THE REFLECTION SERIES: 28. "Endings and Beginnings"
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

"The folks on Glory are beginning to fret. River executes a cunning plan while Inara and Simon learn there is help closer at hand than they had dreamed."



SUMMARY: "The folks on Glory are beginning to fret. River executes a cunning plan while Inara and Simon learn there is help closer at hand than they had dreamed." 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

* * * * *

They were coming up to what was called the Wet Season on Glory. Hal Larkin tried to hide his deepening sense of unease. The weeks were passing and still there had been no word from Rafe. A friend on a neighbouring ranch had a cortex link and he and Molly had gone over to beg the use of it but still no word. No nothing. He should have been relieved not to hear word of the *laoban* being caught or executed for siding with Independent rebels but it just deepened the empty feeling crawling in his gut that something must have gone wrong. He did not say as much to Molly but she was no fool. She was after all her father's daughter.

"He isn't dead, Hal."

The foreman grunted an awkward aknowledgement as if pretending he had been thinking no such thing.

"Besides, Chung-li's with him. If anythin' had gone wrong he would'a got us word, *dui*?"

He nodded. That much at least he could be sure of. Mayhap the girl was right and he was just worrying his old bones for no good reason at all. He thought about the boys, Ben and Mark, up in the high meadow moving the cattle. No word either on the status of the ranch so presumably that eleventh hour reprieve from old man Cyrus was still good. He cut a look to the tall beauty walking beside him. "Looks like you'll be weddin' in the wet, Molly."

She huffed and shot him a determined look. "I'll do no such thing! When *ba ba* gets back we'll settle on a date not before. An' if the sun don't shine we'll postpone the doin' of it 'till it does, *dong ma*?"

Hal grinned and nodded. He liked Molly, liked her plain talking and spirit. He sometimes thought that in a fight she could lick both her brothers, not that they were weak nor nothing. It was just that when Molly let rip there was no holding her back. Had a lot of her mama in her and no mistake. The memory made him quiet-like. Molly noticed, their horses dropping into an easy trot after the fast canter. "*Shenme shi*?"

"*Yiwusuoyou*, just thinkin' how ya remind me some of your mama."

Her smile was quick, hidden again before it could become sorrowful. "You worry too much." She said by way of an olive branch.

He wanted to say she worried too little but truth to tell he did not want her to worry at all. He hoped Todd would be the equal of Molly Connor. Of one thing he was certain, the man would never die of boredom.

* * * * *

General Carlin Ferris never knew what hit him. Excited as all *diyu* at the prospect of getting his hands on the Crazy Goose and making sure that old *hundan* of a father of his was gone merely whet his appetite for what was to come. Once he had settled that old score he would deal with the meddling strangers especially that snooty Counsellor. Thought he could protect his old man from his wrath did he, well he was much mistaken. In the long years of self imposed exile from his family Carlin had not been idle. As he had risen higher and higher in rank, each conflict with the enemy more bloody than the last, he dreamt of the day he could feast on his father's blood and finally lay that ghost to rest.

Bitterness stalked in place of dreams and nightmares. Visions of great deeds always paid for by others. Those lesser beings not wise enough to embrace the all mighty Alliance deserved no better than to be put down like the pathetic dogs they were. His one regret was the death of his mother but that was not his fault. His father had seen to that, keeping her close to him while he stooped to teach the sons of whores and bitches. Carlin respected only two things: strength and power. In his eyes Thomas McCardy had neither. It was time to clean out the gene pool. It was therefore a matter of first surprise then shock when he began to find it difficult to breathe. His chest ached, and no matter how deep he inhaled the air did not seem to reach his lungs. He gasped, clutched his throat with one hand and his chest with another. The hard labouring pump of his heart thudded erratically against the confines of his rib cage. Everything hurt. Gorrammit he was having a rutting heart attack, only he wasn't. Leastways not the conventional kind. He was hardly aware of his first officer trying to raise the alarm but falling inert to the deck before he could take a single step.

