TEMPTATION SERIES: 40. "The Root of all Evil"
Tuesday, December 6, 2005

"Shepherd Book discusses his concern with Jayne. River confides in Simon. The Captain is determined to go with Chung-li."



SUMMARY "Shepherd Book discusses his concern with Jayne. River confides in Simon. The Captain is determined to go with Chung-li." 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

* * * * *

Jayne looked up at the Preacher's words, smoothly sliding Binky back into its' shealth. The knife edge honed to a beautiful razor sharpness that made him feel a spark of pride. He always lavished great care on his weapons. Man had to treat them with respect when his life and that of those he cared about might need protecting. Didn't matter a good gorram if it was a tiny little lady like pea shooter or a masterful peace of deadly like his Vera, a man who didn't look after his weaponry was already dead. The news just hadn't yet reached his brain.

"Ya gonna tell me what's wrong?"

The Shepherd grunted softly, the weight bar being lifted and lowered with more care as he began to tire, yet he looked so gorram determined that Jayne wondered if he would even know when to stop. "What makes you think anything is *cuode*?"

"May not know everythin' 'bout ya but I know when somethin's on yer mind."

As if conceding defeat the Shepherd set the bar on the cradle and just looked up at the mercenary for a minute. "Chung-li wants to go to Hope."

Jayne frowned not seeing the problem. "An' that's a bad thing why?"

"Says he's lookin' for answers." Book sat up and wiped the perspiration from his face with a towel.

"If the man wants to go why ya frettin?"

"Because he's the Captain's friend."

Now the mercenary looked baffled. "Huh? What the *diyu* ya talkin' about?"

"Jayne, the man wants to go looking for answers, *dong ma*? He's burning with a need to find out who was behind what happened on Glory."

"Then why's he goin' to Hope? Don't make sense."

"Not to you and me perhaps but Chung-li is a pretty shrewd man."

"Meanin' what exactly?"

"Meaning he either knows or suspects something."

For a moment Jayne just looked at Book, the wheels in his head turning slowly but surely. "Well good! I hope he finds 'em an' strings 'em up. Men that'd do such a thing should die real slow."

"Jayne, my worry is that whatever Chung-li gets into he's gonna drag us in with him."

"I ain't afraid of a fight an' I know you ain't either so why ya worried?"

"Whoever burnt Glory to the ground is either very powerful or has powerful friends."

"What ya thinkin'?"


The mercenary straightened, the first sign of disquiet shadowing his face. "Alliance? What them *tamade hundan* want with Rafe an' his folks?"

Shepherd Book shook his head slowly, every inch of him feeling sad. "*Wo bu zhidao* but where Chung-li goes the Captain is bound to follow which means so will we."

"Like I said ain't afraid of a fight."

"*Wo zhidao* but we have those on board that are still wanted by the Alliance. In fact I don't think anyone aboard this ship wants the Alliance looking at us too closely."

"Hope ain't Alliance."

"Wasn't, Jayne. Past tense."

Jayne blinked. "Huh?"

"Do you remember the last time we went to Glory, or rather, the Captain did?"

It took him a moment but then the mercenary caught on. "Sarah."

The Shepherd nodded sadly. It had followed one of the shiniest Christmases Serenity's crew had ever had. The only thing that had warmed his heart more had been seeing their stern and solemn Captain fall in love. That it had all ended so tragically was another reason to avoid Hope. How misnamed could a gorram planet be anyway? But that was beside the point now. "You said the planet isn't Alliance but I checked on the cortex. All those years Hope managed to stay under Alliance radar are long gone, Jayne. The Alliance never noticed it before but they have reason to now. And they're meanin' to stay."


Book sighed, feeling the weight of his years like a dull ache in his bones. "A couple of years ago they found gold on Hope. The resulting free-for-all ended in an impressive amount of bloodshed, the rule of law reinstated so harshly it had Alliance fingerprints all over it."

Jayne Cobb's eyes widened and went round as saucers. His face lighting up with happy possibilities. Dying rich was always better than dying poor. "Gold? What in *diyu's* wrong with that?"

"*Zhe shi xingshi geng fuza le*, Jayne."

"Don't see how." Said Jayne grinning. "First smart thing Mal's done in a long time."

"While the gold might be tempting the Alliance garrison isn't. Within ten more years Hope won't look or feel any different from any Core world. The Alliance'll have the whole place sewn so tight you won't be able to breathe without a permit."

Sense percolated slowly through Jayne's shiny little daydream of obscene wealth. "If that's so Cap'll just drop Chung-li off an' we can go on our merry though it'd be a sin to leave all that gold in Alliance hands. I'm thinkin' we should liberate some of it..."

