BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 3. "New Start"
Thursday, January 8, 2015

Was this the way to the rutting scaffold? Funny but he thought that banging sound as the scaffold was being built had seemed a lot nearer.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2909    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "NEW START" SERIES: THE DICHOTOMY SERIES CHAPTER: 3. Sequel to "IN BETWEEN" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Tracy RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: "Malcolm Reynolds is not the only one to realise he isn't in Kansas any more."

"NEW START"

A "Firefly" Story" Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Her head ached fit to bust but the bigger problem was the gorram light and the nosy folk searching all the nooks and crannies for hide or hair of her. Tired but determined to stay one step ahead the girl could not afford to let down her defences or rest. Bad enough to be orphaned without being treated like some criminal that had to be locked up in a soul-less institution 'for her own good'. What was it Aunt Martha had said? Oh yeah, "You know we'd have ya in a flash but the authorities know best. They'll keep ya fed an' clothed an' ya'll always have a roof over your head."

Just the memory made her cry. Silent tears big as the ocean, or as big as she imagined an ocean would be. Why did her daddy and momma have to get caught up in that rip tide? Was supposed to be a safe place to swim, so safe there weren't no life guards nor anybody looking to make sure folks was safe. It was the first family holiday down by the sea in years and they were all so gorram excited. Didn't help none when cries of joy turned to wails of grief neither. Was more than alarming how quickly the government busy bodies stepped in to take her away and now here she was in hiding again. Someone must'a spotted her dirty pinefore and grimey face and put two and two together. Where were they when her daddy and momma needed saving? Not nowhere, that's where.

Sighing so hard her heart was like to break, Kaylee Frye ducked her head and gave in to her sorrow. The dark shadows of the big woodpile giving ample cover as the sun went behind the clouds. Soon the day would be drawing in and she would have to find proper shelter but for now all she needed was to be out of sight. Not no one wanted to harbour a runaway, even one that hadn't actually committed a gorram crime.

* * * * *

It was more than big, it was enormous. Malcolm Reynolds stared at the huge monstrosity of a boat but couldn't quite wrap his head around how something so big could still float. The boatyard was alongside a mighty wide river and full of numerous boats, parts and assorted lumber. A small crooked office leaned like a cock-eyed sailor looking for permanent support. He guessed that whoever had built it had never heard of a plumb line or maybehaps the structure was built on unstable land.

"Ship like this, you treat her right, will be with you for the rest of your life!"

He ignored the salesman, man was spouting off all poetical about an even more beaten up piece of river craft than the one that had caught his eye. Mal had immediately dismissed it on sight. An ugly piece of junk that might be watertight but would never be pretty no matter how many coats of paint you covered it in. But this one, while it was a big old rambling thing, it had a kind of old world charm. The livery was a fading pale blue and white with a huge water wheel at one end that kind of defied gravity it rose so high above the rest of the boat.

"*Hen piaoliang, shima*?"

Still looking up at the river boat, Mal's reply was tinged in awe. "That she is."

The salesman realised his customer was looking at the wrong ship and tried to turn him around but Mal shook his head and pointed to the river boat. "Yao duoshao qian*?"

The man scratched the back of his head, the hat tilting as he did so. "It's not exactly seaworthy right now, *shifu*, but this one here is a fine specimen..."

Mal cut him off. "Then it's cheap, *dong ma*?"

The salesman scowled. "For firewood it's a steal."

"How much?"

The man mentioned a price and Mal shook his head, calling out all the things he could see wrong with it and how much it would cost to repair let alone get seaworthy again. Not that it would go anywhere near the gorram sea. Was just wanting it to be water tight for river travel and such. Maybe haul cargo or carry passengers. Once he got it going again she would have to pay her way. They haggled back and forth for several minutes, the man trying to get Mal to look at anything but the broken down wreck that seemed to have taken his fancy. In the end he dropped the price to rock bottom and Mal had him throw a stack of timber in to help replace the rotten boards to seal the deal. Whether it was to get rid of the boat or get rid of the customer was hard to tell but the deal was done and the last of Mal's cashy money disappeared into the salesman's surprisingly deep vest pocket.

"*Wei*!"

The salesman paused as he was turning away.

"I need the papers, *dong ma*?"