Vaguely his mind took in how differently people faced death. He was a certifiable Alliance war hero and would meet his end calmly, in control. No God in the 'verse able to deny him his just rewards. But these minions were canon fodder for a war that would never end. Only valuable to him because they wore the uniform that served his cause. He had never served theirs. Strange to see Richards trying to cry out in fear as he clawed at his throat, the tears rolling in terrified rivulets down his bloated face. Flushed a peculiar shade of red now he came to think about it. Odd that. Would his father look at him thus when the last breath of life was squeezed out of his crippled lungs? Hughes was trying to reach him, the words forming in the man's mind unable to make it to lips turning from speech to agony. He fell less than a yard away from the General, the index finger of his right hand pointing, eyes so wide they looked to be on the verge of bursting. Pointing. Now why would a dying man do that?

He never heard her enter. Never felt the hand on his shoulder shoving him back in his chair. The mask obscuring the girl's features as she stared wide eyed into his own. So cold, dispassionate and calculating he could not help but admire her. Was she one of his? If not it was his loss. Such an efficient dealer in death was hard to come by. Most were too weak when it came to the coup de grace. Too plagued by weak consciences that kept them always a step away from greatness. She was getting vague, indistinct. He wanted her to stay, to tell him how she had done this. How a mere girl had managed to topple an Alliance ship. Pride of the rutting fleet. Just before he passed out the girl removed her mask. Younger than he thought. Not what he expected. Then the slim waif like figure knelt beside his chair and brought her lips close to his ear. The sound strange to him, hard to decipher and make sense of. He sighed, a last breath of exhalation as his tired exhausted brain struggled to understand the one word of explanation beyond his grasp.


Heavy eyes fluttered closed. He did not see her replace the mask, moving from body to body to check. Calculations cycling in her head as she located the correct control to release the tractor beam. River knew that it would raise all kinds of *diyu* if the ship were found like this. Too many questions the Alliance could not afford to ignore. But ships of the line disappeared now and then. Some of the commandants went rogue, some went mad, others came to grief through their own incompetence. But never and nowhere had there ever been a proven formula or solution for pilot error. All she had to do was programme the ship into the nearest asteroid field and let gravity do the rest. There was something reassuring about the 'verse having the last laugh. The bloody reign of Carlin Ferris, the Butcher of Beaudeclair and Monster of Martinsfield, would finally meet his end. With a whimper not a bang. How that would have galled him. Striking at the one thing he held inviolate, his pride.

River set the co-ordinates and put the ship on automatic. It would not deviate from its' path of destruction. By the time the Almighty Alliance located the pieces they would only be able to file the loss as an accident, most probably pilot error while trying to navigate an asteroid field.

* * * * *

Laurie Riggs staggered as he ran, uncaring of how panicky he looked. Inara felt nothing but relief. Even Simon seemed to feel an element of hope seep back into his doom laden vision. The Crazy Goose emulated its' name, though there was no up or down in space the ship's gravity gave a level plane which now canted at an impossible angle, too steep for them to keep upright, clinging instead to whatever superstructure offered a handhold.

Simon gave the newcomer a look that was as much plea as question. "Please tell me you can pilot this thing?"

The man was more than a bit winded and took a minute or two to find enough breath to reply. "Yes, I'm the pilot."

Simon closed his eyes in relief, "*Wode ma, xie xie ni*!"

Halfway to the control console the ship shifted under them. Simon lost his grip for a second time and went flying through the air where a second before a bulkhead had been. His relief at the pilot's return was cut short when his head connected with the ceiling. Inara had been more fortunate, she had landed on the luckless pilot. To her consternation her gain had been his loss. Painfully righting herself on a not so drastically inclined ship Inara Serra sat on the tilted deck and contemplated the two unconscious men.

* * * * *

On Serenity Captain Malcolm Reynolds was pacing his bridge and driving Wash crazy. Only his wife's cautioning hand on his shoulder made the pilot keep his mouth shut. Gorrammit couldn't Mal sit down for two minutes? Wasn't being burnt, beaten up, shot and tortured enough for the man?

Rafe Connor stuck his head through the doorway. "Any luck?" The Captain paused and shook his head, the lines of worry drawing a sympathetic look from the rancher. Wash's voice interrupted the Captain's dark thoughts. "We're gettin' a transmission, Cap'n."

"Put it through."

River's voice sailed across the airwaves like an answered prayer. "The Alliance ship won't be bothering us any more, Captain."

Mal leaned on the console next to Wash. "What did you do, *xin gan*?"

Her voice sounded merry and bright. Quite creepifying given what he was beginning to suspect after his talk with Chung-li. "Gave them a new mission. The tractor beam's been cut."

