STOLEN MOMENTS: 30. "Standby"
Sunday, June 12, 2005

"Badger recovers the technology from the junker. Simon discovers River is no longer on Serenity. The Captain comes face to face with the occupants living below ground then wishes to *diyu* he hadn't."


`TITLE: "STANDBY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: SEQUEL to "TRUST" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE:

SUMMARY: "Badger recovers the technology from the junker. Simon discovers River is no longer on Serenity. The Captain comes face to face with the occupants living below ground then wishes to *diyu* he hadn't." 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

* * * * *

Some things are constant even in a 'verse as contrary as this one. Badger knew Munro hadn't told him everything but he had sources that had been able to verify that the man's claims were basically sound. Now the proof of the pudding was before him and excited as he was at the high yield find part of him began to wonder whether stripping out and reclaiming those specialist systems had not been a mistake after all.

Munro was grinning, supremely pleased at having his assurances verified. Anticipating the rest of his finder's fee. With hardly a word Badger paid him, nodding to one of his men to show Munro out. Badger stared at the collection of exotic systems and grinned, hard currency turning cartwheels inside his head as he thought how much this little lot was worth. The trick was not that it was very valuable but in assessing *how* valuable and to whom it could be sold without too many questions being asked. It was one of his tech men, Gordon Lancaster, who put the dilemna into a nutshell. "You were right, *laoban*. Whoever lost this is gonna want it back. This is some serious *goushi* an' we don't wanna be on the wrong end of it."

"What you sayin'?"

"Just this: bein' handed a valuable, even priceless, snake might make good business financially but it's still a gorram snake an' we don't have an antidote if the thing up an' bites us."

The little King Pin gave a flash of false bravado. "It ain't hooked up to nothin' so how can it harm us? Relax, I know what I'm doin'."

Lancaster was silent a long time, his mind working through variables and possibilities but coming to the same disturbing dead end. Slowly he voiced his deepest fear. "Just sayin' the market for this kind'a tech is like to be the same folks as it belongs to. Prob'ly custom rigged which means they're gonna recognise it at a glance. That bein' the case," He paused, his look utterly serious. "What if they think we didn't find this stuff driftin' in space, tied into a hulk that should'a been scrapped at birth?"

"What d'you mean? We came by it honest, got salvage rights."

Gordon Lancaster leant forward. "I'm sayin' what if instead of lookin' at it like that the buyer thinks we stole it? Anyone smart enough to use this kind'a tech could have some nasty surprises in store for us."

"All I wants is nice big pay day. You leave me to worry about the rest, *dong ma*?"

"Have to live through it to be worth our while, *laoban*." Said Lancaster quietly.

The smile on Badger's face had a razor sharp quality to it now. "That's why you're here, see? Need a splicer to hack in an' see just what the good gorram we got."

Left to him Gordon Lancaster would rather have sent the whole lot spinning off into the Black but he could hardly say as much to Badger. Man thought and spoke in coin. Reason and common sense were for them without the gift of Badger's vision. Besides, Badger could smell the money this little lot was worth and nothing but an untimely death would sever his grip on it. The little King Pin rubbed his hands together, eyes glittering with the closest thing Lancaster had seen to eager anticipation.

"Enough talkin'. Get to work. Find out as much as you can then call me."

Lancaster nodded and took a couple of men with him. Badger barely aware of them leaving. He was a man with a mission. Had to sound out a few contacts, maybe line up a buyer who would be happy to take this poison chalice from him and leave hard currency in its' place. If this was going to come back and haunt him better some other *wangba dan* got to deal with the nightmares.

* * * * *

If he had been asleep he would have woken up screaming as it was this nightmare was the next best thing. Being as how he was awake and all. Carla had a death grip on his arm, her cries of terror drowning out the eerie wailing that was setting his teeth on edge. Evie hung on to his other arm. The other girls seemed torn between running from the horror in the darkness and wanting to get as far away from River as they could. Trouble was with no light and the echoing tunnel system they did not know which way to go. The Captain heard sobbing and tried to soothe the fractured nerves of the women. "*Rongyi*, not nobody gonna hurt you, *dong ma*?"

His voice was reassuring but as soon as he stopped talking all they could hear was the strange creepy wailing which rose and fell like some dread rollercoaster carrying poor souls to one of the Preacher's more fearsome versions of *diyu*. "W.. what is it?" Whispered Carla.

"I'm thinkin' someone maybe got theirselves lost down here, can't find their way out."

