NO DOMINION: 13. "Angels Among Us"
Thursday, September 4, 2003

"Grief pushed to one side the two crews work together to find a way back to the Delphic Expanse."



SUMMARY: "Grief pushed to one side the two crews work together to find a way back to the Delphic Expanse." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. 'Enterprise' and its' characters are the property of 'Paramount'. No infringement of copyright is intended.


A "Firefly"/"Enterprise" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

The man's sparse frame seemed swallowed up by the whiteness of the sheet. Eyelids fluttering in a slowing dance as he fought to remain conscious. His breathing was shallow, his eyes fever bright but dullng even as Captain Reynolds hurried over to him. Simon looked on sadly but did not crowd them. At the foot of the bed Shepherd Book stood grim faced but silent. No one else was in Serenity's infirmary. Biv stirred when he heard Mal's voice. "What happened, Biv? You took sick?"

Biv looked more sorry than anything else. Reached out a trembling hand and was relieved when the Captain took it gently, wrapping his fingers around his. Simon quietly moved a chair next to the bed. Mal gave a nod of thanks and sat down, his eyes on the gaunt figure hanging on to him with such a weak grip it terrified him. "Not sick, *pengyou*, dying."

Alarm swallowed up his face. "*Shenme*? How can that be? You been eatin' right? Got no bullet holes in you or..." He could not continue. Did not want to think about all the cuts across his back or to speculate on what other things Atherton Wing might have done to this man over the nine years he had held him captive.

The man looked at him gently, squeezed his hand. Actually seemed a little stronger as if the Captain's presence had temporarily revived some of his flagging spirit. "No, Mal. Just Nature taking it's course."

"I don't believe that." He said tightly. "This is Atherton's doin' and we both know it."

Biv shook his head slowly. The effort wearing him out. He paused to marshall his strength and order his thoughts. Determined to leave no bitterness behind. Concerned for his friend and how he would react in the face of the inevitable. He dragged sluggish breaths into the slowing bellows of contracting lungs. Each breath hurt though it should not have. He had no intention of telling Mal that. Some nightmare's the boy did not need to have. He glanced down at the foot of the bed to where the Preacher stood like some grim sentinel then looked back at the Captain. "Just my time, Mal. Sooner or later we all have to let go."

"Not believin' that. I need you to do somethin' for me, Biv, though I got no right to ask."

That brought the ghost of a twinkle to the old man's eyes. "Anything providin' it's legal."

Despite the pain in his heart the Captain smiled briefly. He owed this man so much. "I want you to let Dr Phlox take a look at you." Biv was about to protest but the Captain would not let him. Did not want to hear him say words which would amount to giving up. No giving up allowed on his boat. "Just say you'll let him look at you an' I'll stop with the badgerin'. You can die in peace then if that's your decision."

Biv looked long and hard at the Captain. He was dying but it had nothing to do with Atherton Wing. Everything to do with the cancer that had been eating him up a mouthful at a time for the last twenty years. He had not told him that back on Persephone. Could not bear the thought of grieving the Captain at a time when every day looked to be their last. He understood now why it had taken him twenty years to die. He could not find it in his heart or soul to regret that knowing that a higher power held them all in the palm of His hand. Now that Mal was reunited with his people Biv felt able to let go. Mal did not need him any more though he knew just as surely that the Captain would not see it that way. Atherton was in the hands of the authorities, probably already swinging from a rope while the great and presumably good watched on with pious satisfaction. "I have cancer, *pengyou*."

Mal blinked. *Tian Yehsoo*. All the breath in his body stalled while his heart contracted. "Cancer?"

"I'm a doctor remember?"

Mal glanced back to make eye contact with Simon. His eyes were pleading. Praying the young man could do what he could not. But miracles were not in Simon Tam's purview though in his skilled hands Mal had seen many things that could have been mistaken for just such a thing. Simon stopped alongside him, not sure who he felt sorriest for and unhappy that nothing he might do could help either of them.

"There must be somethin' you can do?" Said the Captain in a soft anguished voice.

"I'm sorry, Captain, but the cancer is in the advanced stages. It was already too late months ago. In fact," He paused as if unsure whether or not he should go on. He looking intently at Biv, deliberately avoiding Mal's questioning eyes. Not sure he could face the moisture gathering there like condensation fogging the blue of his eyes with pain. There was nothing quite as affecting as seeing a strong man break. "I'm surprised he managed to last this long. The cancer is quite aggressive, all the main organs are failing now."

