Tuesday, January 20, 2004

All the threads of the tapestry are drawing together. With the Captain's life hanging in the balance secrets have a way of leaking out."


TITLE: "DAWN" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: R for some torture sequences. STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "THE DARKEST HOUR" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE:

SUMMARY: "All the threads of the tapestry are drawing together. With the Captain's life hanging in the balance secrets have a habit of leaking out." 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.


A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

"I don't understand how you know where to go!"

Everybody stared at Jubal Fox but River was ignoring him. Sheriff Bowman tried to sidetrack him, irritated by the man's poor sense of timing. "Does it matter how?"

Jubal spun round and gave him a really hostile look. "I've been patient with you Sheriff but I have to say I'm getting more than a mite suspicious with you and your little band of thieves." The temperature on the bridge dropped suddenly way below freezing. Wash was following River's instructions to the letter, trying to hide his alarm at the rising tension behind him. Zoe turned to face the protagonists, determined that if it all went to *diyu* Wash would not get hurt. Everybody else could take their gorram chances. She had just about had enough of the snidey supercilious *justice department* man. In fact, she found it hard to believe that he was on the side of the law in the first place. As for that sidekick of his - Mickey Grey - he just looked and acted like a hired thug. Neither one of them sat well with her and she knew Jayne was fed up with the pair of them.

"I suggest you get off this bridge now." Said the Sheriff tightly. Deputy Andy Crowther was standing just outside the doorway, his body language tensing in case things got ugly.

"I have jurisdiction..."

The Sheriff suddenly snapped, stepping right into the man's personal space and glaring angrily up at him. "You have *squat*. Ain't no badge you're wearing and any contact you've had with justice was the wrong side of right and wrong."

Jubal's voice turned to ice. Slow, dark, cold and menacing. "You forget who you're meddling with, Bowman."

"How can I forget when every time I take a breath I can smell your stench?"

Zoe had rarely seen a draw quite like it. As smooth surely as the Captain's but with the economy of movement that bespoke a whole lot more practice than a law abiding citizen could count for. But he never got to draw a bead on the Sheriff. Soft on his feet when he wanted to be, Jayne had snuck up behind Jubal having heard the building commotion and come to see what the fuss was all about. He sized it up in a heartbeat and shoved Vera under Jubal's left ear, the mercenary peeling back his lips as he told the *yuchen wangba dan* his fortune. Zoe smirked. She couldn't help it but the *ben dan* had it coming to him - with bells on.

A scuffle on the walkway outside made her narrow her eyes to try to see what was going on. Jayne never shifted his focus which told her that whatever was happening it was no threat to any of them. After a few moments Simon's voice drifted in to them. "It's okay, our friend's associate was getting ready to shoot you in the back, Jayne."

"Huh," Snarled Jayne in Jubal's ear. "Now that don't sound very lawman like."

"You'll regret getting involved in this I promise you."

"Are you threatin' me ya sack of *goushi buru*?"

Jubal spat the words out with venom. "Just telling you your fortune."

Before anyone could say anything, Jayne spun the man round and half shoved, half dragged him off along the catwalk and down the metal stairs. Wash could hear Jayne ordering Simon to bring the other one. He was tempted to look back and watch to see what happened but River tapped his arm and pointed forward. "No looking back, no time."

He nodded, not wanting any action of his to tip River back into full crazy mode. She was their best chance of finding the Captain and he didn't want to screw it up. She looked worried but calm, an odd combination on her pale face. "How do we know this is the right way, River?"

"*Wo zhidao*." She paused, her focus drifting. "Saw him," She murmured. "Too much pain."

Zoe's face paled. "Is he alright?"

River turned her head and looked at Zoe. "Have to hurry. *Mashang*. Two by two, hands of blue."

Zoe thought she was having another episode. "River you have to stay focused, *dong ma*?"

"Am focused. He hears me but he can't speak. I see him but can't touch. He won't tell and they won't let him go."

Just then there was a commotion but they couldn't see what was happening. Before Zoe could get to the door the Sheriff stepped back onto the bridge his face white. They all heard a hiss and a dull clang. All the shouting had stopped.

"What was that?" Asked Zoe.

"Fox and Grey won't be givin' us no more trouble."

She raised her eyebrows. "You don't mean...?"

He swallowed and was joined by a very pale looking Deputy. Zoe thought he looked like he wanted to throw up. "Your mercenary threw them out the bay door."

"*Wode ma*, we're about to hit atmo." Said Wash, stunned.

