Tuesday, October 14, 2003

"The crew of Serenity have a rude awakening and Captain Reynold's troubles lurch from bad to worse."



SUMMARY: "The crew of Serenity have a rude awakening and Captain Reynold's troubles lurch from bad to worse." 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

* * * * *

Nightfall planetside was always an odd affair. To Kaylee it felt wrong to be on the ground and not flying but until Serenity was repaired they would be going nowhere. She wished River goodnight and went for a last tour of the ship, her hand trailing along smoke grimed walls. Most of the mess had been cleaned up but it would probably be months before the Firefly was back to her pre-burn stage. She frowned, her mind struggling to comprehend why anyone would want to harm the ship. No doubt in her mind that this was a wanton act and no accident. At first she had held her tongue, reluctant to believe that anyone would do such a thing on purpose. It had been Wash who had stated what she realised in her heart to be a cold hard fact.

"This was a deliberate act of sabotage!"

She had stared at him, her heart sinking. Zoe had come in to see how they were getting on and caught the tail end of the conversation. Her reaction was immediate. "Sabotage? You mean some *qingwa cao de liumang* is responsible?"

They both looked up at the same time. Kaylee swallowed uncomfortably. "Didn't like to say anythin' till I was sure but no way was this an accident."

Zoe let rip with an even more colourful stream of Chinese invective, so ripe it made Kaylee's ears burn. Wash watched his wife pace angrily, his look thoughtful. "But who would do such a thing on purpose?"

Zoe looked at him, "Anybody we upset lately?"

"Not that much, *xin gan*."

They had discussed the possibilities for almost an hour by which time the others had finished clean up duties and the Preacher had rustled up a hot meal in the commons room. By mutual consent they had said nothing in front of the Captain. Not wanting to say or do anything to put back his recovery. Now Kaylee was alone with her thoughts, dark suspicions stirring and chasing away any chance of sleep. She sighed and made her way to the engine room and sat on the floor, one hand reaching out to pat the steel heart that kept the ship flying. Hoping it would not be too long before they could find enough coin to repair the damage and get her back in the Black where she belonged.

In their room Wash and Zoe were also awake but for a different reason. The shine of sweat oiled their love making, so in tune with each other that their bodies glided almost frictionless in the heat of mounting passion. Wash had a beautific look on his face, eyes momentarily closed in bliss as he felt his orgasm building. Zoe gave a tiny grunt and seemed not to be exerting herself at all, content to let her excitable husband do the lion's share of the work. Her eyes were open, her mind busy trying to put together pieces that did not fit. With a groan and a cry Wash came and Zoe sighed in high content as she joined him, their heat joining and raising a slick smile on her face. He took a minute to catch his breath then his eyes flicked open, his happy face seeking hers. "How was it for you, sweetie?"

She smiled and gave him a loving but tolerant kiss. "Perfect as always, husband."

He looked smug then noticed she seemed a little distracted. "You're thinkin' again."

"Sorry, occupational hazard of having more than one working brain cell."

"Not that I'm complainin' mind. I like my women smart and sassy. What you thinkin' about?"

They slid around to ease into positions that provided the most contact while not sacrificing any comfort. Wash luxuriated in the sexual afterglow, his hands sliding under the covers to widen the smile on his wife's too solemn face.

"Something's goin' on Wash and I don't like it."

He paused and deliberately pretended to misunderstand her. "What? You didn't like...?"

She chuckled and he loved the way her breasts wobbled in his hands with the motion. "No, *bao bei*, not that." She gave him a slow kiss then pulled back. "Maybe we should set a guard?"

Now he was worried. He sat up, not attempting to hide his concern. "You think someone's gonna try to board us?" Zoe shrugged. "I don't know. Yesterday I would have laughed at the idea that anyone would want to blow a hole in us while we're on the ground. I just wish I knew what it meant."

Just then the com activated. It was Shepherd Book. "Zoe? Wash? You awake?"

Zoe jumped up and answered him. "What's up Preacher?"

"We got company."


"Don't quote me but it looks like half the town."

Zoe and Wash exchanged worried looks then scrambled for their clothes. By the time they were half decent the Shepherd had roused Jayne and was waiting for them on the catwalk. Zoe was frowning as she fell into step alongside his quick strides. They descended the steps with Jayne and Wash just a step behind them. Wash looked at Jayne. "What's going on?"

The mercenary shrugged then chambered Vera. The look on his face said he was prepared for anything. A noise behind them made them look back. Zoe was surprised to see Inara coming out of her shuttle. Her hair was in disarray but she did not look as if she had been sleeping. "What's happening?"

