Thursday, February 10, 2005

"The Captain is a driven man but his crew are determined to stick by him. None of them realising just what the *diyu* they are getting into.



SUMMARY: "The Captain is a driven man but his crew are determined to stick by him. None of them realising just what the *diyu* they are getting into." 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

* * * * *

He woke in darkness. Sticky heat plastered the bedclothes to his sweaty body, the darkness seeping in through his closed lids inveigling its' way into his groggy consciousness. As soon as his mind became aware of it he caught his breath, memories crowding in and taunting him with the murmured hush of unquiet ghosts. The last vestiges of sleep deserting his fevered brain. Shoving back the covers Malcolm Reynolds sat up and swung his legs out of bed, his bare feet connecting with the bare floorboards with a jolt that hardly registered on his weary body. Yet nothing he felt penetrated his befogged senses. Something was wrong. He shook his head but the muzziness did not vanish. Only then did he recall letting Simon drug him.

"*Tzao gao*, what was I thinkin'?" He murmured softly to himself. Running a slightly shaky hand over his face he just sat on the bed for a moment or two trying to collect his wits.

The house was quiet. Most like everybody else was still sleeping but Mal knew he would never get back to sleep now. An urgency burned in him that demanded attention. He wondered if it were too early to get up then realised he could not lie a-bed and wait for a more suitable time. If he was quiet he should be able to get washed and dressed without rousing nobody. He did not feel up to explaining his dark thoughts to no one. Bad enough he should be having them his own self. The less nightmares he shared with his crew the better. Maybe that was why he had so much patience with River. He was even crazier than she was.

Mal dressed in the dark, not willing to put a light on and disturb the sleeping house. He recalled everything that had happened in vivid relief, the detail etched into the inside of his gorram brain as if tattooed there. What the good gorram had Ty been doing on Shadow? And why in the nine hells had some *tamade hundan* bricked him up in a rutting *jianyu*? Not just any *jianyu* but one that looked as if it had been tailor made just for him? Suddenly the last vestiges of sleep swept out of his system, shock stunning his mind with a sickening revelation. *Wode ma*. That was what had happened, some *liumang* had deliberately built a *jianyu* around Ty then calmly left him there to die. Not a soldier's death. Not an honourable death in the heat of battle or trying to save another. But the slow merciless cruelty of deliberate starvation. He blinked back the rising emotion, memories of times once shared with an impossibly young and reckless Tyrone Garvin. Laughter and friendship. The camaraderie of absolute trust.

It was relatively easy for him to pick his way in silence down the old worn staircase. Boots in hand he stepped on stockinged feet until he was passed the bottom of the hallway and near the door. With a sigh he put on his boots and opened the door, freezing a little when it creaked. He tilted his head and listened. Nothing. Quickly he stepped out and gently closed the door behind him. A whitewashed moon shone down on him like some gorram spy, its' milky face lighting up his movements and silently declaring to one and all just where he was. Mal shook his head at the fanciful notion and took several deep long breaths of the cold night air. It was bracing, refreshing, and just what he needed to enable some clear thinking. Ty had been taken aboard Serenity as soon as the Captain had brought him to Carousel and Simon Tam had done every conceivable test a doctor could do to determine cause of death. Short of a rutting autopsy the initial findings seemed conclusive. Starvation. Simon said that he might have succumbed to the cold before death found him. It was odd how the possibility of mercy actually pained the Captain more than its' absence would have done. As if a more refined form of cruelty were at play.

Forcing his body into action Mal walked away from the house and towards Serenity. It took half an hour because he kept stopping while his mind raced on, picking up speed and exploring possibilities that left him dizzy. He could almost taste the danger hovering in the air but knew not from where it would come. All he knew was that he could not bring this doom down on these people. Kaylee's folks in no way deserved whatever bad was following in Ty's wake. Zoe would have questioned his fears until he doubted his own mind. Ready to spring into immediate and deadly action at the first indication of real threat but just as firmly squashing down any notion not underlain by fact. She wouldn't let the demons that haunted him rule his soul but what did that say about the ones that ruled his gorram body? That stole his sleep from him and left every waking moment a nightmare that could not be erased simply by closing his eyes? She knew some of it but he was determined she would never know the full of it.