The Captain was looking at Biv as if trying to work somthing out, the wheels turning slowly in his head, his face going pale. "That's why you didn't want to leave Persephone, isn't it?" He asked quietly.

"Yes, only I couldn't tell you. Too much the coward in the end, my friend. Didn't want to hurt you and couldn't bear to leave you." He coughed weakly. A spot of crimson appeared on his lower lip. He tried to smile. "They do say doctors make the worst patients."

"I'd still like you to see the Enterprise's doc..."

"No. This has been years in coming, Mal. I'm content to go now."

A flush of anger swept through the Captain. "Well, I'm not gorrammit! You may be happy to go to your Maker but I'm not."

"Not your decision, Mal." He said gently, giving another weaker squeeze on his hand. "Let it go. Let *me* go." A pause. "I'm tired, Mal."

For a long moment there was silence. The Captain felt like he was the one fighting for breath. "Don't do this, Biv." He pleaded softly, an ache in his voice. Pain bleeding through from the past. The sound of gunfire roaring in his ears, his field of vision narrowing to the endless fields of the dead and the dying. The only mercy on his lips a distant call to arms.

But Biv could not hear him now. His eyes had gone completely dull. A light switched off abandoning his body to the emptiness of the fast departing spirit. Eyes open and staring up at nothing. Hand limp in Mal's. The last halting breath not completed. A silent tear rolled down the Captain's face. His free hand trembled as he reached out to gently close his eyes. He stood slowly and leant over the body and placed a soft kiss to the man's cooling forehead then put Biv's hand on his chest and laid the other one over the top of it. "Goodbye, *tian pengyou*. I hope you find your God waiting for you."

Then he straightened and began to remove the silver cross and chain that Biv had given him back on Persephone. To his surprise the Preacher was suddenly next to him. His strong hands gentle but firm as they stopped him. "Don't."

Surprised he turned his head to look at the Shepherd. Slowly acknowledging his presence. How the rutting hell did he get there so quickly without him seeing? "Just returning it to him, Book. No call to lay a hand on me."

There was something in the Preacher's eyes that went beyond simple compassion. Mal had no idea what it was. The Preacher's voice was quiet, a soothing balm to his ears stilling the nightmare images from a battlefield that was never silent. Dreams that had died on Earth-That-Was to live forever in place of sleep. It was as if in that one instant the Preacher knew. But that was impossible. "He gave this to you." Said Book gently. "Do not throw away his last gift."

The Captain did not ask him how he knew. Let his hands drop to his sides. The fight gone out of him like the light in Biv's eyes. He looked at Biv, now seeming so peaceful it hurt. He had wanted so much to give him a few years of joy and happiness to make up for all the years of pain. To let him share in the sounds of vibrant life here on Serenity, to laugh and eat and live here among his people. His crew. His family. To join in the circle of those he protected and cared for. Even though Biv had not been there long enough to become one of them Mal knew there would always be a gap around his table that should have been his. He had made that space in his mind for him when he had vowed he would not leave Persephone without him. He recalled the time he had told Biv about angels. It seemed so long ago now. Another lifetime almost. The man had never laughed at him. No hint of ridicule just calm acceptance. Biv had said he did not know if he believed in angels or not but Mal did. He placed his hand momentarily over Biv's joined ones in a last silent farewell. If they did exist he was as sure as a man could be and still draw breath that Biv was one of them. Why was he grieving so? The man was simply going home. As Biv had said. It was time to let him go.

Simon watched anxiously as the Captain left the infirmary. The Captain did not look back or he might have seen a strange expression on the Preacher's face. Been curious to see Book lay a hand over Biv's and lean down to him to whisper a few words for the ears of the newly departed. If he had seen and been somewhat of a fanciful man he might have likened it to a changing of the guard. But that would have been nonsense. Book noticed the Captain pause on the threshold of the infirmary, straighten his shoulders, then pick up his pace as he disappeared from view. He had lost Biv but he still had a crew that depended on him and needed him to be strong. No looking back. Mal bit his lip but could not block out the sound of returning gunfire, the smell of cordite strong in his nostrils as his eyes misted momentarily. The battlefield now still and silent as the grave. He could walk more easily now. Another burden laid to rest. Back in the infirmary Simon bowed his head and closed his eyes. Shepherd Book was praying.