The Sheriff's face was grim but he did not look entirely sorry. "Not all of us."

Zoe opened her mouth then closed it again without speaking. The Sheriff turned and left the bridge, his wound aching something fearsome. Without a word Deputy Crowther followed him out. All of a sudden he had seen more space than he wanted to and the great black maw of it visible from the bridge was turning his insides a colour to match his face.

Without turning her head River spoke. "Bad men."

Wash exchanged a look with Zoe. "Who, sweetie?"

She looked at Wash calmly. "Pretended to be working for the law not against it but the truth always trips you up in the end."

"I thought there was something suspicious about those two."

Zoe was frowning. "Those two aren't the problem, *zhangfu*."

"They aren't?"

"No, *bao bei*. I'm more worried about who sent them."

River turned to give them her sweetest smile. "Don't be. Thinks he has all the cards, all the pieces on the board, but everybody knows if you try to grab everything at once you're bound to drop something."


She turned her face away and stared out into the Black. "Not my *mimi* to tell."

Wash looked at his wife. "You any idea what she's talking about, *xin gan*?"

"No, but I have a feeling we're gonna to find out real soon."

* * * * *

The tears were few when she left him. The old man watched the shuttle take off, prayed she would be back safe and sound. He stood alone on the mountain top until he could no longer see it and long after the sound of her engines had faded away. Then he retraced his steps back to the hidden caves. To many benighted souls who counted on him to ease their suffering. The Companion Raisa lifted her head and gave him a gentle smile. In that moment, with the fading light throwing weak rays across her weathered face he was minded of the beauty she had once been. It lay in that smile. That curve of caring lips that carried so many stories measured in a checkered past.

Yen Mah left Augusta with mixed feelings but a stout heart. Now she was free of the planet her new course was quickly set. She did not need to make for any specific planet just one not too closely aligned to the Alliance would do. As long as she could get to a cortex link that was all that mattered. Tapping the dial that read off the amount of fuel left she calculated she had just enough to make it to Venture. Further than that and she would be flying on fumes.

* * * * *

They were all tired, getting cranky and anxious. Only River seemed to be calm. Zoe had offered to give Wash a break but he insisted on staying at his post. Everybody else was now in the commons area. Inara was making tea, Shepherd Book appeared to be praying. River and Kaylee sat with their heads together. Not speaking so much as taking comfort from each other's proximity. Simon had finished seeing to the Sheriff's wound and had managed to make him a lot more comfortable. The pain killers had been a welcome relief as was having the wound properly dressed. He moved stiffly and was reprimanded lightly by Simon but that was all. Right now he could not settle to lie down or take his ease not knowing what the *diyu* the Captain had gotten himself into. That it was dire he had no doubt. The folks he was dealing with were the worst kind of gorram nightmare he could imagine. No way did he like to think of that young man in their hands. Everytime he glanced at River he was reminded just how high the price could be.

River looked up and stared at the Sheriff. "Not the same."

He started, not sure what she meant and fearing to ask.

"We're all puzzle pieces just from different pictures."

"Well," Said Jayne. "That was all kinds of enlightenin'."

Just then Wash's voice came over the com. "You might wanna get up here, we're receivin' a transmission."

Simon looked worried but River smiled and tugged on Kaylee's hands. The Sheriff sighed and looked at Inara as everybody proceded to the bridge. They were the last two to arrive. "You okay, Miss Serra? You look a mite pale."

She smiled kindly at him but he knew it for the mask it was. Could see her eyes fretting. "I'm fine, it's just been a long few weeks."

"That it has, m'am."

As they pressed through the doorway, the whole crew now crowded round the instrument console, Wash put the message through for everyone to see. The cortex link came up and as the logo faded it was replaced with Yen Mah's face. Kaylee gasped and squeezed River's hand, the Shepherd muttered something not from any bible, and Jayne looked torn between relief and annoyance. The girl's voice came through quick but firm, as if time was of the essence and she needed to get the message right first time. "Serenity this is Yen Mah, is River listening?"

Wash looked at River. "Yeah, go ahead Yen Mah."

"Not much time so listen not speak. Where you go?"

Wash told her. Yen Mah shook her head. "No, must go Venture very quick. *Mashang*."

The Preacher frowned. "What's at Venture?"

"Hey," Said Wash. "That was one of the planets on the necklace."

Yen Mah nodded, her moon face growing anxious. "*Dui*, not interrupt. Not time. You go, very very quick. Children, many many children."