At first it looked as if the man was going to laugh in his face but seeing the stubborn look on Malcolm Reynolds' face and the faded uniform he was wearing, the salesman must have figured that discretion was the better part of valour and muted his grumbles then hunted through his pockets until he found the papers for the river boat. Kind of handed them over grudgingly if Mal was any judge but he didn't care. Once they were signed over all legal-like a smile blossomed on Malcolm Reynold's face that hadn't been aired in many a long while. Finally, things were starting to look up. Now all he needed was to find Zoe, Tracy and the others and get his boat seaworthy. Hands on hips, Mal stared at the old wreck and felt a tug deep in his chest, a connection of sorts. Both of them had seen better days, permaybehaps they could make new ones together.

* * * * *

It was the weirdest thing ever. One moment the Horse Doctor was telling him he had to be examined to see if he was fit to be hanged and the next the outside wall of Jayne's cell exploded. Bits of brick, debris and dust choked the air making it hard to breathe and even harder to see a gorram thing. Jayne didn't notice his cell door being unlocked, too busy coughing up a lung or two. Strong hands guided him through the hole in the rubble and out into the open air.

As he struggled to wipe the dust from his eyes he caught glimpses of Book yelling something but he couldn't hear a thing. Gorram explosion. Still dazed Jayne was half led and half shoved off down a dark alleyway before the dust could clear, the numerous twists and turns all manner of confusing. Was this the way to the rutting scaffold? Funny but he thought that banging sound as the scaffold was being built had seemed a lot closer.

* * * * *

"What're we gonna do, Zo? We can't spend the whole time hidin'."

Zoe gave Tracy her death glare but it just slid off the man like water off a duck's back. "That's not what we're doin'."

"It ain't?"

*Bu qu*, we're gatherin' intel."

Tracy glanced around and snorted. "Right. We can just ask this undergrowth if it knows anythin'."

Zoe looked seriously pissed off. "You gotta better idea I'm listenin'."

"It ain't that, it's just..."

"It's easier to criticise, that it?"

Tracy had the grace to look a mite shame faced. "*Duibuqi*, don't mind me. I always shoot my gorram mouth off when I'm worried."

"Then you must'a been worried from cradle to ruttin' grave."

"I ain't dead yet, Zoe."

"On'y 'cause me an' Mal keep savin' your worthless hide."

That sobered him up some. "Where d'ya suppose the Sarge got to?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*, I don't even know where we got to."

It was on the tip of Tracy's tongue to make a quip but the sound of approaching voices stilled his tongue. Zoe made a hand signal and the two retreated further into the underbrush until they were fully hidden from anyone happening by. The voices grew closer, one annoyed and fast losing patience with a higher pitched whiney voice. The two men stopped near the edge of the undergrowth and Zoe could just make out a short man in a dark jacket, no shirt but a tie. Short as he was the man was big on attitude, strutting in front of the taller man and berating him as if his tongue was a cat-o-nine-tails and the man's ears were his hide.

"How could you lose my bloody cargo? Paid you up front an' now it all goes belly up an' you expect another payday, that it?"

"*Duibuqui*, it's not my fault! Was told the ship was watertight an' it looked good for transport. Lots of folk were buyin' passage for goods an' such, not my fault it sank *laoban*."

The little man shoved up close, a look of not happy on his face that needed no interpretation. "You owe me for the cargo, Linus, an' what I paid you. I want compensation, *dong ma*?"

Linus paled. "But I ain't got that kind'a money!"

"Not my problem. Trusted you an' now I can't deliver. Puts me in a tight spot, see? Man's on'y as good as his gorram word an' you broke mine."

"Where'm I gonna get that kind'a money, *laoban*?"

"Out o' your arse for all I care just make sure I get paid by the end o' the week or it won't be just the remains of a worthless ship they fish outta the river, *dong ma*?"

Linus was too upset to speak but nodded. Apparently crossing the little man was not an option.

"An' I'll be watchin' so don't try nothin'."

Linus watched the man stomp away then took a few ragged breaths before hurrying off in the opposite direction. Tracy and Zoe exchanged a look.

* * * * *

Jayne couldn't help it. After stumbling for what felt like miles, they came to rest in a small copse overlooking a huge murky looking river. Jayne couldn't stop coughing. Any minute he expected to lose a gorram lung. After a minute or two, Book hit him hard between his shoulder blades with the flat of his hand. The big man almost felt flat on his face, spat out the bile in his throat and turned an angry glare on the Horse Doctor.

"What'ya do that for?"

Book smiled. "Cleared your throat, didn't it?"

Jayne Cobb blinked then realised he wasn't coughing any more. He gave a wary nod. "*Xie xie* but I'm confused. They was gonna hang me, why'd you break me outta gaol?"

