THE FORGOTTEN REALM: 9. "A Question of Balance"
Sunday, October 19, 2003

"No one is in the mood to lisen. The crowd want a hanging so Book decides to give it to them."



SUMMARY: "No one is in the mood to listen. The crowd want a hanging so Book decides to give it to them." 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

* * * * *

Sheriff Martin Bowman could not recall the exact moment when he and his men lost control. One moment he had a firm grip of his prisoner. His men providing a protective cordon amidst the surging press of angry townspeople. But the anger had not been aimed at them. Now it was as if all bets were off. Even faces he knew well seemed not to identify him as a friend but fought against the rule of law he had given his life to uphold. He was not perfect. No man was. But in an unjust 'verse he did the best he could for all the people not just those who could afford what the rest of them only dreamed about. The first blow glanced across his right shoulder. The sharp pain surprised more than hurt him and he lost his grip. The prisoner somehow went rolling to the ground, many hands and feet following him. Panic pierced him. Oh God if they got him to the ground he was a dead man.

If possible the chaos grew. People moving like a swarm, his footing unstable, his men being pushed aside like dolls, figures ripped away from the centre by a human whirlwind. He lifted his head, could not do much with his right shoulder so held his firearm in his left hand, eyes squinting but seeing no clear target. Gorrammit where was the man? Surely they had not killed him yet? They would want a public display, a central image to focus their anger on. There. A figure in brown was being half bundled and half thrown towards the centre of the square. He could see him now. Somewhat bloodied but in one piece. There was a deep cut across one eye, the blood running down the side of his face. His expression was grim, eyes bleak as if no hope however faint shone in them. The Sheriff knew the man expected to die. Was looking for no heroics from him but he could not help himself. It was not just his calling as a lawman, he genuinely liked the man. He did not have time to muse over the why of it, things were moving too fast now. A man's life hung in the balance of every second of hesitation.

Throwing his head back he tried to yell above the chanting of the crowd. Incensed to see they had a gibbet raised. With no time to make a platform beneath it and a trapdoor to drop the body through they had improvised and set a wooden chair beneath the swinging noose of the rope. His heart seemed to lose its' rythym as he saw them manhandle Malcolm Reynolds up on to the stool, eager hands fitting the noose around his neck while the rope was drawn taut bringing him up on his toes while they tied it securely so that it would bear his weight when he fell. Frantic now, the Sheriff threw the last of his caution to the wind and fired his pistol into the air. For a moment, a stunned silence cut through the bedlam.

"Hold on before you go any further! This is Sheriff Bowman."

A man laughed from the crowd. "Come to join him or push the chair?"

A ripple of laughter followed the heckler. Maybe it was surprise, or maybe some remnant of respect for him or his office still lingered. Whatever it was he was grateful for the easing up of the crowd, enough to let him push his way through and make it to the gallows. He took note of who was doing what. Corby Burns had a hand on the Captain's arm and another hand resting on the rope. Pearly Waters, Stevie Grimes and Bob Pate stood around the chair ready to whisk it out from under the man at a moment's notice. The Sheriff knew that whatever he was going to say he had better be quick about it and it had better be good.

"Before anything goes any farther, we ought to establish exactly what happened and who did what."

"We know what happened," Sneered Pearly Waters furiously, his lips pulling back on blackened teeth. "He raped a little girl then tried to get away with her. We even found her sleeping in his bed! What more proof do we need?"

That was almost enough for them to go ahead with the hanging then and there but the Sheriff had managed to get next to Corby Burns now and he and Corby went back more years than he cared to remember. Pearly wanted to kick the chair away but Corby spoke the single voice of reason though even that was a little strained. The Sheriff could see this was hard for Corby as well. He had a daughter about the same age as Yen Mah. He could more than understand the emotions that ruled these people's actions. They were good people, but when riled up folk tended not to think too clearly.

"I say we let him speak."

Ruby Watts was near the front of the crowd. Had six kids of her own and a right hook to rival any man. "Let the *meiyou muqin de xiao gou* speak to God 'cause we done with listenin'. Ain't got no truck with rapists and child molesters. Let the Devil take him and may he rot in Hell!"

A shout went up, the crowd surged forward again. Sheriff Bowman did not try to speak again, the noise of the crowd too loud for a single voice to carry above it. He turned his head and looked apologetically at the Captain. The man looked afraid, no man in his place would not, but there was no look of censure on his face. The Sheriff had never felt so low. "I'm sorry son, I didn't want this."

