COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS: 18. "Dancing With The Devil"
Thursday, March 10, 2005

"Jayne keeps the children safe. Meanwhile a vengeful enemy presents the crew of Serenity with a chilling ultimatum."



SUMMARY: "Jayne keeps the children safe. Meanwhile a vengeful enemy presents the crew of Serenity with a chilling ultimatum." 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 not so much a cellar as an underground store. Where once grain and animal feed had been packaged and stacked there was now little more than the musty aftermath of generations of neglect. Yet the cellar was more bunker than store. Little Kirsty's eyes were shining even in the dim light as the hatch closed over their heads. Fourteen children aged from five to eleven, every one of them like taut bowstrings trembling with excitement. Jayne spoke softly, telling them stories his ma had told him as a boy, weaving a safe little world for them far away from what was going on above. River had not returned, made no attempt to see where they went or what they did. Jayne did not know whether to be flattered that she trusted him or annoyed at her lack of interest. Either way he was glad she was gone. It creeped him out how that girl seemed to look right inside his head. Wasn't natural.

Now though he had other worries. Instead of being punctuated by gasps and cheers, his words were shaken by a distant thunder that was coming nearer and nearer until even Jayne Cobb let the words taper away. Fourteen pairs of eyes looked at him, all trusting and innocent. Made him almost choke with emotion to have so much faith put in him. He wanted to tell them it was misplaced but couldn't do it. All he desired at that moment was to be worthy of that trust. To be the Big Damn Hero they all thought he was rather than the money-for-hire thug he had always been. Wasn't often he was ashamed of his profession or wished he had done better but this was one of those times. As motes of dust were shaken down upon their heads he braced himself for trouble and stiffened his spine. Ready to go charging out of there and rip the throats out of whoever might threaten the innocents in his care. But nobody came. And it seemed a long long time until the thunder that shook the world above faded into an ominous silence.

* * * * *

Simon picked himself up off the floor, eyes wide and filled with alarm. Not just over what was happening but over the three men in his charge. Oddly enough Johnny Carr appeared to be stirring. It set hope sparking in the doctor's veins, the distraction of unexpected ordnance momentarily forgotten in giddy delight. If Johnny Carr could come out of his coma so could the Captain and Frank Reynolds. But that didn't happen. He watched, one hand gripping the side of the infirmary bed on which Johnny lay, the other bracing himself against the nearest wall. He narrowed his eyes and stared. The doctor in him could not help but be an astute observer of life. It was an instinct that had long served him well.

Through the glass Zoe Warren watched Simon work. Her eyes dark and flat, a solemn cornucopia of conflicting emotions tied firmly in the past but tethered to the present by the little bit of precious this man had created in the unlikely Black of Space. This eclectic and eccentric family that against all the odds had not only come together but were now bonded with ties of loyalty and affection that went soul deep even if half of them would never admit as much. Was something of a miracle that despite the clash of personalities they had somehow found a middle ground all could occupy and call 'home'. The things that rubbed them up the wrong way had worn into the familiar and sometimes acid banter of familiar things. There was comfort in the wear and tear of friendships forged through times both hard and smooth. In learning through experience that the people you now relied upon might bend but would never break. It was like seeing Malcolm Reynold's creed made flesh.

Wash had gone to the cockpit the moment the first tremor had hit them, all anxious and fearful of what it might mean. He had been surprised that Zoe did not follow but was too worried to pay it any mind. Right now Serenity needed him to focus. Zoe barely blinked, each reverberating concussion absorbed automatically as her body shifted weight to compensate. Not stumbling when the harder shocks rocked the ship beneath her feet. Her mind in another war, another time. It was not until Wash's voice echoed urgently over the ship's com that she was able to shake herself out of the fuge holding her in thrall.

"Kaylee! Need you in the engine room *mashang*. We're under attack. If we don't get in the air we're gonna be reduced to scrap."

Zoe swore, turned and raced to the bridge to see for herself. Alarms going off all over the ship now, the Shepherd meeting her just outside and trying to inject some calm before everything went to *diyu*. "What's happenin'?"

"We're under attack, Shepherd, thought the impacts made that clear."

"I realise that but who's attacking us and why?"

