Shadow War - Chapter Twenty
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Sepia's Comeupance! Strange Savior! River's Thoughts! Book vs Shang!


Simon circled and backed away from Dobson warily. He had assumed a fighting stance, but he didn’t have enough faith in himself to believe he could actually beat this man. He didn’t get to back away far, as Sepia shoved him roughly, just in time for him to take one in the face from Lawrence Sr.

“Bet that smarts, don’t it Doc!” said Dobson “You know, it doesn’t hurt as much as Lawrence’s wife did. Or my two grandchildren. They wept for their father. I couldn’t make them feel any better about it, because it took us so long to find Lawrence’s body. My Junior wasn’t the brightest, but he tried hard. I was proud of him the day he got his undercover job as a fed. I worried for him, but he seemed to be doing all right for himself. Then, he got on that damn Firefly. I never saw him again! No one did!”

He punctuated this last with a wild flurry of punches. Some missed…most didn’t. Simon was shocked to think that anyone chasing him and River had any kind of family. But, that didn’t make sense, did it. Of course they did. They were flesh and blood just like him, and his sister, and their parents. In his shock, he let his guard down, and Dobson rang his bell for him, so loudly that Simon was sure he’d pass out.

He stood slowly after being knocked down twice. He was taking such a savage beating that he began to give up hope. Dobson advanced, and Simon quickly ducked the next punch, and put everything he had into punching Dobson’s knee. The man grunted and dropped. Simon backed away, knowing he was going to pay for that, and he did, as Sepia kicked him in the back, sending him sprawling in the dirt.

Outside the mouth of the cave, some jet noise kicked up.

“Sounds like a shuttle…standard short, if I’m not mistaken.” Dobson looked at Simon “Same kind of shuttle that a Firefly carries, right Doc? Sepia, would you mind?”

Sepia drew her small laser pistol, and moved for the mouth of the cave. Dobson advanced on Simon again. He feinted, feinted again, and punched Simon in the shoulder to knock him off balance. But Simon’s stumble was a feint as well. Pivoting his foot behind Dobson’s heel, just as he had seen Book do to Jayne earlier on, he spun, and drove his elbow into Dobson’s spine with more than satisfying force.

Dobson fell, the wind knocked out of him. Simon didn’t wait around to see if he was going to get up. He took off after Sepia.

* * *

Outside the cave, Shuttle 2 was circling, not really looking for a place to land. River was at the helm, and this brought Sepia up short. From what she had read about the girl, she didn’t know she could fly…well anything. Sepia took aim with the laser, smiling as River spotted her. River smiled back, causing Sepia to falter for a second. Faltering, Sepia found, was never a good idea where River was concerned. River jerked the yoke and the shuttle spun around to reveal its door was hanging open. The Shepherd Sepia had been wary of earlier was taking quick, careful aim right at her. Sepia’s finger tightened on the trigger of her laser pistol, but it was too late. The Shepherd fired.

Strange things happen when a laser is damaged. If the casing is cracked too badly, the containment core that holds light amplifiers can begin to backfire, causing the weapon to explode. Most Alliance lasers were heavily armored and modified to prevent this. Sepia’s was not. The Shepherds bullet snapped the laser off at the barrel. A high pitched whine eminated from the gun, and Sepia used her newly injured hand (really just shock vibration damage from the bullet. She wasn’t hurt too badly) to hurl the laser away. She got it far enough before it exploded to prevent injury to herself. She also didn’t see Shuttle 2 land not far from her. The Shepherd ran up, and Sepia was certain he was going to shoot her.

He didn’t. He ran right past her.

River Tam, however, did not.

* * *

In the cave, Dobson saw what appeared to be a Shepherd holding one of the biggest guns he had ever seen. Dobson ran for cover, but not before the Shepherd managed to get a shot off. It ricocheted just off the Alliance gunboat they had flown here in. Hot metal shrapnel flew into Dobson’s face, scarring him for life, if he lived that long. He bellowed, but kept running. He had time to think, if that Shepherd hadn’t meant to kill him, he was probably the best shot Lawrence Sr. had ever met. If he had meant to kill him, he missed. Dobson preferred to think that the Shepherd was trying to kill him.

