowder, and a kind of bean curd with chillies in it that Cheng and Uncle Frank liked to lather on everything to the point where Mal often wondered if they tasted anything at all. Laughter, bon homie, and a warmth of joys shared and being blessed among them. Cheng's playing catching at the heart strings as effortlessly as the bow fretted the sweet cries from the strings. He moved away roughly startling Jayne who could not understand why the music affected him. The mercenary gave a grunt. "Huh, you'd think he'd get the damn thing in tune first."

They found the restaurant twenty minutes later and for a moment stood stock still and stared. Jayne's expression was a picture. He was scowling. Disappointment and anger struggling for dominance. "Are ya sure ya got the directions right, Cap?"

The Captain nodded. Tight lipped but near as downhearted as Jayne. He stepped up to the dusty front door of a large half tumbled down building, the red paint fading and covered in dirt and grime. The state of the place all but shouting its' dereliction at them. Mal squinted at something in Chinese characters to the side of the door and rubbed his hand over it. As he cleaned off the grime the sign clearly read *Pang Zhu Fanguan* in pinyin and Chinese characters. He glanced at Jayne, almost tempted to laugh out loud at his sour expression. He looked so damn disappointed. "Come on, let's see what *gos se* this is about."

Jayne was wary now. "I don't know, Mal, it don't look healthy to me."

"Neither does having no work. No work, no money. No money, ship don't fly. We don't eat. If we get grounded we're vulnerable to the Alliance and every other sorry assed *wangba dan* on this dirtball, *dong ma*?"

The mercenary nodded but he did not have to like it. Mal put his hand on the doorknob and paused to look at Jayne. "Hang back and stay alert. If it's an ambush don't want them takin' us both down."

Now rattlers were throwing a party inside Jayne's gut but he just nodded tightly and watched as the Captain slowly turned the handle. It opened with hardly a creak. That little fact stirred the hairs on the back of Mal's neck, his gun already eased out of his holster, his finger ghosting the trigger. An oiled lock meant the place was maintained. The interior was an even bigger shock. Once through the door the sumpteous decor and rich furnishings gave him pause. His breath caught. Chandeliers that mimicked crystal dragons hung from renewed rafters. Painted paper lampshades muted the lights to an ambient glow of golds and red. Nothing stirred. Jayne liked this view of Wonderland even less. He moved quietly up behind the Captain so he could hiss in his ear.

"I say we get out of this creep house now, Cap." Before Mal could respond a cultured voice cut in and the most amazing apparition stepped out from a doorway half concealed at the far end of the large dining room by a heavy red curtain with two elegant cranes picked out in white and gold silk. Even the Captain's mouth dropped open in surprise. The woman was richly dressed in heavily embroidered silks, her face a mask in white paint. Like a china Pierrot doll mocking a geisha. A strange mix of Chinese and Japanese as if the woman had a foot in both cultures which given the volatile past between the two countries-that-were was more than likely. Her head bobbed as if it was on a wire. "*Huanying* to my humble abode Captain Reynolds."

The woman bowed slowly from the waist, a flutter of her right hand producing a metal edged fan of exquisite design from a wide sleeve. Jayne recognised it and was wary. He cut a look across to the Captain to see if he had noticed. It was hard to tell in this fun house. "You seem to have the advantage of me, ma'am."

Her smile was cosmetic. Her voice low and musical with an odd cadence that he could not place. "I am An Li."

He did not smile back. "I was expecting Anderson."

A nod then she was gliding towards them as if she were on castors. "He will be here shortly. *Ni chi le ma*?"

"*Bu qu*."

Jayne leaned in close to Mal. "*Wo e le*, Cap." He said quietly, voice strained.

"You're always hungry." Said the Captain quietly. His voice carrying in the stillness of the room.

Their host smiled. "Then you shall eat!"

Before the Captain could say anything An Li clapped her hands together and two girls in less ornate silks and unpainted faces came scurrying out from the back. Jayne really began to drool now. Mal shot him a warning look. They might have to eat something to avoid offending their host and ruining any chance they had with Anderson but that did not stretch to whoring. He could almost feel the heat coming off Jayne. *Ta ma de* he should have brought Zoe. Or maybe even Wash. Wash had been here before. Was that why he had seemed so amused? Did he know this was what would be waiting for them? He would have to have a little word with his pilot when they got back to the ship. But for now the flow of dishes that appeared drove all other thoughts out of their heads.

An Li hid a smile and shooed them to a table. A meat dish that looked like protein cubes cooked in chilli and stock with sliced chives was brought before them and little bowls of boiled rice and dumplings and sweet and sour dishes went back and forth from full to empty between the table and the kitchen ending with a large bowl of clear soup, the texture forming sticky gelatinous globules on their spoons from the overactive use of monosodium glutimate to thicken and add that unique slimey consistency so beloved of their host. Jayne ate everything before him. Mal ate well but sparingly, eyes cautious beneath his lashes. Careful not to cause offence but also not wanting to be taken unawares. They dined for almost two hours and he was getting very restless by the time bowls of green tea and wine were brought out. It took all his control not to demand to know where Anderson was. Had their financial state not been so critical he would have spoken up and damned the consequences. Once the table was cleared, Jayne leaned back in his chair and wiped the last of the soup from his goatie beard. A self satisfied smirk on his face. Mal watched An Li closely. A glitter of something in those eyes put him on the alert. A subtle thing but it was enough.

She seemed amused. "Did you enjoy your meal?"

"*Haochi ji le, Xiexie*. You are too kind."

