Sunday, February 13, 2005

"The only thing wrong with the Past is that it doesn't stay there."



SUMMARY: "The only thing wrong with the Past is that it doesn't stay there." 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

* * * * *

It was a merry meal despite recent events and if the Captain was a mite quiet no one held it against him. In fact, Wash was just relieved there had been no explosive or violent outbursts. Simon kept glancing at Kaylee, meeting her eyes then dipping his head shyly. Mrs Frye gave the two a fond look, her husband trying hard not to laugh outright. He could warn the boy but where would be the fun in that? Once a woman got her hook into a man there was no way of wriggling off it. Not less someone cut the gorram line.

River was sitting next to Jayne, her face angled so she could watch him squirm without having to keep turning her head. It was funny to see the big man so discomfitted. Shepherd Book had tried to put him at his ease, tell him it could have happened to anyone, but being outsmarted by five six and seven year old kids was not exactly covering him in glory. What he ended up in was a gorram sight smellier and all kinds of embarrassing. Didn't think he'd ever live it down. Mrs Frye had run a tub of hot water for him out back and filled it with rose scented oils given to her by Inara. The look on the mercenary's face had been something they would all savour for a very long time. Now though they were down to the serious, and highly enjoyable chore, of eating a hearty breakfast.

Opposite River the Captain sat with his uncle on one side and Zoe and Wash on the other. With Jayne one side of River and Simon and Kaylee on the other Mr and Mrs Frye sat at one end of the table, Shepherd Book and Inara at the other. A couple of cousins and nephews filling up the rest of the places while Monty and his crew sat sprinkled among aunts, uncles and more offspring on the other three tables. The noise of other conversations filled in the lulls in their own.

Frank Reynolds tried hard not to watch Jayne Cobb eat but it was hard not to notice the disappearing act as food vanished at an alarming rate into that great open maw of a mouth. He wished the man would at least shut his mouth when he chewed but it seemed the mercenary liked to talk as he ate and it was putting him off his gorram appetite. Mal noticed and called him on it, leaning in close to his uncle so as not to draw attention from anyone else. "You okay, *shushu*?"

"*Qu* Mal, just watching Jayne eat ain't good for the digestion."

A smile tugged at Mal's lips. He saw Zoe looking at him and gave a small nod, it seemed to reassure her and she went back to talking to Wash. The Captain returned his attention to his uncle. The man looked uneasy. Nervous if he was any judge. Now that was just plain odd. "You sure somethin' else ain't botherin' you?"

Frank looked at Mal, an expression on his face that made the Captain's breath catch in sudden concern. What the *diyu* was that about? Then it was gone leaving Mal all kinds of confused. As for his uncle, he just brushed it off. "Guess my shoulder's playin' me up more'n I was wantin' to admit. Pay me no mind, son."

The Captain's eyes narrowed, knowing his uncle was keeping something back. It irked him somewhat but puzzled him more. River's voice sailed clear across the narrow table to him, her eyes fastened on the Captain. Willing him to understand. "When the mask comes off what is hidden is seldom pretty."

He blinked back at her. "Which means?"

"Truth and Lies." She paused sagely. "They aren't interchangable even when they look the same."

Mal nodded slowly as if it made complete sense. "Glad we got that cleared up."

But River had not finished. She leaned forward, her eyes almost glowing as they held his. "Confusion is a subtle tool, Captain." Another pause. "Saves ammunition."

The Captain tried to hide the cold shudder of apprehension that rippled through him at her words. "I'll have to remember that next time we get hit by Reavers."

Turning to say something to his Uncle, Mal paused, noticing that Simon was staring at him. The doctor looked thoughtful as if weighing up something that was a puzzle to him. "It's odd how my sister has always had a soft spot for you, Captain."

"That's 'cause they're both crazy!" Mumbled Jayne around a mouth full of food.

Mal looked amused, his eyes meeting Inara's. "Out of the mouths of mercenaries an' stone cold killers..."

