THE REFLECTION SERIES: 18. "In The Nick of Time"
Sunday, November 7, 2004

"The captured crew assess their situation while Simon continues to fret about River. Captain Reynolds and Rafe Connor bring their cloaked ship into the Lion's Den."



SUMMARY: "The captured crew assess their situation while Simon continues to fret about River. Captain Reynolds and Rafe Connor bring their cloaked ship into the Lion's Den." 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

* * * * *

Kaylee could not believe what she was hearing. "Cap'n'll come for us."

"No," Said Zoe. "No, he won't."

Even Simon who often had problems wrapping his head around their complex Captain's feelings and motivations found the notion that he would not come for them anathema. "I have to agree with Kaylee."

Zoe's eyes were bleak. "*Ni bu dong*."

Jayne scowled at Zoe wondering what the *diyu* that meant, following the to and fro of conversation while keeping an eye on their captors. Shepherd Book pulled the left side of his mouth down and explored the inside of his cut lip with his tongue. One of their captors had been a little over enthusiastic in hitting him even though he had ceased by then to struggle. Being trussed up like a calf for branding helped no doubt.

The mercenary was beginning to look concerned. Since they had been grabbed and tied up no one had said a word to them, just put them under guard then ignored them. "What d'ya suppose they're gonna do with us?"

Book cast a surreptitious eye at their guards. "Probably use us as slave labour. Or sell us."

Jayne blinked and stared at the Preacher. "Sell us?"

A little smirk cheered the dour expression on Wash's face. "Well you they may not sell, Jayne."

The mercenary looked at him. "An' why's that?"

Wash managed to keep his face straight. "I suspect you they'll throw in for free."

It took Jayne a moment to realise it was not intended as a compliment. He scowled angrily at the pilot. "That ain't funny!"

"No, it's not." Said the Preacher in a quiet sombre voice. No one had speculated about what their captors would do with the womenfolk but it was clear from the look of worry and distress on Kaylee's face that she expected the worst. Simon couldn't squeeze her hand as they had their hands tied behind their backs so he leaned in until their shoulders touched, his need to reassure her also helping to calm his own rising panic over River. That thought plunged him back into that dark well of dispair. Where was she? What had happened to his brilliant, gifted, beautiful sister and would he ever see her again? The nudge on his shoulder made him look up, Kaylee staring back at him with a compassionate look in her lovely brown eyes.

"*Wei*, she'll be okay Simon. River's smart. 'Sides Cap'n'll come for us, you'll see." She studiously ignored the look on Zoe's face.

It was Wash who first noticed when the bundle of rags in the corner began to stir. One of the guards turned to see what the pilot was looking at then walked over to check on Badger while the other guards kept a tighter watch over the captives. "Anyone would think we were dangerous." The pilot murmured. Jayne flashed a dark malicious grin, his eyes flickering with the desire to do some major damage.

The Shepherd gave a little shake of his head. "*Rongyi*, Jayne."

He got a dirty look from the mercenary. "*Shenme*, Preacher, I ain't done nothin'."

Book's expression warned him to keep it that way. It made Jayne feel more than a little pissed. He wasn't no *baichi* no matter what the others sometimes thought. Just had to keep his options open. Never knew when an opportunity would present itself. If the Shepherd couldn't see that then he should have stayed in that gorram Abbey of his.

* * * * *

It was a marvel that's what it was. Counsellor Tollan watched Mal's face as he showed him around the runabout. Seemed almost a crime to strip out the fancy fittings and the small crew quarters but needs must when the Devil drives. Chung-li, *Shi* and Paul Cotton bent their backs to help Tollan strip it out while Mal familiarised himself with the controls. Once Tollan was satisfied that everything that could be removed had been he returned to see how Serenity's Captain was doing. The little smile tugging at the Captain's lips made Tollan smile.

"Wash would love this." Mal mused.


Mal's smile vanished with a flicker of something like pain in his eyes. "My pilot."

Tollan raised a polite brow. Mal turned to look at him.

"What? You think I pilot my own boat?"

Tollan's smile was back. "You just seem to have a natural grasp."

"Just 'cause I can fly a craft don't mean I have to. That's what my pilot's for. Though it can come in mighty handy on occasion." Mal paused, lost again in the feel of her responsive controls beneath his weathered hands. "She surely is a beauty."

Chung-li stepped back aboard the little craft, silent and content to just watch as Tollan explained the deployment of the cloaking device to the Captain. He then went on to go over the firepower, Chung-li watching the pleased look cross the Captains' burnt face. What really impressed Mal was the little craft's range and speed. A feat he regarded as something close to miraculous.

"How you cram so much technology into somethin' this ruttin' small, Michael?"

"A fortune in Alliance funds."