The Sheriff's regret actually helped to calm Mal. Gave him strength when he needed it most. "I know, Sheriff. Those boys knew what they were doin' when they told their lies."

On his other side, Bob Pate clouted Mal around the side of the head so hard Pearly had to steady him so he would not tip off the chair prematurely. "Should'a let the *qingwa cao de liumang* fall. Hangin's too good for this piece of *go se*." Bob complained.

Just then several loud shots rang out. The silence fell like a curtain of stone, heads turning to see who had fired and whether a new danger threatened. Everybody was jumpy now. In that hotbed of swelling uncertainty a powerful deep cold voice carried right across the town square. "I believe someone called for a Preacher?"

Heads turned in the direction of the rich dark voice. Shepherd Book stood tall and erect, a bible in one hand, a shotgun in the other. People shrank back from him creating a little gangway between himself and the gallows. There was something irrefutable about the right of a man to receive the word of God before a sentence of death was passed over him. Let the angry words of God beat in the man's ears all the way to hellfire and damnation. Book walked through the passage made for him. He purposely did not look to his right where Zoe was taking up position with a view of the gallows. So far he had seen no sign of Jayne. He refused to worry. Would allow no doubt to enter his mind. Jayne would come in time because he had to. No other option was acceptable. He could not see Wash but knew he would be near Zoe. As he approached the gallows he kept his expression as blank as possible. It would not do for these people to link him too closely with Malcolm Reynolds. A flicker of surprise stirred in the Captain's eyes but that was the only hint of recognition. Book noted that he was injured but the cut above his eye though deep was not life threatening. No doubt he had bruises and cuts aplenty elsewhere on his body but the overall look of him was better than he had expected.

"Who placed this noose around his neck?"

Corby cleared his throat a little nervously. No one was completely comfortable with a Preacher especially at times like this. He didn't want to be sent to hellfire and damnation for not tying a rutting knot correctly. "I did, Preacher."

The Shepherd stepped close and carefully eased the noose so it lay properly in the crease of Mal's neck following the line of the jaw. He could feel the Captain's eyes on him but refused to meet them. Shepherd Book stepped back and gave a critical look. "That's better. Don't want the man to dangle. A good clean break will send him on his way to the Lord."

"You mean the Devil!" Cried someone from the crowd.

The mood seemed to have cheered as soon as the people realised the Preacher was not going to try to stop them. The Sheriff frowned at the Shepherd. He had recognised him as being among Serenity's crew even if the townspeople had not. His eyes narrowed slightly but he kept his mouth shut. Had the Preacher really come to see his Captain hang? He watched the man turn and face the crowd, his shotgun cradled in the crook of his arm so that his hands were free to open his bible. He looked out over the sea of expectent faces and began to speak. No one fidgetted now. They paid attention as was their solemn due. None of them wanting to offend a man of God.

"This is a good town, filled with good honest people. What happened was a wicked sinful crime against the mercy of our Lord and He will not allow the guilty to stand and the good to perish."

Murmurs of agreement rippled quietly through the crowd. They were calmer now. His words soothing.

"Let us pray." Heads bowed in automatic response. "Our Father who art in all worlds, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on all earths as it is in the Black. Give us this day our daily bread and deliver from evil..."

As the words droned on no one at first noticed a stir at the back of the crowd. It was Wash who realised something was happening and craned his neck back to see what it was. He felt a stir of excitement and nudged Zoe. "Zoe, look!"

She turned her head, her bleak eyes not at first seeing what he saw. Wash pointed. A couple of heads turned to see what they were looking at, others frowned in disapproval because they were not praying with everyone else. No matter that a man was going to die, how dare they talk during prayers. Zoe gave Wash a nod and they carefully wove back through the crowd until they met the bloody but grinning face of Jayne Cobb. In each massive hand he had one of the brothers round the neck. Both looked the worse for wear, new bruises adding some interesting colours to their sour faces. Both had their hands tied behind their backs. Briny had a bloody lip as well but apart from a little roughing up they looked in remarkably good condition. Beside him Yen Mah looked worse and seemed barely able to walk. Wash gently picked her up. With the faith of a child, she put her arms around his neck and just clung to him. Crying into his shirt softly. Every part of her that did not ache seemed to bleed. He felt anger so strong that it took him all his control not to shoot the two men himself. He murmured soothing nonsense in her ear as all of them turned to make their way towards the gallows, the curious crowd becoming slowly aware of them.