"There's a drawback, Jayne. You have to be alive to spend it."

A scowl darkened Jayne's face. "I ain't plannin' on dyin'."

"The graveyards of every world that ever was are filled with people who shared that thought. I don't want any of us to be joining them."

There was a long pause then Jayne and Book exchanged positions, the mercenary laying back and looking up at the bar while Book got ready to spot him. As Jayne flexed his hands around the bar and adjusted his grip he cut through to the chase. "What we gonna do?"

"Find an alternative but first we need to talk to Chung-li."

"What good's that gonna do but slow us down?"

"We can't hope to come up with a better plan until we know the ins an' outs of this one, Jayne."

"Huh." Jayne lifted, locked his elbows, then lowered the bar nice and slow. On his next breath he lifted it again. "I say we just drop the Chinaman off then hit atmo." Jayne gave the Shepherd a grin as he easily lifted the bar for a third time. Just getting into his stride but unable to hide the glitter of want in his eyes. "*After* we get the gold!"

* * * * *

Inara Serra could not find words for the happiness and peace that infused every pore of her being as she held the baby. Jack was so perfect. Precious. Quiet and biddable unless he was hurting, anxious or hungry. Cradling him in her arms a little smile bowed her lips. If only the rest of Serenity's crew could be so wise. He was gaining weight daily, his light bronze skin aglow with health and vitality, those eyes dark brown like his mother's but the shock of hair was pure Wash. Inara just knew Wash had been pretty much a mirror image when he was a child. It amused her to imagine what Zoe must have been like then her smile faltered. Maybe she was wrong. To assume the woman she now knew had always been so hard, unyielding, stoic and brave. As a child what had Zoe been like? Inara looked down into Jack's wide open eyes and wondering whether Wash and Zoe had more in common at birth than they ever would have as adults.

Shaking herself out of such thoughts she watched the look on the baby's face darken as he strained and knew the signs. Laughing she lifted her up and looked him in the eye. "I think it's time somebody had a change of nappy, don't you?"

Baby Jack gurgled happily and waved his arms, his curly blonde hair framing a face full of content and good nature. Inara wanted to cherish these moments of innocent because life in the Black would not allow the growing child to keep them for long. As she rose gracefully to her feet someone knocked on the door. Turning, Inara saw Kaylee enter so sedately she wondered what was wrong. Kaylee flashed her a smile which widened as her eyes lit on the baby.

"Thought I'd come an' see if ya wanted a hand with Jack."

Inara smiled, a little spark of mischief twinkling in her eyes but hidden quickly as Kaylee turned her gaze from the baby to her friend. "*Duome hao de zhuyi a!*" Inara handed the baby to Kaylee then waited a moment, all the while edging carefully towards the door of the shuttle. Only when Kaylee noticed she was backing away did Inara confess. "I think he needs changing."

Before Kaylee could say anything Inara had the door open and ducked out. The last flash of her smile softening the way in which she had dumped the chore on the mechanic. Not that Kaylee minded. She came from a big sprawling loving family. More kids than critters on her mama's land. Chuckling Kaylee turned all her attention back to the baby. "Huh, guess that just leaves you an' me, Jack."

Everything was going fine until Kaylee took off the nappy. As the pungent aroma and reek rose up and filled her nostrils Kaylee gagged. She only had time to turn her head, the last of her stomach's contents narrowly missing the baby. Seemed like Inara's shuttle was being redecorated too.

* * * * *

Decision made, the Captain went searching for River but she wasn't in her bunk. His neither. Turning to make his way to the common room he ran into Shepherd Book. The serious and determined look on his face telling Mal in no uncertain terms that he wanted to talk to him and would not take no, go away, or get in line as an answer. With a nod the Captain bowed to the inevitable.

In the infirmary Simon informed River he would have to put her under. River nodded, her eyes trying to reassure her brother but her words undoing that intention. "Just don't want to drown, Simon."

"You won't drown." Murmured Simon, one hand gently brushing her hair back.

The intent look in his eyes began to fade and swim before her until River closed her eyes. Felt the water closing in over her head and took a long slow breath to last for the journey. Only the journey didn't stop. It had only just begun.

* * * * *

Mal looked around him in surprise. For some reason he had expected the room to be empty. Inara finished making her tea and took a seat next to Chung-li. Jayne preferred to lean against a cupboard, looking like some big lazy cat only the Captain knew different. Knew how quick the man could move when he was a mind to and how much he took in when he was focused on something. Zoe walked in behind him seconds later making Mal think this gorram meeting must have been preplanned. He should have been annoyed but didn't have the time. At least Wash and Kaylee were staying at their posts which was something. Didn't hurt neither that Simon and River weren't present. Probably a good thing to say something anyway. Wash reckoned they would arrive at Hope within the next six hours.