The big man actually took a moment to chew and swallow, his mouth only half full when he responded. "Yeah but at least I ain't crazy."

Simon could not resist making a comment as he glanced at Jayne. "And you know this because?"

* * * * *

Planetfall. Never had a single act left her feeling so grateful. Sarah disembarked on shaky legs, only the few bits of precious in her satchel accompanying her. She had never been to this world before. *Diyu*, had never heard of it before her insane plan began to take shape inside her head. It wasn't that far from Hope but was a world away from the kind of life she had known. Here the people lived off the land, mostly farmers and ranchers and such like. No shiny city complexes, no busy trade markets unless you counted the rural exchanges of produce and livestock. And most importantly, no Alliance. Made her think of the Old West from Earth-that-was. Everyone had a million tales of that distant genesis. Until she landed on Carousel she had hardly given them a nod to accuracy but now she did a rethink. If she could go back hundreds of years Earth-that-was most like would have looked like this.

* * * * *

It was a mistake. Every line of Zoe's body telegraphed the knowledge yet she also knew that if she were the one making the decision she would do exactly the same. It might appear foolhardy or sentimental but they were simply looking after one of their own. One who could no longer walk and was well beyond the crawling. Have to carry him one last time. Folks said the War was over but for those who had lived through it that wasn't so. They carried their dead with them. No commitment came plainer than bringing their dead home. It was the soldier's way and was respected even by them as never understood the bonds of war. Brothers and sisters in arms. When one of them bled all of them felt the pain. When one of them died a little of those still standing died too. Bites out of their souls that no amount of wishing could make whole again. It was what it was. A body just had to deal with it.

The protests were predictable but hers was absent and when some of the crew got a little too vehement or vociferous Zoe stepped in and backed her Captain. Badger had called it right when he had said Mal was still a soldier, still a Sergeant but so was she. Once you had been in Serenity Valley you never left. Like your dead, you carried the place with you. They were soldiers her and Mal. Honour and loyalty the straight jacket of conscience they wore knitted to their souls. Made no never mind how much it might cost them. Wash sensed the tension in her, noted the rigidity in every line of her body. "War's over, *bao bei*." He reassured quietly.

She turned on him eyes bleak with remembered pain and hardship. Hollow with a thousand losses times a thousand more. "War's never over."

That was when Wash remembered something Zoe had told him months ago about how no one who had been in the Valley ever left. He felt something in him go cold. His eyes drifted to the Captain. Mal had named his ship after that fateful battle. Then later, when they had to abadon the ship because life support had failed after the compression coil had blown and fire had swept most of their breathable air out into the atmo, the Captain had resolutely refused to leave the ship. Serenity. Instead he had ordered his crew to take to the shuttles. *Both got heat and both got air... More than what's left on Serenity*. His chill deepened. Gut twisted. Once you've been in Serenity you never leave.

Another piece of the puzzle that was the Captain dropped into place. Wash had a feeling he was not going to like the image that would be revealed when all the pieces fitted together. Not just because it was the Captain but because of what it would tell him about his wife. He knew had she been conscious they never would have left the Captain alone to die just as surely as he knew she would back the man's crazy decision to return once more to Shadow. *Wode ma*, would it never end? When would the rising mountain of dead convince them to let go? It made him sad and heartsick in a way few things ever could. He only roused when Zoe began speaking again, her voice clipped and crisp.

"Cap'n's made a decision, not up to you to go along with it just honour it."

Jayne scowled. They were outside under the trees. Most standing around, a few sitting on stumps. Monty and his crew had gone back to the Kingfisher and Frank Reynolds stood by the front door of the ranch house watching but not intruding on their discussion. Jayne didn't know how much the man could hear or whether he and Mal had discussed it between them and he didn't rightly care. Just didn't want to be on the wrong side of an air lock when he found out. "How we gonna do that if we're dead?"

The Captain stood facing them, arms crossed. When he answered his tone was flat. "Ain't gonna die Jayne 'cause you ain't goin'." He let his gaze drift slowly over their taut faces. "Like I said this is somethin' I gotta do. Wasn't expectin' none of this *tamade goushi* my own self. What's done is done."

