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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Just when things are going smooth everything goes striaght to *diyu*."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2731 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing
STATUS: SEQUEL to "HOMEWARD BOUND"
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Just when things are going smooth everything
goes straight to *diyu*."
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
* * * * *
"Within the four seas all men are brothers."
Malcolm Reynolds looked up from the grey walls. "I know that quote. It's from Earth-That-Was."
Chung-li fell silent and finished tending the bullet wound in the Captain's left shoulder.
"I'm gettin' gorram sick of gettin' shot have to say. Novelty value's not funny no more."
"I will not allow you to come to harm again."
A wry smile twisted Mal's lips, his eyes roaming to take in the solid construction of their prison. "You ain't my bodyguard, Chung-li, though I appreciate the sentiment *dong ma*?" He paused and looked at his friend. Not needing to put into words the gratitude he felt. It was enough that Chung-li knew. Understood. "You sure the others got clear?"
The Captain had been out of it for a short while and Chung-li had managed to drag him clear before the *wangba dans* could end him. It had been a stay of execution more than an escape. When the dust settled they found themselves surrounded. Beaten by superior numbers yet again. Didn't matter how much time passed, he never seemed to be able to get away from the gorram war. Chung-li watched him for a moment, knowing the thoughts going through his head and how much he was worrying about the others whether he said so or not. "They will not go far."
"Not what I was wantin' to hear. Be happier knowin' they got away."
The big man shook his head. "They will not leave us."
Mal sighed, all kinds of angry with himself for getting shot and taken. Not doubting for a minute that he would not be alive but for Chung-li. The man might be big but he could move as fast as a freak when he wanted to. "How'd you do all that martial arts stuff anyway? On'y man I ever seen with that kind'a fluidity is the Preacher an' he ain't nowhere near as fast as you. Ain't got words enough to say how creepifyin' that is."
His friend smiled. They were sitting on the floor of their steel cell in the belly of the Alliance forty-four. The screams had dulled somewhat but Mal was all too aware that in other cells the floors would not be dusty and bare but wet and shiny with a crimson sheen. He tried not to look at the rings set into the walls or the discomforting display of torture devices that hung fastened in racks like some gorram sick trophy case. Was that what they were? Trophies? The spoils of war? Only the gorram war was over. That made him think of Harkan and his assertion that for some the war was never over. Not exactly a comforting thought to be having right now. He had been surprised not to be tied up nor put in rutting chains after they disarmed him, not that he was of a notion to say as much when unfriendly ears might be listening. Didn't want to be giving those *wangba dans* any ideas.
"We gotta get outta here, Chung-li." He said quietly. "An' I'm thinkin' sooner rather than later."
The big man did not nod but a discreet movement of his hands signed his agreement. Mal took the hint and spoke of nonconsequential things like how cold and tired he was while his hands flew through the shapes of words that must not be allowed to flow from his lips. The Chinaman replied in kind, in silent conversation discussing how best to extricate themselves from this *jianyu* and rejoin the others. Mal felt sick at heart. He had been determined to find River and bring her and Serenity back to the others. His crew safe. His boat taken out of the hands of their enemies. It would have been shiny to have got the prisoners free and to safety as well. It hurt to fail but would have hurt more not to try.
Chung-li watched as the Captain leaned his head back and closed his eyes. So gorram tired but fearing to rest. Just needed a minute. Had to find a way out though there would be no chance of breaking through a wall or ceiling. The box was steel on every gorram side and the door had no handle on the inside. Felt like a sardine in a rutting tin. What he needed was a tin opener.
It was driving Wash mad. He understood. Of course he did. It was just that Zoe was making him half crazy with the silent staring and the pacing. The not speaking and flashes of worry on her face. Not that he wasn't worried too but there was nothing they could do until they heard from the Captain. He was surprised at the comfort that thought gave him. Hard to think that only weeks before he had been relieved to have time away from their *shenjingbing* but noble Captain however the thought of a permanent furlough terrified him. He had glimpsed the reality of a life without Malcolm Reynolds and didn't like it. Could say he had an epiphany right there and then. Brought home how much an integral part of their little world he was. Serenity was their home but only because the Captain made it so. All that sitting round the table for the main meal of the day. The pulling together and playing together. Learning how to fit their strengths and weaknesses into a chain that would never break. Made him feel all kinds of humble to see in hindsight how they had been moulded into more than the sum of their parts. Weren't crew no more. They were family and family stuck together no matter what.
"Relax, *bao bei*, Cap'n knows what he's doin'."