"*Bushi*, they're not lost." Said River.

Silence fell, so utter and complete that all speculation stopped as they froze. When nothing happened the Captain tore off his hat and craned his neck but not a glimmer of light relieved the darkness. He turned towards the sound of River's voice. "What d'you mean 'not lost'? Who ain't lost?"

"The others." River's voice sounded calm but sad. "Came here for safety but can't leave." She paused, her voice dropping. "Afraid." That last word made them all shudder inwardly. "River? You know who these people are?"


When she did not elaborate the Captain's voice became testy. "Not wantin' to play Twenty Questions, *xin gan*. Best you tell me what you know an' *how* you know."

"They're like me - but not. I needed help to get out but they had each other."

Mal was not sure he was reading her right, her thoughts locked away from his. Words suddenly cumbersome burdensome things. Didn't help that they were not alone. "You mean... they came from that place?"


A poignant sadness struck him deep. Had he been able to see River he would have put his arms around her, offered what limited comfort he could but somehow she knew. Sensed his empathy, her voice reflecting appreciation but also carrying a warning.

"Stay, I won't be long."

Alarmed he stepped away from Carla and Evie, ignoring the way their hands scrabbled for purchase. "*Bao bei*, don't."

"*Ni bu dong*, I'll be safe. Can't say the same for anyone else."

Carla's voice came through loud and strident, each syllable sharpened by fear and confusion. "What's she talkin' about? An' what the *diyu* is goin' on?"

"Not sure my own self, Carla, just have to stay calm." Said the Captain. He felt her hand grab one of his, fingers threading anxiously with his as if by anchoring herself to him she would be bullet proof.

"*Wo bu xihuan*."

"Me neither," Said a frightened and shaky Anna.

River opened her mind and carefully reached out to touch the Captain, had to keep her link to him shielded. If the others tapped into their thoughts she was not sure Mal would be able to survive it. Leastways in any way that would leave the man sane and she wasn't saying he was completely sane now. After all, war and torture had warped him into something harder than steel. Yet within that shell beat a valiant heart. She would protect him all she could but it would be up to the Captain to protect the women. Very soon her own hands would be too full to help, not that she could tell him that. Time enough to panic if this didn't work.

*Wo bu dong*, River. Why you so worried if these folks are like you? They'd be friends, dui?*

*Bushi. I don't know them Mal, we were kept apart. One or two are as strong as I am. If they percieve me as a threat they will attack*

*What you gonna do?*

*I have to talk to them. Alone. Show them I'm no threat*

Alarmed the Captain was getting upset. *Not gonna happen, I'll come with you*

*That would just make things worse*

*Weishenme? What about safety in numbers?*

*Captain there are more of them than us*

A horrible thought inched its' way towards his heart. *How many we talkin' about?*

*I can distinguish at least twelve, probably more*

His mind went silent, numb.


*River, this is a bad idea*

Something blossomed in his mind reminding him vaguely of laughter. The thought sparked a feeling of warmth and he knew she was happy. Affectionate even though how he could put the why of it into words was beyond him. Mal did not like to think of her walking into danger. That was what her Captain was for. In the darkness River shook her head. *Have to do this and you have to let me. I won't be long*

*What if you don't come back? How in the nine hells am I gonna explain this to your brother?*

His attempt to use Simon to deflect her from her purpose was doomed to failure but he had to try. She knew it. *Where is your faith, Captain?*

*I left the Preacher back on the boat*

*Not his,* Her mind whispered softly, the words oddly gentle. *Yours*

Before he could respond the link closed and he could not open it. River had ended the discussion. "River?"

Nothing. A hollow pit opened inside him filling him with dread. Worried for her but unable to stop her once her mind was made up. River left on silent feet and dark and creepifying as it had been before it felt that much more empty and bleak without her. A soft sniffling caught his ear and he realised Evie and Anna were quietly crying. Dry eyed, Carla stared off into the stupefying darkness. She was still holding on to Mal's hand and tugged him closer to her, the others forming a huddle round them. "Is this a trap, Mal?"

"*Bu qu*. Not sure what it is but if'n it was a trap River would'a told us."

"You really trust that crazy girl?" Asked Evie tentatively.


A long silence stretched between them before Carla uttered the words that would seal their fate. "We trust you so I guess we'll wait a while."

Mal gave her hand a squeeze. Didn't have words for expressing how humble their faith in him made him feel. Especially as he had no clear notion whether any of them would come out of this alive.