"You cut it a little fine." Said Zoe curtly, her voice pitched for his ears only.

"Better to arrive than not come at all." The big man grunted, a dark satisfaction glittering in his eyes.

She could not argue with that. They talked little as they pushed back through the crowd. People moving out of their way in a mix of curiosity and wary regard. One or two people recognised the two men and then people noticed the girl. Whispers ran ragged rings around the stirring people's heads. The Preacher stopped talking as all attention moved away from the gallows to the little procession working its' way towards them. Sheriff Bowman could not believe his rutting eyes. He tried to hide the smile that threatened to split his face in two. He was after all supposed to be an impartial upholder of the law, yet part of him was cheering inside. He did not dare glance at Malcolm Reynolds. Did not want to give the man any false hope.

Jayne propelled the two men to the front and glared around him for a second, his gaze finally settling on Bowman. "You the Sheriff?"

"Yeah, I'm Sheriff Bowman."

Jayne turned slowly and looked out across the crowd of people. "You all came to see justic for this little girl? For Yen Mah, am I right?"

The people nodded, murmured their agreement, wondering what the hell was going on. Jayne nodded then turned to Wash. "Wash, let me hold Yen Mah."

He hesitated only a second. "It's okay, sweetie. Go to Jayne."

"We have to help Mal." She urged, bottom lip trembling.

He smiled gently and gave her cheek a kiss. "We will, *xin gan*. Just tell the truth, okay?"

She nodded and went to Jayne. Jayne held her carefully and turned slowly so everyone could see the little battered girl in his arms. "This is Yen Mah. Yen Mah is ten years old, nearly eleven. These two scum sucking men are her adoptive brothers. When Yen Mah was a child their father adopted her into the family only it wasn't a loving family. They used an' abused her folks. Not just bullyin' but all kinds of bad things you wouldn't want to ever see anyone put through. That was Yen Mah's life. But even that wasn't enough torment. When they got tired with that they sold her into slavery."

A disbelieving gasp went up. Jayne nodded grimly only just keeping his own temper in check.

"That they did. They raped her not once but whenever they felt like it. Sometimes one of them, sometimes both. They told me sometimes the father joined in..."

Angry shouts now peppered the air as ribbons of obscenities streamed passed Jayne's ears. He held up a hand and a hush fell. Every pair of ears strained for the words that tripped from his tongue. All eyes glued to Yen Mah as she clung to him. "Yen Mah did the only thing she could do. She ran away. Not once. Not twice but every rutting chance she got. And every time they would catch her again, torment and torture her for doin' so. Rape her to mark her once more as their property to do with as they please. These *heishoudang liumang* then discovered Yen Mah had found herself a champion. A man who tried to protect her. But the man had friends, he wasn't alone in the world like Yen Mah. They couldn't just wade in an' take her, he would fight, he would not give her up without making them pay in blood. So they hatched a plot. A way to get this town to do their dirty work for 'em. A way to put the blood of innocents on your hands..."

The people were stirring but one or two voices still raised doubts. "How do we know we can trust you? You're his friend, we saw you with him at the ship."

Jayne nodded. "Yeah, I'm his friend an' he ain't perfect let me tell you but he's a good man an' he's loyal. Ain't no way he'd let anyone harm a hair on Yen Mah's head but don't believe me. Ask her yerself."

The Sheriff looked at Yen Mah, his eyes solemn. "Yen Mah, I'm Sheriff Bowman. I'm sorry to have to ask you this but I need you to tell me what happened." He pointed to Ricky and Briny who were now looking anywhere but at the girl. "We need to know exactly what happened here, the whole story."

She nodded and sniffed back tears. "Don't hurt Mal, please." She begged.

He fought back a little smile. Wanted to assure her that he had no intention of harming her gallant Captain but for now they had to play to the crowd. Only once the tide was turned could they afford to relax. "First your story, Yen Mah. This is very very important, *dong ma*?"

She nodded and haltingly told them. In hushed pained silence the people listened. Some of them wept. Next to Mal, Corby put a hand on his arm and leaned in towards him. "We never knew, mister."