Kaylee had been quiet, listening to her Captain with growing alarm and apprehension. Zoe's firm but bleak contribution did nothing to still the unease ripping up inside her and turning her world upside down. How had the festive season got so ugly so fast? "Cap'n?" Her voice trembled a little. "Ya ain't gonna go alone?"

His look softened slightly. "I won't be alone, little Kaylee." He paused a beat. Voice softer, lower and all kinds of sad. Near broke her heart to hear him. "I'll have Ty with me. Boy died for the Cause, deserves to go home." It was the least a man could do for one of his own and still call himself a man.

For a couple of moments no one spoke. Simon put an arm around Kaylee and gave her a little squeeze. Wash wished he could think of something to say but knew the Captain's mind was set. Shepherd Book pursed his lips together in deep thought. Inara raised a dark brow but said nothing. "If you're taking the boy home Captain," Said Book quietly. "Why are you going to Shadow?"

It was the one question none of his crew had dared to ask. Mal plastered a fake smile on his face and looked the Preacher in the eye. "'Cause how you get there's the worthier part."

Frank Reynolds waited until he could get Mal alone. Knew he didn't have much in the way of time. He watched Wash give his wife a kiss and hurry off in the direction of Serenity. So. The boy *would* be taking his boat. Was he leaving his crew on Carousel? Mal let himself be led away from the house, out passed the barn and corral, in the opposite direction of the ships. He knew something was troubling his uncle and just as surely knew it had nothing to do with Ty or Shadow. Couldn't rightly put his finger on it but the nervous air he was detecting made him more than a mite uneasy. "*Shenme shi, shushu*?"

"What makes you think somethin's wrong?"

Mal snorted softly and leaned on a fence rail. "Lifetime of knowin' you."

His uncle huffed then turned to face Mal. The Captain could hardly remember a time his uncle had looked more serious except when he had broken the news about the family. A lump formed in the Captain's throat as he waited. "Son, I owe ya an explanation an..." He broke off before forcing himself to continue. "And an' apology." When the Captain did not respond Frank licked his lips slightly and cleared his throat. "Ain't gonna be easy the tellin' of it but I want ya to promise me somethin' first."

"What kind'a promise?"

A grim shadow of a smile crossed Frank Reynolds face. God he loved this boy so much. Why the good gorram did he always have to be hurting him? Especially now when he already had so much pain and sorrow to carry? T'wasn't right but neither was hiding the truth from him. Boy had a right to know. "Not to shoot me before I finish explainin'."

The Captain frowned, wondering whether his uncle was joshing him about wounding him earlier but something told him this had nothing whatsoever to do with that. Whatever *this* was. "Suppose you just tell me an' let me decide for my own self?" He said softly.

Frank nodded then told him. Not holding back on a single detail as the painful story unfolded. He told Mal how it was when he had gone to War but also of the burning passion he had long carried in both heart and soul for Mal's mama. How when his brother John had not returned and young Davy had gone off to join up in Mal's footsteps, his mama had begged and cajoled Frank to go and find them. The War was coming to a gorram end or so they said. Ranch was down to the walking wounded and the old or lame to keep it ticking over. The foreman Cheng was eaten up with the worry of it but stoic and steadfast in his ability to keep his concern from Mrs Reynolds. So Frank had left the running of the ranch to Cheng and gone to get some answers. Had found his brother on Harness Ridge, holding an impossible line against overwhelming odds. Wounded in the leg John Reynolds had a crazy passion for the Cause that rubbed off on everyone he came into contact with including his brother. So Frank had nestled in beside him and for a while they had fought from foxhole to foxhole, buying every inch of dirt with blood and guts and the screams of the dying. Most of the dead theirs.