The Shepherd had not.

“Simon!” Book called. “Doctor! Are you here?”

“Yes! And I don’t mind telling you that this is the happiest I’ve ever been to see a preacher in my life!”

Simon was bunched up in a corner of the cave. His face was a mangled mess. Blood poured from several lacerations, some deep, some not so much. Nothing appeared to be broken, and Book was glad for that. He put his shoulder under Simon, and began carrying him out. He paused as he heard the unmistakable sound of twin Gatlin guns spinning to cock.

He turned to see Dobson in the cockpit of the gunboat. He did not like the look he saw on Dobson’s face. Book shoved Simon and dove for cover as Dobson let fly with both wing mounted guns.

Outside the cave, Sepia and River were squaring off. They circled each other warily, Sepia grinning broadly, River looking as though she were in deep concentration. Sepia lunged and caught River across the chin. River hit the ground squarely, and rolled to avoid a dart as it shot from Sepia’s sleeve.

“Won’t work. Not again.”

River stood, closed her eyes, and began a mantra.

“Don’t look. Don’t look. Don’t look.”

Sepia was incredulous. She lunged again, and was shocked when River caught her fist and twisted her arm behind her back. Shock led to pain as River forced her arm up higher.

“Simon’s not for you. Simon’s better than this. Simon’s under my watch.”

“He’s as good as dead! And so are you.”

“I am as good as dead.” River said, cryptically.

Sepia reversed the hold on River suddenly, as River picked up the cadence of her thoughts. River’s arm was near breaking, and she cried out. River shut down her brain, took Book’s advice, and decided to try and fight on instinct. She decided to take a different tact, and fight like a girl. Sepia never saw it coming.

She stomped Sepia’s foot, and was immediately released. She then grabbed Sepia’s hair, jerked it down, and kneed Sepia in the face, knocking her unconscious.

“But, I’m still conscious” River said, with a smile.

She ran for the cave, and got around the edge just as a hail of bullets tore the earth in front of her. Still moving without thinking, she ran back and retrieved the dart Sepia shot at her. She went back to the cave, and waited.

Book inched his head out to see if he could get a shot off. The only shot available to him was a fatal one for Dobson, someone he hadn’t even met. He couldn’t do it. Another volley sizzled past his head, as he looked up to see Simon trying to look out as well.

“Can you get out?” Book called.

“No, and I wouldn’t leave without you anyway!”

“No” Book said, softly to himself, “I don’t guess you would.’

While they were speaking, another volley came, though this one didn’t seem to be aimed at either one of them. River came streaking past, running full tilt, and zigzagging, missing getting hit by inches every time. She ran straight for the ship, ducked under one of the wing guns, and ran up the cave wall, flipping in the air, and landing on her belly directly on top of the wing. Dobson growled at her.

He gathered a spare pistol from the cockpit, and got up. He didn’t get far, for as soon as he stuck his head out, Sepia’s dart caught him straight and true in the neck. River had bounced it off the opening door. Dobson fell heavily.

She ran for Book and Simon, who were starting to stand, and looking at River. To them, she had just dodged bullets. Several of them. She hugged Simon, put her arm through Book’s and led them to the shuttle.

“See. Nobody wins.” She said, grinning.

“Well, lets get this boy back to Inara.” Book said.

“Also, they need you over at Niska’s”

“Where say who?!”

* * *

Wash trembled slightly as the barrel of Jayne’s gun pressed into his temple. He didn’t know how he had just shot the way he did, but he sure wished he could do it now. Zoe had already aimed the carbine away from them, but Jayne was trying to inch toward the Captain, and was standing perilously close to Niska’s chair. He had picked up Raven’s knife.

“That’s enough, Mr. Cobb.” Shang said, as he pressed the gun harder into Wash’s skull.

