Friday, September 2, 2005

"Nothing is harder to fight than the enemy within but River has a plan."



SUMMARY: "Nothing is harder to fight than the enemy within but River has a plan." 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

* * * * *

Zoe's eyes narrowed suspiciously. Leaving the bridge and stepping on to the catwalk to find her two least favourite people in the 'verse standing there was more than a mite unsettling. Her voice was cold but polite. A study in icy calm. "Can I help you?"

Although Zoe kept back what she really wanted to say every muscle was tensed for action should the reply not be to her liking. Curtis Manning Armstrong knew perfectly well that Malcolm Reynolds' second did not trust them. Knew nothing would give her greater pleasure than to send both he and Hobbs into the darkest part of the Black without an EVA. Fortunately Serenity was not in the Black but even if it had been he was confident of his ability to sway the Captain in the direction he needed him to go. The man's loyal but dysfunctional crew would simply follow. It mattered not if they were moaning and bitching all the way. The end *always* justified the means. Right now he was smiling at her simply because he knew it would piss her off. The longer he took to reply the narrower those eyes got. He was just about to figure how much it would take for the tension to snap her clean in two when the Captain's voice reached through the atmosphere thickening between them a second before his firm step presaged the appearance of the man himself. Mal paused at the open hostility not even politely veiled in Zoe's face. His look shifted to observe both men, his whole manner changing in subtle undertones that did not bode well for them or their plan.

"What the good gorram's goin' on here?" He asked quietly.

Manning turned to face the Captain. "We were about to come looking for you, Captain."

His eyebrows rose a notch. "That a fact?" He said mildly, the words elongated in a slow drawl. Noticing an absence his eyes flicked from one man to the other as if encouraging them to make the count with him. "Where's the Preacher?"

"He pointed us in this direction after the tour, said he'd join us later." Manning explained smoothly.

A kind of prickly creepy sensation danced down the Captain's spine but he made no show of it. All kinds of alert now. Then Manning was speaking again, his voice the polished gloss of a politician. Mal resisted the urge to shudder or snatch up his sidearm as he listened. "Your ship will meet our requirements, Captain."

"Still haven't said what this's about."

This time Manning stiffened slightly. "Told you, Captain, transportation."

The way he emphasised the last word was not lost on the Captain. It had been said as if it was some clue only he and the Captain were privy to. "Then best you explain what you want transportin', *dong ma*?"

The two men exchanged a look. "If you will accompany us I believe we can answer that question for you."

Zoe wanted to yell at the Captain not to go, not to trust them, but Manning turned and stared right into her eyes stopping the words forming on her tongue as she hesitated. "Our boss should be waiting at the door. Once you see her," Manning paused significantly then locked eyes again on the Captain. "You'll understand."

"Am I gonna like whatever the gorram that means?"

A flicker of amusement danced over Manning's stone cold lips. "Captain, the decision will still be yours to make."

A curt nod from the Captain was the only reply they got. Zoe watched them like a hawk, Mal indicating they should go down the stairs into the cargo hold and he would follow. The Captain heard and sensed Kaylee coming out of the engine room to see what was happening, was unaware that Wash had done the same. Their little audience exchanging silence glances as Kaylee and Wash leaned on the rail and watched with curious eyes from the catwalk. Simon joined Kaylee just as Mal and Zoe got to the bay door.

"Now," Said the Captain, voice firm and just a shade away from an outright command. "You were sayin'?"

Manning smiled disingenuously. Silent. He was going to enjoy this. Hobbs took a half pace back as if this had been rehersed. Zoe flexed her gun hand and let it gravitate thoughtfully to the handle of her gun. She felt Mal tense but knew he wouldn't call her on it, trusting her to the last breath in his body. Hobbs pressed the door release and as Serenity's ramp lowered, Manning gave the Captain a smug little nod. Zoe wanted to wipe the gorram smirk off his face and strangle him with it. "If you will allow me, Captain Reynolds?"

Mal said nothing. Manning took that as a tacit 'yes, please', and opened the door. To the Captain's surprise a well manicured and coifured Chinese lady stood at the top of the ramp, the elegant flow of the beautiful silk komono only outmatched by her peerless beauty. A dour faced man stood placidly a half pace beside her. Next to the woman he looked like something the cat wouldn't drag in. Throw up maybe but not touch in any other way. The woman now. The woman. That was a whole other thing. Every inch of her was gorram mesmerisiing.

Calmly composed and completely in control of the situation the woman stepped into the hold and ignored everyone but the Captain. The unlovely cargoyle accompanying her hung back but clung to her orbit like an unwholesome shadow. Although he was perfectly clean and had no offending body odour Zoe felt his very presence befoul the air. It took a moment for the Captain to get his breath.

"And you would be?"

Shen Ling gazed intently at the man facing her. The man her brother placed such total faith in. Friendship and affection that she could not fathom though neither were important right now. Her eyes were keen, missing nothing of the Captain's demenour nor anything on the periphery of her vision. Well aware of Zoe's reaction and those of the people watching from the catwalk although she showed no outward sign of being aware of anything but Serenity's Captain. Zoe wondered if she were Companion trained.