Mal was too weary, too full of sorrow to say much. He just wanted his hands free and to be away from here. Corby looked across at Pearly. Pearly nodded and loosened then removed the noose from Mal's neck. Subdued, they helped him down from the chair. They untied his hands just as Yen Mah finished her story and the crowd began to go wild. Sheriff Bowman fired his gun to silence them.

"I say we string 'em up!" Yelled a man in the crowd.

The Sheriff put his hand up. "There'll be no hanging today or tomorrow."

Angry shouts and disbelieving cries greeted the Sheriff's words.

"These men will get the fair trial you never gave Captain Reynolds." He waited for those words to sink in. The crowd became quieter. "We are good people not animals. We don't rape our children and we don't beat 'em within an inch of their lives nor, gorrammit, do we sell 'em into slavery. The Captain did us all a good service in keepin' this child safe the only way he knew how an' he nearly paid for it with his life.

Some of the crowd began to disperse now. Glad the real culprits had been caught but also feeling chastened by how close they had come to hanging an innocent man. Sheriff Bowman managed to gather some of his deputies. Deputy Crowther gave him a sheepish look but the Sheriff waved his apology off. "Don't sweat it son, things were a little crazy for a while."

"Thanks, Sheriff."

The Sheriff turned to Jayne and was alarmed to see him shove the business end of his gun under Briny's chin. Captain Reynolds carefully rubbed his sore and bloody wrists to try to get his circulation going. Zoe leaned in to him, more relieved than she could ever put into words to see him alive and in one piece. "How you doin'?"

"Tired, sore." He paused. His voice quiet and weary in a way that drove a nail of fear through her heart. "I wanna go home, Zo."

"We will. Let's just finish up here then we'll get back to Serenity..."

"Not the ship."

She stared at him. Hardly daring to breathe.

"I want to go *home*, Zoe. To Shadow."

Something behind her eyes broke down. It took a massive strength of will to hold it all together. She would not let him see her cry. "Ain't nothin' on Shadow." She ground out in a strained voice.

He flinched. The sight hurt her. "I have to go."

"Why? Your home's here. With us." *With me* she almost cried, only it was not and never would be what it once was. How could she tell him that even though she loved Wash, would want to be with him for the rest of her natural life, she could not let go of him either? Mal was part of her, simple as that. Letting him go would be like cutting her heart in two and wondering why the half that was left kept right on bleeding. No way in hell would she give him up to his demons.

"Zoe, I don't understand all this. I've tried an' it's not that I don't trust you or believe you, you know that. I would do any gorram thing in the 'verse for you but this is somethin' I have to do for myself. For my sanity."

Despite her best efforts tears were brimming in her eyes. A glassy wall that made his image indistinct. "How can it do that, Mal? There's nothin' but ashes where the house stood." She paused to swallow and bite back the pain. "No one survived." She whispered in a pained hush.

"Uncle Frank did."

"Mal," She put a hand on his arm, slid it down his forearm to take his hand gently in hers. Twining their fingers together. "Don't do this. Please."

"It ain't that I don't love you, Zo, though we don't use them kind of words between us the truth is there plain as day but unsaid. I *have* to do this. It won't mean nothin' 'less I see it with my own eyes. When I've done that maybe I can lay them ghosts to rest. Then I'll come back."

She had no words. Emotion robbed her of everything. Mal released her hand and leant forward to place a gentle kiss on her forehead. He pulled back and gave her a steady look, willing her to be strong. To let him do this. To let him go. "I know you'll look after things while I'm gone."

Just then the mood was broken as Jayne shoved Briny imbetween Zoe and Mal. Ricky was being held by the Sheriff. Mal looked at Jayne, waiting for an explanation. Zoe was grateful as it gave her time to get herself back under control. Jayne peeled his lips back and snarled then shoved the business end of Vera back under Briny's chin so that he was forced to raise his head and look at Mal.

"What's goin' on, Jayne?"

"Best ask this piece of *go se* that question, Cap. But first, Zoe can you untie his hands?"

She shot Jayne a look of surprise but seeing how set he was moved round behind Briny and undid the bonds that bound him. Jayne stared hard at Briny, the man whimpering with fear. "W...what do you w..want with me?"

Jayne cocked his trigger. The man's eyes widened out in pure panic. Even Mal looked uncertain as to whether or not Jayne intended to pull the trigger. "Now," Said Jayne suddenly calm. "Give 'em the hell back."

The man was in a panic. "Whatcha talkin' about?"