Wash looked at River. Her directions had not mentioned Venture. River however nodded. "*Qu*."

"They come very quick, help on way. You go, take Sheriff."

Sheriff Bowman did not question the girl but nodded. Zoe's eyes narrowed with suspicion. Since when did the law take orders from a ten year old girl? And why did River just agree without argument?

"Not ten, eleven now." Corrected Yen Mah quickly over the link. Her next words were filled with urgency. "When Sheriff leave you go, quick to orbiting outpost."

"Outpost? What outpost?" Said Wash feeling more than a mite confused. What the *diyu* was going on? Nobody said anything about any outpost.

River put a hand on Wash's shoulder. "We have to reach the Captain."

"The Captain's on the outpost?" Asked Zoe, her heart skipping a beat. Inara held her breath and hung on to the door frame for support.

"Not yet but that where cruiser going." Yen Mah's speech became more and more truncated as her need to hurry them grew.

Wash was frowning. "What about you, Yen Mah? Where are you?"

"Not worry, I safe. You go, meet soon. *Kuai*!"

The transmission ended and for a moment there was a stunned silence. Wash looked at River. "I thought you said you knew where we had to go?" River nodded. "Then why are we changing destinations?"

"Because of the children." She said, eyes sad. They took on an unfocused look. "Captain wants us to get the children first."

Wash was about to ask how she knew that when the Sheriff cut in. "We don't have time for this, Wash. Trust us. Every moment we delay is a moment Mal doesn't have." That stilled any further discussion. River now so far out of it he doubted he would get even a semi coherent answer from her. The choices had already been made for them, he just hoped they were the right ones. That the Captain could hang on for just a little longer. Wash altered course and Kaylee ran off to the engine room to coax a little more speed out of Serenity. Everyone was on tender hooks. Zoe decided to press the Sheriff for more details as every attempt to get more out of River met with silence. It was more than a little disturbing and Zoe was in no mood to be patient. Inara felt faint but would not go to her shuttle. She needed to see what happened. The Shepherd gave her a gentle smile. "Why don't you stay here and I'll go and get us some tea?"

Inara nodded and sat in the spare chair. Wash thought she looked wrung out but then didn't they all? Zoe took the Sheriff out to the catwalk so they would at least have the illusion of privacy. "Okay, Sheriff, what the gorram is going on?"

He raised an eyebrow. Deputy Crowther watched them warily but a slight shake of the head from the Sheriff and he left them to it. He waited until his Deputy was out of earshot. "Don't know how much ya know an' don't care to guess so this is how it is. I been working for months on a child slave ring. Been close to crackin' it a time or two but it's difficult. Too many high powered folks with more money than God and less morals than a mosquito. Then some months back I met a girl. Right smart an' sharpest knife in the drawer. Had an inside track on some of the goin's on but not from first hand knowledge. Told me she *sees* things, could predict all kinds of weird stuff. After a time or two I was convinced. She went undercover, not my idea but then who listens to me these days? I'm just the Sheriff. Made a pact though that she had to stay in close touch, didn't want no dead child on my hands so she agreed. Wouldn't let me give her no Deputy neither, said she'd pick her own." He paused and smiled briefly, a look of amusement and wonder stealing over his face. "Picked your Cap'n, not sure how. Him bein' unconscious an' beat up at the time but she must'a had a vision about him or somesuch. I tried to find out as much as I could about him. How far he could be trusted but she was certain. Wouldn't take nobody else so I tried to stay close."

"You're talking about Yen Mah?" Said Zoe with a sense of shock.

He nodded. "That I am, smartest little lady I ever got call to work with."

Zoe's eyes narrowed. "Why did you pretend you didn't know each other?"

"Couldn't be sure yet who we was dealin' with tho' I liked your Cap'n first off I saw him. Couldn't give too much away though."

"What about Fox and Grey?"

"They ain't law, Zoe, an' that's a fact."

"What were you doin' with them?"

"Their top man, the *laoban*, is behind this child ring. Paedophilia an' child pornography just bein' the tip of the iceberg you might say. Got into his confidence, almost blew up in my gorram face on Shadow. Told Mal not to go but he's so gorram *wangu* an' wouldn't listen a lick to what I said. Had to get him outta there."

"That how you got shot?" She asked, mildly amazed at the near confession.

He gave a soft non-committal grunt. "Now we got a whole mix of stuff goin' down. The *laoban's* on to me. Yen Mah says he's gonna move the kids, off-world to some other hidey hole of his. We gotta move fast Zoe an' get there first."

