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THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 1. "Between Here and There"
Friday, December 26, 2014

Taking a slow breath as deep into his lungs as pain would allow, he tried to shake that old brainpan back into action again. One last hurrah for those as could not do it for themselves.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2550    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "BETWEEN HERE AND THERE" SERIES: THE DICHOTOMY SERIES CHAPTER: 1. FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Tracy RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: "During the Battle of Serenity Valley the Browncoats are ordered to surrender by their leaders only to find themselves thrown into prison by the Alliance. From thereon things start to get increasingly bizarre."

"BETWEEN HERE AND NOW"

A "Firefly" story Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

This was his seventh time in the Hole and for what? War was over and them as had won were using what was laughingly called their 'surrender' at Serenity Valley as an opportunity to imprison, torment and torture those brave few who had stood against them. Fools like his own self, folk who just wanted to live free and not under the yolk of those seeking to grab power and wealth for their own selves. Why did he ever think it would be a fair fight? Those with money and power amassed not only the soldiers and armaments to crush any kind of rebellion but also had the fancy technology that was beyond the reach of simpler folk. Simpler but no less important in his own Independent eyes. And now here he was again, in the bottom of that foul cesspit of a hole they called solitary confinement, staring up at a crack in the lid of that evil tomb which gave him the only glimpse of sky he would see until somebody remembered he was down there.

Malcolm Reynolds had not raged or put up any kind of resistance this time. Underfed and kept in appalling conditions he had grown thinner than a lathe. Zoe too. Yet they were the lucky ones or so some would say. As he sat at the bottom of that oubliette he leaned his aching back against one side but could not rest. Faces in a never ending parade filling his gorram mind. Men he had known and grown up with, filled with the righteous need to fight for the freedom of their way of life, for themselves and their families back home and against tyranny itself. He was proud to call many of them his friends and those unknown to him became dear as brothers in the battle against oppression. A dry truncated chuckle sent a whisper of a word from parched cracked lips. Tracy. That man could cause laughter in *diyu* itself. Always funning around and lightening the harsh reality of War. Where was he now? Had some sick sumbitch of a purplebelly decided he wasn't funny no more and slit his throat? If so he would find that piece of *goushi buru* and gut him his own self.

The whisper of breath died on his lips, no energy left to sustain it. He was so gorram tired. Maybehaps this would be his grave. The very thought should have depressed him but it had the opposite effect. Paper thin eyelids flicked open, a spark igniting in his eyes, defiance firing up inside him like a thirst he could never quench. No, gorramit, he was not gonna die like this. Not give them the satisfaction of breaking him. He needed to get out. Not just of this pit but out of this stinking *jianyu* and take his people with him. Think, Mal, think. Taking a slow breath as deep into his lungs as pain would allow, he tried to shake that old brainpan back into action again. One last hurrah for those as could not do it for themselves. Then they would shake the dust of this foul place from their shackled feet. Forever.

* * * * *

It was the brightness of the sun that woke her. Startled into wakefulness by a world undreamed of and not confined by walls of cold stone or hard steel. Her eyes closed to the barest slits, the light hurting not just with its' wonderful brilliance but the rarity of it. Were dreams ever this realistic? Zoe tried to remember feeling the warmth of the sun on her face in a dream but couldn't recall anything that pleasant in gorram months. Where in the nine hells was she and hot on the heels of that thought, where was Mal? Tracy? The others? The need for answers brought her to her feet, noticing for the first time the loamy scent of the ground beneath her. Dazed, she looked around, opening her eyes a bit wider as they adjusted to the bright glare of a beautiful Summer's day.

Her shock was compounded when Zoe looked down at herself, alarmed to find her sturdy britches gone and a floral dress with lace trim hugging her figure in all the right places. *Shenme*? What was this? Had to be a rutting dream, no way would she dress in frippery like this. Not only was the fussy clothing impractical it certainly had never belonged to her. A man's voice broke through her stunned reverie. Spinning, Zoe braced herself for a fight. Surprised and relieved to see Tracy staring at her with a confused look of his own on his handsome face. Man was the cleanest she'd ever seen him and not dressed in battle fatigues neither. The suit look homespun but quality, complete with a matching waistcoat. Tracy stared at her like he had never seen her before then grinned and whistled long and loud.