The Shepherd had reached the cargo bay door. He paused and peered through the viewport. They heard him swear heavily under his breath. Zoe leaned over his shoulder and stepped quickly back in alarm, her gun sliding out of her holster in a single clean move. Alarmed, Wash took a step towards her, she shook her head and he froze in place. Zoe looked at the Preacher. "What the gorram are all those people doing outside?"

"Only one way to find out."

Jayne made a face. "I don't like this."

"None of us like this," Said the Preacher. "But truth to tell we won't know anything unless we open the door and ask."

"What if they don't feel like talkin'. huh? Someone already tried to blow the ship up."

"No," Said Wash, playing Devil's Advocat. "They just disabled us. If they'd wanted to blow us up we would be playing harps right now. Or," He paused. "Shovelling coal on the fire."

Jayne made a grunting noise but did not say anything else. A heavy knocking interrupted their thoughts. Someone was shouting on the other side of the door. Zoe and Book exchanged a worried glance. Book asked Inara to go and quietly wake Simon and River. While it might be nothing they could not take a chance that this was not something connected with the Alliance. Best to be safe than sorry. The Companion nodded and quickly ran in the direction of their quarters. Zoe cocked her trigger then nodded to the Preacher. "Best find out what this is all about."

Cautiously the Preacher opened the door and as he did so was tempted to slam it shut again. The only thing that stopped him was the local Sheriff and a couple of his deputies. It seemed most of the townfolk were gathered behind them, many brandishing torches and a fair number armed. He did not like the look of this one bit. The Sheriff turned and said something and some of his men pushed the crowd back. He looked to be a man in his middle to late forties, stocky, short dark brown hair, clean shaven but with a pock marked face. He cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. "You'll have to pardon the late hour. I'm Sheriff Bowman and these here are my deputies..."

"What *all* of them?" Sneered Jayne, indicating the press of people crowded behind him.

He ignored Jayne and continued. "I have here a deposition making certain allegations of a most serious nature. Accusations that demand the immediate investigation of the local law."

Shepherd Book frowned. "What kind of accusations?"

The Sheriff blinked. "Serious ones."

"We got that Sheriff but can you be more specific?"

"The allegations are of a sensitive nature if you catch my drift?" Said the Sheriff cautiously, obviously not wanting the people behind him to hear all the details.

Zoe was not happy. None of them were. "Suppose you just say what the problem is then we can get this cleared up and go back to bed."

He nodded. "Happy to oblige ma'am but me an' my deputies are gonna have to step inside."

Jayne was about to refuse and slam the door shut but the Preacher gave him a stern look and pushed the door open a bit wider. "Now Jayne, we got nothin' to hide. Sheriff's only tryin' to do his job."

The mercenary scowled darkly. Sheriff Bowman, four deputies and two rather scruffy looking men hurried through the partly open door then Zoe shut it with a clang. The Sheriff nodded to one of the deputies who went and stood next to the door. Zoe looked pissed off. "Suppose you tell us what is this all about?"

The Sheriff nodded to the two men who now were beginning to look a mite nervous. The shorter of the two appeared to have a slight limp. They backed closer to the Sheriff and shook their heads. "He ain't here."

"Who ain't here?" Asked Jayne, curious despite himself.

"The *wangba dan* who kidnapped our sister." Said the dirty tall lanky fellow.

Zoe looked closely at the two men. She did not recognise them but there was something definitely shifty about them. "Your sister? What makes you think your sister is here?"

The shorter of the two seemed to have got up his courage and took a step forward. "We followed him that's how."

Before the confusion could break out into a fight the Sheriff intervened. "These two men are alleging that one of your crew kidnapped their sister and she is being held against her will on this vessel."

Wash wanted to laugh only none of the men looked the kind to see the joke. "That's a load of *fei hua*."

"Then you won't mind if we do a search and make sure will you?"

A look of consternation crossed his face. Thinking of Simon and River. Zoe had the same thought and was relieved that she had thought to send Inara to warn them. With all the people now chanting outside and the official law demanding they search the ship she could only hope that Simon and River had managed to find a good place to hide. All they needed was for River to have one of her episodes and they would all be screwed. Shepherd Book gave the two men a suspicious look. "You say you followed the man here?"

They nodded.

"What did he look like?"