Mal froze and just stared at him. All kinds of disturbed and unamused now. Tollan let out a small reluctant sigh. He had hoped to bypass this conversation.

"The money was part compensation for Thomas." He explained. "He didn't like taking it any more than you would have done but his family insisted. Made enough fuss in all the right places to get ten times the settlement costs if you must know. No questions asked."

That surprised the *diyu* out of him. "Why so generous?"

"Thomas may be estranged from his son Carlin and there may be a lot of bad feeling between them but they are still family. Still kin."


"Blood is thicker than water, Mal."

The Captain did not break eye contact with Tollan. "That explains father and son but it don't explain why the gorram Alliance would be throwin' money at Thomas."

"Carlin is Alliance."

"*Wo zhidao*."

"He has 'connections' Mal."

"Connections, huh?"

Tollan nodded. "*Qu*. Very powerful ones."

Mal thought about that for a moment. "So you sayin' Carlin used his connections to sweeten the deal the Alliance made to his father?"

The Counsellor nodded. "Guilt can be a powerful motivator Mal. Don't misunderstand me, Carlin *meant* to hurt if not kill his father. What he never meant to do was put his mother in harm's way." He paused. "Carlin outwardly blames his father for his mother's death."

"But he can't wash the blood off his hands." Mal added quietly.

Tollan gave him a sharp look. "Exactly."

"An' this blood money's supposed to set that wrong right, *dui*?"

"Nothing can do that, Mal. the pity of it is that both men know it."

"Pity or justice?" When Tollan did not respond Mal continued. "I'm missin' somethin' here." He paused to gaze around the little craft, his eye meeting Chung-li's in passing. "Why buy this? Don't get me wrong Michael, it's a shiny piece of flash but what does Thomas want with somethin' like this?"

Something glittered in Tollan's eye. "You would need to speak to Thomas about that."

For a moment neither spoke then Mal gave a slow nod, accepting the polite cue to back off. "I'm obliged for the use of it anyhow. How soon can we go?"

"As soon as you're ready. Just give the word and we'll distract the Alliance ship. Activate the cloaking mechanism as you detach, then the rest is up to you."

Mal glanced at Chung-li and as their eyes met the Chinaman dipped his head slightly and moved back towards the door. "I will tell the others."

"You do that." Mal murmured.

Tollan was about to follow him.


Tollan paused at the softly spoken word. "Yes, Captain?"

"*Xie xie ni* to you and Thomas both but I have to ask. What's wrong with your *pengyou*? I know he ain't right and I don't mean his disability, *dong ma*?"

"You have sharp eyes, Captain."

"An' I can keep my tongue."

Tollan looked at Serenity's Captain for a moment, unable to hide the deep emotion that stirred within him. An emotion so wrought with pain and sadness that Mal could feel the weight of it pressing down on the silence that lay like no man's land between them.

* * * * *

He woke slowly. Sluggish and much the worse for wear. When Badger opened his eyes he immediately wished he hadn't. Rough hands helped him to his feet where he blinked and swayed, a bright stream of invective leaving no one in any doubt as to just how pissed off he was. Badger raised a hand to his bruised and battered face and groaned in pain, his hand coming away bloody. His discomfort made Simon happy. Badger's mood darkened as he thought about what had happened. "Where is she?"

No one answered. The guards parted as John Porter Clements joined them. A look of amusement on his ugly misshapen face. "You sayin' that slip of a girl did this to you?"

Simon felt his heart lurch with hope and fought to keep silent. The Preacher kept a wary eye on the others to make sure no one said anything to draw attention to them.

"Yes. No." Stuttered Badger. "I mean, not the girl. The other one."

Clements frowned. "Other one?"

"Yeah, you know, the one I was lookin' for."

Enlightenment dawned on the slaver's face. "You're gettin' soft, Badger."

Badger glared back at him. "She tricked me."

A spark of interest showed on Clements' face. "*Zenme*?"

"Came through the ceilin' while I was busy, see? Took me by surprise."

Clements looked up. Badger followed his eye then looked over at Serenity's crew where they sat bound and huddled together like sheep for the slaughter. A mean look came into his eyes like an animated cadaver, no true emotion in the man beyond greed and spite. Right now spite had the upper hand along with its' ugly sister revenge. "She won't have gone far though. Won't leave her precious brother."

"What brother?"

Badger pulled a dingy looking hankerchief from his pocket and held it carefully over his nose. "Him." He jerked his head towards Simon. "Supposed to be some kind'a doctor."

"Maybe he should take a look at you."

"Nah. Let your people do that. I don't trust him."

"Yet you trust me?" Said Clements mildly. If anything he sounded even more amused as if Badger had a 'kick me here' sign on his backside. It did not improve Badger's temper.