"I can see that but the Goose is still driftin'. Thought there was a pilot on that boat?"

"There will be. Have to be patient."

Wash looked alarmed. "What are you gonna do, River?"

"Don't worry, I'll give Inara your love. Remember to set four more places for dinner."

Then the com was cut and they watched as the little runabout left the Alliance ship and homed in on the Crazy Goose. Rafe frowned at the hulking Alliance vessel which now seemed to be heading off on a new trajectory away from them, presumably under its' own steam. How in *diyu* had the child managed to do that? "Where's that *tamade hundan* goin', Mal?"

The Captain shrugged, suddenly feeling light hearted for the first time in weeks. "Don't know an' don't rightly care." He glanced at Wash and allowed himself to relax. "Let's go pick up our people, Wash."

* * * * *

The infirmary was a crowded place, what with the two unconscious men, a recovering but reluctant Captain and the two crews crammed into every nook and cranny wanting to hear the child genius's account of what had happened. Inara Serra had a few cuts and bruises but nothing major. Simon was out for the count with a nasty gash on his head which Zoe took the opportunity to seal and stitch while he was unconscious. The pilot, Laurie Riggs, was first to return to consciousness, Tommy Bale standing next to his bed looking both relieved and uncertain. It was hard to tell if he was offering or seeking protection from his crew mate.

Inara insisted on checking that the Captain was alright despite his attempts to dodge her concern. Rafe smiled then watched as Mal gave up with a heavy sigh when Inara called Chung-li over to make sure he sat still. The men exchanged long suffering looks, Chung-li amused, the Captain - not so much. Once satisfied Mal was not going to keel over and die Inara went over to check on Simon. She smiled at Kaylee and took a look at the neat row of stitches Zoe was tying off. Wash stood behind her, a happy smile on his gentle face, his arms around his wife's waist. "My wife does good work."

The Companion's smile grew much broader, happy for them, enjoying the way the two completed each other. Before she could answer a slightly slurred voice spoke up from the bed. "At this rate I'll be in danger of losing my position on this ship."

"There's no danger of that," Said Zoe with a light chuckle, her eyes shining as Kaylee squealed and clutched at Simon's hand, relieved and happy to see him awake. The doctor quickly forgot everything else until River's voice impinged on his consciousness and he suddenly became aware just how crammed with people the infirmary was. "What happened next?" Jayne was asking, eyes bright and eager.

"That was when I told him."

"Told who what?" Asked Simon trying to sit up. Kaylee helped him and he gave her a smile of thanks.

"Carlin. Gave him a taste of his own medicine."

The Captain was beginning to have a good idea what she had done, still it didn't hurt to be sure. "What you do?"

Her smile was like the sun coming up. "Poison."

There were mixed looks of horror, surprise and astonishment. Only Jayne looked happy and impressed. Seeing their expressions River went on to explain.

"Shouldn't give if you don't want to receive." She said primly.

Inara had stopped smiling. "Are you saying he really did poison Thomas?" The room went completely quiet. All eyes on River. "*Qu*. But not so you would notice, it was gradual." Simon looked at Inara then back at his sister. "How did he do it, *mei mie*? We already know he didn't go aboard the Crazy Goose. Are you saying he had an accomplice?"

River shook her head. "Didn't need one. Two by two hands of blue."

Captain Reynolds went cold, could feel the creepifying effect stirring in his gut and making him all kinds of uneasy. "River, what you meanin'? Best speak plain now."

She nodded and locked eyes with him. "Captain Dummy Talk." No one laughed, they were too intent on what she had to say. "All his medicines came from Blue Sun."

That gave Simon an uncomfortable jolt, most of the medicines he got for River came from the same source. The look she gave him told him she knew exactly what he was thinking and that he was right but River kept on track. The others were waiting. They needed to know.

"It was little by little over a long long time. Accumulative. When the absorption of the drug reached saturation point the heart would fail. It would look natural. A heart attack. No finger of suspicion, no scandal. Nothing to blot a record already built on the blood of innocents."

Inara put a hand over her mouth, the Captain swallowed slowly. A groan from the far bed diverted their attention as Laurie Riggs sat up and put a hand to his aching head. Tommy Bale was grinning from ear to ear at his friend's moans of self pity. "What the *diyu* hit me?"