“If you hurt him any further, I don’t care how dangerous you are. You aren’t going to make it out of this room alive.” Zoe said, matter of factly.

“That may be, Mrs. Warren, but your husband will still be dead. And that gun doesn’t scare me. Why don’t you drop it.”

Zoe’s gun clattered to the floor.

“I won’t need a gun, Shang.”

Niska cut in. “That’s is being enough! Shang, let him go, and help me to the ship.”

“I’m not going to help you old man. You deceived me.” He brandished his sword. “I had the true sword all along, and you lied, you conned, you did everything you could to capture these people. Well, two courses set before me now. I could let them go. Not very satisfying for you. Or, I could kill them myself…Also, not very satisfying for you.” “If that is the way you are wanting it, Shang” Niska said, taking more umbrage at being called an old man than anything else. “Then that is the way it shall be. Do not cross my path, for you are now my enemy.”

“I was always your enemy!” Shang said, and pointed the pistol at Niska.

Niska pounded on his right leg, and a short, metal cylinder sprang from the knee. Smoke filled the room as several things happened simultaneously. Zoe sprang for her gun, Jayne sliced Mal’s bonds, and Shang threw Wash aside. The room began to slowly clear on a situation that was much more evenly matched than it was before Niska took action.

“What’s with the leg Niska?” Mal asked testily.

“You are liking it? A souvenir of my Skyplex. My leg is gone, but I have gotten…something new.”

Outside, several more shots rang out as Kaylee fired in the air again. There were only four guards left, and they were hiding behind The Contessa at several points. She was inside the foyer. Neither were able to get off a good shot.

“Kaylee! Are you okay?” Mal called out.

“Yeah Cap’n! Looks like help is on the way.” She called giddily.

From over Kaylee’s shoulder Mal saw two things. One, the Firefly Wash had flown here was not Serenity, and two, Shuttle 2 was making its way here. He knew his shuttles like the back of his hand. He wasn’t sure what to make of the Contessa though. The shuttle flew in low, and settled in between Kaylee and the Contessa, providing her some cover she didn’t have previously. Shepherd Book got out, alone, with Vera. Using the shuttle as a distraction, the four guards ran for the house. Book fired Vera four times one handed, on the run, and all four guards fell, clutching their knees.

It was a spectacle Mal had never seen before, and he watched, gaped mouthed. Jayne had seen it before, but he could only say one thing.

“Hey, that’s my Vera!”

“Did you get Simon to Inara?” Kaylee asked hopefully.

“I surely did.” Book said, looking sternfaced at the open door ahead of them.

“Meriah! Meriah Book! This is just too good. The only mark I failed to get, and he appears here for me to finally take care of.” Shang Yu said.


Mal spoke up. “Wait Shepherd. He’s mine. After what he did to Inara, to all of us, he’s mine.”

“Don’t be a fool, Captain. You can’t beat him.”

“I wasn’t going to beat him. I was going to shoot him.”

Book paused. “That could be, Captain, but if he’ll come on out, we can settle out business, with the proviso that the rest of Serenity’s crew be allowed to leave.”

“There are no provisos, Meriah. Today, I deal with you, I deal with Niska, and I deal with the crew of Serenity to my satisfaction.”

Book sighed.

“I’m in no position to argue this point, Shang. Not with someone who killed three innocent Shepherds trying to get to me.”

“Were the as innocent as you claim to be? ‘Shepherd’?”

“Yes” Book hissed.

In the main chamber, Mal advanced on Niska.

“You deserve to die, old man. Don’t think while I’m dealing with the current mess we’re in, that I won’t get around to you…seeing as you’re not as mobile as you used to be.” Mal tapped tinnily on Niska’s metal leg three times.

From behind Mal, Wash said, “Here, Captain.”

Mal felt his pistol being pressed into his hand.

“Where was this?”

“I had it tucked into my shirt.”

“Tucked into your….why didn’t you use it when Shang had you hemmed up?”

“I forgot.” Wash said sheepishly.