"Never trust an honest man. Could call it my motto."

All the humour fled from Clements' face. "You callin' me dishonest?"

"You're a business associate. I trust what I see, what I can buy."

Clements' voice lowered. "You can't buy me, Badger."

Badger realised the man was thinking in slaving terms. "Not what I was meanin' but you think like me, share the same values."

"And the same gutter?" Said Simon, unable to resist the jibe.

Zoe shot the doctor a swift look of censure but it was too late to prevent Badger's boot connecting with Simon's gut. All the air whooshed out of him as Simon doubled over in pain.

"Leave him alone!" Yelled Kaylee.

The Preacher tried to calm everyone down again before Simon's ill-timed barb set off a chain of stupidity that could become terminal. John Porter Clements nudged Badger aside and hunkered down in front of Simon Tam. "So, you're the *xiongdi*?"

Simon clenched his teeth and said nothing. Badger began to go round Clements to get closer to Simon but that meant going passed Jayne. Jayne made as if to lunge at him and Badger took a hasty step back and walked around the other side of Clements. Jayne grinned at him, his eyes saying he would like to do all manner of viscious things to the little kingpin who had betrayed them. Clements affected not to notice, his attention focused on Simon.

"Best we put you somewhere special. Wouldn't want nothin' happenin' to you before your sister turns up."

The Shepherd's voice surprised Clements. "Or you could just let us go."

Now that was damn funny. "Why the *diyu* would I do that? You've already caused more trouble than enough. Now I want my pound of flesh, Preacher. Not much carin' if the carcass is alive or dead when I take it, *dong ma*?"

A sudden burst of gunfire in the corridor outside cut off any further conversation. Clements and his men quickly drew their guns and ran from the room. Badger held back, preferring to let other people do his dirty work for him. Simon closed his eyes and prayed that they would not catch River. As brilliant, gifted and beautiful as she was, River Tam was not bullet proof.

* * * * *

On the Alliance cruiser Lt Commander Hodge had a sour look on his large bear-like face. "We could simply obliterate them, sir."

Carlin Ferris shook his head. "*Bu qu*. You have your orders. I want the vessel immobilised but intact."

"Yes, sir."

"Now target their engines then prepare a boarding party."

The Lt Commander nodded and gave the order. Carlin stood with his hands clasped behind his back and looked out at the sleek vessel in smug satisfaction. "It is time you learnt to pay the cost of your actions, father." He murmured softly.

* * * * *

On the Crazy Goose Inara Serra was riddled with ill concealed worry. Bad enough to have the ship rocked by Alliance weapons fire, worse still to watch Thomas McCardy slowly fade before her very eyes into the jaws of death. The only good news was that Mal and Rafe had managed to detach from the Goose undetected. She could only suppose that this meant the cloaking device worked. When Tollan joined them he immediately noticed how much his friend had deteriorated. Thomas met his knowing eye. "Are they clear yet?"

"Yes, Thomas. They have not been detected."

"Good." Thomas's eyes began to close. The weariness almost too seductive to fight.


Heavy lids fluttered open again reacting to the concern in his friend's voice. He almost looked drugged. "Yes?"

"If we stay much longer we will not be able to get away ourselves."

"Not trying to get away, Michael."

Tollan tried to hide how much that admission worried him. He masked his shock as best he could. Impossibly, Thomas gave him a gentle smile. A look of simmering mischief in eyes grown foggy with pain. "We still have one or two tricks up our sleeves, my friend."

Tollan swallowed the lump forming in his throat, so overcome with love and admiration for the man who had come to mean more to him than life itself. Without speaking he placed his hand over Thomas's. Letting the overabundance of love shining in his eyes speak for him with the voice of the heart.

* * * * *

Zoe Warren barely glanced at Badger. Let the pathetic little man pretend all he wanted. He had no power or authority in this room and before day's end he would know it. Jayne could not stop the grin spreading across his face. The mechanic stared at him about to ask what was so gorram funny when a slight shake of the Preacher's head stopped her. Badger had missed the exchange. Simon Tam was watching him closely. He noticed that no matter how the little man angled the handkerchief, blood was still dripping down his face. He could already see two black eyes forming as the bruising came out. "I imagine that must hurt."

Badger opened his mouth to say something rude back when the sounds of gunfire grew more intense. It seemed to be getting closer. Kaylee looked hopeful. Zoe frowned. Wash was dying with curiosity. It sounded like River had raided a gorram armoury, not that he would put anything passed the little genius. Badger turned his head towards the door taking his eyes momentarily off the captives. Despite having his hands tied behind his back Jayne sprang to his feet and launched himself at Badger. He could do nothing to free his hands but used his weight and momentum to knock the little kingpin off his feet. Badger realised his danger too late, his eyes widening in fear and alarm as the two men went crashing to the ground. Lying stunned beneath the heavy mercenary Badger gasped on the floor. Jayne got to his knees, a look of murderous intent in his eyes and stumbled to his feet.