Wash would have tried to put a positive spin on things. Book would reason that there was no indication that anyone was watching them or could have followed them to Carousel. Kaylee would call him paranoid but soften the starkness of the words with a smile. Simon would assume the medication had worn off. Inara would worry about the state of his mind and River would look right into his head and say not a gorram word. Leastways, not one that would make sense to the rest of them. He imagined Jayne would scowl at him and tell him they should have left Ty on Shadow. Practical to a fault the mercenary would see no percentage in dragging a dead body off into the Black. Man was already dead, burying him on some other world wouldn't change that but it would leave Mal with one less ghost to carry.

As soon as he looked into the dip where Serenity was standing he stopped, mesmerised by the way the moonlight softly glowed and clung to the planes of her. A warmth in the seeming cold light that bathed his boat in a glowing aura of silver. Like something out of a fairy tale from Earth-that-was. It always made his breath catch when he came upon her sudden like and a familiar spark of possession ran through him warming him heart and soul. His boat. A metaphor for freedom in a dark unyielding 'verse. Arms of steel that cradled him and kept him safe. Kept him free. Everything else had been taken from him but this. How long he stood and stared at her he could not have said but as the temperature dropped further a shiver wracked through his lanky frame and reminded him to start moving again. Off to the right Monty's Kingfisher sat like an ugly but much loved cousin. Mal wanted to see Ty. *Needed* to see him. And not under the watchful and too sympathetic eye of his ship's doctor.

* * * * *

It was the smell that woke Mrs Frye. Laying in the semi-dark an hour before dawn she stared up at the ceiling and tried to place it. She frowned. Pigs. But not just the animal's body smell, it was a lot stronger and less pleasant. She sat up as she realised what it was, her *zhangfu* stirring in his sleep when she touched him gently with a caressing hand, her voice murmuring softly in his ear until he rolled obediently on to his side and slept on.

Quietly the lady of the house slipped on a warm dressing gown, slippers and padded down the staircase. She followed the smell, almost gagging as she went down the back corridor to the rooms converted into extra bedrooms for Serenity's crew. Now holding a hand over her mouth and nose she slowly opened the last door off the hallway. A muffled grunt told her the occupant was awake and had heard her. How anybody could sleep through the smell was a mystery to her. Shutting the door carefully behind her she paused, took a deep breath, then switched on the light. Mrs Frye was beyond words. All she could do was stare open mouthed as she tried unsuccessfully to hold back tears of mirth and laughter.

* * * * *

The sickness caught her and took a firm hold, her stomach heaving again and again until she was sure the gorram lining had been retched up along with every morsal she had eaten since her mother birthed her. Rutting *lese* piece of junk. She hated the dropship transport with a vengeance but nobody spared her a glance still less the slightest compassion for her situation. Instead those that did glance her way seemed more annoyed at her lack of bodily control.

"H.. how long 'til we land?"

One of the men guffawed impolitely then spat on the deck at his feet. She tried to pretend not to be offended. Any sign of weakness was like to rile them. "Couple a' hours."

Sarah was not sure she or her stomach could last that long but complaining was a lost cause. If she made too much fuss they were as like to throw her out of the airlock as be polite and land first. Sometimes a girl just had to know when to shut her mouth and bear it. For the first time since leaving Hope it occurred to her that she might just have made the biggest gorram mistake in her life.

* * * * *

Still, stark and deathly white. Malcolm Reynolds stared down at the body in Serenity's infirmary pushing back the notion that he was being more than a mite ghoulish in doing this his own self while every decent God-fearing soul would let the dead lie in peace. But how could he not? Ty was his friend, him being dead didn't change that. Nor could he wrap his head around the notion that he should just walk away from this. Bury the man and move on.

A single white sheet covered the body. Mal whipped it off and let the shroud fall from numb fingers, the emaciated body revealed. Every sunken hollow where flesh had once clothed bones had its' own sorry story to tell and Mal listened to them all. With his eyes, his reluctant touch, his heart keening inside of him though he did not cry, his look remote of feeling but hollow with a bone aching agony of the spirit. Carefully he checked the body over. For signs of violence, trauma and then lastly - needle marks. He found none but the body had died in distress. For a long moment he stared down at his friend then rolled him off his stomach onto his back once more. A faint gurgling in the dead man's stomach protested being so unceremoniously disturbed and made the Captain's jaw tighten, nothing more than body fluids settling but it was morbidly creepifying and not in a good way.