She shook her head, too irritated to point out that she didn't know and hurried through the door her eyes widening at the sight that filled the viewscreen. Wash was frantically trying to bring up power for lift off but it just wasn't happening. "Kaylee? We have to be OFF this rock, *dong ma*?"

Silent now, Zoe stepped behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. The ship that filled the screen was heavily armoured and was using that armament in a very measured assault. Now that she was able to see what was happening she quickly realised something that sent a shudder of fear through her. The ship was not trying to destroy them but pin them down. Whoever was orchestrating the attack on Serenity knew she was an unarmed Firefly class transport so why not just hail them and say what they wanted? Why the unwarranted hostilities unless.... Her heart misgave her and she prayed she was wrong. Wash was trying to open a dialogue with the other ship but getting no reponse. Zoe leaned down and spoke next to his ear. Her voice softened but not lowered. She was not trying to hide her words just wanted to not panic her husband any more than he was already. "*Zhangfu, bao bei*, they're not listenin'."

Wash half turned his head, wanting to look at his wife but unable to tear his eyes away from the other ship. "Maybe they're havin' trouble with their coms...?"

"I don't think communication is their problem." Said the Preacher in his deep solemn voice. It sent a chill down Wash's spine. Inara Serra stepped through the door and stared first at the other ship then at her friends, the question in her eyes dying on her lips.

Kaylee's voice floated over the com like a signature on a death warrant, the ink still wet but drying as her words ended. "That last hit knocked out the engine. I hope someone's got a plan 'cause we ain't goin' nowhere."

* * * * *

With the frantic moment of panic slipping into an uneasy lull all Sarah could think about was Mal. She had no idea what in the nine hells was going on. Her attempt at catching a little sleep had been rudely ripped from her when the bombardment started. Oddly enough it was the doctor's sister that calmed her but not by much.

"Not much time, he needs you."

She blinked, her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth until with a conscious effort she forced it to form words. "What do you mean?"

River's voice softened, her sad eyes held so much meaning it spilled out like formless tears. "He's lost, driftin', needs you to find him. Hold on and be his anchor."

"Are you talkin' about Mal?"

"*Qu*. Not much time."

The thought chilled Sarah's heart. Did she mean the Captain was dying? River shook her head.

"They're comin' for him."

"*Shei*? Who's comin' for him? Do you mean the Fryes?"

River shook her head, impatience flashing in her eyes, hands grabbing Sarah's dress. Pulling, tugging, trying to drag her into moving.

"Alright, alright, I get the message!"

The girl's hands stilled, her eyes large round pockets of concern now changing aspect as if receiving information from the Mouth of God. "Too late, have to hide now."

Sarah ignored her. She liked River but more times than not the girl unsettled her. Racing over the deck plates she pretty near flew to the infirmary. Simon's pale face turned towards her as she rushed through the infirmary door. Johnny Carr was mumbling softly, eyes still closed, unable to wake but stuck in that nether region between sleep and waking. Neither the Captain nor Frank Reynolds stirred. Sarah could feel tears pricking her eyes, reached out a hand to touch the Captain's still face. He was barely warm and the touch of his clammy flesh frightened her. Simon reached out with gentle hands to pull her away.

"I don't think you should touch him."

Her eyes flew to his face. "*Weishenme*?"

"I just mean it's not clear what happened. It might be a virus and I still don't have enough information to know how it's transmitted if it is." He paused, his mouth dry. "You could be infected."

Her laugh was harsh and brittle, the sound of a heart breaking. "Mal could be dying, someone is attacking this ship and we can't escape and you're worried that I might catch some VIRUS?" Her words broke off with nothing but grief to sustain them. She blinked, not angry at Simon and not wanting to lash out and hurt him simply for trying to help. "*Duibuqi* but if it's contagious Simon we're ALL infected, *dong ma*?"

She saw that he already knew that. So why did he not want her to touch the Captain?

"There's somethin' else isn't there? Somethin' you're not telling me."

Awkwardly he pulled a chair over. "Perhaps you should sit down."

"Let's cut through the *goushi*, Simon. I'll calm down if you just treat me like a grown up an' tell me the truth. What in the nine hells is wrong with Mal?"

