STOLEN MOMENTS: 31. "The Lost Ones"
Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Mal wants to help, the whores want to escape and Badger has a scheme that will unleash unforseen complications on them all."



SUMMARY: "Mal wants to help, the whores want to escape and Badger has a scheme that will unleash unforseen complications on them all." 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

* * * * *

It was a sight that would haunt the Captain's mind for the rest of his gorram life. One minute they were deep in the bowels of the earth with not enough light to cover a rutting pin head. The next, a fierce blaze of illumination blinded him, the women crying out in alarm and sudden fear. Where the good gorram was River? He had to find her, get her out of there before unseemly things started to happen. As he blinked in the harsh light laughter tinkled soft and rare inside his head. He blocked out the voices of the women, not hearing a word Carla was saying to him. Oblivious to little Evie's hand tugging on the front of his shirt for his attention. Not nothing penetrating but a host of thoughts crowding into his head to the rythym of River Tam's merry laughter. It was more than a little creepifying.

Seeing Mal's distraction, Anna shook his arm. Carla blinked in the strong light and stared stupidly at her. "*Shenme*?"

Anna looked more serious than Carla had ever remembered. "Gotta get outta here."

"You won't get any argument from me, *mei mei*, but I don't think Mal will leave without the girl, *dong ma*?"

Anna did not reply but shook the Captain harder. Hard enough for Evie to release her grip on his shirt and stare at her in alarm. "What's *cuode*?"

"Tell you outside." Anna hissed.

The women huddled together to confer on what they should do. Momentarily forgotten the Captain stepped away from them. His eyes were wide, the light irritating over sensitive eyes until the pupils adjusted. He squinted and seemed to fix on something beyond mortal sight. As Carla looked up she realised someone was missing. "Where's Mal?" The others reacted to the concern in her voice, looking every which way, but all they could see was one other amid the bright unnatural glow of light now illuminating their hideaway with all the comfort of a floodlit prison. "*Wo bu xihuan*. This place is cursed!"

"Not cursed." The women were surprised to hear the Captain's voice. No one spoke as he appeared around the bend in the tunnel. They were somewhat disturbed by the somewhat dazed look on his face. The expression did nothing to allay their fears. "Blessed mayhap," Continued the Captain conversationally. "But not cursed."

"*Wode ma*, Mal." Breathed Evie in a shaky voice. "What in the nine hells is this?"

As the Captain drew near he paused and without looking behind him raised his voice. "*Fang xin*, not nobody gonna hurt you."

The women exchanged puzzled glances wondering who the Captain was talking to then one by one a group of children crept into view behind the Captain. Their ages ranged from 8 to 18. Boys and girls, each with skin the colour of bleached parchment as if they had spent their entire lives underground. The women watched in silence as River came into view leading the last two children by the hand. Carla reckoned they must be the youngest. There was something very moving about the way the children trusted River Tam. The fragile girl reaching out to others even more broken than herself.

* * * * *

"So, wha'd'ya suppose it does?"

Badger shrugged, his eyes glittering greedily as he looked at the high class salvage. He had tried to discover its' secrets but even his best hackers had not been able to unravel the mystery set before them. "Dunno an' don't rightly care." Catching the scowl on Munro and Hawkins's faces he placed a proprietory hand on an exotic looking console. The technology had been carefully excised from the doomed scrap heap of a ship just before he had his men set the charges then blow the vessel out of the sky once they were at a safe distance. If some other *hundan* came looking for it they would find only debris. With luck they would think everything on the ship had gone up in the explosion. Around him the scatter of stacked bounty still shone as if it had all just been newly minted in his honour. "Don't have to work it to sell it, *dong ma*?"

"Yeah, but how will we know the price we get is the what it's worth, *laoban*?" The little King Pin gave Munro a pitying glance then his look hardened, his eyes going cold, his words becoming bitter with the thin veneer of control slipping to reveal a deep abiding resentment. "We're never gonna get what it's worth. On'y them as uses this gear know it's true value. But it's exotic, see? High tech end of the market, what that tell you?"

"That it's a gorram gold mine?" Badger actually laughed but it was not because the man had impressed him or said anything funny. He didn't hire his men for their stunning conversation but he didn't carry dead wood neither. Something existing in the grey area imbetween but not at the extremes. "I should leave you to work it out for yourselves but I'm feelin' generous. Folks like us can't sell gear this hot. Would draw too much attention, see?. That's why we need a middle man. Someone as the monied classes will deal with."

"Yeah but you set up Reynolds, he's like as not dead by now." Murmured Hawkins.

He was a big bull of a man with muscles on his arms that were bigger than Badger's thighs. The broad heavy shoulders bespoke brute strength, his small beady eyes a mean disposition when so inclined. But he was loyal, so long as Badger kept him in coin he would do whatever was asked of him. The dirtier and more bloody the job the better he liked it.

"Don't you worry about Reynolds. He ain't the only go-between I can muster. 'Sides," He paused to smile slightly. "He got what was comin' to him. Lookin' down at me like I was beneath him an' him nothin' but a jumped up Sergeant on the losin' side of a war only a fool would think he could win. No," He shook his head slowly and looked around at his men, meeting each one eye to eye to ram his point home. "We don't need to be dealin' with the likes of him any more, not that we won't miss the use of that *lese* ship of his." "Perhaps his crew would...?"