A splash of colour drew his attention away from the face to the hands. Mal turned them palm upwards and noticed the stain of blood on the fingertips, more pronounced on the right hand than the left. He blinked. Reflected that Ty was right handed then remembered the walls of the *jianyu*. Of course, Ty had written that message in blood. But that raised another question. After checking the body over his own self apart from the fact that Tyrone Garvin was most definitely and permanently dead he was also without any physical injury. The ragged little cuts on his hands from tearing at the walls of his prison would not have been sufficient to vent that much blood. Yet to the casual eye they would see bloody hands and a bloody wall and assume the obvious. That the two came from the same source. But the obvious was not always the truth. Grief had blinded Mal to the initial discrepancy, his hooded eyes focused on the emaciated body as Simon had examined him. Now he was able to look at the evidence more dispassionately, a clinical need for detail over riding his ever present rage. The shift in priorities chilled his soul. So. If the blood wasn't Ty's who the good gorram's was it?

* * * * *

Frank Reynolds tried to sleep but all he could manage were a few minutes then his eyes would spring open again and the past would come staring back at him in his mind's eye. It made him shudder thinking of what he must do. What he could lose making him tremble in reluctant anticipation inside, tying him up in knots. Yet the more he tried to push it to the back of his mind and move on the more it impinged on his consciousness. Fingers of accusation drawing icy trails down his back and wrapping a hand of permafrost over his heart. He actually welcomed the pain in his shoulder when he shifted on the narrow bunk. Seemed somehow fitting that the boy had shot him albeit without knowing it was him at the time.

* * * * *

As light began to creep across the face of Carousel, folk were slowly waking up. Cold and haggard, Malcolm Reynolds stepped off his boat and set the alarm. Not because he thought anyone would try to steal the Firefly or because he wanted to keep space monkeys out of the gorram engine room but because right now it was easier to let habit rule him. His body on autopilot as he walked over to the Kingfisher to speak to Monty. If Monty was surprised to see him up so early he did not say and Mal did not ask why he was up and dressed at four in the am either. Some things a man didn't need to ask a friend.

"What ya plannin' Mal?"

The Captain sighed and gratefully accepted the mug of bitter coffee. Monty was reusing dregs having run out of the pure stuff months ago. Had tea but didn't think it would be enough for either of them and Mal had declined any alcohol. "Wanna find out what the gorram killed Ty an' who the ruttin' *diyu* is responsible."

Monty frowned. "Thought ya knew that?"

A raised eyebrow met his over the rim of a coffee mug. "While Alex Trent would be my first guess it still don't tell me the how an' the why of it, Monty."

"*Wo bu dong*, didn't your shiny doc give ya cause a' death?"

Mal nodded, his hands wrapped around the mug as if the heat was something he craved more than the coffee inside it. "Yeah, starvation an' I reckon he's right."

"Seems pretty open an' shut Mal, no need to be makin' a mystery outta the obvious."

For a few seconds neither man spoke. "Mayhap it's obvious 'cause that's what we're supposed to think."

"We?" The Captain shrugged. "Whoever found Ty."

Neither of them heard Frank Reyolds come into the little galley until he spoke up. "That boy was meant to be found by you Mal an' we all know it."

A little ice seemed to enter the atmosphere with his words stealing each man's body warmth. Monty felt uncomfortable for all manner of reasons. Made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. While he liked Frank Reynolds well enough he didn't quite trust him. Mal gave his uncle a pained look. "Then why the pantomime, *shushu*? Why brick him the gorram up an' let him die slow? Ain't no reason or rhyme to it."

"Oh there's a reason an' rhyme son, we just ain't figured it out yet."

Mal blinked. "Ya seem mighty sure of yourself."

Frank Reynolds gave a pained shrug. Mal winced in sympathy and nodded to the shoulder. "How you doin'?"

"*Hen hao*, your doc does good work."