* * * * *

The commons room had never been so full. Those who could not fit around the table crowded onto chairs and on cushions spread on the floor. No one was left out. Inara finished explaining to Laurie Riggs and Tommy Bale about Thomas and Michael Tollan. Everyone more than a little subdued and sorrowful. It was Jayne who asked what no one wanted to voice. "What we gonna do with 'em? Dead is dead."

Simon frowned then winced as the motion pulled on his stitches. Shepherd Book gave the mercenary a steady look as if trying to impart a sense of gravity on the man.

The Captain turned to the surviving crew of the Crazy Goose. "We know Thomas still has family, what about Michael?"

Tommy nodded then hesitated.

"*Shenme shi?*"

"Not meanin' no disrespect Captain Reynolds but Thomas an' his family ain't talkin'."

"So? Kin is kin, *dui*?"

Tommy looked at Laurie, a silent plea to help him out. Laurie cleared his throat carefully. "His family didn't take to him an' Michael bein' together, *dong ma*? Tried to split 'em up. If we take 'em to the McCardys reckon they'll do in death what they couldn't do in life."

Kaylee's eyes widened in shock and distress. The Companion was watching Laurie Riggs closely. "You mean they would not allow Michael to be buried with Thomas?"

He nodded and looked down at his clasped hands. For a moment no one spoke then Simon thought of something. "But surely they left a will?"

Blank faces stared at him. River stirred from the cushion at his feet. "Words on a page until the ink runs."

The doctor frowned at his sister. "*Mei mei*?"

She smiled softly at him. "They need to find somewhere beyond the reach of narrow minds. Where hearts are open and the air is clean."

The Captain's eyes widened. "Glory!"

Everyone turned to look at him then Inara slowly nodded. "Glory."

"Um, wouldn't the family contest it?"

Mal looked at Simon, it was a good question just kind'a irrelevant in the circumstances. "Simon, Thomas would wanna be with Michael an' vice versa. Not sure what Michael's family would want but this ain't for them to say. The task falls to them as are left to carry it out an' like it or not I'm thinkin' that's us. We know what they would'a wanted so I say we do just that. Perhaps the Preacher'll consent to say a few words over them if'n that's what they would have wanted." He glanced across at Inara. Not sure about the two men's religious beliefs. "That about right, Inara?"

She blinked at him. Sometimes the Captain could be quite sensitive. She wondered which was the act, the crude sumbitch Captain of Serenity or the brave and honour bound war hero? Both men were Malcolm Reynolds but which lay nearer his heart? She had a notion the answer was a whole lot more complex than any single conclusion. No wonder the man fascinated her almost as much as he infuriated her. Not that she would ever tell him. It made her think of something he had once said to her about himself, *like woman I'm a mystery*. He had been joking at the time she knew but many a true word was said in jest. "*Qu*, I think they'd like that Mal."

The Captain turned to Rafe. "Not that I got any call to ask but might there be a place to settle those folks on your land? Some place peaceable where no land hungry *liumang* can rip it outta their dead hands?"

Rafe's lips twitched. He could sense Chung-li's silent amusement at his side and knew there was no way he could refuse such a sanctuary. Besides, he had a debt of his own to repay. One Mal had carefully avoided mentioning. No pressure. "I'd be honoured."

The Captain became thoughtful. "We also gotta think on what's to become of our 'guests'. How they doin' in the healin' department doctor?"

Simon smiled. "Very well. Young and old alike are more resilient that I would have expected. Relieved to be free."

"Yeah but what they gonna do now?" Asked Jayne. "Free, poor an' lost ain't much better."

River tilted her head at the big man. "Freedom turns every gift to gold but a cage without it turns everything to ash."

"Couldn't we..." Kaylee broke off and flushed, suddenly embarrassed to be making suggestions about other people's lives.

The Captain leaned forward. "You say what you're wantin' to say, little Kaylee. Not makin' no decisions here just thinkin' out loud, *dong ma*? Got no call to think your words mean less than any of ours. Might be you see somethin' we'll miss."

She swallowed and the words tumbled out all of a rush. "Shoudn't we let them decided? I mean, if they're free an' all?" The Shepherd nodded looking pleased. "I do believe those people are the only ones who can make that decision."

Zoe had listened to the discussion in silence but now looked a mite troubled. "What if they can't decide?"