"I didn't."

"*Shenme*? There was on'y you an' me there, you think I'm *chun*?"

Book's voice was a low calm rumble, no sign of annoyance or irritation in it. "Jayne, I was in the corridor on the other side of the bars to your cell, *jide*?" Jayne nodded. "That explosion came from OUTSIDE your cell."

"*Wo bu dong*. I don't know nobody here. Who would wanna break me out?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but I didn't think it wise to hang around to find out."

"*Weishenme bu*?"

"Jayne, you were tried an' found guilty of murder, whether you did it or not isn't the issue here."

"It ain't?"

"*Bu qu*. The only reason I can think of for a stranger to break you out of gaol is because they want somethin' from you."

"I ain't got nothin'."

For a moment Book just looked at him. "You have your life."

It was quietly spoken but sent chills down Jayne's spine. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Maybe the folk who set the explosion were thinkin' to use you. Blame you for something' else, somethin' you didn't do. After all, who would believe a convicted murderer who had busted out of gaol if he did somethin' equally as terrible?"

Jayne frowned. "Ya mean they wanted me to murder someone?"

"No son. I think they just wanted a patsy to blame for another crime."

"What'll happen now?"

"I'm guessin' a bounty'll be put on your head."

"That don't sound good."

"It isn't. You have to get as far away from here as you can, quick before anyone sees you an' puts two an' two together."

"I didn't burn down no barn."

"*Wo zhidao*, that's why I helped you get away."

"I could still be a murderer."

Book gave him an amused look. "If that were the case I wouldn't be here now, would I?"

Jayne screwed up his face in confusion. "Huh?"

When Jayne wiped the last of the grit out of his eyes the Horse Doctor was nowhere to be seen. Jayne spun round, an itch between his shoulder blades a mile wide. Gorramit, not only was he up to his gorram neck in *shen goushi* but he didn't have a clue where he was and was not even armed. He had never felt more naked. And where in this weird assed world had the Horse Doctor gone?

* * * * *

Gorramit it was hotter than *diyu*. Malcolm Reynold's shirt lay over the top of the fence, his chest and neck shiny with sweat as he worked, clearing away the debris from the river boat's deck so he could see the extent of the damage. The salesman came back a time or two to watch his progress but didn't say a word. Only as the light began to fade did he come to stand alongside the hulk of the river boat.

"Should make myself clear," he called up "you bought this wreck *dong ma*?"

Mal frowned from the deck of the river boat. Even though the river boat was close to falling apart in places he didn't hold with the man being disrespectful. Wanted folk to her to see what she could be not what she was now. The boat was obviously a Lady and should be treated as such. The salesman grinned as if Mal had made a joke but when he saw that his buyer was not amused he cleared his throat and got to the point. "It's takin' up space in my yard, Mr Reynolds. That means you have to move it, *mashang*."

"You can clearly see how big this boat is, can't move it my own self."

"You can if you break her up."

For a moment Mal just stared down at him then the slow burn of anger building began to distort his features. The salesman paled. "Not nobody is breakin' up my boat, don't care how much of a hurry you are to see her gone, *dong ma*?"

"She's on my property!" The salesman spluttered.

"It'll take me a few days to get her fit to move."

"You can't leave it here."

Mal wanted nothing more than to knock the snotty salesman on his ass but he didn't know this town, didn't know the people either. Reining in his anger he climbed down and picked up his shirt, slowly putting it back on and not losing eye contact with the salesman. "How much?" He growled.

The salesman looked non-plussed. "You already paid for the boat."

Mal huffed and started to do the buttons up on his shirt. "I mean to leave it here. How much you chargin'?"

Something unseemly glittered in the salesman's eyes. Mal remembered the name he had given him when they met. Henson.

"Don't go gettin' fancy ideas, Mr Henson. State this boat was in she's been lyin' in your yard some time, *dui*?"

Henson wanted to lie but could see it would not be believed and if he tried something on with Reynolds who knew what violence might land him in a hospital bed or worse. He swallowed slowly and lowered his demands. No need to be unreasonable. Mal heard him out then offered him a quarter of the charge to leave the river boat in situ for a few days. The salesman's eyes widened. "But...that's hardly anythin' at all, Mr Reynolds!"

Mal grinned as he tucked in his shirt and pulled up his suspenders. "Ain't havin' somethin' better than havin' nothin'?"

"Yes, but..."

"How long was this boat here before I bought her? Tell the truth now 'cause I can always smell a lie."

