TEMPTATION SERIES: 21. "We Need a Plan"
Sunday, September 4, 2005

"This was one meeting that left them knowing less than they had before it started. The Captain confesses his plan to Zoe."



SUMMARY: "This was one meeting that left them knowing less than they had before it started. The Captain confesses his plan to Zoe." 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 stilted meeting round the table and Mal couldn't help but feel he was being taken in a direction he in no way wanted to go but how could he leave his friend in enemy hands? No way could he do that. Then there was Shen Ling. As close as he had got to Chung-li the man had never mentioned a sister. Mind, he had never spoken of his family at all. Somehow in Malcolm Reynolds' mind family meant Rafe Connor, the Wellspring Ranch and a little out of the way planet near the Rim of the 'verse called Glory. No way in *diyu* could he imagine a fancy lady like Shen Ling on the Rim of the 'verse.

The silence was not the comfortable ease of friendship. The wear and rubbed edges of people who knew each other inside out, rough and smooth, good and not so good. Oddly enough he missed having Jayne there though knowing what he now knew he was in no hurry to rush the suffering man from his own version of hell to join him in this one. Which brought him to the Preacher. Where in the nine hells was that *baichi* anyway? Fortunately Zoe had left him briefly to make sure Simon and River stayed out of sight. No telling what kind of problems new folk could bring, was always the letting down of defences that allowed the bad to happen unchecked. Mayhap this time they could avoid any near death experiences but the Captain wasn't holding his breath.

"You haven't said what happened to him."

Shen Ling stayed silent a minute or two longer than was polite. The atmosphere in the commons room could be cut with a knife. Not easily but still. All of them were feeling wired, even Kaylee's usually easy going smile had taken a hike. Mal was wishing the rest of them could have followed but he couldn't do that and instinct told him the knowing of it pissed Zoe off more than words could say. "He was captured, taken prisoner. Now he is being held."

The worry her words brought him drove every other thought out of his mind. His mouth had gone dry. "Torture?"

A slight nod. Almost reluctant. Zoe's eyes narrowed at Shen Ling but she held her tongue. Wash wanted to squeeze her shoulder in comfort but forebore. Something about his wife's posture telegraphing that now would be a bad time to distract her.


The Captain's frown deepened. Getting annoyed now. Too little information and far too slow for his liking. "You know who's got him?"

"Know where he is."

The distinction worried Mal. This woman was all kinds of sly, not a decent honest word fell from her lips with conviction and yet he knew she was telling him the truth. It was what she wasn't telling him that bothered him. Not for his own self but his crew because when he went after Chung-li this boat, this crew, this *family* would be going with him and he did not want to put their lives on the line for something that had all the danger signs of a gorram trap. But it was Chung-li and he didn't have it in him not to try. Knowing she knew that twisted him up inside like poison fermenting in his gut. Could see she knew it too, the knowledge in her eyes mocking him to turn away. To deny a debt that bound him soul deep. Not gonna happen but perhaps he could mitigate the cost? "Where's that?"

More silence. The Captain was getting dead sick of the not talking.

"You want help to get him out you gotta give me somethin' here. If not the why an' wherefore at least the co-ordinates. You say you know where they're holdin' Chung-li, prove it."

"We will show you, Captain."

A kind of mental gasp gripped the room. Mal could feel the way his people tensed around him, Zoe's tension multipled as everyone else became equally as disturbed and wary. Mal shook his head, eyes glued to hers as if she was too dangerous to take his eyes off. Now why the good gorram would he think that? "Not gonna happen. As you can see I got me a goodly crew, not fixin' on leading no one into no blind alley, *dong ma*?"

"You will be well compensated for your trouble, Captain."

Her words chilled him, beyond anger, beyond a mix of loyalties that flowed through his veins thicker than blood. "Ain't about the money an' you know it."

She took a step towards him. The air stale and hushed as every molecule of life seemed to hold its' breath. "It's always about the money."

Shen Ling's words made him feel dirty, used, uncomfortable in ways he had never thought he could feel. "Who are you?"

Her smile was smooth, luxurious and completely disingenous. It oiled its' away across a face that had never known a wrinkle, beneath eyes that had never captured the light of a honest smile, lips that only formed to fashion still more elaborate and deadly lies. She reminded him of a gorram cobra, her slight swaying body almost as mesmerising as those unblinking eyes. Unblinking? Mal took a breath, then another. Forcing oxygen into thinning lungs, blinking to clear his vision, let his brain unravel the knots of thoughts that were not his own. With an effort he turned his head. Rutting *diyu*, where was everyone? It was just him and her, standing on a nondescript part of the decking he could not quite place. That was if he was even still on his ship.

"Where are we?"

His confusion amused her. "I repeat my earlier question." Her voice coaxed in a low tone as sinuous as the moving coils of a snake. Had she bitten him already? Filled him with her slow acting poison or was the venom only for show? A more subtle way of killing him? He shook his head and the room solidified around him again. Zoe staring at him, the anxiety in her eyes bringing him to attention quicker than the words now flowing from the woman. "I need your answer, Captain. My brother told me he trusted you. That you would come for him. Bring him home. If you refuse you must do so now and we will leave."