It was a gorram lull in the fighting. John had joked that the purplebellies had killed so many Browncoats they had to wait for more munitions to be flown in just to keep the War going. It wasn't funny but gallows humour was the only kind in the theatre of War. Then John had got to talking on about Mal's mama, about little Davy and how proud he was of his oldest son - Mal. It got harder and harder for Frank to think clearly, to keep the knowledge buried in his heart and soul hidden then they had begun to quarrel. Lightly at first, the one vying with the other until suddenly it wasn't the friendly banter of brothers, the mockery of friends, but more serious. That was when Frank did the unforgivable. He told his brother about his love for Mary. About how she was the only woman he would love until the day he died. When the fighting resumed they did too only they were no longer fighting the gorram Alliance. They were fighting each other.

Mal's eyes widened in disbelief. "*Tian Yesu, shushu*, what the good gorram you wanna go sayin' somethin' like that for in the midst of battle?"

"I didn't mean to Mal but it got kind'a emotional an' John just kept goin' on an' on about his family. Kept ribbin' me about how I couldn't leave an' how come I hadn't found a wife of my own..." His voice trailed off, his tears didn't.

Despite how disturbing the tale was Mal could not stop listening. Mesmerised and apalled as the whole sorry mess unravelled.

"Ya have to understand Mal I would never have done nothin' to hurt your mama, nor John neither, but I was past the goadin'. I know John didn't mean it to be spiteful or hurtful but he didn't know an' I was sick of takin' a back seat in a family that should have been mine."

Malcolm Reynolds blinked. "*Shenme*? What the *diyu* you tellin' me?"

Frank swallowed, his palms sweating, heart thudding so hard in his chest it was painful. Could hardly breathe yet he had gone this far, he had to tell him the rest. "I'm sayin' me an' your mama were sweethearts long before she married your pa."

Well. That wasn't so bad, was it? Mal gave his uncle a hard stare. "I'm not seein' the drama here, *shushu*."

"John didn't know, Mal, an' coward as I was I couldn't tell him. Couldn't hurt him that way." He paused and sighed. "Didn't know it at the time but your mama was already pregnant when she married John." Frank watched Mal intently, his words spoken carefully, gently, and with some trepidation. "The baby wasn't John's, Mal." His guilt wracked voice filled with pain. "It was mine."

The Captain's jaw dropped. "You mean...?"

"*Qu*, I'm your father Mal. Always have been always will be."

"This is a joke."

"*Bu qu*, no joke. But that's not what I'm needin' to confess son."

For a long time the two just stared at each other. Then Mal's eyes emptied of all emotion as his face turned to stone. "Best say what you gotta say an' be done or do you want me to get the Preacher?"

Frank flinched, could feel the distance opening up between them but felt powerless to do anything about it. "That won't be necessary. The only one who can forgive me is you Mal an' I can't see that happenin' until all nine hells freeze over."

Mal's mouth had gone dry. "What did you expect? But that ain't the whole of it, is it?"

"I killed my brother." He paused to let his words sink in. Every breath a pain that cost him dear. "The man you grew up loving as a father is dead because of me..."

* * * * *

Monty was the first to notice them. Satisfied everything was ready on his ship and that his crew had been briefed as much as was possible on the scant information he was willing to impart, he had been walking back towards the house when the murmur of voices stopped him in his tracks. Didn't mean to eavesdrop but a lifetime of cautious living could not be shucked off in a day. As he drew closer he recognised Mal's voice and became more alert, the undeniable tinge of pain and sorrow in it pulling at his heartstrings. What the good gorram had gone wrong now?

They were standing beneath a copse of trees. At least Mal was, though the slump in his shoulders kind of stretched the definition a mite. His companion was sitting on a tree stump, head bowed, a perfect depiction of grief. Monty held his breath and felt shock cut through him like a gorram steel blade when he heard Frank Reynolds confess, "The man you grew up loving as a father is dead because of me."