She stared at him but he wondered if she even saw him. There was an emptiness in her eyes that made his breath hitch and his gentle heart ache for love of her. A bleakness she usually kept hidden from him. Reminded him too much of Mal when he was in one of his darker moods. As if Zoe was walking where angels feared to tread. The past creeping in and sending shivers of apprehension down his spine. Wash reached for her and she let him draw her into his warm embrace.
They were waiting for Inara, Counsellor Tollan having left them in the galley to fix themselves something to eat and drink only none of them felt much like either except Jayne. Wash was sure the man had a gorram cast iron stomach. Probably made of the same stuff that was packed between his ears. The only one more uptight than Zoe was Simon. Kaylee tried to reassure him while he fretted. Simon turned his head and stared at Jayne, watching him shovelling food into his mouth as if he had been starved for months. "Must you do that?"
Jayne paused, mouth full, a frown forming on his face. "Do what?" He mumbled.
"How can you eat at a time like this?"
"Body needs fuel."
Simon blinked, watched the relentless flow of food continue unabated from hand to mouth and realised that disgusting though it was the mercenary was right. What little appetite the doctor had fled at the sight of Jayne cramming his mouth, in too much of a hurry to even chew before swallowing. That would take too much time. It was disgusting. He looked away and thought about River. It seemed incongruous to just be sitting here doing nothing when her life was probably in danger. Kaylee could feel his tension, tried to ease it with her warm touch but it was as if he was barely aware of her. Normally that would have hurt but not now. She was worried too. Oddly enough that comforted him more than her small vain attempts at reassurance. Misery really *did* like company.
She was young. Ten or eleven at most. A pretty but skinny little thing with sad eyes and lacklustre long brown hair. River knew that hair had once shone and flowed like silk. Knew those flat staring eyes had once laughed and sparkled. Knew the inside of her head was painted red and she could no longer remember how to dance. It saddened her but there was no time for any of that. She knew the clock was ticking even if they were in the deep black of space. "Have to go now, *dong ma*?"
The girl recoiled from her more out of habit than any apprehension of threat.
River was gentle, her voice soft and cooing, like she was calming a terrified beast or an injured critter. In a way the girl was both and that hurt River. She knew what it was to be broken. To feel the jagged edges cut her mind every time she tried to put the pieces back together. Once she had crept forward enough to place her arms around the girl a sob broke from grief stricken lips and it was like someone had cut the strings to a doll. River moved automatically, catching the frail form and hugging her close. Shouldn't be so light, so barely-there. Anger flashed in her, the white lightening of it sparking in her brown eyes, adding another layer of debt to the perpetrators of this crime. One more nail in a coffin that would not stay buried.
It seemed such a long journey back to the others but River was pleased to see they were still there. As if making decisions was something beyond them. Conditioned to follow orders they followed hers without question and without complaint. The ages ranged from ten to fifty, all women. River knew they kept the men in another part of the ship but these were the vulnerable ones. Quickly she guided them through access shafts, maintenance ducts and air shafts until she could see her destination. Laying flat on her stomach River looked out throught he grill at the huge mining platform they were docked on. It wasn't the massive mining platform that drew her eye though but a smaller vessel currently under guard of two of the *tamade hundan* slavers running this operation.
A push on her shoulder made River glance back. Becky. Near enough her own age but decades older in outlook. A child no more, not even a teenager. Old before her time. Becky's brow was creased, it was like looking at someone slowly emerging from a coma but River knew what it was. How it had been. Girl had been hiding. They all had. The look in her eyes was asking if it was safe to come out. "Stay here, Becky. Make sure no one follows."
Fear and uncertainty wavered on Becky's face then she reached out a tenative hand to River's shoulder with a question in her eyes.
"I'll be fine," River said. "I need to make sure it's safe before we get out of here. Just wait until I get back, can you do that?"
For a minute Becky did not react then she gave a wary nod. "Yes."
The word sounded like it had travelled a thousand light years and was already dissolving when uttered but River dazzled her with such a beautiful bright smile in recompense that the girl smiled back. A quick fleeting thing that made River want to cry to see how easily it vanished. She looked at the crowd of faces behind the girl, their sorrowful empty eyes not daring to hang on to the hope she wanted so badly to give them. Then she was working off the grating and slipping through, pausing only to carefully set it back in place. She had not come all this way to fail because of impatience. In fact she had not come to fail at all.
John Porter Clements was watching closely. The monitor was focussed on the two prisoners and though he leaned as close to the screen as he could get and increased the zoom he could not read what they were signing to each other. His face was darkening with a mix of anger and frustration. It was not helped by the look of grudging admiration in Martin Price's eyes. "I can't tell what they're signin'. You get that?"
