Thursday, June 9, 2005

"River shows the Captain more than the way home. Zoe, Jayne and the Shepherd go after Badger while Inara tries to make sense of her findings."



SUMMARY: "River shows the Captain more than the way home. Zoe, Jayne and the Shepherd go after Badger while Inara tries to make sense of her findings." 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.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

The deal was sold and Badger smirked before giving Munro a nod. If the man's boast was even half as good as he said it would enable Badger to turn a hefty little profit. And no risk neither. These were the type of jobs he relished plus there was another unexpected upside. The damaged and abandoned junker was not only an A-list salvage prospect but word was that it had an onboard database second to none along with specialised equipment that incorporated all kinds of unusual do-dads like spy equipment and signal wiping. Cutting edge technology if he was any judge but what it was doing in a nondescript junker he would give good money to find out. The recovery was the type he would normally have farmed out to someone like Captain Reynolds and his crew only that was no longer an option. Besides, it was better to have his own people handle it. Didn't want no one putting two and two together and making four.

'Verse was full of all types and this needed to be handled quiet and discreet-like. No fuss. Chances were that whoever had bankrolled the ship and its' illegal operations would be busting a gut to find and retrieve the gear. Badger handed Munro a purse. Munro began to frown as he weighed the bag of coin in his hand. "Seems a mite light."

Badger stepped up close, his head tilted to look up at the slightly taller man. "That's 'cause I ain't seen it yet, see? Might be a pile of *goushi* you're spinnin' me. On'y got your word for it that the ship's sittin' out there or that anythin' o' use is even on board, *dong ma*? Could be someone's already been aboard an' stripped it." He paused and watched Munro closely, his smile deliberately projecting false amiability. After all he wanted to put the man at his ease but not leave him over confident. Needed to keep him unsettled. "Once I'm satisfied everythin's on the up you'll get the rest."

The man nodded. It was fair. Half up front, the rest on completion. "Okay."

"Now, you go with Billy an' the boys. Show 'em exactly where our buried treasure *ain't* buried."

Munro grinned then stuffed the money down the front of his pants. "Pleasure doin' business with you."

Badger's smile vanished, no attempt at pleasantries now. "Make sure it is." Munro blinked, then Badger was smiling again though his eyes remained cold. "Wouldn't want this to be your last day in the 'verse."

* * * * *

Mal had wanted to head straight for Serenity but River was insistent. "Can't go back."

He hesitated, his eyes narrowing with concern. "*Weishenme*?"

She shook her head. "Gone." The others glanced between the two, starting to get nervous. Carla nudged them into an alley.

"Gone where? What in the nine hells has happened to my boat? Alliance?"

"*Bu qu*, just taking precautions."

The Captain forced himself to take several deep breaths to calm down. Evie rubbed a hand up and down his arm to help calm him but he seemed oblivious, his focus on River as he pushed back the brim of the floral bonnet. "What precautions?"

For a moment River just stared at him. The Captain felt a mite light headed. He closed his eyes just as River took his hand. Carla looked concerned, thinking the Captain's head injury was causing him pain but it wasn't that at all. It was River reaching out to him with her mind, that sharp and ultra aware brain of hers wiring itself into his thoughts and painting on a canvas that he had been unaware of until the little genius had showed it to him. River took no chances, knowing how easily it would be to harm him while in this trusting state. Which was why she had prepared the way by teaching him the breathing and visualisation exercises. Had familiarised herself with the shape of his mind both while he slept and on occasion when he had been distracted by other members of the crew without anyone being any the wiser. Now he was wide awake and aware, only the light trance she invoked would both cushion the effect of her intrusion and calm any resultant panic until he adjusted to her presence in his mind.

He did not hear actual words but seemed to sense them forming wordlessly directly into his brain. The sense of what she was transmitting lit pictures inside his head, pictures that flowed and warped from image to image, the colours bleeding into his awareness with such vivid vibrancy that he felt he should be able to reach out and touch them. Her emotional state was a physical thing to him and automatically the Captain found himself following her lead. What touched River touched him. The more reflective and serious she became so did he. As if from very far away Anna's voice trembled against the membrane of their joint consciousness. "What the ruttin' *diyu*'s goin' on? Has Mal taken sick?"

Without taking her eyes off the Captain or releasing her hold on his hand, River answered. Voice soft but pitched for the women anxiously watching the odd interaction. "*Bu qu*, just need a moment."

Carla found the whole thing alarming. What the *diyu* was the matter with the Captain? Was he having a gorram heart attack? "Think he needs a doctor." Irritation flashed through River before she could mute it. The Captain inwardly recoiled as if he had been struck, a mental pain slicing through his head and sending arcs of lightening across the inward curve of his retinas. Explosions of white lit up his mind and did all but burn him. Her apology flowed like a swift cooling balm bringing relief so instant that he could do naught but forgive her. Shielding him before speaking out loud again, River cautioned the women not to be anxious. "*Fang xin*, we have a doctor on Serenity."