"*Wode ma*, Zoe, if I knew you looked that good in a dress I'd'a married ya years ago!"

Zoe bristled. "Over my dead body."

"Yeah, but what a *piaoliang* one."

Her glare did not deter his compliments or wipe the grin off his face so Zoe stepped up close and let him see the unamused look in her eye. Tracy swallowed awkwardly, backing off right quick. "Didn't mean no harm, ya just look so shiny Zoe."

"What about you?"

He blinked. "Me?"

Zoe looked him up and down. Tracy followed her eyes and cried out, startled. "What the... Did you dress me?"

Zoe shook her head, her mind spinning a mile a minute. "What's the last thing you remember?"

"Before or after they stuck the Sarge back in the hole?"

Memory crashed back in with a vengeance. Tracy was right, Mal had been dragged away and shoved in the pit for no good reason any of them good fathom. Those twisted evil *tamade hundan* just liked making an example of him. Zoe knew why and it wasn't just the smart quips from his mouth, those had died away after one of the guards shot a Browncoat by way of showing his irritation. The Sarge had been furious but the guard had simply raised an eyebrow and picked a new target, then waited to see what Mal would do. The message was clear, every time he did or said anything to piss off a guard one of his men would be shot. No quarter given.

"We gotta find him."

"Um..."

Her eyes narrowed on his face. "*Shenme shi*?"

"Where are we?"

That was actually a good question. Not only were they no longer in the Alliance *jianyu* but the place looked nothing like Hera or Serenity Valley or any of the worlds on which they had been fighting. In fact it looked like some place out of a picture book from Earth-that-was. Rich verdant grasses, rolling countryside with wide spreading trees and so many birds a-singing that the richness of it all was kind of overwhelming. "Not anywhere I recognise."

Tracey began to pat his pockets, whether to look for a weapon or a map she wasn't sure but the look that froze on his face made her heart miss a beat.

"Tracy? What's *cuode*?"

He looked stricken. "I can't feel my ribs."

It should have been funny but all of them had been half emaciated in that prison, hardly enough meat on their bones to feed a fly and yet now they seemed to be returned to full health, free of the gorram *jianyu* and in some strange world neither of them had ever seen before. A horrible thought occurred to Zoe. "Are we awake?"

Tracy didn't laugh. "*Weishenme*? Think this is a dream?"

"I'm thinkin' we been drugged an' this is some kind'a nightmare. A dream world bein' manipulated by the Alliance."

"That don't make sense."

"Since when has their kind of evil made sense?"

Tracy gave that a thought then nodded. She had a point. "What do we do now?"

"We take a recce. Find out where we are then go look for Mal an' the others."

"What if they ain't here?"

Zoe's expression clouded. "We find them, *dong ma*? If there's a way into this nightmare then there's a way out, *dui*?"

Tracy didn't answer. He was thinking there might be no way out and that thought was scarier than anything else they had gone through. They needed to find the Sarge, he would know what to do, make a plan then they could get the good gorram out of here. Wherever Here was.

* * * * *

The voice was deep, sonorous. It rumbled like soft velvet on the edge of his senses. Numb, he felt nothing. Everything was dark, even the crack that let him see the sky was gone. Swallowed up and lost in the Black.

"He should wake soon."

"Will he live?"

"Oh yes, this one is *wangu* enough to outlive us all."

"And yet he has told us nothing."

"Patience."

A new voice. "Your faith is perhaps misplaced."

"His mettle has already been tested, it is time for the spirit to prove itself."

"A waste of time and..."

"Resources."

"*Duijuli*."

"*Bushi*. It is not enough to win, they have to know they have lost, *dong ma*?"

It was a relief when the voices went away. In the dark he could forget his predicament, the agony of a stomach with nothing inside on which to feed. His throat a parched highway that led nowhere. Breath was a fading bloom of health, grasping for whatever oxygen could be found to replenish supplies fast disappearing. He could feel the faltering of his heart but had no sense of his surroundings, the walls of his *jianyu* not registering. He must have passed out, it was the only thing that made sense and yet something nagged away at his back brain. Something he was too weary and past caring to touch.