He wet his lips, a nervous action that he was unaware of but Sarah was used to reading body language. She placed her hand over one of the Captain's and tried not to panic at how cold it was. She had to be strong not just for herself but for him. Silently she willed Mal to hang on, to somehow sense her presence and let it bring him back to her.

* * * * *

Martin Frye was furious. Seldom had he been so incensed over anything in his gorram life before. Monty tried to calm the man, prevent him charging over to Serenity to see what the *diyu* was happening. Monty had seen enough to know that wouldn't help the beleagured crew. He would have been with them but had left to check on his men then been called over to the house by Mrs Frye and Kaylee's cousin Charlie wanting to know how the Captain, Frank and Johnny Carr were doing. The sound of a ship descending had brought him racing out of the house just as the first volley of fire lashed down upon the Firefly. Swearing he was set to run across to the ship but the fire intensified making the area immediately around Serenity a killing zone. Only his willpower stopped him from doing what Martin Frye was wanting to do his own self.

"My Kaylee's on that ship!" He yelled into Monty's face as if the man were deaf, blind and stupid.

"*Wo zhidao* Mr Frye an' so're my friends. Don't think it's easy for me to watch a friend in trouble but gettin' killed afore I can do anythin' will make things worse not better, *dong ma*?"

Every window in the Frye household had anxious faces pressed against the panes. Eyes wide and fearful looking out on a vision of *diyu* none had expected to visit Carousel. Then, as they watched the assault intensified until it seemed the Firefly must surely be reduced to smoking ashes but it wasn't. After what seemed like an eternity the bombardment tapered off then to everyone's consternation the big ship landed between the house and Serenity. A growing fear chilled Monty. He drew his gun from its' holster, face grim, thoughts a thousand times grimmer. "Mr Frye? Best you go inside."

The man was not about to do anything without an explanation. "This is my home an' I ain't about to be ordered about by no..."

"Mr Frye!" Monty snapped in a tone of command that brooked no argument, cutting through the protests lining up on the other man's tongue. "Ain't gonna ask ya twice. Go, see to your family an' don't come out less I tell ya it's all clear."

His eyes narrowed, with worry now not suspicion. "What ya gonna do? You're but one man Monty."

Monty then flashed him a full blown smile. The grit and determination of the battlefield lighting a fire in his eyes that would never die. "*Do not despite the snake for havin' no horns, for who is to say that it time it may not become a dragon? In the same way may one just man become an' army*." He gave a brief pause as if considering the words. "I always liked that gorram quote."

"But ya ain't no army."

Monty risked looking at him, tearing his eyes very briefly away from the enemy ship. "Ain't no snake neither so get inside. If ya got any weapons best you go load 'em in case this is about more than someone after that Firefly." Their eyes met in unhappy consensus. All the mad huffed out of Mr Frye, leaving only worry and concern in its' wake. Not just for Serenity and her crew or his daughter but also for the brave bluff man getting ready to battle terrifying odds. "They'll kill ya."

Impossibly, Monty's grin got bigger. Fiesty and ready as a man could be to do battle with whatever *wangba dans* threatened the safety of himself or his friends. He straightened up and stroked his bushy beard for a moment, eyes glinting. He would like as not die but he wasn't going to die alone. "Wasn't figurin' on livin' forever."

Martin Frye nodded, emotion catching him. Wishing he didn't have a family to worry over, that he could just get a gun and fire alongside this man. Be part of that band of brothers who stood between the Devil and everything that was good in the 'verse.

"Go," Said Monty gently, reading the man's thoughts in the hesitation in his eyes. "If they get by me you're gonna need to be armed. If ya got a cellar or somesuch get the women an' children down there then drag any heavy furniture you got on top of it."

His words made Mr Frye's eyes widen in horror. "Gorrammit! The children!" Monty frowned, eyes flicking back to the enemy ship which had settled but not moved. Her guns were mostly aimed at the Firefly but he noticed a couple had turned to cover the house. "What about 'em?"

The man had gone completely white. "They aren't in the house."

The big man's head snapped back and his eyes bored a hole in Martin Frye's. "What do ya mean they ain't in the house?"

"They were, they were out playin'."

"Playin'?" Monty could not believe how everything was falling to pieces. Could things get any worse? "*Wode ma*. Playin' where?" The man was almost beside himself. "I gotta go find my kids."