He blinked. Stunned. Hurt beyond the telling that she would think he could even do that. "*Bu qu*, I'll do it, that ain't the problem."

His tongue felt thick, thoughts woolley, mouth full of cotton wool. What was wrong with him? Zoe's voice put foundation back beneath his feet. "Sir?"

Mal managed to break eye contact with Shen Ling and look at his second. "Yeah?"

"*Wo keyi gen ni tan yixia ma*?"

He was about to nod and tell her to go ahead but the look in Zoe's eyes made it clear she wanted that word in private. The Captain looked at Shen Ling. "You'll excuse us a moment?"

Not waiting for the woman to agree he stepped outside, Zoe close to him as any shadow. The others looked part confused and part alarmed. Zoe didn't like intervening but neither did she like the thought of them rushing off to rescue the Captain's friend only to find it was something else entirely. She moved him along the catwalk until they were well out of earshot of the commons room. Wouldn't help if the folk she was wary of overheard their little conversation. "I don't trust her, Mal."

He did not react to the use of his first name. Something she only did when she needed to anchor him. "Zoe, *wo bu xinren tamen* either but you heard what she said. It's Chung-li."

"That's the point, isn't it? We've no proof that a word she says is true. Plus, they don't exactly share the family genes do they, sir?" A tight little smile paid a fleeting visit to his lips, mind bright with memories. The solid comforting bulk of his friend smiling gently in his mind's eye. An image incongruous with their current dilemna and no way reminiscent of the beautiful willowy figure of Shen Ling. Outwardly she was all beauty and grace but Cheng-li's grace came from within. The two as diametrically opposed as light and dark, night and day. As different as yin and yang but were they complimentary? Two halves or two opposites? Then he was all grim consideration. "What if it is Chung-li? What if those gorram feds have him an'..."

"Feds, sir? I didn't hear anythin' about feds. Did I miss a conversation?"

Mal was flustered for a moment then huffed. "Fine, maybe not feds, but who else would have him?"

"What about Cyrus White?"

"I thought about that but if it was him why wait this long? An' why go for Chung-li? His quarrel's with Rafe. It don't make sense."

"Maybe he couldn't get to Rafe. You did say White was a patient man, sir."

"That was what Thomas said, somethin' about the politician thing. It was how he made that whole land grab thing so nice an' legal. I said he was a lyin' cheatin' *tamade hundan*..."

"Must be fancy core speak." Zoe muttered.

He scowled. Irritated by the calculated flippancy even as it brought his mind back to the matter at hand. "I can't not do this, Zoe. You know that don't you?" The sigh was heavy. Reluctant and pained. Now her face reflected the worry she would not show in front of their unwelcome guests. "*Wo zhidao* but I don't like this an' don't trust them. There's a whole lot not bein' said, Mal. *Women xuyao yige jihua*."

He nodded, knowing she was worried as he was. "I know but I have a plan."

If anything she looked more worried now than ever. "A Plan?"

His smile just notched the worry up a level or two. "Not nothin' for you to worry about, Zoe. Far as I can tell Shen Ling needs me to go get her brother. Simple transport job, what could go wrong?"

Zoe's eyes narrowed, her look hardening. How often would those words come back to haunt her? The blaze of his smile was like the flash of lightening blinding her just before the coming storm.

* * * * *

Simon Tam couldn't help it, he was more than uncomfortable. River turned a soft radiant smile on him and for just a moment time stood still. His heart lurched with emotion, overcome by his love for her. The planets stopped in their orbits. Whole worlds held their breath.

"It's perfect, Simon."

The doctor looked as if he had swallowed a lemon. "*Mei you dongxi shi wanmei*."

Forgotten on his bunk Jayne Cobb sat up. "Huh, not my crazy idea."

River smiled at Jayne then tilted her head at her brother. As if the answer was obvious. "They won't look here. Quarantine."

Jayne began to look worried. "Quaran - what? I ain't contagious."

"Well yes, as a matter of fact you are Jayne, just not..." He waved his hand between River and himself then realised what he was doing and dropped his hand. "I mean, you have to have physical contact. Intimate physical contact to... you know... pass anything on."

The mercenary looked stuck between anger and horror. "I still think this is a dumb idea."

"We just have to hide out a little longer."

Jayne and Simon exchanged a look over River's head and for one frightening moment the same worried thought was going through both minds.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *baichi* = idiot *qu* = yes (lit. go) *dong ma* = understand? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wo keyi gen ni tan yixia ma* = can I have a word with you? *wo bu xinren tamen* = I don't trust them *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *wo zhidao* = I know *women xuyao yige jihua* = we need a plan *mei you dongxi shi wanmei* = nothing is perfect


Monday, September 19, 2005 7:45 AM


LOL at Zoe being more - rather than less - worried to hear Mal has a plan! Hee!

And the quarantine arrangement? ;-) Delightful!


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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.