Zoe had a horrible feeling of impending doom even before they began their description. She closed her eyes as the two men effectively described the Captain right down to his stockinged feet. Oh *tamade*. Why did these things have to keep happening to them? She opened her eyes and fixed them with a stony stare. "Your sister. What does she look like?"

The shorter man, Briny, affected sorrow. "She's Chinese, name of Yen Mah. Just coming up for eleven years old. *Ba ba* adopted her when she was just a little kid after her folks died. We been close kin ever since. Whole family's in a terrible state, we been searchin' for days for her. Damn near gone out of our minds with worry."

The Sheriff noticed how pale Zoe had gone. His look hardened. What had seemed an unlikely story at best now seemed to gain a little more credence with him. "I think we'll take that look round now." He glanced at his man by the door. "Don, call in some more of the boys to help us search this place. And let's be careful, we don't want none of these good folk gettin' spooked into unnecessary gun play now do we?"

* * * * *

He was dreaming. The beautiful haunting melody of the erhu soothing him as he approached the fire. It had been a long but satisfying day's work. The cattle were all accounted for and they had mended the breaks in the fence. Rolly and Ben Li were doing a last circuit before calling it a night. Mal swung down off his horse and fussed him before uncinching his saddle and turning him out in the coral. He humped the saddle and set it on the hitching rail. Cheng's voice drifted out of the circle of firelight to caress his ears. "*Xiao di di*, what kept you so long? We were about ready to send a search party out for you."

Mal laughed lightly, it was an old tease. He could not help being extra cautious, always wanting to take just one more look, be extra certain all was well. Part of it was the worry with his father and uncle away in the war, part of it was the determination to make sure their faith in him to run things while they were gone had not been misplaced. He cast around for Davy, accepting the plate of stew from Red and settling in the space they made for him. Halfway through his supper Davy appeared, bright eyed and breathless from running. The hands teased him but he did not care, he was laughing. Quickly he scrambled over the men in his way to get to his brother, Red shoving him good naturedly and smacking him on the rump as he wriggled passed.


Red laughed. "Only babies squawk, Davy. You a baby *xiao di di*?"

"Nope but I ain't some old prune neither."

Red went to grab him but Mal rolled his body and blocked him. He looked at his little brother. "What you been runnin' for, little Davy?"

"Mama's had word Uncle Frank's on his way."

Mal frowned. Uncle Frank? What? *Just* Uncle Frank? "What about pa?"

His brother was busy stuffing his face. The sour dough dipped in gravy and beans left quite a mess on his face in his eagerness to stuff every corner of his mouth at the same time. Didn't make for an efficient swallow. Mal had to slap his back for him to get the sticky mess down his throat so he could form words. "Never said but you can bet they're together."

Mal nodded. Nothing more certain than night following day. He relaxed and smiled. Looked across the warmth of the fire and caught Cheng looking back at him a grin on his face, his erhu in his lap like a waiting lover. Mal nodded. "How about a song, Cheng?"

"Only if you all join in, *hao*?"

"Depends on what you're gonna play."

Cheng's smile widened and his gifted fingers picked out the old staple Red River Valley. Davy dug out his harmonica and began to wail on his harp in accompaniment. Red, Bryn and Big Mike took up the opening verse with Mal while the rest of the boys listened as they finished eating. They each took it in turns to sing a verse:

"From this valley they say you are going We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile For they say you are taking the sunshine That has brightened our path for a while."

A companionable warmth settled on them. Sitting round the campfire beneath the stars the rough meal, banter and song helped them wind down and take comfort in one another. Mal knew his mama would be waiting at the ranch house for him and Davy. Hoped that by the time they finished up and bedded the horses down that his father and uncle would be home with stories of the war and tales of derring do. But mostly he was just looking forward to the family being complete again. A light cuff around the ear from Big Mike reminded him it was his turn to sing a verse:

"Come and sit by my side if you love me Do not hasten to bid me adieu But remember the Red River Valley And the cowboy who loved you so true."

Everybody joined in the next verse:

"Won't you think of the valley you're leaving Oh how lonely, how sad it will be? Oh think of the fond heart you're breaking And the grief you are causing to me."

Bryn Daley sang the last verse in his sweet tenor:

"As you go to your home by the ocean May you never forget those sweet hours That we spent in the Red River Valley And the love we exchanged mid the flowers..."

As the song died away no one spoke for several minutes. A comfortable silence descended on them, the men lost in their individual thoughts. Mal looked at his brother and gave him a smile. Davy grinned back. "Race you to the house?"