* * * * *

"Is that...?"

"It's a river." Zoe confirmed, her eyes now fully adjusted to the brightness of the sun and taking in every little detail she could. Never knew what might prove important.

Tracy stared, he had seen rivers a-plenty but nothing on this scale. If it were not for the sight of another bank on the far side he would have assumed he was looking down at the ocean. Zoe nudged him as she passed, her meaning clear: no time for wool gathering. He followed her down the sloping hillside until they could see scattered shops and the odd dwelling dotted along the banks of the river. And those dots, they were moving, were they people? As they got closer sounds drifted back to them and caution made Zoe slow to a walk, Tracy now beside her and anxious to discover if these folk would prove to be friend or foe.

* * * * *

His head ached fit to bust. The big man groaned and rolled over, the movement tumbling him off the wooden slab on which he had been lying. Growling angrily he opened his eyes and froze. What in the nine hells was this? The bars of the gaol let in a pale dying light but it was enough to show him the interior of his cell. Slowly he sat up, head too fragile to risk standing just yet. His vision a dodgy merry-go-round making him kind'a sick. He was tempted to throw up then realised the cell was so small if he did that he would likely have to sleep in the mess. That helped sober him up some.

Just how much had he drunk last night? Try as he might the memory would not come, everything a painful hazy fog with him stuck firm and fast in the middle of it. Jayne put a hand to his head and froze, slowly pulling his hand away and staring at the sticky blood. Gorramit, he didn't have a hangover, he had been hit over the rutting head. Must have been in a fight but if that was so where were his assailants and why couldn't he remember a gorram thing?

The jangle of keys made him rise carefully, his legs a mite rubbery but able to hold him upright. Not wanting to chance falling flat on his face Jayne backed up and sat on the wooden slab and waited. Slowly the gaoler made his way to the last cell and stared through the bars at its' worse for wear occupant. The man spat out a slug of tobacco then turned to face him.

"So, you're awake."

"*Zenme hui shir*? Why am I in a gorram cell?"

The gaoler put his hands on his hips, careful not to stand too close to the bars of Jayne's cell just in case the man took the notion to reach through and try something. "You set fire to a barn."

Jayne blinked. A barn? "What ruttin' barn?"

The man gave him a sour look. "The one your daddy was in."

For a moment the words entered his brain pan leaving the meaning behind. The lag in his brain finally caught up and he started, finding himself on his feet in a moment, concern and confusion a perfect marriage of non comprehension on his face. "*Wo bu dong*, what're ya talkin' about?"

"You set fire to the barn."

"I did? Why'd I do a fool thing like that?"

The gaoler's look darkened. "Maybe 'cause your old man was still in it."

Jayne heart missed a beat. He closed the distance to the bars of his cell without realising he had moved. The gaoler took a cautious step back but Jayne didn't seem to notice. "Is he alright?"

"Got burnt to a crisp."

Dimly Jayne could hear a rhythmic knocking sound.

"That sound you're hearin'? Should be finished by mornin', just so's you know."

"Huh?"

The man took another plug of tobacco out of his top pocket and shoved it in the corner of his mouth. He rolled it around for a moment as if needing to find the right spot to lodge it before speaking again. "It's a gallows, boy. Gonna hang ya in the mornin'."

Jayne Cobb had no words, he just stared at the man without seeing. The only thought in his head was that his father was dead, burnt to death and seemingly by his own hand. With a howl of grief he sank down and covered his face with hands that shook. *Wode ma*, what in the nine hells had he done?

* * * * *

He woke in pain but oddly enough there was something soothing about it. Now wasn't that gorram creepifying? As he became more aware he noticed a sharp antiseptic smell assail his nostrils. Right. He must be in some kind of infirmary. Malcolm Reynolds opened his eyes and froze, another face staring back at him just inches from his own. A girl's voice spoke, her eyes wide and fastened on his like limpets making him feel as if they were magnetised so that he could not look away.

"Not what you think."