Price shook his head. "No, sir."
Clements looked back at the screen and frowned. Watched Malcolm Reynolds wearily rest his head back against the steel wall and close his eyes. "*Ni bu dong*, got a clear look at the hand shapes but not a one I recognise."
"Maybe it's some bastardised concoction?"
"You mean like a code?"
Price nodded. "What you wanna do with 'em, *laoban*? Want me to confirm their identities? Didn't have time for it when we snatched 'em."
"I know him," Clements pointed at the Captain. "His name's Malcolm Reynolds, was a Browncoat in the war. A Sergeant."
The man did not ask how Clements could be so positive when Reynold's face was so badly burned but he was not so tired of living as to ask. "An' the other?"
Clements shook his head. "Never seen him before. He gets in our way, kill him."
It was hard, the waiting. Rafe Connor could not stop pacing. Zoe kept shooting him a look but did not call him on it. Jayne wasn't so diplomatic. "What the ruttin' *diyu* is up with ya? Cap'll make it out he always does."
Before anyone could say anything Inara joined them. Kaylee relaxed until she got a good look at the Companion's face. "*Shenme shi*?"
They instinctively crowded round. Rafe hung back but watched and listened from the periphery. He was itching to do something but this was not his call. He didn't catch everything the Companion said but got the impression that someone had died.
Jayne Cobb looked worried but not for the reason Kaylee or any of the others were worried. "What he die of?"
The Shepherd was torn between offering comfort to Inara or heading off Jayne's clumsy efforts to understand what had happened. "Now Jayne I don't think..."
"It's not contagious if that's what you're thinking." Said Inara in a quiet cold voice.
Simon let go of Kaylee's hand and stepped forward. "Maybe I should..."
"What?" Sneered Jayne sarcastically. "Paw over him to make sure?"
Inara hated this. Knew Thomas would have hated it too. Was just glad that the Counsellor was up on the bridge and did not have to witness this. "*Xie xie ni,* Simon. I would be grateful if you would take a look at him." She said quietly.
Everyone watched them quietly leave then Kaylee rounded on Jayne. "Why do you always have to be so mean?"
"Ain't mean it's just..."
"He doesn't think." Explained Zoe with a hard look on her face.
"Don't blame Jayne, *bao bei*, he doesn't have the equipment. Wouldn't be a fair fight." Wash quipped.
Jayne leaned in close to the pilot. "You wanna go, little man?"
"Only if it's got candlelight an' real food."
Rafe could not understand the crew dynamics. One minute they seemed so tight a slip of paper could not pass between them, the next they were bickering and falling out over *fei hua*. He began to understand why Mal had taken a sabbatical. Perhaps he could persuade him to make it more permanent?
In the relative privacy of Thomas McCardy's private room Inara relaxed enough to let her mask drop. Simon was shocked by the amount of emotion he saw there but quickly hid his reaction. Inara blinked back tears and Simon quietly followed her over to the bed. It seemed an act of theatre to check him over, the man was clearly deceased but Simon was nothing if not thorough. Slowly, respectfully he did what was needed then took a step back and looked at Inara Serra's face. "*Duibuqi*, Inara, there's nothing I can do for him."
"*Wo zhidao* but there's something I need to know."
Simon frowned slightly and waited for her to explain.
"I want to know why he died."
Minutes passed. Simon looked stunned, glanced at the dead man with sad but compassionate eyes. The man was a double amputee but the doctor had been able to tell early on in his examination that he had a number of other conditions any of which could have ended his life prematurely. "I... don't understand. This man was obviously..."
"His name is Thomas." Said Inara softly, one hand seeming to reach out of its' own accord to rest on the dead man's shoulder.
"Thomas was already dying, Inara." Said Simon gently, as if breaking news that would be a shock to her.
"If you know then why...?"
"The timing, Simon."
Simon Tam blinked. He thought he knew all about Inara but he really didn't know a thing. Had her life aboard Serenity been nothing but illusion? And if so what was he seeing now? The woman behind the mask or another mask? "Um, I'm not sure what you're hoping to find."
"I need to know if his death was natural, Simon."
It took forever for his next breath to inflate his lungs. *Wode ma* what pile of *goushi* had they stepped in now? "Why would you think his death was unnatural?"
"I'm hoping it isn't but I need to know."
"And... if it *isn't* natural?"
Before his very eyes the elegant mannered confection of the Companion began to crumble. He was pretty sure it was real this time. "Then we have a murderer to catch."
"Inara, I don't think..."
"Don't think, Simon," She said quietly. "Just find out." She paused. "*Qing*."
"I'll have to..."