Mal laughed and grabbed him round the waist dragging him back to his seat before he could be off on his toes. "Oh no you don't. We got the horses to bed down, the pans to wash and the fire to put out."

"Ah but Mal..."

"But Mal nothin', you're big enough to eat the food, you're big enough to earn it."

Cheng laughed and got to his feet. Chuckling, all they could hear was a mumbled string of Chinese peppering the cool night air as he ambled off to the bunkhouse. Mal knew he was off to do the accounts. He washed his things and dragged Davy off to the coral to coax the horses into the stable. A good rub down and a feed then they could go back to the house and join Zoe and Ma. He hoped it would not be long before their father and uncle got home. He put his arm around his brother and hugged him affectionately as they walked. Heads together, whispering and laughing quietly. Content that all was right with their world.

* * * * *

River hated the grills. They made her feel all hemmed in and compressed. Like a sardine in a tin but without the oil. Simon had only just had time to take a smoother with him but hoped he would not need it. There was no telling how long they would have to stay hidden. Inara was unable to tell them much but what he heard did not reassure the doctor. "What are they looking for? Did they say?"

"A girl."

Simon frowned, his movements jerky and nervous as he helped River flatten herself in the crawlspace leaving just enough room for him. "Was that it?"

Inara was reluctant to tell them the rest but Simon was staring so intently at her. She tried to hide her growing anxiety. Knew she did not have time for this but wanted to be as honest as she could with them. "I don't think they're looking for you and River."

"You said they were looking for a girl?"

She nodded. "Yes, but it sounds like Yen Mah."

River's eyes widened with dark knowing. "Liars come with practised deceit. Set a trap to catch a fly but more hungry mouths to feed that one poor spider."

The Companion stared at her, heart pounding. What the *diyu* did she mean? "River?"

"She doesn't know what she's saying."

For a moment Inara just stared at her but River's look was unfocused, her words a loose ramble of disjointed sentences that did not connect and made no sense. She turned worried eyes on Simon. "It's okay Inara, I'll look after her. Now go!"

She nodded and put the grill back, Simon locking it in place then flattening himself back. Inara gave it a critical look but even up close you could not see anything. The inside of the grill was completely swallowed up in shadow. She shuddered suddenly, got to her feet and started to make her way to the Captain's bunk to warn him. She had only gone a couple of paces when she heard voices and the tramp of several feet. Inara froze, her heart going into freefall as she was met the other way by the Sheriff and several armed officers. All of a sudden they had run out of time.

* * * * *

Kaylee brushed the greasy hair from her eyes and sat up. Nothing more she could do and moping in the engine room would not help anybody. She sighed, patted the engine and got to her feet. She had almost reached her bunk when a hand shot out and grabbed her arm. No time to scream she almost fainted as a hand closed firmly over her mouth.

"Now who in the nine hells would you be?"

She did not recognise the voice. Her eyes wide with fear she could hardly take a steady breath. The grip on her relaxed and she was carefully let go only to find herself looking into a pair of wary eyes. She saw the badge and stiffened, fear running through her. Misunderstanding, the man tried to quickly reassure her. "It's okay miss, I'm a deputy. You're safe now. Ain't nobody gonna harm you no-how."

Surprised by his words she forgot to be frightened. "Why would I be afraid someone was gonna harm me? This is my home and who are you?"

"Deputy Crowther, miss."

Kaylee frowned at him. Worried for Simon and River but not wanting to appear to have anything to hide. "What are ya doin' sneakin' around my boat?"

"We got word someone was bein' held against their will so we come to check it out."

Her look darkened. Kaylee put her hands on her hips. "Well then you can just get back to wherever ya came from and let good folk get back to sleep instead of scarin' 'em half to death."

He opened his mouth to explain that he could not do that when he heard the Sheriff calling him then several other voices raised in anger. Quickly tipping his hat to Kaylee he turned and ran off to join the Sheriff. Alarmed, Kaylee hurried after him, her mouth dropping open in shock when she skidded to a halt yards from the Captain's bunk. The Captain had been roused out of bed. Still looking half asleep he was being made to dress and kept separate from everyone else. A piercing wail tore her attention to the struggling figure of Yen Mah, tears rolling down her face as she tried to reach the Captain. She was still wearing Kaylee's old pajamas. Unable to get to them, Kaylee shook Deputy Crowther's arm. "Deputy, what the gorram is goin' on an' what are ya doin' with the Cap'n?"

His expression had closed up. The open almost friendly expression now swallowed up by suspicion. "Seems the girl was here after all, miss."