"No need to kill him, Jayne." Said Book.

"Why not? He betrayed us." When the Shepherd did not respond, Jayne looked down and scowled at Badger who was beginning to come round again. "In that case, lights out!"

The heavy boot caught Badger in the face snapping his head back with a loud and satsifying crack. After that he lay still. Zoe was struggling hard to get her hands untied, every muscle in her body straining to break free. Just then the heavy door shuddered and everyone looked up. The gunfire was far more fragmented now, sporadic bursts trailing off in odd little spluttering shots before everything went quiet.

Wash wriggled back from the door and tried to shield Zoe. Shepherd Book got to his feet with a little help from Jayne, the two men then turning back to back to try to help untie each other. Then there was another short burst of weapons fire and splinters of wood chipped passed their faces, a second later the whole door fragmenting with the force and weight of bodies thrown against it as the structure weakened and broke apart. Rafe Connor was laughing at something or someone as he half ran and half fell into the room. But Zoe ignored him, she stared stunned and speechless as a second figure pushed impatiently passed him. Eyes wide and anxious stared out of a charred and cracked face that she would have known anywhere. It was Kaylee who said what she could not.

"Cap'n! I knew you'd find us!"

Simon stared, mouth hanging open in surprise. Malcolm Reynolds glanced around at his battered but thankfully still breathing crew. Relieved to find them but noting that some were injured. None of the wounds looked life threatening and for that he was grateful. Jayne grinned at him and stopped struggling to try to get at the knot around the Shepherd's wrists. The Shepherd nodded to Mal as if he had been expecting him then Wash found his voice, the relief evident as the words rushed out.

"*Wode ma*, Captain! Not that I'm not glad to see you but what in the nine hells happened to you?"

Chung-li, *Shi*, Paul Cotton and the others were now coming in behind the Captain and Rafe. "Had a run in with some folks as wanted to hang an' set fire to me. As you can imagine I was none too keen on that notion."

Zoe blinked back the threat of tears. Mal checked his crew over one by one, his eyes taking in as much detail as he could the better to repay their captors for what had been done to them. As soon as Kaylee was free she wrapped herself around the Captain and hugged him for all she was worth. "I knew you'd come." She mumbled into his shirt. He kissed the top of her head and eased her back, a smile cracking his charred face as his blackened hand brushed back the tears on her face.

"Hey now, no tears. How many gorram shirts you think I got?"

Kaylee laughed and buried herself back in his arms. The Captain cradled her and found himself looking over Kaylee's head into Zoe's eyes. "Glad to have you back, sir."

"Glad to be back."

A touch on his shoulder made the Captain look around. Simon was giving him one of those doctory looks. "I should take a look at you, Captain. You appear to have some pretty extensive burns."

Kaylee let go of the Captain and smiled at Zoe. Mal seemed to barely acknowledge the doctor, his eyes roaming around his battered crew as if distracted. Rafe quietly standing to one side and watching, neither him nor his men wanting to intrude. Time enough for introductions. "Later, Simon." The Captain murmured, frowned then looked the doctor in the eye, no attempt to hide his concern. "Where's your sister?"

He could not swallow. Could hardly form words. "They... they caught her."

The Captain's eyes narrowed. "Then why ain't she here with you?"

Simon pulled a sour face and looked down at the unconscious bundle lying at his feet. "*Wo bu zhidao* but I think I know somebody who does..."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*ni bu dong* = you don't understand *diyu* = hell *wei* = hey *rongyi* = easy *shenme* = what *baichi* = idiot *shi* = ten *wo zhidao* = I know *qu* = yes (lit. go) *dui* = correct *xie xie ni* = thank you *pengyou* = friend *dong ma* = understand *zenme* = how *xiongdi* = brother *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wode ma* = mother of God *ni bu zhidao* = I don't know


Sunday, November 7, 2004 10:46 AM


Good to have the gang for the most part back together. Be interesting to see how Zoe deals with her lack of faith that Mal would return--and how it plays out between them dealing with the leaving and returning.

I unduely enjoyed Badger getting his face kicked by Jayne. What does that say about me? ;-)

Tuesday, November 9, 2004 4:48 AM


I'm lovin' this entire story! I second the motion that I'm glad to see Mal finally reunited with his crew, but where in the good gorram is River? I need to know!!

Friday, November 26, 2004 8:15 PM


That you love Jayne more than life itself, Guildsister. Does Adam Baldwin know?

Well, good, Badger needs a good beating, maybe Jayne 'ill get and ear or two.

Keep flyin'


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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.