"Shen Ling. Chung-li is my brother."

The Captain looked shocked though it was a muted thing, Zoe could read the depth of his surprise as easily as her own. Mal took a moment to get control of himself for the two could not have looked more alike had they come from different species. "And I would know this because..?"

"I took my husband's name when I married, Captain. Kept it after he died."

Mal felt that prickling sensation again. Made him all kinds of not happy. "How'd he die?"

It wasn't perhaps the most tactful of questions but Shen Ling allowed it. In fact she seemed vaguely amused that the Captain would have the temerity to ask. Taking a step closer she paused, eyes locked to his, as she hand delivered her answer. "Painfully."

All the air seemed to evacuate from his lungs, alarm bells going off inside his head yet unable to tear his eyes off her. Something was definitely wrong but he was not sure he could be objective enough to say what it was. That the woman was morbidly creepifying was a moot point. It was her level of control that scared him most. Shen Ling watched his reaction and gave a slow smile but there was no humour in it. The Captain tensed and waited, knowing she hadn't finished.

"Guess I'm a sentamentalist."

Sentimental was the last thing he would have called her. Zoe had the overwhelming urge to draw her firearm and shoot the manipulating *pofu* between the eyes but this wasn't her call, it was the Captain's.

"So," Said the Captain slowly. "This job. I take it Chung-li didn't send for me?"

Everyone held their breath, both in the cargo bay and above. Simon moved to take Kaylee's hand. No one noticed River appear briefly then back track and slip quietly away.

"*Bu qu*, Captain. My brother *is* the job." The Captain stared at her. Confounded beyond his senses. It was left to his second to ask the question he could not yet voice. "What're you talkin' about?"

"My brother's been kidnapped. Why is immaterial, how is disturbing, but I want him back. Whole. Unharmed and inside a week, *dong ma*?"

For what seemed like an eternity Mal stared at her. Rescuing Chung-li wasn't the problem. *Diyu*. He would do it for free. It was this cold hearted *pofu* of a sister that made him all kinds of hesitant. Warily his eyes narrowed as she closed the last bit of distance between them, her eyes sparking with a dangerous fire that he sensed could turn him to dust quicker than Lot's wife had been turned to a pillar of gorram salt.

"Now I have only one question, Malcolm Reynolds. What would you do, what would you *give* to bring my brother back?"

* * * * *

It hurt. More than waking should ever do to mortal man but this was in no way a normal situation. Shepherd Book opened his eyes then closed them with a groan. The sound muffled behind the tape across his mouth, his movements restricted by the twine tying his hands and feet together. He was in a small space, folded and crammed into one of the many smuggler's hidey holes that made Firefly transports so prized by their owners. Light fractured into broken shafts through the metal grill rammed hard down upon his aching head. He tried to slow the frantic beat of his heart as memory flooded back, the recall a painful distinct bitter taste in his mouth. The Captain. He had to warn him. These people were not what they seemed.

The sense that time was of the essence made him struggle against his bonds but all it did was drive the twine deeper, his wrists now slick with blood, his throat constricting on the angry tirade that wanted so deperately to spill from his mouth. Unholy thoughts cascading like fire and brimstone. So caught up in the fury of the moment was he that it took a moment to realise that someone was leaning face down on the grill above his head. He tried to angle his head to hear the soft almost sibilant words which were the only thing able to slither through the meagre walls of his impromptu prison.

"Don't move!"

He froze. That voice again.

"Cold storage."

River! The Shepherd closed his eyes and felt his hope deflating. Of all the people to find him, couldn't it have been Jayne or the Captain?

"Not frozen," Said River as if imparting something that should lift his spirits. "On ice."

He opened his eyes, struggled to find an angle that would let him look up towards her hidden face. She was shifting above him, getting ready to go he realised. A sense of panic brought him close to hyperventilating, wanting to beg her not to go. Not to leave him unless it was to get help.

"Have to stay here. Too dangerous to move." She cautioned.

How he wished his mouth was not taped. Never had he needed to speak as much as he did now but she seemed so calm, so focused and that was more than a mite unsettling.

"*Zhenjing xialai, wo you shiqing yao zuo*."

Things? What things? Book twisted a little further as motes of disturbed dust caught themselves in the fractured light and drifted down upon his weary head. The only thing it revealed to him was that River was gone, her bare feet making no sound as she crept away as silently as she had come. Book's head was throbbing, his heart aching with the sorrow of knowing he would be unable to help. To be there for his friends. With a little sigh he closed his eyes and did the only thing he could do. He prayed.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand? *pofu* = bitch *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *diyu* = hell *zhenjing xialai* = stay calm *wo you shiqing yao zuo* = I've got things to do


Monday, September 19, 2005 7:35 AM


Not sure that Preacher deserves rescuing ... but if anyone can do it River can.

Love the 'fractured light' and motes. Created a beautiful image.

Friday, January 12, 2007 5:56 AM


Oooooh the thick plottens!


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.