"We'll be headin' to Glory first," Said the Captain. "Suggest we go talk to 'em, let 'em know the lay of the land. Then as we reach new places they can be makin' decisions of their own."

"I can help with a little funds and materials," Offered Book slowly. "There is a small monastery on Glory, not my order but an affiliate."

Rafe looked surprised. "St Anselm's?"

Book nodded. "I see you've heard of it."

"Yes, but it's a closed order Shepherd."

The Shepherd nodded, smiling gently. "Only closed to sin."

* * * * *

Becky wasn't sure what to make of the news. The Captain had gone with Simon, Rafe and the Preacher to talk to the former slaves. Stunned faces stared back at them, not sure whether they were being offered their freedom or simply a prison without walls. River slid in behind the little delegation and danced over to Becky, her expression gentle and knowing, her eyes wiser than her years. "You decide. Every one. Not a lottery, no game of chance. No one has to come, go or stay where they don't want to."

Tears pricked the girl's eyes then River smiled. Disarmed, the girl murmured to some of the others and it seemed the whisper grew like a serpent snaking through the throng of fifty odd souls all saved from the brink of death by a happenstance none of them could have foreseen. Becky took River's hand and held it as if it were a lifeline. "Where are you takin' us?"

The Captain was content to let River tell them. They seemed to trust her and the knowing of it lightened his heart.

"We're going to Glory."

A woman in her mid fifties frowned. "Glory?"

River nodded back, her face a-glow, eyes only for the anxious sea of faces. "*Qu*. Mid-Rim world, non-mechanised technology, ranches and homesteads. Farmers and ploughshares. Small population per acre. Always room for willing hands to make a place for themselves." Several of the women gave little nods to each other, liking the sound of that. River caught their unguarded expressions and gave a sudden grin.

"Eleven men to every woman." The little genius informed them mentally counting the birth of those not yet born. Five years from now there would a boom the like of which Glory had never seen. More babies per acre than cattle. Still, it wouldn't do to spook the new herd too soon. "Room to settle down and spread out, even the odds and find a new life. The central town is small, basic. An enterprising few could open new shops, stores. Always work for those ready to take up the challenge. New world, new life, new hope. But not for the faint hearted."

Now subdued excitement replaced the apprehension. Mal smiled to himself and made a quiet exit leaving the doctor to make sure the women did not need anything. Rafe hung back and waited for an opportunity to talk to River, mightily impressed with the way she had those poor abused womenfolk eating out of her hand. The Preacher watched for a few more moments then began to move among his extended flock. He had an idea the monks of St Anselm would find themselves in need of a chapel to service a new congregation.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*laoban* = boss *dui* = correct *ba ba* = daddy *dong ma* = understand *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *diyu* = hell *hundan* = bastard *wode ma* = mother of God *xie xie ni* = thank you *xin gan* = sweetheart *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *qu* = yes (lit. go) *mei mei* = little sister *liumang* = asshole/bastard/gangster/criminal


Thursday, December 23, 2004 3:50 AM


Lovely ending - it was an ending, right? Tt felt like an ending. Very sweet, even if I was a bit creeped out by River's dispassionate killing. Good explanation about the poisoning - I was glad there were no traitors on board.

I loved the way it ended with a sense of hope, visions of new and better lives to come and the way that River could see it all. And the way she thought of the freed slaves as a new herd made me smile - reminiscent of her empathy with the beasts in "Safe."

Good work.

Thursday, December 23, 2004 7:00 AM


Wonder what she used for poison. Regardless, it's wrapping-up nicely, but I'm still looking forward to seeing how Zoe comes to grips with her loss of faith in Mal.

Thursday, December 23, 2004 8:52 AM


No, Kispexi2, this is not the end but the penultimate chapter. I always flag the last part 'Series Conclusion' so folks will know. And yes, as you guessed artships there is still a little more to come. Thanks for the comments and Keep Flyin',
Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, December 24, 2004 3:45 AM


I love this story. I too am looking forward to how everything wraps up. Great job, Ali!

Thursday, January 13, 2005 9:23 PM


I loved Wash's moment. "My wife does good work," and his doting over her...

Book had a nice line as well...

I too enjoyed the subtle assassin pointed at the Blue Sun. Sounds like River's coming around...

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.