Monty put a hand out to stop him. "*Bu qu*, I'll go. Just tell me where to look an' how many are missin'."

For a moment Mr Frye just looked at him. His eyes bleak and filled with pain. The wonder of it was that he was able to form words passed the lump in his throat. "All of 'em."

* * * * *

Jayne knew he had to stay calm but it was hard to sit still hidden and safe when who knew what was happening above. He had heard the heavy bombardment and knew what it meant. Gorram Alliance! Captain should have ditched those fugies when he had the chance but no he had to go and make them crew. Wasn't that he hated them exactly, the Tams just complicated his life and made them a target for every money hungry *wanga dan* out there. It never struck him as ironic that he had been one of those *wangba dans* himself not too long ago.

It was Jaimie Todd tugging at his sleeve that reminded him why he was holed up in the first place. The little boy's face all scrunched up in an effort to understand this latest game. "If we're all Heroes Jayne, who're the Reavers?" Jayne swallowed hard. Had forgotten for a moment that to the children this was all a game. He gripped Vera hard and tried not to frighten them too much. "Reavers is anyone who ain't us."

* * * * *

The com burst into life making Wash, Zoe, Book and Inara jump. Wash cast a baleful look at the others then flicked the com line open just as a harried and anxious looking Kaylee joined them.

"Firefly ship Serenity you will stand down and prepare to be boarded!"

Wash stared for a moment at the com. They were kidding, right? "Um, we are an unarmed transport ship..."

Another transmission cut him off. "Prepare to be boarded or we will open fire on the house, *dong ma*?"

Alarmed Wash stared at Zoe. They did not recognise the voice. Wash swallowed nervously. "How do we know you won't just open fire on us an' kill us all?"

"If we wanted you dead we would not be havin' this conversation. You have five minutes to comply."

The com went dead. Inara was frowning. "Who are they?"

The Shepherd looked thoughtful and worried. "*Wo bu zhidao* but I can tell you who they aren't."

"An' that would be?" Asked Zoe.

"They are not Alliance. An Alliance ship would have identified itself."

"So it's what?" Said Wash. "Because what we really want is one more enemy."

Inara could not hide the worry from her face or her voice. "We can't let them fire on the house. Those people are innocent."

Unhappy looks were exchanged then Zoe straightened. "Best get this over with."

Wash shot her an anxious look. "You sure we're wantin' to do this, *bao bei*?"

"Wantin' to? No. Have to? Yes. Like the man said they could kill us all an' there'd be not a thing we could do about it."

"Then," Said Book slowly. "There must be something on this ship they want."

No one said what they were thinking but images of River emerging from cryo were still fresh in their minds along with Simon's reaction. The bond between the siblings was stronger than anything they had seen before. A love than knew no boundaries. He had given up everything for his sister. His home. Wealth, position and a future of ease and comfort. In return Simon and River had embraced the life of fugitives, wanted for High Crimes and Misdemeanours against the all-powerful might of the Alliance. The bounty on their heads was enough to make each of Serenity's crew rich for life. Wash wished the Captain were conscious. Bad as things were he was sure the man would have come up with a plan. Crazy and no doubt suicidal but a plan nonetheless. Wash had no plan, not even a ghost of one, just the suicidal part and he wasn't too much looking forward to that.

Zoe squeezed his shoulder. "Come on, *zhangfu*, let's get this over with before they decide to carry out that threat."

* * * * *

She stared at him. Not sure how to absorb the information she had been given. Simon wished she had not asked but now that it was out in the open he realised it made a sick kind of sense. He watched Sarah look at the Captain, her eyes bright with unshed tears, her voice low and musical. Talking to the man as if he had a chance in *diyu* of hearing her let alone responding. She paused and drew a gentle hand down the side of the Captain's face, her fingers trailing down his cheek before she leaned forward and replaced it with a kiss. He did not stir. Sarah had stopped expecting him to but she couldn't bring herself to give up. To believe the Captain's life was seeping out of him. She gripped his hand tighter but before she could resort to begging the door slammed open. Startled she stared behind her, Simon stiffening on the other side of the infirmary bed. Her mouth opened in surprise, Simon's in abject horror.