She was already nodding. "The Crazy Goose has a fully equipped surgery. The surgery is just off this room, at the back, so we won't have to disturb the others." His eyebrows rose in surprise but she ignored the hidden question in his eyes. "I know you have a neat hand."
"Inara?" She had turned to go, to leave him. Leave them both. "You want me to...?"
"Yes. When you are finished with the autopsy I want you to sew him back up, as neatly as you can. The smaller the stitches the better."
He was really confused now. "*Weishenme*?"
"Because if what I suspect is true the killer may strike again."
He was feel woozy and light headed. The touch on his shoulder did not rouse him, it was the words whispered urgently in his ear. Mal fought to stay conscious and through sheer willpower opened his eyes. Chung-li helped him sit while he clamped his teeth together so he would not cry out in pain. Badger was grinning at him, the effect ruined somewhat by his bandaged face.
"What the *diyu* happened to you?"
"Not me you should be worryin' about. You pissed off some powerful people Reynolds."
"Did I now?" Mal responded mildly. What did he mean by that? He hated it that Badger was grinning down at him, looking all manner of pleased with himself. For the hundredth time Mal wondered why he had not killed the *goushi buru wangba dan* when he had the chance. Such largesse was something that could get him killed.
Badger stepped to one side and another man stepped forward. This one even bigger and uglier than the little kingpin. Mal felt dizzy and a little sick. Chung-li began to move in front of him but a barked out order had several guards grab the Chinaman.
"Don't, don't fight Chung-li." Said the Captain. "Let's all just calm down, *dong ma*?"
The plea was aimed at the figure looming over him. Rutting *diyu* that was one ugly sumbitch. "Malcolm Reynolds!" Said the voice, the tone laced with pleasure and something that sounded as if it had lain festering in the darkness for years while it slowly rotted into what now stood before him. "Told you we would meet again some day."
He squinted. "You did?"
Clements nodded then hunkered down in front of the Captain. He glanced at the injured shoulder, noting it was bleeding. Scraps of crimson cloth making a poor but makeshift bandage. He had a pretty good idea who had done the doctoring. Mal was in no condition to stand unaided let alone treat himself. "Got us some unfinished business."
"*Wo bu dong*." Mal paused to wet his lips, fatigue seeping in every pore. "I know you?"
"It was after the War. Battle of Serenity had been fought and won - by the Alliance not you."
Mal's tone was quiet but bitter. "Think I might remember somethin' of that."
"Do you remember what happened to you after the surrender?"
Inwardly the Captain flinched. "I surely do. Those *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* interred us. We were tortured, knocked about a bit, kept in depravity and darkness - why?"
John Porter Clements rocked forward on his heels so he could thrust his face close to Mal's. "Recognise me now, Browncoat scum?"
He could feel himself pale. Of all his worst nightmares he had to come face to gorram face with this one. Now he knew he was going to die. And not quickly neither. "Clements?"
"The very same."
"*Cao ni zuxian shi ba dai*!"
Mal closed his eyes. Clements rocked back on his heels and laughed, the distorted face making unnatural folds across features only a mother could love and then only if she was high on drink or drugs. Man abused the privilege of being ugly. With an effort Mal opened his eyes and looked at him, his whispered words edged in pain. "*Weishenme*, Clements? War's over."
"You were the only one to hold out on me, you know that?"
"I win a prize?"
The humour vanished from Clement's face. "Laugh it up and *ri ni*. Before I'm through with you that internment camp'll feel like a fond memory. Gonna make ya scream till the breath in your gorram body is gone!"
The Captain was vaguely aware of Chung-li trying to break free of the guards but there was nothing he could do or say to calm the big man down. "Why you so mad at me? I was on'y one of hundreds of prisoners."
"Because of you I look like this."
Mal blinked, genuinely confused. "Me?"
"You dirty Browncoats ran out of ammunition, Serenity Valley was lost, more dead in that valley than even God is used to seein'. So what they do? They used chemical ruttin' warfare." The Captain's mouth dropped open in shock. He hadn't known that. "My ugly face is all that's left to show for survivin'."
Had it been anyone else Mal would have been tempted to say sorry but Clements was a whole other matter. A mean sumbitch even on a good day and this was not a good day. Death was more than a twisted *tamade hundan* like him deserved. "I take it from that you aim to kill me?"
A harsh laugh made his gut twist but he hid the disquiet from showing. "Oh yeah, you're gonna die at my hand."
"What about him?"
Clements had forgotten all about the Chinaman. "What about him?"
"He wasn't no Browncoat."
"I got no quarrel with him, *weishenme*?"