Behind them, Zoe let loose a little chuckle.

Standing around Niska, the crew of Serenity were an imposing and bloody sight. And none of them had any love for Adelai Niska, as he well knew. He made ready for his final play.

Striking his metal leg again in a different spot, another metal cylinder sprang from his leg below the first one. A shot rang out as Wash took a bullet in the leg. Niska immediately flipped a switch in the chairs arm, and plummeted through a trap door he had installed for just such an occasion. Mal fired into the hole left by the chairs seat three times, knowing he wasn’t hitting anything. He couldn’t believe that old bastard had gotten away from him again. But, he had an idea about that.

“Well, there he goes again. We’re going to stay here to see how this thing plays out with Book. No matter what, Shang is not leaving here. Is there an understanding here.”

The rest of the crew nodded grimly, except for Wash, who was seated in Mal’s chair, holding his bleeding leg. It wasn’t bleeding too badly, but it would have to be looked at. Zoe continued to stare down the open hole.

“Zoe? Come on.”

“Yes sir” she said, not looking up.

In the courtyard, Book and Shang were circling each other, weapons at the ready. Shang suddenly resheathed his sword and threw Jayne’s eight shooter to the ground.

“Hey!” Jayne called.

Book, likewise, tossed Vera off a ways.

“HEY!” Jayne cried.

“Shut up, Jayne.” Mal said. He was so proud of how his crew had conducted themselves today, and, if they survived, he fully intended to tell them. But, for now, he still needed them to listen aptly.

They all stood on the steps to Niska’s house, guns drawn and aimed at Shang Yu.

“Captain, put those away. Believe me when I say they would probably do you no good. This is something that has to be done.” Book called over.

“Yes, ‘Captain’. Stay put and holster your weapons. When I finish with this Shepherd, I’m coming for you. You have too many injuries amongst you to move quickly, should I win, and I know where your ship is.”

“Not givin’ me a terribly compellin’ reason to believe anything you have to say so far, Shang.” Mal called back.

“Captain.” Book seemed to demand with just that one word.

“Yeah, yeah. Put ‘em away people. For now.” He yelled this last out towards Shang. Book might believe this guy was bulletproof or faster than a round, but Mal had his doubts.

Kaylee spoke up timidly “Cap…the ship.”

“Kaylee, not now.” Wash called over from his seat, where Zoe was giving what first aid she could. Of all things, Jayne was helping her, having torn off a strip of shirt for his own knife wound, and another for Wash.

“That was some fancy shootin’ there, Little Man.”

“Yeah. I just wish I knew how I did it.”

“What about my ship” Mal said. Kaylee just stared at him tearfully. This did not bode well.

Outside, Shang took his sword off and cast it aside as well.

Shepherd Book and Shang Yu faced each other, and bowed. A minor earthquake shook the Pegasus’s ground beneath them, but neither hardly noticed. Lightning flashed from a cloudless sky, and a volcano not far away began a series of eruptions. It was as if the planet itself knew what was to come between these two.

The two men took their stances.


Wednesday, May 4, 2005 6:35 AM


Shiny! So Niska escapes again, huh? Loved Book and Shang facing off at the end. Good myth, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 12:01 PM


Ahh, like cliffhangers much? But a good installment nonetheless. .

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 5:29 AM


Ooh, Book and Shang... Good stuff!!

- Soul


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Somnambulism - Chapter Fourteen
It's back...well, this is actually a reposting of a lost chapter. Hey! I just refound it myself!

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The Plan, Negotiation, Landing, Hunt

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Wash's Orders, Mal's Revelation, The Other, Captiulation

Somnambulism - Chapter Ten
Mal's Dream. Walt's Problem. River's Regain.

Somnambulism - Chapter Nine
Safety. Recollection. Explanation.

Somnambulism - Chapter Eight
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Somnambulism - Chapter Seven
Memory, Atavism, Hera

Somnambulism - Chapter Six
History, Discovery, Purpose

Somnambulism - Chapter Five
Malice, Theory, Opportunity