* * * * *

Jayne Cobb could not remember the last time he had had this much fun. The first grenade went off just as he threw the second one in. Shouts of alarm followed by loud swearing and gunshots made his grin widen further. Zoe told him to throw the smoke bombs. Within seconds thick white smoke obscured everything. Just for good measure Jayne threw a couple more grenades inside. Zoe did not dare berate him in case they were overheard. Wouldn't do to lay the groundwork then give themselves away. She aimed to have a word or two with him later.

It was the work of minutes only before Badger's men came spilling outside, coughing and a-spluttering. Shepherd Book cold cocked every man who came within feet of him. Jayne wanted to cut on them but knew Zoe would skin him alive if he caused any of the men to cry out and thus ruin the surprise for Badger. All in all Zoe counted eight men, all now lying unconscious. When they came to they would be sporting more than a headache or two. Jayne wanted to go rushing in but Book stopped him, his voice holding a quiet authority that had more effect on the big man than if the Shepherd had shouted. "He ain't comin'." Muttered the mercenary sourly.

No one responded, they were waiting. Zoe counting off the seconds and minutes in her head. Just when she was about to run out of paitence Badger came swaggering outside, a frown of annoyance on his face as he called out to his men. Waiting until he passed her hiding place, Zoe stepped quietly behind him and placed the barrel of her gun behind the man's ear. Badger froze, hands raising slowly. "Now, no need to do anythin' foolish. What say we talk about this?"

Zoe stepped round Badger, the business end of her gun now shoved in his face. "*Duome hao de zhuyi a*!. Let's start with why you betrayed us."

* * * * *

Simon was frantic. He had searched everywhere he could think of but there was no sign of River. Inara followed him into the cargo hold, Kaylee running to check on a few hidey holes Simon didn't know about but even between them they could find no sign of the little genius. After looking several times Simon finally accepted the truth, his face falling like a deflated balloon. "She isn't on the ship."

"Simon, no one is better at hiding than River. I'm sure she's just playing one of her games." Said Inara.

"And what if she isn't?"

No one answered. Simon turned and took the stairs two at a time. Inara and Kaylee exchanged a concerned look then followed him to the bridge. Wash looked up from his console, surprised by the gloomy expressions on their faces. Simon's lips thinned into a stubborn line. "We have to go back."

Wash glanced from the doctor to Inara and Kaylee, hoping for some kind of explanation. "To the place we just left? Why would we be doing that?"

"Because I think River got off."

"You think River followed Zoe, Jayne and the Preacher?"

Simon shrugged then had an idea. "The drawing."

Wash looked confused.

"She was trying to tell me something about it. I'm going to get it. Wash, head back to Persephone."

Seeing Inara and Kaylee nod in agreement the pilot paused before doing just that. "Are we sure we want to do this?"

Simon shook his head slowly. "No, but I'm not leaving River behind. Besides, I think she might have figured out what happened to the Captain."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*laoban* = boss *dong ma* = understand *wangba dan* = fucking bastard *rongyi* = easy *qu* = yes (lit. go) *bao bei* = precious/treasure *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *diyu* = hell *wo bu xihuan* = I don't like it *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *bushi* = not so *weshenme* = why *tingliu* = stay *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *duome hao de zhuyi a* = what a good idea *xin gan* = sweetheart *dui* = correct


Sunday, June 12, 2005 11:58 AM


There is something about the image of a maniacly grinning Jayne Cobb chucking grenades that rings true on so many levels :-D

Sunday, June 12, 2005 3:26 PM


Noooooo.... don't end it there.... oh well least there is more chapters to come.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 4:18 AM


Jayne - fabulous, as usual. I get such a clear visual when you write Jayne.

I'd say let's hope River knows what she's doing, but we all know she does. But nice to see Simon finally catching on.


You must log in to post comments.



His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying.

Personally she didn't care if Serenity was towed off to a junk yard and stripped into spare parts. She had promised the ship to Jer and his crew as a bonus but it looked like scavengers had beaten them to it.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

What in the nine hells were they so afraid of? Then he remembered Tracy. The body mailed to them by their old war buddy and all the trouble that had brought down on them.

If it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two?

The man was in a terrible condition, his pulse weak, and for some reason he was soaking wet which did nothing to staunch the blood soaking through his clothing and seeping from the poorly tended wound where he had been shot.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 8. "All The King's Horses"
Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 7. "Friend or Foe"
Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.