"Let him go."
Dark spiteful eyes stared holes through him but Mal did not dare look away. Maybe his own life had turned to ratshit but it did not have to be so for Chung-li. Would give him some satisfaction if one of them got out of this mess alive. For a moment it looked like Clements was considering doing just that then a nasty gleam came into his eyes. "Oh I don't think so. Any friend of yours is worth tying to a gorram stake but I'll promise you this much. I won't lay a ruttin' finger on him, just keep him here to watch you die. Then when it's over I'll let him go."
Chung-li began to struggle more violently, trying to throw off his captors. Now there were five guards holding him down. Mal raised his voice as much as he could which wasn't much given the fact that his throat and voice box were still healing. "Chung-li, stop strugglin'. Not gonna help me, *dong ma*?"
The struggling stopped. The Captain could not see Chung-li's face but knew he was asking a lot of the big man. Clements gave a twisted smile then waved a hand towards the rings on the opposite wall. Mal watched as they manhandled Chung-li over to the wall then chained him to it, hands and feet. No rutting way in *diyu* he would be able to break out of that. The man sported a large ugly bruise on the side of his face but it was the sorrow in his eyes that hurt Mal. No way did he want his troubles visiting this man or any other. But honour was a foreign language to John Porter Clements. Turning his head he saw Clements watching him intently. The only thing worse than his ugly face was the look of anticipation burning with unholy passion in his eyes. Clements intended to make this one nightmare that would never end.
The firefight had been as fierce as it had been protracted. *Shi* leaned back against a wall, every bone in his body ached. He could not get to wherever Mal and Chung-li were. Had no way of knowing for sure what in *diyu* had happened. In the smoke that had filled the corridors the men had lost contact with each other, momentarily afraid to fire in case they hit one of their own. Minutes later the smoke had cleared, the firing had continued on both sides but with no sign of either of the two men. It worried him more than he cared to admit. Had they been killed one of the men would have updated him but they found no bodies. Over the hours of hand to hand combat that took over where shells left off he had painstakingly searched the corridor and those off it.
"Where the hell did they go?" Asked Ricky, the back of his hand wiping the sweat and grease out of his eyes and smearing it across his face.
"*Wo bu zhidao* but I don't like it."
Another couple of hours and the corridor was clear and wonder of wonders no one had got killed. At least, he hoped they hadn't. *Shi* thought about what to do next, his expression settling in to hard grim lines as they advanced when one of the slavers moaned from where he had been shot in the gut. *Shi* held up a hand to halt the others and knelt beside the man. Ricky frowned, they had no time to be tending enemy soldiers but that was not what *Shi* was doing.
"You're gut shot." Said *Shi* in an almost conversational tone of voice. The man on the ground was trying to spit and swear at him but the life leaking out of him was making that hard to do. *Shi* gave a grim little smile. "You're gonna tell us where the landing platform is. Where the firefly is berthed, *dong ma*?"
The man shook his head, pain making him gasp and gulp air that only went down in lumps. "*Cao ni ma*!"
*Shi* looked up at his men then back at the injured man. He put his right hand over the stomach wound and looked him in the eye. "Oh you'll tell me, you piece of *houzi outo*." *Shi* leaned on his hand, the man beneath him spasming in pain, mouth wide open in a scream his lungs could not fill. The gurgling sound was all kinds of disturbing. "Now," Said *Shi* easing up to let the man speak with his rapidly diminishing breath. "Where did you say that gorram platform was?"
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*dong ma* = understand *wangba dan*/*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *jianyu* = prison *diyu* = hell
*shenjingbing* = crazy *bao bei* = precious/treasure *ni bu dong* = I don't understand *laoban* = boss
*shenme shi* = what's the matter? *xie xie ni* = thank you *fei hua* = garbage/nonsense *duibuqi* = sorry
*wo zhidao* = I know *shenme* = what *goushi* = crap/dog shit *qing* = please *weishenme* = why
*goushi buru* = lower than dogshit/lowest of the low *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* = animal fucking bastard
*cao ni zuxian shi ba dai* = fuck 18 generations of your ancestors *ri ni* = screw you/fuck you *shi* = ten
*wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *cao ni ma* = go screw your mother *houzi outo* = monkey vomit
Wednesday, November 17, 2004 12:42 PM
Wednesday, November 17, 2004 12:55 PM
Wednesday, November 17, 2004 2:11 PM
Wednesday, November 17, 2004 4:50 PM
Friday, November 19, 2004 2:53 AM
Saturday, November 20, 2004 8:30 PM
Friday, November 26, 2004 8:40 PM
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 1:50 PM
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