Adelei Niska drew back thin lips to reveal his teeth. His eyes glittering with pleasure. He was not alone. Beside and behind him some well armed thugs kept their weapons levelled at Simon and Sarah. Simon raised his hands but Sarah just stared at them. Niska stepped forward, his eyes taking in the scene in the infirmary. A little frown creased his leathery face. "What is this?"

"The infirmary." Said Simon in a crisp smart voice. His distain and disgust dripping from those few words.

The man nearest to him drew back a hand and struck him in the face. Simon rocked on his heels but held his ground, his lip split and a thin trickle of blood ran down his face unheeded. There was fire in his eyes, a silent defiance. Niska took in the exchange and repeated his question, taking a couple of steps closer to the doctor. Simon resisted the overwhelming desire to step back. "What is this?" Niska's hand waved to encompass the three men lying on the infirmary beds. "This is a joke, yes?"

The fire in Simon vanished, worry taking the heat out of his response. "No, no joke. All of these men have contracted some kind of virus. I haven't been able to identify it but its very virulent. They have slipped into a coma and are dying."

Niska looked long and hard at Simon, looking for the lie. But Simon did not flinch and held his gaze rock steady. A flicker of uncertainty gave the *liumang* pause. "Virus?"

"They went down to Shadow, it's the only common denominator I could find." Simon shrugged. He thought about mentioning the fact that Monty had gone down with the Captain and was the only one seemingly not affected but did not want Niska to know anything he could avoid telling him.

"I do not understand, Shadow is a dead world - yes?" The doctor nodded. "Yes." He glanced at the Captain, so still and ghostly pale. When he glanced back at Niska he could not hide the sadness in his eyes. "Perhaps this is why."

Adelei Niska pursed his lips. "I think this, perhaps, is too convenient." Simon wanted to rant and rail at him. Convenient? His anger sparked something in the *liumang*. Niska stepped up to the bed where Captain Malcolm Reynolds lay and looked down at him for a minute or two. The Captain did not stir. Niska became aware of the woman clinging to the man's hand as if it were a lifeline. "You are who?"

"A friend."

Niska lifted his head slightly, the overhead lights in the infirmary reflecting off his glasses so that for a second she could not see his eyes. "Ah, friends." He paused then looked at Simon. "Friends cannot help him."

"You know what caused this?" He blinked slowly at Serenity's doctor. "*Bu qu* and I do not care. I have, what you would call, unfinished business with Captain Reynolds."

Alarm shot through Simon. "He's dying."

"Yess," Hissed Niska slowly, his look thoughtful. "We will take him and go. Do not do anything foolish."

Sarah was about to jump up and protest but Simon caught her eye and shook his head. She glared at him then bit her lip to hold back the tears.

"Very well, take him. But I should warn you that whatever did this to the Captain could affect you and your men."

"Why would you warn me? Is a trap, yes?"

Simon shook his head, suddenly looking as weary as he felt. The problem with adrenaline was that it left you twice as tired once it was used up. "No, no trap. Like I said the Captain's dying. You want to torture him but it won't do you any good." He ignored the gasp from Sarah, not daring to look into her horrified gaze. "Whatever you do to him he won't feel." He paused and gave a sad little smile. "It's ironic really."

Niska frowned, his men getting ansty at the protracted conversation. They wanted to be gone, with or without the man their boss had gone to such lengths to recapture.

"In taking the Captain he'll obtain his ultimate revenge on you."

"What revenge? He is not capable of doing anything."

"That's true. Physically he's as helpless as a baby but that's not what I'm talking about. Once you take him aboard your ship the virus he's carrying will start to manifest among you and your crew. Oh, it won't happen overnight. Slowly the pathology of the virus will invade your bloodstream, your muscles, your automotive system. Your body will cramp and become filled with agonising pain until it cripples you. In the final stages you'll slip into a coma," Simon waved a hand at the three patients. "Much like this."

Involuntarily Niska took a step back. "This is a trick."

Simon raised an eyebrow. "Is it? You have better resources than I have, check it out. See if I'm lying. Though by then it may alreay be too late."

A muscle in Niska's cheek twitched. He was so close to getting what he wanted. Yes, he wanted Malcolm Reynolds dead but by his own hand. He had no intention of dying himself. He snapped out a command to one of his men, Lasky. Lasky stepped forward, trying to hide his reluctance and revulsion. Niska gave the man a nod. "Check. See if is true."