The Captain's lips flattened and he didn't reply. *Yeah, he does good work but he can't bring back the dead*. Frank watched the play of emotions on Mal's grim face, thought about unburdening himself then dismissed the notion in the next moment. Boy looked terrible, probably hadn't slept worth a damn. Best be having that conversation when he was more able to take the shock of it. He did not admit, even to himself, the relief he felt at putting off the inevitable.

It was Zack, Monty's pilot, who broke the ensuing silence. "We gonna rustle up somethin' to eat?"

Monty looked at Mal, Mal looked at his Uncle, then glanced back at Monty. "*Qu*, why not?"

For some reason Monty felt he had just missed something but was damned if he knew what. "Ya sure we ain't too early to be callin' on the house?"

The Captain almost smiled. Obviously Monty wasn't that used to folks that worked on the land. Didn't matter a good gorram if they were ranchers or farmers. Light was precious and most folks that depended on the land rose with the sun. It was full daylight now though still early, barely six o'clock if he was any judge. "I'm sure. C'mon, let's go see what food Jayne's left in the pantry."

The walk back to the house was lighter than the one he had made on his own. Mal was beginning to feel his heart ease just a mite though his mind was all kinds of feverish with trying to work out where to go from here and how the good gorram he was gonna convince his crew to let him do what needed to be done.

* * * * *

River was good. Silent as a ghost. Invisible when she wanted to be. Right now she stretched braced up against the ceiling, her eyes wide and luminious in the reflected light of the single bulb hanging from its' tether. Simon was rubbing his eyes, not nearly so nervous half asleep as he was awake. That was until a warm naked arm reached up and latched on to him. River grinned, amused and impressed that he had not cried out aloud. His alarm shattered by Kaylee's sultry kiss, her body rising to wrap around him as the blankets fell.

"Mmm... Kaylee, we can't, we shouldn't...your parents..."

"Are old enough to know what goes on 'tween boys an' girls."

He wanted to ease back before things went too far but his own body was betraying him and he was tired of resisting something he had been craving for some time now. At first fear of the Captain's wrath had kept him politely distanced from anything but playful banter, careful not to give the girl the idea they could be anything more than friends. But it had been a while since he had last regarded the two of them as just that. A warmth spread through his heart whenever he saw her, his skin tingling at her nearness, his eyes drawn to hers with increasingly lingering looks that slowly wore down his tentative attempts at showing his interest. Knowing how Kaylee felt about him made him bold and as their friendship deepened so did the need to go beyond that.

Arms and legs braced out against the walls, River gazed down from the ceiling. Noticed how Simon closed his eyes when he kissed Kaylee, but how Kaylee couldn't stop looking at her brother. Her hands like eyes on stalks reading his body like braille, seeing him through her fingertips while her body moulded itself to his. Simon sighed, a great slow exhalation of mixed emotions. Pleasure, relief, acceptance and desire. Kaylee rolled them as the kiss deepened, hands mapping each other while their legs tangled, hips rubbing, warm breath shared as they tasted each other with increasing abandon. Then Kaylee was on her back, Simon arched over her, eyes meeting before going further. Kaylee was in Heaven, Simon's sensitive hands doing things to her body that burned her up with want and need. He was so shiny and she was on fire, her hand speeding his up as his fingers delved into the depths of her. Her little wet gasp making him smile and chuckle softly, voice growing hoarse with need.

Then Simon was frantically kissing her, so many places he wanted to put his mouth. Kaylee laughing quietly as she enjoyed the attention, her own hands busy and making it harder and harder for him to go as slow as he wanted, to drag it out until she exploded around him hard enough to bring him over the brink just a heartbeat from passing out with the intensity of it. Kaylee was panting too, her eyes shiny and glittering up at him with such love and adoration that Simon was finding it difficult not to plunge straight into that liquid heat and bury himself inside her. She raised her legs and wrapped them around his waist taking the decision from him, impaling herself on him making him gasp. Her eyes fluttered closed as his fingers titilated the bundle of nerves that bounded her sex while he kept the pump of his hips slow and gradually increased the pace of his hand, taking her higher and higher.

"Oh gawd, oh ruttin' *diyu* Sim-mon, do it!"