"Some of you may have noticed we've made a change in course." He paused, no one spoke. Mal was not sure if that was a good or a bad thing. His stance stiffened slightly. "We're goin' to Hope." As Jayne opened his mouth the Captain held a hand up. "Not yet. You can ask all your questions an' some such afterwards, *dong ma*? This ain't a discussion, this is for your information. Not nobody bein' asked to go some place nor do somethin' just me an' Chung-li." The Captain straightened as if stretching his spine and bracing for a chorus of disapproval. "Chung-li thinks there might be somethin' at Hope might explain what happened on Glory. Now, I in no way got such an idea my own self but not gonna let him go alone. 'Sides, I got a powerful need to find out my own self but that don't make it crew business. Crew business is keepin' this boat ship-shape an' shiny which means gettin' her fueled up, supplies replenished an' so on. Not nobody gonna go wanderin' off. This ain't no sight seeing trip."


Mal bit back a sigh and gave the Shepherd a grim little nod.

"You may not have noticed but Hope has changed."

He blinked. "*Zhe shi shenme*? Changed, how?"

It was Inara who answered. "It's Alliance now, Mal."

"*Shenme*? When did this happen?"

Zoe could understand his confusion, she felt it too. But more than that how come Inara, Book and even Jayne seemed to know when they didn't?

"They found GOLD!" Said Jayne, turning the last word into a greedy leer as if that explained everything, his eyes big and round and glittering as if he could feel it in his hands.

"Seems like they found stupid." Muttered the Captain not liking how the mere thought of the word was affecting his mercenary. Mal looked at the Preacher. "How'd you know about this, Shepherd?"

"A man hears things."

That caused a raised eyebrow. "An' you never thought to mention this to your Cap'n?"

"I thought I just did."

Oh, the man was smooth. Mal's eyes narrowed. "I'm thinkin' more information would be a good thing."

So Shepherd Book did that. He explained how some tin miners had settled on Hope. Seemed old tin miners never died they just looked for somewhere else to sink a shaft. One of the shafts had found something none of the miners expected. Gold! Word got out even before the ore did and within a ridiculously short space of time people were coming in from every gorram where, fights were common and lawlessness pretty much widespread. The Alliance got word of the trouble on Hope and sent troops to sort it out and sort it out they did. A look of grave sorrow stole across the Preacher's face. "I don't have to tell you how the Alliance restored control. After that a lot of folk left Hope, not wanting to share their homeworld with an Alliance garrison more mindful about what was under their feet than the folks settled on it." He paused and just stared at the Captain. "They say like breeds like, Captain."

Mal didn't like the unspoken inference but decided to ignore it for now. He glanced at Chung-li. "This gonna be a problem?"

The big man rose slowly. It was odd to Mal now he came to think about it how Chung-li seemed so large and blocky - but in a good, not fat, kind of way - yet when he moved he was all grace, a fluid motion of limbs that belied his size. Should have been incongruent but it wasn't. Made him remember how the man had moved in that rutting cell when he was being tortured, pulled the gorram ring out of the wall to get to the guards that held him. Took a bullet or two and a beating before he went down. Yet there were so many things Mal did not know about the man he called friend. Things that evaporated into insignificance next to the bond of brotherhood that had formed between them. He would trust this man with his life and more than that. He would trust the lives of his crew to Chung-li in a heartbet. Only he had no notion to test that theory in the Here and Now. They had enemies a-plenty without bringing his crew into those high tech cross hairs. Not nobody gonna touch his crew and live.

"*Bu qu*, wode pengyou*, but we will need to blend in."

At the uncertain looks being sent his way the Captain shot an offended look back. Who was the gorram Captain of this boat anyway? "*Wei*! I can blend in."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*cuode* = wrong *diyu* = hell *dong ma* = understand? *weishenme* = why *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *wo zhidao* = I know *shenme* = what *zhe shi xingshi geng fuza le* = this has further complicated the situation *wei* = hey *duome hai de zhugyi a!* = what a good idea! *zhe shi shenme* = what's this? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wode pengyou* = my friend *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard


Tuesday, December 6, 2005 11:27 PM


Ooh. Nice developments. And - eeks! - Sarah. OMG. What will River do, I wonder?

Loved the Jayne and Book scene. They're such a great team, the way you write them.

And I laughed at Mal's "Seems like they found stupid." Very Mal.


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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.