Monty sucked in a deep pained breath. *Wode ma*! It couldn't be true, it just couldn't. Mal's uncle had killed his father? *Tian Yesu*! His first coherent thought after that was far from charitable. If that was so why tell Mal *now*? Why place an impossible burden on him just before he was due to do right by Ty? If Frank Reynolds had even a glimmer of decency he should have kept his gorram murdering mouth shut. Either that or put his gun in his mouth and pulled the rutting trigger. A man that would do that kind of thing deserved no quarter. Better he hadn't been born. But the men were still talking and Monty found himself rooted to the spot.

* * * * *

It was almost amusing to watch. Simon Tam stared at Zoe as if she were speaking some long dead language. "He wants me to what?"

Zoe was calm, her look uncompromising. "Cap'n wants you to do blood tests on the body, *mashang*."

They were in the kitchen. Mrs Frye was making tea with Kaylee hovering by Simon's shoulder one minute then turning to help her with the mugs the next. Wash was as baffled as Simon but willing to wait on the explanation. All of them were still reeling from the notion of the Captain going back to Shadow. He knew that Zoe intended to pin the Captain's ears back the moment she got him alone but in the meantime she would carry out his orders to the letter and woe betide anyone who tried to countermand them. Even their shiny Core-bred doctor. Just because he was courting Kaylee didn't make him bullet proof.

"*Wo bu dong*."

"Neither do I Simon but that's not the point. Sooner it's done the better."

Before Simon could agree River spoke. She was sitting the other side of Wash. Neither Book or Inara were in the room. "Need the blood to catch the killer."

Every eye turned to stare at River. Mrs Frye forgot all about the tea. Simon's eyes widened, he started to get up from his seat, to go to her. "River?"

"He's very clever but not clever enough." "River, how do you know...?"

A thought occurred to Wash. "How will that help? The blood is Ty's, all it'll prove is what we already know."

She shook her head. "Dummy. Accept all, question nothing, and you won't learn anything new. Won't see the truth."

"And what is the truth?" Asked Zoe in a quiet but intense voice.

"Killer's trying to cover his tracks. Hurry Simon. Before it snows again!"

* * * * *

"How did it happen?"

For a moment Frank did not react to the softly spoken words. He raised his head slowly and looked at Mal. Knew he owed him at least that. "We were quarrelin', both of us yellin' by now. Me tellin' John how it was, him not believin' it. He wanted to hammer my mouth shut with his fists an' I wanted to knock the *goushi* out of him an' open his eyes." He paused, sucked in a ragged breath and forced himself to continue. Not breaking eye contact with Mal. "Neither of us were takin' notice of what was goin' on around us. We started to tussle after tradin' a few blows. Somethin' made me look up while we was strugglin' against each other. It was a gorram sniper, crept up close while we was arguin'. I tried to shake John off but he was so crazy mad at me an' that made me madder still, I shook him, spun him round just as the sniper opened fire." Tears ran down his face. The anguish palpable. "Shot him in the gorram back. For a split second I couldn't move then I was emptyin' my rifle in that *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* but it was too late." Frank hiccoughed on a sob. "John was dead an' there wasn't a gorram thing I could do about it. I'd promised your mama I'd find him, bring him back safe. Promised your mama we'd never have the conversation we're havin' right now but Mal I couldn't keep it inside no more. The guilt an' the pain eatin' me up a mouthful at a gorram time. Ya wanna kill me right now ya go ahead an' do it, I'll be more grateful than you could ever know."

Mal stared at him, eyes unfocussed. After several of minutes of stunned silence words somehow formed on the Captain's lips. "So you *didn't* kill him?"

Frank was staring at the ground. His head jerked up, eyes wide in surprise. "*Shenme*? 'Course I killed him. Ya not been listenin'?"

"I've been listenin' an' what I'm hearin' is an enemy bullet fired in battle not you puttin' your gorram gun to my father's head an' pullin' the trigger."

"Mal ya don't understand, I *killed* him as good as if I'd pulled the ruttin' trigger! Don't ya see? I saw that *goushi buru* purplebelly an' as he took aim to fire spun John round so the bullet would hit him not me!"

There was a moment of two of utter silence as the two men stared at each other. After what seemed like another lifetime had passed Mal spoke. "You know that for a fact?"