What Simon did not know was that Book was not praying for Biv nor any of the dead. He was praying for the living. Those God had left behind.

"They wear so many faces Show up in the strangest places To guide us with their mercy in our time of need. Oh I believe there are angels among us Sent down to us from somewhere up above. They come to you and me in our darkest hours To show us how to live, to teach us how to give To guide us with the light of love. To guide us with the light of love..."

'Angels Among Us' - sung by Alabama

* * * * *

Kaylee was grinning from ear to ear. Wash chuckled and looked at the abashed expression on Commander Tucker's face. Lt Malcolm Reed allowed himself the luxury of a well earned smirk. Commander Tucker tried to glare at him but with the easy going laughter giving gentle abuse to his ears it was a task he was not born to. An answering grin kept escaping between reluctant chuckles. "Ya just had to go an' tell 'em about Risa, didn't ya Malcolm?"

"You have to admit Commander, it was rather funny."

Trip shook his head. Kaylee could not wipe the smile off her face. "I wish I'd'a seen that! You in your underwear, then tryin' to explain it to your Cap'n an' all."

"Uh, that wasn't the worst of it."

All eyes fastened on him and Trip felt himself blushing slightly. He gave Lt Reed a meaningful look and the Armoury Officer obediently cleared his throat in a prelude to digging the Commander out of this latest embarrassing revelation. They were saved any further banter by the appearance of Captain Reynolds. "Wash, how you doin'? Find anything?"

Wash picked up on the Captain's sombre mood and nodded. "Yes, Cap'n."

The Captain moved closer. Zoe followed him in. The cockpit was beginning to feel decidedly crowded with the six of them all trying to get a view of the display screens. "Show me what you got."

Wash back tracked through their previous flight path, pointing out the moment of impact.

"Woah, freeze that Wash. Now. Where were we?"

His pilot flicked his fingers across the controls bringing up another display then enlarging it. Wash sat back and pointed. The effect was only marginally undermined by the plastic dinosaurs looking up at the screen. Trip frowned. "How far back is it?"

Wash did some calculations and told him. Trip and Malcom exchanged a glance. "What's the quickest time we could make up that distance?"

"In your ship or ours?"

Trip blinked. "What?"

"Your ship or ours?" He repeated. "You want to go back to the Delphin..."


"Okay, Delphic Expanse." Wash said more carefully. He waited for Trip to nod. The Captain remained silent, just watching the exchange and listening intently. "We're already in our 'verse, so if we stay on board your ship..."

"You could get sucked into the Delphic Expanse with us." Finished Lt Reed.

The Captain looked worried. "How likely is that Wash?"

Wash shrugged. "I don't know, Captain. I've never done this before."

"Nor have we," Said Trip, his light humour now gone. Something grim and unremmitting in his tone made the others look at him more closely. If Trip noticed he showed no sign of it.

They discussed the speed of the Firefly, how long she could maintain a hard burn. The warp capablities of Enterprise made Mal's head spin. Wash seemed to know what Trip was talking about and Kaylee interrupted every now and then with a technical question that made the Captain feel as if he was a man of no schooling at all. Not so. He had schooling a plenty. Just not in any kind of formal setting. His school was the school of life and his mama had taught him his letters her own self with Cheng chipping in with the reading and writing, especially with the Chinese parts. Now he felt his lack. He looked at Kaylee when the conversation paused. "Can you give me that in Captain Dummy talk, little Kaylee?"

Trip tried to squash a chuckle. Fortunately Captain Reynolds ignored it. Lt Reed looked amused. Kaylee explained to the Captain and he gave a nod and straightened, hands on hips, look thoughtful. "So, splittin' up is no option?"

"We'd be so far behind Enterprise our nav system would be no good to them. They could miss the point of impact."

"Or pass straight back through it with us none the wiser." Said the Captain.

Trip gave him a look. Impressed that despite his lack of knowledge regarding the technical side of things he had been closely following their conversation and was able to cut through to what was most important. He knew that meant the Captain had an efficient analytical brain. He might not know the technical jargon but the man was no dummy. "That's the essence of it, Cap'n."

Captain Reynolds looked at Lt Reed and Commander Tucker for a moment. Mulling something over in his mind. "You've lost three, nearly four days Trip."

Trip nodded, the corners of his mouth tightening up.