An Li bowed but not so low this time. Something deep amusing her. Jayne slapped a hand across his belly and burped. "*Wo chibao le*."

An Li flung back her head and laughed. Mal's eyes narrowed. It was a deep hearty laugh. A suspicion niggled at the back of his brain and he instinctively stiffened. "Anderson?"

An Li chuckled and looked at him with clear merriment. A slow bow was his answer then as An Li began to straighten the fan was returned with a flick to the voluminous sleeve and he pulled off the wig in one sweeping movement that made Mal laugh and Jayne splutter in shock. There standing before them with a smile a mile wide and his own hair sticking up in little brown peeks from his painted face was John Michael Anderson. In the very flesh. Jayne swore and Mal just kept laughing until his ribs ached. This was too priceless. He wished the others had been with them. The looks on their faces would have kept him chuckling for months. Anderson watched the Captain double up, looked at Jayne's expression and excused himself so he could go and clean up. Mal stood up quickly and wiped the moisture from the corner of his eyes. He was red faced from laughing so much and unable to keep his face straight.

"No, don't clean up on our account. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much."

Anderson smiled and sat down to join them, pulling his chair close to the table and folding back the sleeves of his outfit so he could rest decidedly muscular and hairy forearms on the table. Mal snuck a look at Jayne and saw that the big man was smiling now.

"I take it that was some kind of test, *dui*?"

The painted man shook his head and grinned shamelessly. "Nope, just enjoying myself at your expense Captain. Don't get many visitors nowadays."

"No harm, no foul." Chuckled the Captain good naturedly. "And great as it surely is time is marchin' on and we need to know whether or not you have a job for us. No offence intended."

"None taken." Anderson looked at the Captain for a long moment, sizing him up. Jayne he already had the measure of. "I have cargo that needs delivering."

"How much and where to?"

"Thirty eight cases. They need them on Destiny."

Mal hissed in a quiet breath. Destiny. Rim World. One of the exiled worlds that had fought so fiercely against Alliance rule in the War. "What might they be needing way out there?"

"Someone who asks no questions."

The temperature in the room dropped. Jayne shot the Captain a look but he was watching Anderson intently. His voice was quiet and casual when he spoke but Jayne knew that tone. "We're not right popular with the Alliance. Making trips to an exiled World raises unhealthy interest. Interest we'd soonest avoid."

Normally planets on the Rim were the poorest, the least likely to get trade because no one wanted to go that far out for so little profit. Therefore ships heading out to them were watched with care and suspicion. That suspicion was ten times more intense when it was an exiled world. Flying under the radar was usually enough but if you got caught it could take more than a little explaining. Meanwhile your ship would be boarded, stripped down to the bare metal and if you smiled wrong it would be impounded. The slightest excuse to keep the heel of the Alliance at the throat of the planets that had opposed them was more attention than Captain Malcolm Reynolds needed. Especially as he carried two of the Alliance's most wanted on his boat. He was silent so long that Anderson raised an eyebrow. "Problem, Captain?"

"You could say that."

A pause. "I heard you were a man who got things done. That if I had a job you could do it, didn't care much what it was."

A long careful breath left hesitant lungs. "True enough but you're askin' a lot."

"And I'm willing to pay a lot for your trouble, Captain."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*Wu de ma* = mother of God *Ni hao ma* = How are you? *Heng teng* = painful *mei mei* = little sister *Bang ji le* = wonderful *dong ma* = understand *Ni bu dong* = You don't understand *Xin gan* = sweetheart *tengtong* = pain *Bushi* = not so *tinglui* = stay *Hui tou shi an* = Look Inwards For Salvation *Pang Zhu Fanguan* = Fat Pig Restaurant *Renao* = hot and noisy (atmosphere) *chashaobao* = steamed rolls filled with pork *zhuron* = pork *jide* = remember *shenme shi?* = what's the matter? *gos se* = crap *wangba dan* = bastard *huanying* = welcome *Ni chi le ma?* = have you eaten? *ta ma de* = fuck *haochi ji le* = the meal was delicious *Wo chibao le* = I'm full *dui* = correct *xie xie* = thanks


INFORMATION: The erhu music referred to in this story, 'My Last Night', is on the first Sentimental Erhu CD of the talented musician David Li. For the curious, you can listen to other examples of David's music with a free MP3 download at this URL: http://catalog.allof.../mcatalog.shtml?group=503


Saturday, July 26, 2003 4:45 PM


Your style of writing is great - it's captivating and interesting without bogging us down with petty details. I love how you're getting to the group dynamic's, especially from Mal's point of view. He acts like a father figure to everyone, but he's not that old himself, and in many ways could use an older, influential male figure in his own life. It's an interesting place to go in terms of character and plot development to see the reasoning behind his actions and relationships, even if he stops himself from delving too deep - we all get to speculate some more on them.

Sunday, July 27, 2003 8:14 AM


That was truely great.

Your description of the meal made me hungry for a little Vietnamese place I like.

I also really liked your discription of the various philosophys our good shepard has studied.

Hope to read the next part soon...


Wednesday, July 30, 2003 2:58 PM


I LOVE this! You occasionally change pov. Keep writing!

Thursday, October 13, 2011 9:03 AM


Loved it!!! The best part was the part with the erhu, so beautifully written... Really captured how music can just take you back... Aaa the whole thing was so shiny!!!!:D

Thursday, October 13, 2011 9:04 AM


Loved it!!! The best part was the part with the erhu, so beautifully written... Really captured how music can just take you back... Aaa the whole thing was so shiny!!!!:D


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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.