TEMPTATION SERIES: 23. "Path of the Vulture"
Sunday, September 25, 2005

"Inara tries to decipher the words of a 16th Century verse from Earth-That-Was convinced it hides a message. Meanwhile the crew of Serenity embark on a reluctant rescue mission."



SUMMARY: "Inara tries to decipher the words of a 16th Century verse from Earth-That-Was convinced it hides a message. Meanwhile the crew of Serenity embark on a reluctant rescue mission." 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 words rolled off Inara's tongue with all the quality and flavour of a fine wine.

"Cuando mas alto subia, Deslumbroseme la vista, Y la mas fuerte conquista En escuro se hacia; Mas por ser de amor el lance Di un ciego y oscuro salto, Y fui tan alto, tan alto, Que le di a la caza alcance."

The romantic writings of St John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic, flowed through her mind and transcribed themselves into the walls of her heart. Food for the soul.

"The more I rose into the height More dazzled, blind and lost I spun, The greatest conquest ever won I won in blindness, like the night. Because love urged me on my way To make that mad, blind, reckless leap That soared me up so high and steep That in the end I siezed my prey."

Heart skipping a beat the Companion forced herself to read it not once but over and over again as if somewhere in the repetition the meaning would crystalise. The rising into the height could mean the Black, hitting atmo, but why 'dazzled, blind and lost'? And if 'the greatest conquest every won' was the 'prey' that meant it wasn't love but something else. Inara knew the answer was staring her straight in the face, all she had to do was see it.

* * * * *

"This is a bad idea. No scratch that Mal, this is *terrible* idea." Said Wash masking his depth of concern with not so funny humour. "What made you think of goin' along with that woman's plan?" The pause was not long enough for the Captain to have answered if he wanted to but was enough to underline the point the pilot was making. "Oh, I forgot!" Wash threw his hands in the air. "You *weren't* thinkin' were you?"

The Captain looked like he had swallowed a lemon but the angry retort Wash had been expecting didn't come. And that worried him too because it meant the Captain knew how *yuchun* this was and was still going to do it. Wash wondered why he bothered but he knew why, because wherever the Captain went Zoe would follow. *Diyu*, Mal wouldn't even have to ask her.

"*Wo bu zaihu*, Wash, I have to go."

It was just him, Mal and Zoe on Serenity's bridge. Wash was glad that the Captain had left Chung-li's creepy sister and henchmen in the commons area but nothing about this felt right. He looked at Zoe but she wasn't saying anything. "Am I the only one not happy with this?"

"Never said I was happy with it, Wash." Said the Captain tightly. His tone solemn. "But I can't walk away not when Chung-li needs me."

"We only have her word for it that he's even in trouble, Cap'n."

Mal flashed Wash an annoyed look. Zoe watched and listened, her concentration honed in on what Mal was not putting into words. His body language raising the hair on the back of her neck. "Not havin' that conversation, Wash. Way it's explained you won't have to land just bring Serenity in orbit. I'll go down in the spare shuttle with Shen Ling an' her boys. If this ain't what it seems no sense in all of us getting caught in somethin' we can't fight our way out of."

His response prompted a dark response from his second. "Don't like it, sir."

The Captain didn't sugar coat the pill. "I'm all aware no one likes this plan. *Diyu* I don't like it my own self but I ain't leavin' a friend rottin' in no *jianyu, dong ma?*"

Her lips compressed into a thin line. The Captain wouldn't be the Captain if he didn't think like that but going down with just Shen Ling and her men was not an option Zoe could accept. "If we're gonna do this best we all go, sir."

Mal shook his head. Adamant now. He knew she was thinking safety in numbers but wasn't prepared to gamble with anyone else's life. He didn't trust their new employer but he couldn't deny the debt he owed her brother. *If* Chung-li was her brother. The woman had imparted more than a few personal details that only someone close to the Chinaman would have known but even if he had solid proof she was lying through her back teeth Mal would have gone. Chung-li was in trouble, needed him, and not no way would he leave a man behind. "Shen Ling said that wouldn't be necessary. I'll go down with them, maybe take Book if the Preacher's a mind to go, speakin' of which where is he?"