Zoe's eyes widened. "How many children are we talking about?"

"Near on eighty."

"*Tianna*, eighty?"

"Uh huh, uses his wealth an' position to rubber stamp his dirty deeds. Most folks don't know he's behind it an' them as does are too frightened to go up against him. Some say he has the Alliance brass in his pocket but whoever he's payin' it ain't gonna stop him gettin' what's his due. He can run but I gotta make sure he can't hide."

* * * * *

Simon was worried. Since the transmission from Yen Mah, River had retreated into her own form of solitary confinement. It did not matter who was around her she shut them out. Eyes closed he could not tell if she were in pain, meditating, having one of her quieter turns or trying to concentrate really hard on something. Knowing River it could be all four. Wash shot him an anxious look. "She gonna be alright?"

Although he did not know Simon nodded. It was much the easiest way to stop the babble of concerned voices distracting him from helping his sister. Putting his arms around her he tried to coax her out of the bridge so he could take her to the infirmary. River's eyes suddenly sprang open and locked on his. He almost choked to see the tears in them, only held back by her strength of will. "No, Simon."

He settled on his knees beside her, arms loosely wrapped around her. His face pale and anxious, eyes trying to bore through hers to whatever it was that was troubling her. He assumed it was all this business with the children and the Captain but he wanted to be sure. To not miss something because he failed to look for more. "What is it, *mei mei*?"

She wanted to tell him, really she did, but she had to keep the thoughts locked away. Deep enough that others could not catch them. Even Simon. "Have to stay."

"Okay, we'll stay. Don't get upset."

He thought that was what was making her cry but it wasn't. She had been briefly outmannouvred but it didn't matter, not so long as she kept her focus and worked with the changes. It could all work out, it really could but she had to stay focused. Timing would be critical. Yen Mah could see things, predict future events. She could also read minds. Not as well or as often as River but enough for caution to be her watchword even with Simon. It was why she had to concentrate so hard. Not only to block out other questing minds but to keep a link open to the Captain. He was beginning to fade fast now and she feared any more delays could prove fatal but Yen Mah seemed to think they could do both. Drop off the Sheriff then high tail it as fast as Serenity could go to the outpost. River allowed herself to settle quietly in Simon's arms, closed her eyes and let her brother cradle her next to his heart, only vaguely aware of his whispered words of comfort as he gently rocked her.

Feigning sleep she opened her mind and sought him out, finding him quickly by the bright flare of pain shivering through his nervous system. With a jolt of her heart she found herself staring out of his eyes. Saw his tormentors. Felt his sorrow and his fear. All she had to give him was her emotions, nothing else travelled quite so well or hit the target so accurately. She swamped him with sensations, felt a kind of awe drift through all the pain and heartache. Numb senses reached for her like a drowning man reaching for driftwood. *I will be your liferaft, Mal. Cling to me*

*Don't cling* The thoughts stumbled trembling back through the tentative link she was forming. Her single minded determination making the connection stronger and somehow steadying his flagging heartbeat, cheating death by coaxing it to mirror her own rythym. Letting her carry him just this once across the void of death and dispair. *Might hold on a time or too but I never cling*

Her smile filled his heart. An aching sweetness that somehow loosened the fingers of agony sending bright fire through his tortured veins and giving him a sense of ease. A pause. A respite however brief for his clouding consciousness. She could tell his captors were baffled. Annoyed even. Her care for him was subtle, needing to avoid detection while giving him that lifeline. They were coming but even River did not now know if they would get to him in time.

* * * * *

Zoe was furious. Her anger knew no bounds. "You used us. Used the Captain!"

The Sheriff's face hardened, lips compressed into a tight line. "There was no other way, if there had'a been I'd'a taken it."

Zoe leaned in close to him, her expression set in hard grim lines. "If we lose the Captain I am personally going to kill you, *dong ma*?"

"Look, I know how it seems to you..."

"*Ni bu zhidao*!" She snapped. With an effort Zoe reined in her fury. Losing control was not what this was about. "How could you betray him?"

"Didn't betray nobody."

"You could have told him, at least he would have known what he was up against."

The Sheriff shook his head, a look of true regret creeping across a face that was quickly tiring. "No, I couldn't."

Her eyes narrowed further. What other nasty little secrets did the good Sheriff keep? "Why not?"

"Folks we're after are clever, Zoe."

"So are we. Don't count us out 'cause we're not core bred."