"I'm thinkin' best we stay with you until we're close to the impact point then you let us fly free, *dong ma*? That sound a workable plan to you?"

Trip and Malcolm both nodded. The Captain leaned on the console next to Wash. "How fine should we cut this, Wash?"

"Well, I think we should err on the side of safety."

"I'm thinkin' of not erring at all." Said the Captain in a calm flat voice. No room for compromise.

Wash nodded. Re-assessed what he had been going to say. "In that case it would probably be best to stay within our com range of Enterprise and use that as a yardstick. That'll give us the maximum distance from them when they find the impact point yet still allow us to communicate."

The Captain nodded. Wash could tell he was happy with that though he could feel an underlying tension in Mal that he could not account for. Was it the same tension that bled through Commander Tucker's normally ebullient personality? He was not sure but did not think so. "I can do that, Captain."

"I think it's time I spoke to Captain Archer. Then his people and our people can get to work makin' this happen. Get you back to where you're goin'."

Lt Reed looked him square in the eye and nodded. "Thank you sir, we'd all appreciate that."

Captain Reynolds paused a heartbeat. "These folks out to kill us all..."

"Xindi." Said Trip in an angry clipped off tone.

"Xindi. What they look like?"

That surprised the Chief Engineer. He was not sure how to answer him.

"You 'have' seen them, *dui*?"

Trip and Malcolm exchanged anxious looks. "Well actually, Captain, we've only seen footage of their attack on Earth." Said the Lieutenant. "A kind of spherical attack craft. We can't even be sure whether it was manned. The boffins back home think it was operated remotely."

"So this enemy's got a name but no face?" He paused and watched both men nod. "I'm takin' it you got pieces of the craft?"

Another look passed between the two Enterprise officers. Lt Reed gave the Captain a very keen look. Interested in seeing where he was going with this. Having another sharp mind on the team could only be to their benefit. "Why do you ask?"

He shrugged. "Just thinkin' about technology is all. Might give us a clue or somesuch." He paused and started to move towards the door, pausing just inside the frame when no one followed. "Best we see your Captain now, time's a-wastin' and I'm thinkin' you don't have much to waste."

Even though it was not an order Trip and Malcolm reacted as if it had been one and quickly followed him out, the others falling into step behind them. Wash slid an arm around his wife's waist and gave her a kiss on the cheek, his warm breath fanning her face. "What do you think the Captain's up to ?"

His whispered words tickled her eardrum. She managed to hold back a shudder of desire. "I think he wants to do more than just get them home."

They exchanged a look. Wash tried to still the sudden rapid increase in his heart rate. There were drawbacks to having an heroic Captain. Funny. Right now he could not think of one of them.

* * * * *

Ensign Hoshi Sato was excited. Both she and Travis had been pretty much out of the loop of what was going on. They knew a little more from the conversation at the meal to welcome Captain Reynolds back from his stint in their sickbay but were still no wiser about their visitors. Travis Mayweather smiled at her with easy good nature. The two friends had a lot of respect for each other and both being Ensigns often found themselves spending their free time together. Now Captain Archer had asked for both of them to attend the meeting he was having with the crew of Serenity. A palpable air of expentency added to her excitement. It amused the helmsman. They were approaching the main loading bay, the situation room and the Captain's ready room being far too small to accommodate the people that would be gathering. "Must be pretty important."

Hoshi nodded. Face flushed. "Liz says Dr Phlox has been asked to attend as well as quite a few of Trip and Malcolm's people so this time it's not just the senior staff."

"You think they've come up with a plan?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. I tried to find out more from T'Pol but you know what she's like. All she kept saying was that I would find out when she did. At the meeting."

Travis nodded. "I noticed you had quite a long talk with that priest."

She smiled. "He's not a priest, he calls himself a Shepherd or Preacher. Next time you'll have to come with me and speak to him yourself. He was explaining about the universe they live in and it was fascinating."

They were at the doors now and could clearly hear the sounds of voices within. Travis pushed the door open and let Hoshi proceed him. Her bright smile of thanks as she looked at him faded when she looked into the room and saw close on fifty people gathered inside.

"Holy shit!" Exclaimed Travis before he could mind his mouth. "Almost the whole ship is here!"

"Don't forget our guests."

"I'm not." He tore his eyes away and looked at Hoshi. "So who's flying Enterprise?" He joked.