She was beginning to flood over his hand until his own control was shot to pieces. Gripping her hips tightly he sped up, thrusting into her so erratically they slid up the bed until Kaylee's head hit the wall. Neither noticed. Then Kaylee's eyes flew open as she opened her mouth to scream. Only Simon's lips crushing down upon her own swallowed her triumphant cry of conquest as she came. Clinging to Simon and urging him on to completion, Kaylee lay bathed in their sweat and savoured the last couple of thrusts until he came. His eyes had closed, tired but sated. His face buried in the side of her neck. Kaylee's smile near split her face in two, the happy glow rivalling the light overhead as they both shone, slick with sweat. She blinked, too relaxed and caught up in the afterglow to tense at what she saw. The realisation dawning slowly as Simon's sister winked down at her from the ceiling.

Shocked, Kaylee opened her mouth to say something just as Simon stirred. He was trying to slide out of her and lie on his side. Take the weight off her but she wrapped her ankles around his and held him in her possessive arms. For the moment all thoughts of River Tam driven from her mind by the doctor lying in her arms. It had taken long enough to get him here and she was not about to let him go any time soon. "Sssh, don't move Simon." She murmured as she kissed his cheek.

"But I'm heavy, I should..."

"You should stay right where ya are." Kaylee grinned as he raised his head then kissed him, her tongue flicking out to languidly explore his mouth. She swallowed his groan and chuckled when he relaxed more fully and began to kiss her back, her hands caressing him, her body filled with a deep contentment she had almost dispaired of ever feeling. Then she remembered River and looked up. Oddly enough Kaylee was not surprised to find that the young genius had gone. Simon noticed her brief distraction and gently broke the kiss.


Kaylee reassured him with more than a smile. The moans she swallowed making her grin as she began to tease him. Soon the whole house would be up. Kaylee intended to finish giving Simon a thorough workout before they needed to join them.

* * * * *

When Mal, Monty, Zack and Frank got to the house Mrs Frye was already bustling about in the kitchen. The comforting clatter of pots and pans accompanied by tantatalising odours that made the mouth melt in anticipation. She flicked a glance at the Captain and frowned at him. "Ya get any sleep last night, Mal?"

He dipped his head a little before answering her. "I slept so no need to take on so."

Mrs Frye put her hands on her hips just as her husband joined them, followed by Zoe and Wash. Mal could hear Book's deep voice somewhere else in the house, a comforting rumble that somehow eased him. "I'll take on as I see fit in my own house, Malcolm Reynolds an' don't ya forget it *dong ma*?"

Monty thought it amusing how bashful his friend looked and caught the playful gleam in Wash's eye, careful to give the pilot a tiny shake of his head. Teasing the Captain right now was not such a good idea. He wanted the man fed and watered before they got down to the serious business of the day. Shepherd Book came through the door with a towel round his neck, cheeks ruddy from a cold water wash, hair sticking up all over the place. As he joined them River danced passed him with three of Kaylee's younger cousins. Martin Frye looked around the quickly filling kitchen and knew they would not fit everyone inside. Cold morning or not, it looked like they would be using those trestle tables for a little while longer.

"Mal? You an' yours mind helpin' me set up some tables?"

The Captain nodded, glad of the activity. His Uncle made to join him but he shook his head and indicated for him to sit by the range in the kitchen. "Best rest while you can *shushu*." It was on the tip of Frank's tongue to argue when Simon and Kaylee joined them. The doctor immediately crossed the room to check on his shoulder. Book nudged Wash and the two of them followed Mal, Monty and Zack out of the house to help Mr Frye set up an outdoor canteen. As Mal and Monty fixed up the last table, the Captain paused and straightened. A scowl settling on his face, his eyes narrowing as he looked around. "Where in the nine hells is Jayne?"

Mr Frye seemed a mite amused. "Don't ya be a frettin' on him, he'll be along in a few."

The Captain's eyes narrowed. He was about to question Kaylee's father when a ruckass behind him made him turn. Wash chortled and even the Shepherd was chuckling lightly. Mal raised his eyebrows in surprise as a disgruntled Jayne Cobb made his way over to them from the direction of the Frye's barn. His hair was soaking wet, his face flushed and shiny, his clothes damp and his expression twisted in disgust.