Badger spun round so fast the speaker took an unintended step back, albeit he was more than a foot taller than his boss. Badger glared at Jimmy Jones. "*Bu qu*! When I say no I mean no, *dong ma*?"

The warehouse fell silent, not a man willing to overstep the mark with someone as slippery as Badger. Man had more fingers in pies than most of them had had hot dinners and Badger *never* went hungry. First rule of working for the little King Pin was knowing when to keep silent and when to speak. The silence stretched a minute or two before Munro tried to get them back on track.

"You got another ship an' crew in mind, *laoban*?"

A disingenous smile oiled its' way across Badger's face. He was beginning to enjoy himself now. "Oh yeah, not a crew so much but someone who can slip in anywhere an' be at 'ome."

"What good is that to us?" Asked Simkins holding his irritation in check.

Badger did not rant at the man for his lack of faith. Instead his smile grew wider. Oh, yeah, he was gonna enjoy this. "Ever heard of a chameleon?"

The men said nothing. Badger began to slowly walk around the warehouse, his hand lightly trailing over the salvage as if he was already counting the coin this little haul would earn him. "A chameleon can go anywhere, see? Be whatever it has to be, makes folks feel comfortable, safe. Like they was with one of their own, see? The right words in the right ears an' what d'you know? We got us a sale."

* * * * *

It was a very subdued gathering in Serenity's commons area, all eyes fastened on the tense anxious face of Simon Tam. The doctor stood before them, reminded in that instant of when he had first confessed to the Captain and crew why his sister had been smuggled aboard their boat in a cryogenic chamber and the fact that they were fugitives from Alliance justice. Although the situation was very different he could not help noticing some similarities. His state of nerves being a case in point although this time it was not fear of being turned in to their enemy nor being dumped on the first rock with a breathable atmosphere they came to, but the worry that he was about to try to second guess his gifted but mentally unstable sister. If he made the wrong decision now he might not get a chance to rectify his mistake. Whatever else happened in this *lese* end of the 'verse he could not lose River. "It was the image of the graveyard."

"St. Thomas's." Supplied Inara.

Simon nodded and placed the wad of drawings on the kitchen table. The others crowded round to see. Inara's eyes widened in surprise. The drawing of the graveyard was eerily accurate. The Companion reached out and slid the top sheet to one side and stared at the detailed image beneath. "What is this?"

"Catacombs. As you can see they are quite vast."

Wash frowned. "How can you tell the scale? I mean, they look big, extensive even, but what's to say this chamber here isn't the only one?"

The doctor shuffled through the papers spreading them out in a specific order so that each of the drawings appeared to be a segment of a larger picture, the sheer scale of which was making Wash's mind go numb. Even Shepherd Book looked shock. "Oh my!"

Zoe glanced at the Preacher. "Did you know about this?"

He shook his head. "No, I've never visited St Thomas's though I did know there was a churchyard there. I knew it was pretty extensive but not why." "That's easy," Huffed Jayne. "'Cause it's full of the ruttin' dead that's why which is a good reason for any sane man not to go there."

"Jayne," Said Book patiently. "You have nothing to fear from the dead."

"Yeah," Said Wash, only half joking. "It's only the livin' that wanna kill you."

* * * * *

The face on the cortex screen watched him warily. "And why exactly should I do this for you?"

Badger grinned. Rather than making him appear suave it just made him look even more grubby. "Now Alice, don't be like that. You know we work well together."

"As I recall, *I* work well."

"Still a good deal, *bao bei*."

"Don't call me that!" She snapped. Her features calmed again and flattened out. It was like watching barely formed wrinkles smooth out of silk. "It sounds too easy."

He kept his smile in place, didn't want to go startling her. Making her think it was more than it was. It was just a job after all. That they had not parted on the best of terms was of little consequence. This was business. "Look, already got the merchandise, see?" He stood to one side and waved at the equipment behind him then moved back in front of the camera.

"So why do you need me?"

"*Ai ren*, you got contacts see? Move in circles denied to the likes of a man in my position. Ain't fair or right but what's a man to do?. I got the merchandise, need to know if you can match it to a buyer, *dong ma*?"

Despite herself she was intrigued but prior dealings with Badger made her even more wary and vigilant than normal. She wouldn't put it past the slimey little King Pin to have a nasty sting in the tail just for her. "Why would I ever want to work with you again?"

Badger's smile broke into a grin. "What can I say? A misunderstanding, no need for hard feelin's. This is business. Plus, I got a little somethin' to sweeten the deal."

Her eyes fastened on him like heat seeking missiles, not missing a flicker on his face nor the non verbal clues he could not quite hide. No one had ever been able to read him like Alice. She could tell that as far as it was possible for him to do so, Badger was telling her the truth. At least. A version of it. It seemed a lifetime before she spoke again. "Sweeten it, how?"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme* = what *mei mei* = little sister *dong ma* = understand *cuode* = wrong *wo bu xihuan* = I don't like it *wode ma* = mother of God *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *hundan* = asshole/bastard *laoban* = boss *lese* = crappy *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *bao bei* = precious/treasure *ai ren* = sweetheart


Monday, June 20, 2005 12:04 AM


Very nice, a bit curious how the kids ended up down there.

Monday, June 20, 2005 6:16 AM


Oooh, curiouser and curiouser. I love how you write Badger. I can hear Mark Shepard's. What's next?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005 9:32 AM


Brilliant, heroic River. I could really see her leading those children.

And your smarmy git Badger is a joy to read.


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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.