Mal blinked, feeling a mite sluggish but noticing that the pain had dulled until it was hardly affecting him at all. "You drug me, *nu haizi*?"

The girl shook her head. "That's what brothers are for."

Malcolm Reynolds tried to sit up when another voice spoke. Clear, authoritative and male. "Don't move, I haven't finished stitching you up."

"Huh? Why would you be doin' that?"

The girl moved out of his line of sight and a young man gazed down at him, as spick and span as he was soiled and grubby. If he didn't know better he would think the boy was teflon coated, not nothing able to stick to him even dirt. "You've been badly beaten and it has been some time since I've seen anyone as emaciated as you."

Something flapped above his head and as he looked up Mal realised he was in a tent. "Where the good gorram am I?"

"You're in a field hospital."

"An' you are?"

"The man who saved your life." The girl piped up as her brother tied off the thread and put his needle in a sterile bath solution along with the scissors.

"Now River, don't confuse him."

"Wabba what?"

"You may well have a concussion, so it might be some time before you remember exactly what happened."

"But I will remember, *dui*?"

"I can't promise anything but your chances are good."

"You a doc?"

"I'm a field surgeon."

"*Yige waike yisheng*?"

"*Qu*. My name is Simon Tam. This is my sister River. Don't mind what she says, my sister is schizophrenic."

The girl's face looked down on him like a pale moon. "Simon means I show qualities of a schizophrenic personality such as asocial behaviour, introversion, tendency to fantasy, but without a definite mental disorder."

Mal stared, really. Only bits of her explanation making it through to his brain pan. "You sayin' you ain't *shenjingbing*?"

Her grin was playful, lively but the eyes held a hint of sadness too. As if sorry that he had not intuited more though he did not know how he could do that when face to face with a stranger. "You only have to remember one thing."

"I do?"

River nodded. "There's always more than one of everything."

With that the girl stepped back then danced away leaving Malcolm Reynolds kind of breathless. He noticed a look of apology on the young doctor's face. "Am I in a gorram asylum?"

Simon wanted to laugh but was afraid that would only convince his patient that his guess was right. "*Bu qu*, as I said before..."

"This is a field hospital."

Simon smiled, pleased that his patient had remembered. Odd how different the brother and sister were and yet he could see a closeness that had nothing to do with looks and everything to do with what he could sense. How weird was that?

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin) *diyu* = hell *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit/lowest of the low *jianyu* = prison *shenme* = what *wode ma* = mother of God *piaoliang* = pretty *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *cuode* = wrong *weishenme* = why *dong ma* = understand? *dui* = correct *wangu* = stubborn *duijuli* = exactly *bushi* = not so *zenme hui shir* = what has happened? *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *nu haizi* = girl *yige waike yisheng* = a surgeon *qu* = yes (lit, go) *shenjingbing* = crazy *bu qu* = no (lit. no go)

COMMENTS

Friday, December 26, 2014 3:24 PM

AMDOBELL


As they say on Monty Python, "And now for something completely different!" Enjoy! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, December 28, 2014 1:50 PM

MALSDOXY


Allrighty, then!! From the first chapter you've got us hook, line and sinker and here we are, craving more...ALREADY!!!
Thought you were taking a beak for the holidays, AliD?? But mighty glad you didn't...xie xie :D

Sunday, December 28, 2014 2:00 PM

AMDOBELL


I was, honest, but I had the story unfolding like a Chinese puzzle inside my brainpan crying, "write me, write me NOW!", Malsdoxy. So glad to hear you are already hooked, thanks for the shiny feedback. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, December 29, 2014 1:03 PM

BUCKSHOTPILOT


Wow! this is different, I'm hooked again!

Thursday, January 1, 2015 11:44 AM

AMDOBELL


So happy that you are enjoying the difference and are hooked again, Buckshotpilot. Also happy that you are finding the story great, Chillman, and are hooked too. A Very Merry and Happy New Year to all of you. May the gorram Alliance never darken any of your shiny doorways, keep flyin' - Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, January 3, 2015 3:04 PM

AMDOBELL


*Xie xie ni* Chillman. Keep flyin', Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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