Mal could not decide what was more disturbing. The fact that his mercenary had had a bath TWO days running - neither at gunpoint - or that he had come up smelling of rutting roses. As for the big man himself he looked all kinds of annoyed and uncomfortable. Nose twitching and fidgetting awkwardly under the Captain's scrutiny he tried to excuse his appearance. "Ain't my fault, Mal!" He wailed. "She did somethin' to the water. Made it smell funny."

Zoe, Kaylee, Inara and Mrs Frye chose that moment to step out of the house. Each of them carrrying a variety of plates and cutlery to lay the tables. Inara's eyes were twinkling, Mrs Frye was trying not to openly laugh, Kaylee snickered and Zoe swept the mercenary head to toe with an odd expression on her face. Then River came out with the children in tow, cousins and aunts piling out the other houses set in the grounds. Mal thought it did not look so much like a ranch as a small gorram shanty town not that he had any intention of saying so. Some of the boys had been sleeping in outbuildings like the barn and tack rooms. The kids were joshing each other and kept shooting Jayne mischievous looks, pointing and giggling. Mal was getting a clear notion as to what must have happened, a little smirk tweaking his upper lip.

Shepherd Book walked over to Jayne and smiled benignly at his look of outrage. "That smell is quite normal, Jayne. It is called *soap*."

As Jayne bristled Wash laughed, Zoe cracked a smile and Kaylee's parents exchanged looks of amusement. Monty noticed Frank Reynolds come out of the house with Simon, the doctor frowning at the barely surpressed hilarity as he joined Kaylee, his face one big question mark. Kaylee leaned in close and whispered something in his ear, his face breaking out into a big grin. Enjoying the mercenary's discomfort. Mrs Frye calmly explained how Jayne had somehow managed to fall or roll in every piece of *goushi* the cattle and horses had dropped. The unstated inference that the kids had manouevred him into an ambush of sorts brought a deep flush to the big man's face. Shepherd Book put a hand on Jayne's shoulder, his look fatherly but also a mite smug. "The Good Book says that cleanliness is next to Godliness, Jayne."

He huffed. "Yeah well I ain't Godly."

"Amen to that," Murmured Mal. Inara caught his eye as he said it and they shared a brief smile. The only one not joining in was Frank Reynolds. Monty's smile slipped a bit when he saw the way he was looking at the Captain. A feeling of disquiet creeping into his gut. He frowned then turned his head as Mr Frye told him they had plenty for everyone. No need for his own crew to eat aboard ship. With a nod of thanks Monty turned to Zack and sent him back to the ship to let the rest of the crew know. Today at least they would feast high on the hog. Good home cooking and plenty of it. Zack did not need to be told twice that it might be a goodly while before any of them ate so well again.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*tzao gao* = oh shit/oh crap *jianyu* = prison *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *wode ma* = mother of God *diyu* = hell *goushi* = crap/dog shit *liumang* = bastard/asshole/criminal/gangster *dong ma* = understand *zhangfu* = husband *lese* = crappy *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *shushu* = uncle *hen hao* = very good *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenme* = what


Thursday, February 10, 2005 4:13 PM



So gorram believable.

Waiting, patiently, for so much more.



ps: "past" (if I'm nitpicking, it means I care).

Friday, February 11, 2005 5:05 AM

SOULOFSERENITY I'm wondering just what Frank knows about what happened to Ty. You've got so many different stories going on this time, but you're tying them all together so well. More!

- Soul

Friday, February 11, 2005 6:00 AM


Another perfect addition to the series!

I am very happy to see the Kaylee/Simon thing. It's about gorramn time they did something more than exchanging looks.

Oh yeah, and Jayne falling in *goushi*...hilarious!


Friday, February 11, 2005 7:24 AM


Simon and Kaylee >gusty, romantically satisfied sigh<

Some very interesting storylines here. I sense another what, five chaptes...maybe 30,000 words? I hope I'm on the low side.

Monday, February 14, 2005 1:08 AM


Now the thing that's worrying me most is Sarah's travel sickness. Cos I've got this feeling ...

Lovely Jayne, as always! And kinky River!


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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.