Frank looked puzzled. "Know what?"

"That you deliberately intended to pull my father into the line of fire?"

His uncle looked confused. Not rightly sure what he knew any more. He had been carrying the guilt since the War. They were like old friends. "We were quarrelin' Mal."

"Words didn't kill him." Said Mal firmly.

Frank Reynolds stared at the son that would never be his. The man whose opinion meant more to him than the Word of God. And Frank Reynolds had always been a religious man. Right up until the War. Both men had lost their faith but for different reasons. "Ya don't hate me?" He whispered.

"Didn't say that."

The Captain's response was flat and emotionless. His eyes were filled with pain. Hurt. Betrayal. And loss. "I can't make it right, Mal." Pleaded Frank as if Mal could somehow do the impossible for him. He didn't give a good gorram how weak or pathetic he sounded.

"No you can't."

"*Duibuqi*, Mal. I'm so ruttin' sorry."

"You carried him on your back for three days, mama said. That a lie too?"

He shook his head slowly. All drained of energy now. No fire left in him. "*Bu qu*, that was true."

Mal sighed and took a seat on a log near his uncle. It took too much energy to stay mad at him. *Diyu*. Uncle, father, what the rutting hell did he call him now? Best stick with tradition. Uncle he had been and uncle he would remain. Whether they would ever be friends again he didn't know. Right now it seemed unlikely but stranger things had been known to happen. Not one of the nine hells had frozen over yet so there was still time in the 'verse for a miracle. Always supposing they could find someone who still believed in them and Shepherd Book didn't count. "*Weishenme*? Why carry my father on your back like that?"

"Disbelief, guilt." He paused. "Penance." He gave an awkward shrug, hardly flinching at the pain in his shoulder. "But mostly I was afraid. Terrified of facin' your mama, comin' home alone without him." He took a long shuddering breath. "I done a lot of things in my life I ain't proud of son, but nothin' comes close to this. If I could have swapped places with him I'd'a done it in a heartbeat. Heaven forgive me, still would."

They fell silent. Neither aware that their unknown audience was carefully and quietly backing away, giving them the privacy they thought they already had.

"Somethin' I don't understand, *shushu*. Why tell me now?"

A look of determination slid over Frank Reynolds face. "I had to Mal 'cause I can't let ya go back to Shadow. *Diyu* it ain't even safe for ya to take Ty to Boros."

The Captain's eyes narrowed with suspicion. His voice hardening. "What other fun little bombshell you gotta drop, *shushu*? An' what in the nine hells does any of this have to do with the death of Tyrone Garvin?"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shushu* = uncle *qu* = yes (lit. go) *diyu* = hell *bao bei* = precious/treasure *wode ma* = mother of God *tamade goushi* = fucking crap/dogshit *shenme* = what *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *mashang* = quick/at the double/right away/immediately *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* = animal fucking bastard *duibuqi* = sorry *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit/lowest of the low *weishenme* = why *goushi* = crap/dog shit


Sunday, February 13, 2005 4:16 PM


First, another fabulous chapter. Second, why do I feel bad for Jayne? At first I thought him getting outsmarted by a bunch of kids was funny, but now I just feel bad.
Third, Mal comes from a SERIOUSLY disfunctional family.

Sunday, February 13, 2005 6:09 PM


What the...? That was not an anonymous post, I fly under my own colors! That was me, Oldfan, and I stand by my high praise of this work!

Monday, February 14, 2005 1:35 AM


OMG Ali - what you put poor Mal through! You've spared him the physical torture but moved onto the psychological! It's so painful to read ... and intriguing. Next chapter soon, please!

Monday, February 14, 2005 10:35 AM


Ooh, one bombshell after another! I wonder what else Frank has to tell Mal about why he shouldn't go back to Shadow...


- Soul

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 9:16 AM


A rich, involved, and moving chapter.

Thursday, February 17, 2005 11:56 PM


Whoa. Good chapter.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 10:35 AM


Seriously shiny! Poor Mal:(


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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.