"Ain't that. They got all kinds of resources we don't have."

"What kind of resources?"

"Your mercenary spaced two of 'em."

She just stared at him, her look saying that *goushi buru wangba dans* like that didn't count. He bit back a weary sigh. Not needing to alienate Zoe any more than recent revelations had already done.

"Don't ya think I wanna get the Cap'n back as much as you? This is a lot bigger than either of us an' we gotta play this smart if we're gonna come outta of it, *dong ma*?"

"My first concern is the Captain, after that you can go straight to *diyu* and take all your ruttin' lies with you!"

"What lies?"

Neither of them had heard Jayne approach. The Sheriff said nothing, not sure how much the mercenary had overheard. Zoe had no such reservations. "The Sheriff here has been using the Captain and manipulating the rest of us."

A deep growl started in the back of Jayne's throat. Zoe blocked him from being able to actually put his hands on the Sheriff. "Knew I didn't trust ya."

"I ain't betrayin' no one, Jayne. Once we get to Venture you'll understand."

"An' the Cap?" Asked Jayne in a quiet dark voice. "Will he understand?"

Sheriff Bowman winced. Feeling weary and hurting more than a bullet wound could account for he felt himself flagging. "If ya wanna kill me fine, but let's get the children back an' the Cap'n safe first."

Jayne stared hard at him. Wanted to hate him but he couldn't. There was real pain and sorrow in the lawman's face and Jayne was sure the man really didn't want the Captain to die. He was puzzled by conflicting emotions which left him all kinds of confused. But that didn't mean he had to let down his guard. He glanced at Zoe, both of them coming to a kind of truce in that one look. Zoe stepped back but kept her eye on the Sheriff. "We'll keep our powder dry for now but remember what I said. We're watching you."

"Wouldn't have it any other way."

Zoe walked back towards the bridge but Jayne had not moved. The Sheriff would have to walk close to pass him on the catwalk. "Gotta tell ya this crew is like family. Won't let you hurt any of 'em, *dong ma*?"

"*Wo dong*. Not my intention, Jayne. We do this right we all get to walk away."

Jayne's eyes narrowed and for a moment the big man's look was so intense that the Sheriff got a glimpse of the bright intelligent mind masked behind the lumbering mercenary's facade. Jayne Cobb was nobody's fool unless he wanted to be and right now he was putting the Sheriff on notice. One wrong move and he wouldn't live long enough to explain. This was his one chance. The look that burned its way through his retinas simply said, *don't screw this up*.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*ben dan* = moron (lit. bad egg) *yuchen* = stupid/ignorant *wangba dan* = bastard *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit/lowest of the low *wo zhidao* = I know *zhangfu* = husband *dong ma* = understand *mashang* = on the double/quickly/right away/immediately *diyu* = hell *wode ma* = mother of God *xin gan* = sweetheart *bao bei* = treasure/precious *qu* = yes *shei* = who *mimi* = secret *dui* = correct *bu qu*/*bu* = no *kuai* = quick *laoban* = boss *wangu* = stubborn *tianna* = oh God! *mei mei* = little sister *ni bu zhidao* = you don't know


Tuesday, January 20, 2004 10:41 PM


^_^ my name is Dawn... that was funny seeing it as the title.
Good stuff! this one seemed shorter than the others... or is that only cuz its a bit more lighthearted compared to them?
lovin' this fic!

When you can't run, you crawl, and when you can't crawl, you find someone to carry you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004 8:12 AM


As your name is Dawn I will gorram dedicate this chapter to you, *dong ma*? And no, it is no shorter than the others so it might be the lighter content it being largely minus the torture and such. Also we are approaching the end of the story. Take care and keep flying, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, January 21, 2004 9:02 AM


It's been a long, but satisfying, story, and looks to be ending satisfyingly, too. Well done!

Thursday, January 22, 2004 6:48 AM


Just to show how much I'm loving this tale, I skipped to the comments to see if it's over yet. Because I was going to really draw it out if it was. But I see there's more...

So, will be eating my strawberry tomorrow.

Friday, January 23, 2004 1:54 AM


Great opening! Love Zoe's glee at Jayne's intervention. Nice change of tone from the last couple of chapters and I love the sympathetic way you paint Jayne.

How much of a wuss am I to get tearful at "Dont' cling. Might hold on a time or two but I never cling"?

Oh, and how the pennies are beginning to drop. (I may be much dumber than Jayne!)

Another delicious strawberry, Ali. Thanks.


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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.