"What girl? Ya talkin' 'bout Yen Mah?"

His eyes widened slightly. His suspicion deepening. "I see you know who we're talking about."

"'Course I do, she ran away from her *go se* brothers. They sold her into slavery and when they caught up with her beat her an' such so she ran away again. Don't know how many times she did it but ya should'a seen how thin an' battered she was when the Cap'n found her."

"That's not what we heard."

"What did you hear?"

He looked suddenly uncertain. Sure he should not be having this conversation. Kaylee's head spun round at another wail from Yen Mah. Two grubby men were trying to soothe her but she was kicking out at them as hard as she could and screaming for Mal. The Captain was unable to do a gorram thing. Now dressed they had him handcuffed and were roughly manhandling him down the corridor. Jayne looked like he wanted to blast them all to kingdom come only there were people everywhere. Zoe was trying to keep him calm though she looked every bit as inclined to kill on sight as he did. Only Shepherd Book looked calm. There was no sign anywhere of Inara. Kaylee had never seen so many law enforcement officers. She struggled to get passed Deputy Crowther but he stopped her. "Now miss, you just stay right where you are. Won't be but a minute now and you can get back to sleep."

"Where ya takin' the Cap'n?"

""Don't worry he'll get a fair trial."

"Trial?" Fear cold and hard rammed into her. Tears gathered in her eyes, the shock silencing her for a moment until she found her tongue. "Cap'n ain't done nothin' wrong. You're makin' a mistake."

"No, miss, the only mistake is his."

Stunned, Kaylee watched as the tide of people hurried down the corridor and out the cargo bay door taking the Captain and Yen Mah with it. Standing to one side of the door stood a pale and subdued looking Wash. He looked upset and lost as if he had no idea what to do and it was distressing him. When Zoe reached him she put an arm around him and both watched in stunned silence as the lawmen were swallowed up with their prize by a press of people waving lit torches and carrying assorted weapons and sticks. She bit her bottom lip so hard it bled but not hard enough to stop silent tears from falling. The dazed look on the Captain's face, the terror on Yen Mah's, the sad look of resignation on Shepherd Book's. All of a sudden it was too much for her. Turning her head she buried her face in Wash's shoulder and cried.

Kaylee ran to Jayne and shook his arm, his grim expression frightening her as much as the fact that no one was moving. Like figures frozen in a landscape they were rooted to the spot. The crowd noisy and getting uglier as they moved away from the ship, their torches swaying as the group got further and further away heading back towards the town. Kaylee shoved the mercenary but he never budged, his face set in a grim mask, refusing to look at her. She turned to Zoe and Wash but they seemed to be locked away in their own private hell. The Shepherd just shook his head sadly. Kaylee could not stop crying. Could not understand what was going on or why her world no longer made any sense.

"Why aren't ya goin' to help the Cap'n? We gotta get him back."

No one moved. No one spoke. Confused and distressed Kaylee looked from face to face and did not see an answer on any of them.

"I don't understand..." She wailed in a small heart broken voice.

At last the Shepherd spoke, his voice low and ineffably sad. "There's nothing we can do, Kaylee."

"What d'ya mean? Cap'n ain't done nothin' wrong."

"That's not what those men said. Yen Mah's brothers said he kidnapped her and raped her."

"Well I don't care what they said!" Kaylee yelled fiercely. Her hackles rising. "I know the Cap'n an' he wouldn't do any such thing and not only that I already spoke to Yen Mah last night an' she told me all about it."

The Shepherd's look sharpened. He stared at Kaylee.

"Yen Mah told me all about those lyin' *wangba dan*. They ain't her real brothers, she was adopted as a baby. Only they were jealous, when the old man died they wanted their revenge so they sold her into slavery. Only Yen Man ain't no shrinking violet, *dong ma*? She's a fighter and she ran away. First time they caught her they beat her so bad she couldn't walk. Second time they raped her."

The Shepherd's eyes widened in shock and horror. "Oh my God, what have I done?"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*qingwa cao de liumang* = frog-humping sumbitch *xin gan* = sweetheart *bao bei* = precious *wangba dan* = bastard *fei hau* = garbage (nonsense) *tamade* = fuck *hao* = okay *xiao di di* = little brother (not related) *diyu* = hell *go se* = crap *dong ma* = understand *ba ba* = daddy


Wednesday, October 15, 2003 11:50 PM


Another great chapter, although I'm feeling a mite niggled with Zoe... I can see how Book might have been taken in, but ZOE?


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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.