Zoe and Wash exchanged a look. Wash began to frown. "I haven't seen Book since he showed them around."

"Perhaps he's helpin' Kaylee?" Said Zoe, though the tone of her voice made it sound like she didn't believe it. The Captain's expression got a little grimmer.

"Wash, set course best speed. Sooner we get where we're goin' the sooner we complete this job an' get back in the Black, *dong ma*?"

The Captain decided he would go find the Shepherd his own self and had just reached the hatch when Zoe's words forestalled him. "What about Jayne?"

"You really want the two of us coming back with a dose, Zoe? I seen the pain doc put him through curin' that little ailment an' I ain't in no way masochistic enough to risk that."

Despite the situation a quirky smile tugged at Zoe's lips. "I don't think you can catch it that way, sir. Simon said somethin' about *intimate* contact..." Mal waved his hands around his ears. "Whoah, way too much information. Jayne stays in his bunk 'til the doc gives the all clear."

"What if he doesn't?" Asked Wash.

The Captain shot him a *don't you know when to shut up* look. "Then he stays a mite longer."

They watched the Captain leave then Zoe put a hand on her husband's shoulder and kissed his cheek. "You shouldn't push him, *bao bei*."

"I know, it was just funny."

* * * * *

Chung-li knew he was in a tough spot but it did not worry him. You had to get in really close to draw the fangs of the serpent so that his venom could not kill you. The pain was little more than a minor distraction. The chains a sop to lull the enemy into a false sense of security. He could tell that his calm acceptance was annoying his captor. Knew the man wanted to make him scream and cry out in agony, to twist in the delerium of a pain he could not control nor vanquish. But Chung-li was a master of mind and body - a spiritual warrior - and this pale echo of evil, while terrible enough, was not quite the expert he claimed.

Even as the knife came closer in the harsh light, Chung-li did not flinch. He knew he would not be killed. They were toying with him. While every one of them waited for the main event.

* * * * *

He found her in the engine room, grease and oil spotted her face. Her hair ruffled, her face sweaty. For a moment Mal watched his mechanic at work, a smile of affection easing the burden on his heart. Some instinct told her he was there. "Hey, Cap'n."

The Captain smirked as she slid out from under the engine housing and couldn't resist wiping the smudge off her nose with his thumb as she got to her feet, dirty rag wiping the worst of the grease off her hands. "How's my girl?"

She smiled up at him. "She'll do fine, Cap'n, engine's practically purrin'. Long as you don't want a fast burn over a long haul she'll out perform any ship in her class an' some as think they're better on'y we both know they ain't."

Mal laughed and drew her into a hug, rocking back on his heels as he drew her close. "I was talkin' about you, *mei mei*." He dropped a kiss on the top of her head, arms wrapped protectively around her. "How're you doin'? Seems everyone else got a ton of unhelpful advice for their Cap'n, how about you?"

Her smile faltered slightly then like the sun breaking through cloud she dazzled him. If he could bottle her faith in him then he swore he'd be gorram bullet proof. Wished sometimes he was just for her sake. Girl worried way too much and at times that troubled him. "Reckon you know what you're doin'." That amused the Captain, his arms tightening just a fraction as if to shield her from all the unpleasant things in the 'verse only he knew he couldn't. Releasing her he glanced around. "Was wonderin' what happened to the Shepherd." His eyes came back to rest on her. "You seen him?"

She shook her head.

The Captain tried to hide the unsettled feeling stirring in his gut. "Well best I go find him. You stay here and do whatever Wash asks, *dong ma*?"

Mal looked everywhere he could think of but there was no sign of Book. For a moment he toyed with going to check on Jayne then figured that must be where his missing Preacher had gone. Would be just like the man to want to keep a weathered eye on the mercenary. He was but a dozen paces from Jayne's bunk when Manning came and found him. "Cap'n? It's time."

With a nod he followed the man back to the commons area and told himself that this was the best way. The Captain would not endanger his crew and if Shen Ling was right about this not needing a strong force of arms it would be straight in and out. Hardly worth working himself into a sweat over. Before Zoe had a chance to pin his ears back they'd be back with Chung-li. Easy. What could go wrong?