"More'n a year, truth be told."

"An' how much was she earnin' ya in that year?"

Mr Henson blinked then agreed to the small price of keeping the river boat in his yard. What were a few days anyway? He had made a handsome return on the sale of the wreck. "You drive a hard bargain, Mr Reynolds."

As they shook on it, Mal leaned in close. "I drive a fair bargain. I won't cheat ya but I won't be twisted neither."

The salesman nodded. Mal glanced around the yard, saw that it was all fenced off with a locking gate to keep the premises secure.

"Now that the rent's been settled I'll be stayin' with my boat, that gonna be *yige wenti*?"

"*Bu qu*, no problem."

Mal began to relax. This was gonna work out after all. Feeling his belly rumble he followed Henson to the gate. "Where would a fella go to get somethin' to eat?"

Mr Henson suddenly brightened. "There's an eatery just along the riverbank. Fact is I know the proprietor."

Mal's eyes narrowed. "You own that place too?"

Henson laughed, deciding he liked Malcolm Reynolds after all. Just wouldn't wanna cross him. "*Bu qu*, the wife's family."

As Henson locked up Mal held out his hand. "Oh, an' I'll be needin' a key." At Henson's look he smiled. "So's I can get back in when I'm all vitalled up."

* * * * *

The old lady was worse than her usual cantankerous old self.

"It's late and you haven't eaten yet."

Gimlet eyes glared at her. "Who told you that?"

"Your doctor, he said..."

"Does my doctor pay you?" The lady snapped.

"No, of course not."

A smug look settled on the old lady's leathery face. "Then you do as I say, *dong ma*?"

"It's late."

The old lady looked a mite deflated as if the fight was a short lived expenditure of energy that she could ill afford. Having won the argument she was not about to start another war. "Tomorrow then, *kuaile*?"

"Ecstatic."

The old lady's head jerked up, her eyes narrowing, looking for sarcasm but finding nothing but a bland polite face staring back at her, poised to carry out her slightest wish. Satisfied that she was not mocked, the old lady allowed her wheelchair to be turned and as the wooden contraption creaked with every turn of the wheel could not help but think her ancient bones were creaking in sympathy.

* * * * *

Tracy was frantic. What in the nine hells were they going to do? They couldn't stay in the underbrush all night. Apart from the dropping temperature he wanted somewhere warm and dry to sleep as well as food to fill his empty belly. "You got any coin, Zoe?"

Her look was answer enough but she checked her flimsy little pockets anyway. Nope. They were empty. "*Bu qu*, what about you?"

Tracy shook his head. "Already checked. We need to eat."

Zoe's thoughts were racing ahead. "What about that big river? Must have fish in it, *dui*?"

"Which would be good if we had a fishin' pole to catch 'em."

Zoe scowled. "How'd you survive until you met up with me an' Mal?"

The grin he flashed was playful even though the rest of him looked ready to drop. "Used my wits."

"You ain't got any."

Seeing his grin falter Zoe took mercy on him and sighed.

"C'mon, we need to hunt around. Check to see if we can find some twine or such, plenty of trees to break a branch off an' make a couple'a fishin' poles."

"What we gonna use as bait?"

She paused to stare at him. "Your tongue if you keep usin' it to be so negative."

"Huh, you're worse than the Sarge."

"If he was here he would already have thought of somethin'."

On that glum note they made their cautious way down towards the river, happy to see that with the fading light of day folks had left the area pretty much deserted which suited them. A light twinkling of stars overhead was their only illumination. Zoe glanced up and almost stumbled in shock. Not nothing in the sky looked familiar, no shapes of well known constellations or star clusters. Where in the nine hells were they and how were they gonna get back home?

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin -Pinyin)

*hen piaoliang, shima* = it's beautiful isn't it? *yao duoshao qian* = how much is it? *shifu* = sir *dong ma* = understand? *wei* = hey! *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *duibuqi* = sorry *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *laoban* = boss *xie xie* = thanks *shenme* = what? *chun* = stupid *jide* = remember *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *weishenme bu* = why not? *wo zhidao* = I know* *shen goushi* = a lot of crap/dogshit (ie deep shit) *diyu* = hell *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *dui* = correct *yige wenti* = a problem *kuaile* = happy?

COMMENTS

Friday, January 9, 2015 12:18 PM

BUCKSHOTPILOT


Riverboat!

Friday, January 9, 2015 3:52 PM

AMDOBELL


Wow. Shortest piece of feedback ever! Hope you liked it, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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