"Then why ain't we goin' there?" Asked Carla bluntly. She did not like the fact that the Captain had lost most of the colour from his face. He still stood with his eyes closed, the only thing appearing to hold him upright being the pale girl's touch. Yet some instinct stopped her from pulling River away from him. The two obviously knew each other and there was a familiarity between them that was almost intimate.

"We will," Murmured River vaguely, dividing her concentration momentarily between the two. "Someone should keep a look out." She added quietly.

"What are you doin'?"

River ignored the question. She was done with any further interruptions. Her thoughts opened to the Captain, steadied him then enhanced his vision until even thoughts were superfluous distractions. His mouth dropped open in awe, seeing beyond the flimsy artifice of mortal sight, feeling the torrent that rushed through her, straining at the leash of madness. Only in that moment she was more sane than any of them. River felt understanding cascade slowly through the sweep of his astute and agile mind. She liked the way his thoughts were fashioned, the flexibility of his mental acuity a thing of beauty to her. Mathematics forming equations that endlessly mutated as his mind calculated and weighed complexities that needed to be factored into every decision. A cool reasoned place that was much sharper than he was given credit for. River knew that was by intent. Folks tended to relax if you appeared less of a threat. It wasn't just guns that killed. War had taught Captain Reynolds that more men died at the stroke of a pen on parchment than man to man. As he surfaced from their joining the Captain opened his eyes and blinked slowly.

"Mal? You alright, *xin gan*?" Asked Carla leaning close, her warm breath a vaporous caress against his cool cheek that he was too numb to feel.

Mal was staring at River. Information trawling through his mind that he was accessing for the first time. "Zoe shouldn't've left the ship."

"Had to." River responded reacting to the graze of concern that touched her mind as the Captain worried about his crew. "Going crazy with the waiting. Almost shot Jayne."

Despite how serious things were, a smile tugged at his lips then he realised the women would not have a clue what in the nine hells they were talking about. "Um, *duibuqi*, I should explain. Jayne is a member of my crew."

"Is she with the ship?"

Mal laughed then struggled to explain. "No, Jayne ain't a woman, he's a man." The women exchanged looks.

"Reckon his folks had some kind of warped sense of humour."

"That or they didn't wanna boy." Said Evie without a thought for diplomacy.

The Captain chuckled softly then became serious again. "Best you not mention that when you see him. Jayne has a tendancy to be a mite touchy."

"Don't want him showing you his man parts." Cautioned River helpfully. Mal closed his eyes a second then opened them and cut River a sidelong glance. *I could have done without that picture in my gorram head, River*

She smiled sweetly at him then tugged on his hands. The clock was ticking. "Come on Captain, no time to lose."

"Where we goin'?"

River turned a dazzling smile on Mal then grinned as the women hurried to put the Captain's bonnet back in place and straighten his dress in the vain hope it would make him look more respectable. "Time to wake the dead!"

* * * * *

It was praeternaturally quiet aboard the shuttle. Inara stared at her cortex screen and felt a sliver of ice trickle down her spine as she read from the screen. Her heart missed several beats. Could be she even stopped breathing a time or too as well. "*Renci de Fozu*!"

The screen showed the graveyard in more detail. According to ecumenical records the land on which the dead were interred was riddled with catacombs and passageways leading to deep underground caverns whose purpose was not defined. Inara was not sure what it meant but guessed they must be ancient crypts. The church was called St Thomas's but appeared to be more ruin than standing structure even though the graveyard seemed to be thriving, steadily expanding over the years as the buildings that formed the visible articles of faith fell further and further into disrepair. It seemed incongruous.

Inara did not hear the soft knock on her shuttle door. It took a much harder effort to bring the Companion back to the present though she was unwilling to tear her eyes away from the screen. Wash's voice preceded the rest of him. Crowding in behind the pilot came Simon and Kaylee. "*Duibuqi* Inara did you find anythin'?"

The Companion nodded and waited until they were close enough to peer over her shoulder and see for themselves. Kaylee looked puzzled. Wash intrigued. But Simon's curiosity turned to shock. Inara noticed.

"Simon? *Shenme shi*?"

He pointed at the screen. "Is this where the graveyard is?"

Inara nodded, more interested in Simon's reaction than by what she had found. "*Qu, weishenme*?"

Slowly Simon looked up, his eyes locking on to hers. "I've seen this place before."

Shocked, it took a moment for Inara to find her voice. "You've been here before?"