A cool voice just behind his ear made him jump. "You do not need a helmsman or a navigator, Ensign, when the ship is not moving."

Hoshi smiled at Sub-Commander T'Pol. Naturally being a Vulcan she did not smile back but Hoshi was sure she detected a little glimmer of amusement in the Sub-Commander's eye. They made their way through the throng and joined Captain Archer, Commander Tucker and Lt Reed in the middle of the room. Dr Phlox stood next to Lt Anna Hess and Liz Cutler. Liz smiled at Hoshi who gave a short nod back, too interested in what was going on to be more outgoing. Her curiosity piqued when she turned her head and found herself staring into unfamiliar blue eyes. The tall lean Captain of Serenity looked incongruous in his light tan pants, brown shirt, suspenders and long brown coat. Then there was the handgun set in the holster at his hip. Beside him Zoe stood matching him in a wary almost protective stance, her look cool and measuring. Behind them Jayne Cobb was cradling his favourite gun, the Preacher beside him turning his head to nod politely at Hoshi. His look unreadable.

A shorter stockier man with wavy light brown hair and the loudest shirt she had ever seen on anyone but Commander Tucker wove through the deepening crowd of people and stood next to his wife. The girl moving up behind him looked like she should have still been in school. The mechanic's overalls only seeming to accentuate how young she was. Hoshi blinked twice as Kaylee moved away from Wash to stand on the other side of Captain Reynolds giving her a view of Simon Tam and a beautiful exotic looking woman in rich red velvet robes. Hoshi knew she was staring but could not help it. Dr Tam looked behind him, said something to the exotic woman whose lips parted in a ruby smile. She stepped to one side and a young pale faced girl pressed forward. Simon pulled her to him in a protective embrace, nodded his thanks to the Companion then turned back to face the others. Captain Jonathan Archer was clearing his throat to get everyone's attention.

"Thank you all for coming. To bring everyone up to speed I am also having this meeting relayed over the internal coms to those officers who could not attend in person. Captain Reynolds and his crew have offered their assistance in getting us back to the Delphic Expanse. While it may seem impossible to you somehow we do appear to have ended up in an alternate universe or been affected by some variant of time travel." He paused to give T'Pol a wry little half-smile. "Which as we all know from our Vulcan friends does not exist."

A few people sniggered and chuckled quietly but silence soon resumed.

"Captain Reynolds assures me that they can guide us back to the point of impact where our two vessels collided. As far as we can ascertain this was the point where we left the Delphic Expanse and entered their universe. Always supposing that the place where we came through has not shifted or closed up behind us we should be able to go back through it."

Captain Archer looked around the room, taking the measure of their reactions to this bit of news.

"We don't know whether this is possible nor, if it is, whether we will emerge on the other side intact. For this reason, just before we reach the point of impact we will drop off Serenity so that Captain Reynolds and his crew can keep tabs on us. We will be in voice communication throughout. If any problems are spotted we can hopefully draw back and reassess the plan."

Rostov raised a hand. The Captain nodded for him to go ahead with his question.

"Sir, what happens if we get back to our entry point? How're we gonna find the Klingons?"

Captain Archer held a breath then let it out slowly before answering. "Let's worry about one problem at a time. First we have to get back." He paused and looked directly at Captain Reynolds. His eyes now sad. "Before we do this there is one sad duty I would ask you to observe with due dignity and respect. The crew of Serenity lost one of their people earlier today. The man's name was Biv Daniels. It is my understanding that the crew of Serenity would like to have a private ceremony to say their goodbyes to him before we set course. I have given my full support for this action and will assist in any way."

Captain Reynolds looked grateful. "Thank you, Captain. We have our own Preacher and the ceremony will be simple. Nothing fancy."

No one looking at the Captain of Serenity would have been able to tell the depth of the feelings raging in him. A stormy sea of emotions and clouds of sorrows with no place to rest. Kaylee put a hand in his and squeezed causing a lightening of his soul that gave him cause to thank whatever providence had urged him to take her aboard as his mechanic. Young she might be but at times she had a wisdom in her that belied those tender years. She had cried when he had broken the news to her. The others had been sorry but not much affected beyond that. Shepherd Book had been stoic. Mal did not known that their sadness was for his loss not for Biv. After all they barely knew the man. Only Inara felt a deeper pang for Biv having sensed a gentleness and goodness in him and knowing a deep friendship had formed between him and the Captain. Perhaps when this was all over Mal would talk to her about it.