Jayne leaned in close, his breath fanning the frightened cheek of his prisoner. "The only reason I haven't pulled the gorram trigger is 'cause I don't wanna get blood on Mal's boots. Cap's like to get mighty mad if that happens."

"Um Jayne standin' right here."

Jayne nodded without looking at the Captain. "I know Cap."

"What's this all about?"

"He took your boots."

"*Shemne*?" Mal looked down and swore. Sure enough Briny was wearing his boots. The Sheriff felt the sudden urge to laugh. It was almost like something out of a comedy sketch but with firearms.

Mal kicked one of Briny's feet and growled. "Take 'em off."

The man quickly shucked the boots and Mal took the Preacher's old boots off with a sigh of relief then put his own back on. He stamped around once or twice a smile paying a fleeting visit to his battered face. He might not recognise the boots to look at them but his feet sure knew them well. He looked at Briny closely. "If you got my boots then you and your brother likely robbed me, I'm thinkin'."

Briny shrank back. "That wasn't us."

"No," Said Mal mildly. "Just like it wasn't you who raped Yen Mah. Just like it wasn't you who broke half her gorram ribs JUST FOR FUN!"

Heads turned in surprise at the Captain's raised voice. Anger sparking deep in his eyes now. Warming up to his theme. As if sensing that things could get right out of control again very quickly the Preacher excused himself from the group of citizens who had gathered round him. He went up to the side of the Captain and spoke in a steady calm voice. "Time to go, Captain."

"I was just gettin' my second wind."

"Time to let the law do it's job." He added softly.

Mal was still staring at Briny. His eyes moved only to look at the other brother. Noticing that Deputy Crowther and some of the other lawmen were moving in position to haul them away. The Sheriff was just looking at Mal, waiting to see what he would say or do. Their eyes met. Mal gave him a tiny nod. "I'm obliged for your assitance, Sheriff."

Something that could have been amusement stirred in the man's deep brown eyes. The Sheriff turned to Deputy Crowther. "Deputy, you and the boys take these men to goal and lock 'em up. We'll need to take full details from Yen Mah to lay a complaint. I want to have a word with the Captain."

They nodded and bundled the two men away. The Sheriff excused himself and drew Mal to one side. The crowd had thinned out considerably and as the men were taken away the stragglers broke up and drifted off to their homes. Yen Mah was still with Wash and Zoe. The Preacher and Jayne now standing with them. Mal could feel their eyes on him but did not turn his head. He was curious. "What you wantin' to see me about, Sheriff?"

The Sheriff kept walking meaning Mal kept walking too. He did not answer until they had left the square behind them and were standing on the edge of town looking through a break in the trees to some open land. As if he could breathe more freely away from bricks and mortar and the memory of a home made gibbet. "The name's Martin."

Mal raised an eyebrow. "Martin?"

He nodded and smiled slightly. "I been a lawman almost since I was big enough to be able to tote a gun. Ain't much of a recommendation I'm guessin' but the desire to help folk and protect 'em even if only from themselves has been with me lifelong."

"That's very interestin' an' very commendable Martin, but what does that have to do with me an' my crew?"

"Not your crew, Mal. Just you."

"I'm listenin'."

"It can't have missed your attention that with the culprits now under lock an' key Yen Mah don't rightly have a place to call home."

"Yen Mah has a home with us any time she wants it, but you already know that don't you?"

The Sheriff smiled slowly. "Me an' my wife have three boys. Tristan's just topped 18 but I think he's gonna stay sewed to his mama's apron strings till he's an old, old man..." Mal smiled. "Stuart is fourteen, daft in the head about anything with fur or feathers. Give him a sick critter to tend an' that boy's in his element. Then there's Sam, seven years old an' a charmer if ever you saw one. Has all the girls and women eatin' outta his hand."

"I'm takin' it there's a point to this family album?"

"I'm gettin' there. My point Mal is this. Cassie always wanted a girl but the good Lord saddled her with stallions not mares. Now if'n you an' Yen Mah were agreeable I'd like to offer the girl a home. A proper family. One with love in it."

The emotion stuck in Mal's throat. He could not speak. Sheriff Bowman noticed and put a hand on his arm. "No need to make no decisions right now. Besides, Yen Mah might not like us. Cassie and the boys might not take to havin' Yen Mah stay permanent like. How about we think on it? If you wanna see how it might go you could visit, bring Yen Mah with you. Get to know what kind of folks we are. What do you say?"