Lasky stepped towards the bed. Sarah turned to face him, trying to block him but one of the other men caught her arm and dragged her to one side. Tears broke and rolled down her face. Sorrow and frustration warring with the fierce desire to stop these men from taking Mal away from her. She did not know what business a man like Adelei Niska could have with Captain Reynolds but had heard enough to know that it was not good. Niska was the Devil made flesh. She did not need to know anything beyond that. Lasky leaned over the Captain, hesitated then reached out to check his pulse, his fingertips finding the carotid artery. The pulse was weak and thready, the skin clammy and cool to the touch. With a shudder of revulsion he realised the doctor was right. He waited a moment or two to monitor the Captain then looked up at his boss with a grave expression on his face. "The doctor's right, Mr Niska. This man is very sick. He's dying." Anger twisted the gaunt hollows of Adelei Niska's face. He raised his right hand and balled it into a fist as if by that action alone he could wring out all the pain and torment he wanted to visit on this man. He could not stand the thought that even in death Malcolm Reynolds would evade him. "He cannot die! Not until I have shown him what it is to cross Adelei Niska."

In the tense charged silence that followed it was Sarah's weeping voice that carried to every pair of ears. "Why can't you just let him die in peace you *heishoudang liumang*?"

Niska put his hand in his pocket and took out a pristine white handkerchief. He placed it over his nose and mouth as if it would protect him. "Is a trick. We take him with us."

Simon had been content to let the seriousness of the situation run its' course but now he could not stand idly by and let them take the Captain. Alive or dead the man belonged to Serenity. To them. He did not want to contemplate the vile or evil things Niska might do to the man's body. He still had nightmares about that ear and sometimes Wash would confide details to him about their torture that he simply could not wipe from memory. It was no effort at all to imagine the lengths this awful despicable creature from *diyu* would go to try to make the Captain dance to his tune. "You can't, he's dying!"

The *liumang* smiled, enjoying the distress on Simon and Sarah's faces. The horror in their eyes. Oh yes, this was most exciting. "You were right in one thing. I have resources you do not have. Doctors, medicines, facilities that will stablise his condition. Allow me to finish what was interrupted before, yes?" Niska paused to savour the effect of his next words. "*Fang xin*, the Captain will die but in a time of my choosing, *dong ma*? Is fitting, no? He took from me something I value now I take from him."

Sarah could not stop crying, could not believe what she was hearing. Her hands trembled, her shoulders shook. Simon blocked all thoughts of her from his mind, frantically trying to find a way to turn this terrible situation around. He was after all, Top Three Per Cent. "If you are determined to do this then you should take some precautions." He said carefully, his voice mild.


"Yes. He is highly contagious."

"So you say yet you are not ill."

Simon shrugged. "Early stages. If I can't find some kind of antidote we will die. Not quickly either." He paused. "If you take no precautions you will die too and while I don't mind if you live or die there is a way to prevent any further deterioration in the Captain's condition."

Niska gave Simon Tam a very hard look. "You would do this why?"

He allowed a sigh to drift from his lips like a weary little flag of defeat. "I'm a doctor, I need to preserve life. To heal. If I can't do that then I try to extend what life is left as best I can."

Interest flickered in the *liumang's* eyes. "How?"

"It's not something I would normally suggest..." He trailed off, voice hesitant.


"We have a cryo statis chamber. It could be used to lower the Captain's temperature, keep him alive for the transfer. I'm presuming you have some pretty advanced medical centre that can do the rest?"

A look of barely controlled exultation distorted Niska's feature. "*Hen hao*. Where is this... chamber?"

Carefully Simon kept his face as expressionless as possible, affecting an air of defeat. He pointed to the far corner of the infirmary where River's cryo chamber was. Niska nodded.

"Do this and we go, *dong ma*?"

Simon nodded wearily. "*Wo dong*."

Sarah stared at him in horror as if she had never seen him before. Her eyes bright with tears, her voice choked with emotion and betrayal. "Simon you can't! How could you give Mal to this, this... evil man? You know what he wants to do with him? You can't let them take him."