The rest of the meeting passed without any hitch then the room was emptying. Captain Archer hung back to discuss the final arrangements for the impromptu funeral. When Captain Reynolds had said the ceremony would be nothing fancy he had not been kidding. It was a short solemn afair. Shepherd Book oddly enough related the story of the Prodigal Son. At the slight frown on Captain Reynold's face he then moved smoothly on and commended Biv's soul to God. The ceremony finished with the Lord's Prayer. Book thought of singing a hymn but decided against it. The grim look on the Captain's face told its' own story and he knew Biv would not want him to draw this out. The coffin was simplicity itself. An old cargo box that Jayne had cut down especially for the purpose. Book had then been surprisingly adept at converting it into a passable coffin. At the surprised look on the Captain's face he had stated simply that he was walking in the footsteps of the son of a carpenter so it should come as no surprise to anyone that he could do this. No one had an answer to that least of all the Captain.

Once the coffin was jettisoned the others murmured prayers of their own and drifted away leaving the Captain to contemplate the loss of his friend alone. After almost an hour had passed Inara Serra came back to see how he was doing. He heard her measured footfall and recognised it without having to turn around and see who it was. "No call for you to be here, Inara."

She stopped beside him. Staring out in the same empty direction as he was. "I never knew Biv but from what I saw of him he seemed a gentle man."

A pulse in the side of the Captain's jaw jumped. "He was, Inara. Saved my life put bluntly. Didn't deserve to die in no gorram cancer-ridden pain out here in the Black. It ain't right."

"No," Her voice was soft. "It isn't right."

He turned to look at her. "Atherton tortured him."

Inara hissed in a sharp breath. She had not known that.

"For nine years." He elaborated in the same flat tone.

They just stared at each other, the seconds dragging out as if stunned by the news. Lost in its' own non-corporeal grief.

"I hope Lord Warwick dragged that hangin' out, Inara. I hope he took DAYS to die and suffered every hour in agony."

His cold hard vengeance made her shudder inwardly however deserved it undoubtedly was. Shuddered because it reminded her that there was an emptiness, a darkness in Mal, that was frightening in intensity. A part of him she could not touch and did not like to see. But it was part of him. And you could not divorce the man from his demons. Only Mal could do that. Losing Biv did not make that an easier prospect. He noticed the worry she tried to hide from him.

"Don't worry 'bout me, Inara."

"I wasn't..."

"An' don't lie to me about worryin'. It's in a woman's nature I guess but it don't help any."

She paused, choosing her next words with care. "If you ever want to talk about it..."

"I won't."

"But if you do, I'm always here."

"Subject's closed, Inara." He said quietly. His pain put in a box and locked away where she could not see it, poke it or pry into it. "Why we still talkin' 'bout this?"

Inara nodded, for the moment conceding defeat. "What happens now?"

He turned his head and gazed back out into the Black. "Now we go and find this hole or opening or whatever the gorram it is and get Enterprise and her crew back to their 'verse."

"Can we do that, Mal?"

He turned to look at her. For a moment the darkness she had glimpsed was gone. "Yes."

His confident tone was not put on. "How can you be so sure?"

"Don't know just am. Same as I'm sure you don't want to be standing here no longer."

She nodded slowly. She was relieved when he fell into step alongside her and they left together. Already she could feel the speed of the ship increase beneath her feet though it was much smoother than any vessel she had ever been on before. Perhaps Captain Archer and his crew were right. This ship did come from another universe. A sad thought occurred to her. Why oh why, couldn't it have been a kinder one than her own 'verse? Were all the variations of man destined to be struggling for the right to survive? Or was man not the pinnacle of creation as he assumed but the plague that fed on it? Somehow she did not think expressing her thoughts to the Preacher would be any comfort.

Captain Reynolds was lost in his own thoughts or he might have noticed a figure standing in the shadows watching him. The Preacher let him pass unaware that River Tam had seen him. Her pale face absorbing the knowledge he kept hidden.

"Oh I believe there are angels among us Sent down to us from somewhere up above. They come to you and me in our darkest hours To show us how to live, to teach us how to give To guide us with the light of love. To guide us with the light of love..."

'Angels Among Us' - Sung by Alabama

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*pengyou* = friend *shenme* = what *tian Yehsoo* = sweet Jesus *dong ma* = understand *dui* = correct



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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.