Mal looked at him for a long moment. "I say you're a good man, Martin. Maybe too good for a town like this."

The Sheriff laughed and clapped Mal on the shoulder. "You wouldn't say that if you tasted my cookin'."

"So that's why you got married?"

He laughed and they joshed each other, playful banter and conversation broadening out as they walked beyond the treeline. The Sheriff still having a few things on his mind he wanted to talk out before they parted. Back at the town square Jayne was frowning as he watched the two men walk out of sight through the trees. "What d'you suppose they're talkin' about?"

Wash shrugged, amused at Jayne's non comprehending expression. "Three guesses it ain't you."

"Ha, ha, funny man."

Yen Mah raised her head from Wash's shoulder. He smiled sweetly at her just as a huge smile broke out over her face. He turned to see why and was surprised to see Kaylee, River and Simon hurrying towards them. Zoe frowned, Jayne looked alarmed. "What the gorram are you doin' here? Cap'll throw a fit."

The Preacher was smiling but looking around casually as well. As relaxed as he seemed he was always careful. "Now Jayne I don't think there's any need to panic. There's no Alliance presence here and nearly all the townsfolk have gone back to their homes."

"Huh, I still think the Cap's not gonna be pleased."

Yen Mah scrambled down and hugged first River then Kaylee. Simon tried to get a good look at her wounds but she was hard to pin down. "Yen Mah, stand still for just a minute. I need to see what injuries you've got."

Yen Mah looked at River and the two girls rolled their eyes. Kaylee laughed and Simon pretended to be offended. The Preacher decided the day had been long enough. No sense in tempting fate more than they had to. "Come on, I think it's time we went back to Serenity."

Simon looked around, a slight frown on his face. "Where's the Captain?"

"Talking to the Sheriff." Said Zoe.

A look of alarm flashed across Simon's face.

"It's okay, they're just talkin' Simon." Assured Wash.

Inara Serra watched from the other side of the square. Ruby had taken quite some convincing that she was wrong about Captain Reynolds but she could not argue the evidence of her eyes or the testimony of the girl who had been raped. It had been a strange day and no mistake. "So what are you gonna do, child?"

Inara resisted the urge to smile at the matronly lady. "I'm going back to my shuttle."

"You don't seem Companion material if you don't mind my saying."

"I do mind Ruby, it's none of your business how I choose to live my life."

Ruby put both hands up. "I wasn't castin' stones, child. Just you shouldn't have to do what you do. Talented girl like you could turn her hand to most anything."

"I like my life," Said Inara gently. She had not expected to run into Ruby in the town square. It rolled back so many years not all of them painful. Ruby knew some of her past but not all and now that the danger was over she luxuriated in spending a little time with her old friend.

"Come visit the children, Inara. You know they'd love to see you."

It was a temptation. "Maybe later. Give me the address and I'll see what I can do."

Ruby found a scrap of paper and scribbled the address in her crabbed handwriting. The arthritis no respecter of persons. "You don't turn up Inara and I'm like to come banging on that ship of yours and give that Captain a word or two."

She laughed lightly. "This has nothing to do with Mal. The ship had an explosion a couple of days ago that knocked out the engine. Our mechanic has fixed the engine but now all the wiring needs replacing. We're effectively grounded until the Captain can find work to pay for the repairs so you see I was telling the truth. I'm not going anywhere."

The woman gave a big grin then hugged Inara tight only letting her go with reluctance. "Come visit, Inara." She said quietly. "Don't just promise."

Then Inara was blinking back tears and Ruby was gone. She turned with a sigh and walked over to where the others were. Like Zoe and Jayne she was alarmed to see River and Simon away from Serenity, but allowed the Shepherd to calm her fears. Allowing herself a smile of relief she walked back with them, her heart feeling a distinct lift when they drew in sight of the grounded Firefly. It was good to be home.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*meiyou muqin de xiao gou* = motherless cur *qingwa cao de liumang* = frog-humping sumbitch *go se* = crap *xin gan* = sweetheart *heishoudang liumang* = gangster asshole/bastard(s) *dong ma* = understand *shenme* = what


Sunday, October 19, 2003 7:14 AM


Another compelling, convincing chapter. It's not often I stick with a fanfic of this length, but this one has me hooked.



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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.