The doctor shook his head and reached out a tentative hand to touch the screen. "*Bu qu, ni bu dong*" He paused as if scarcely believing it himself. "I have a picture of this place, or rather - River does."

Eyes wide Inara stared at him. Kaylee was confused. "What does River have a picture of a graveyard for?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*." Said Simon thoughtfully, a small frown on his face. "River has always had wide ranging interests and I could never tell just what would catch her eye."

"This picture, is it in a book or somesuch?"

He shook his head at the pilot then looked slowly at each of them in turn before glancing once again at the picture and legend on the screen. "No. River has a drawing of it."

Stunned Inara was not sure what to think. "Where did she get the drawing?"

Simon shook his head. "She didn't, River drew it yesterday. Tried to tell me all about it only I never took much notice, thought it was just River rambling..." He trailed off and flushed as he realised this could be important. "*Duibuqi*, I had no idea it would be significant."

"An' it still might not be." Quipped Kaylee, trying to make him feel better. Inara and Wash exchanged a look, both feeling a growing sense of unease.

* * * * *

The Captain could not hide his shock. "This your big idea?"

River nodded, a little smug smile adding to the oddity of her solution. Carla could not understand why Mal was listening to the crazy girl. At that precise moment River turned her head and looked straight at the whore. "Not crazy. They opened my brain but without a map they didn't know what they were looking at. Got lost, tried to rewrite the pathways to make me follow their rules." She paused and looked pained, as if their stupidity hurt more than their knives.

Evie and Anna exchanged looks of trepidation, the tunnel echoing to their footsteps even though they walked as softly as they could. As dark as it was they went deeper and deeper, the crazy girl smiling and continuing to half tug and half coax the Captain into following. "Where the good gorram are we an' how's this gonna help me get back to my boat?" "It's not safe. No one will think of looking for us here."

The Captain stopped, pushed back the bonnet and stared at River. "That's 'cause they ain't *shenjingbing*."

Evie shuddered. "I don't like it, let's find somewhere else to hide. *Above* ground."

River shook her head. "Too dangerous. This is the last place they'd look which makes it the best place to hide."

"Also the last place Zoe an' the others'll look for us, I'm thinkin'."

The little genius nodded. "Have to throw the hounds off the scent." In his head she drew graphic pictures of what would happen if they surfaced too soon. Made him all manner of unsettled.

"Mal," Said Carla. "This ain't a good idea. I agree with Evie, let's find someplace else 'til you can wave your ship an' we can get the ruttin' *diyu* off this rock."

"*Duibuqi* Carla, River's right. Don't ask me to explain but I trust her. Soon as the coast is clear we'll go not before."

"How're we gonna know that?" Asked Evie in a small wavering voice.

"We'll know," Said River brightly. "Better than seaweed I can also predict the weather."

Reluctantly the five women followed River and the Captain deeper and deeper into the bowels of the earth. Carla began to blink rapidly as the tunnel twisted into a steeper decline. Not sure whether or not her gorram eyes were deceiving her. "Is that... a light ahead?"

The light if such it was seemed to be flickering around another tight downward sloping bend. Gradually getting stronger with every step. River turned her head and beamed at them. "Good news! All awake now."

The Captain wanted to turn around and run back the way they had come until they reached the surface again. He would rather face that spiteful bully Atherton Wing and his henchmen than the creepy *wangba dans* who made this place their home. Even though he should not have asked he could not stop himself. "Who's awake?"

The look on River's face said he should already have guessed, his heart quailing as her not so shiny words sank in. "The dead."

"*Wode ma*!" Muttered Evie in a fearful voice. Before anyone could respond or reassure her that there was nothing to worry about a thin plaintive wail of heart rending sorrow moaned and echoed up from the depths to greet them. All the hairs on the backs of their necks stood on end. Then a chill wind blew up round the corner and the light went out.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*goushi* = crap/dog shit *weishenme* = why *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *diyu* = hell *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *xin gan* = sweetheart *duibuqi* = sorry *renci de Fozu* = merciful Buddha *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *wangba dan* = fucking bastard *wode ma* = mother of God *shenjingbing* = crazy *dong ma* = understand


Thursday, June 9, 2005 1:45 PM


Been down the rabbit hole for a while. It was so nice to log on and find this shiny chapter. I love your take on River.

Thursday, June 9, 2005 2:17 PM


Nice I liked the chapter. Looking foward to the next one.

Friday, June 10, 2005 3:37 AM


Mmm hmm. Diggin' it.

Monday, June 13, 2005 12:46 AM


Way to end a chapter!!!

> "Don't want him showing you his man parts." Cautioned River helpfully.<

LOL! Funny River is so very shiny.


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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.