"Sarah, I don't have a choice. You heard him. If they don't get what they want they'll kill everyone. Not just us but the people here on Carousel."

Niska snapped his fingers and one of his men dragged Sarah out of the infirmary. "Put her with the others."

"You won't... won't hurt her?"

"No. Once we have Captain Reynolds we will leave as promised, yes?"

He nodded. Niska waved to his men and began to retreat from the room, sniffing into his handkerchief as if he could already smell or sense the impending death in the air around him.

"I will allow some of your crew to help you put him in the cryo chamber, yes?"

Seconds later Niska and his men left the infirmary. Simon closed his eyes and sagged against the Captain's bed. Startled when a groggy voice impinged on his consciousness. "Simon? What the good gorram is goin' on?"

He stared, mouth agape. The Captain lay with his eyes closed, laboured soft breathing struggling to clear flagging lungs but the man was definitely conscious. "You're awake!"

Despite his pain, the Captain managed to infuse a humorous tone into his voice. "You sure you're Top Three Per Cent?"

As happy as Simon was to see the Captain regain consciousness he could not believe how much the man's timing sucked. Mal cracked open a pained eye and caught the look on his face. "*Shenme shi*?"

"How much did you hear?"

"Wouldn't say hear exactly. Still feel fuzzy an' pretty out of it. Almost thought I heard that *tamade hundan* Niska but that can't be right."

Simon sighed. "You did hear Niska."

The Captain's eyes flew open in shock. "*Tian Yesu*, you sayin' Niska's HERE?"

"Yes Captain but I've got a plan."

Mal closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. When he opened them again he levelled a very keen look at the doctor. "You bring me back from the dead only to kill me again?"

Slowly Simon smiled. "No, but it does mean you're going to have to be very VERY quiet Captain and," He let the last word hang.

The Captain waited in frustation, frowned when the sentence was not completed. "An' what?" He said in a testy voice.

"And," Said Simon sounding more than a little bit smug. "You are going to have to do exactly as I say!"

* * * * *

*mashang* = on the double/right away/quickly/immediately *diyu* = hell *dong ma* = understand *zhanzhu* = stop *bao bei* = precious/treasure *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shei* = who *weishenme* = why *duibuqi* = sorry *wo zhidao* = I know *wangba dan*/*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *wode ma* = mother of God *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *zhangfu* = husband *liumang* = asshole/bastard/criminal/gangster *heishoudang liumang* = gangster asshole/bastard *hen hao* = very good *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *wo dong* = I understand *shenme shi* = what's the matter?


Thursday, March 10, 2005 11:20 AM


I like the way this is going - More plotting and less sufferring. A little surprised Niska's so focused on Mal that he neglects to consider torturing him through Sarah. Nevertheless, one of your best chapters, Alison.

Thursday, March 10, 2005 12:16 PM


Ali!!!! Gosh, you so torture me. Leaving me hanging when things are up in the air!! Is Mal okay or is he still sick? What is Simon's plan? Is Niska finally going to get a well deserved kick in the ass?


And on a less hysterical note, GREAT JOB!

Friday, March 11, 2005 12:31 AM


Yo! Go Simon! I'd love to see that last exchange filmed ... "You're going to have to do exactly as I say". I can just imagine the look on both their faces! More!

Friday, March 11, 2005 12:29 PM


This is one good novel here, Ali, and I think your portrayal of Niska is worthy of Joss himself.

Friday, March 11, 2005 1:15 PM


Artships, there is no point trying to torture a comatose man by using his friends. Also, as mentioned by Zoe in "War Stories" as vile a creep as Niska is he has his own code. He made a deal with Mal and the Captain broke it ergo Mal is the one he wants to take his pound of flesh from and redeem his reputation. Thanks to everyone for your shiny comments, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, March 11, 2005 3:13 PM


Loved Simon's last bit! Could just see Mal's face hearing that.

Monday, April 4, 2011 1:28 PM


as ever, taking a page from Joss's book, leave them in jeopardy so we're sure to come back. so glad i get to read it all at once...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 10:25 AM


I LOVE Simon!!!! He and Mal on the last part... PRICELESS!!!XDXD and I'm really loving Jayne with the kiddos, how protective he is(:


You must log in to post comments.



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.