* * * * *

Even though Zoe knew why Mal wouldn't take her with him she was quietly seething. Wash felt inordinately relieved and happy, his arms snaking round his wife's waist to hold her as they watched the spare shuttle detach and head for the planet below. Zoe's voice sounded oddly small to his ear. "Did I tell you I don't like this plan?"

Wash nodded, silent and quietly jubilant though he knew that would not last. His eyes big and round but watchful as he monitored the little craft's descent. More grateful that he could put into words that Mal wasn't putting his wife and unborn child into danger but not so happy with his wife's response. The Captain might be thinking to go without her but it would take more than an order or two for her to leave him behind. Reluctantly Wash had agreed with her decision, not having it in him to oppose her. Besides, she had made a good case and he couldn't deny it was a sounder plan than the Captain's. He glanced at his beautiful but deadly wife though that did not stop him worrying about her. "You know what to do."

Zoe nodded, kissed him, then hurried off the bridge, her steps just short of a run. Simon opened Jayne's hatch with relief and looked up at Zoe's grim expression. "I really don't think this is going to work..."

She cut him off. "Not much carin' what you think, doctor. We're doin' this."

Simon climbed out, River just a step behind him. Her face bright and eager as if going on a Summer outing. Behind them Jayne was muttering and cursing. "I wanna come, you know I'm the best gorram shot."

"Jayne," Zoe leaned down into the hatchway. "Someone needs to stay with Serenity in case Shen Ling and her people have anythin' planned for the ship. A back-up plan's no good if it gets compromised before we can pull it off, *dong ma*?"

"Yeah, but I ain't pregnant."

Zoe huffed, River put a hand over her mouth and Simon smiled then shook his head. Crazy. This was what his life had become. "Just get yourself up to the bridge an' monitor the com otherwise fatherin' children'll be the last of your worries. Remember, unless you hear from Inara, the Cap'n or me you keep strict radio silence, *dong ma*?"

They could hear his mumbling and grumbling as the mercenary stomped up the ladder. "Yeah, I heard. Ain't deaf."

Zoe was about to follow Jayne when River tugged urgently at her sleeve. Pausing, Zoe frowned at her wondering what was wrong now but River did not say anything. Simon shrugged, he didn't know either but automatically hurried after his sister. Zoe followed then skidded to an abrupt halt when Simon stopped suddenly. Frowning she peered over his shoulder as the doctor dropped to his knees. A couple of feet in front of Simon was River, the girl kneeling on the metal deck plates, her fingers curling through the holes of a metal grill. Seeing what she intended Simon immediately began to help, nearly dropping the grill when a distinctive fuzzy head of grey hair lifted into view. Zoe was all kinds of alarmed to see Shepherd Book's face staring up at her, duct tape fastened over his mouth and congealed blood down the left side of his face.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*yuchun* = stupid *diyu* = hell *wo bu zaihu* = I don't care *jianyu* = prison *dong ma* = understand? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *mei mei* = little sister


Thursday, September 29, 2005 8:34 AM


Whoo! River to the rescue.

Lovely exchanges between Wash and Zoe in this chapter. And between Mal and Kaylee. All those lovely little touches of warmth that brightened up the series.

As always, I'm left with a vague sense of foreboding ...

Sunday, August 29, 2010 6:53 AM


Ooops, my bad. I seem to have skipped in my chapter numbering. There is no missing chapter, if you look at the top of the story heading you will see that this chapter is the sequel to "One Just Man" which is chapter 22. Bear with me as I have been off the site for many months now but I will go through all the chapters to adjust the chapter numbers, the entire series thus covering 49 not 50 chapters. Thank you for waving me with the error. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Thursday, November 3, 2011 9:35 AM


Oooo shiny!!! Sorry for not reviewing the other chapters individually, barely had time to read them!!! So happy for Zoe/Wash!^.^ And I'm totally loving all the Simon/Kaylee! I loved his "unless someone is dying- get out." a couple of chapters agoXD So glad they're married!:D and GREAT job on the Mal/Kaylee siblingish relationship!! That was one of my Faveieiye parts of the show:D this whole story is just gorram shiny!!! But that's all of your stories.:D I just like pointing out the obvious I guess:D


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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.