GENIUS SERIES: 13. "Strange Cargo"
Friday, February 3, 2006

"Someone is not best pleased with the Captain's escape. The crew of Serenity make haste to leave Sophia. Just as they are beginning to think their luck is turning the other shoe drops."



SUMMARY: "Someone is not best pleased with the Captain's escape. The crew of Serenity make haste to leave Sophia. Just as they are beginning to think their luck is turning the other shoe drops." 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

* * * * *

Regan Tam was furious. The ratification of her position as Councillor had gone without a hitch. Smooth as glass. With carefully schooled charm she hid her anger, playing the diplomat, the well travelled politician. Her words underpinning everything the Anglo-Sino Agreement stood for. The Unification of Planets bringing every world under one rule was little more than a blueprint for a Dicatorship that spanned the known 'verse. It was about Power. Control. And Greed. And still some worlds defied them. But not for much longer.

As soon as it was possible to do so, Regan excused herself. Claiming to need a visit to the ladies' room. Once inside she checked all the cubicles were empty then locked the main door. It took only a moment or two to still her mind, clear the detrius of random thoughts that bombarded her with trivia. Once she had found that calm, that still pool to focus upon, she cast her mind outward. A narrow beam thought that cut through distance like a hot knife through butter. A heat seeking missile with only one destination. The contact shuddered then steadied, mind braced. *He was supposed to die!*

The mind flexed across the distance, bouncing her accusation back with details of what had gone wrong. *The mercenary saved him*.


Instead of words in her mind she got pictures. Concise, crisp, three dimensional representations that would put many a photograph to shame. She saw the hit and marvelled at the reaction of the mercenary to not only identify the danger but also take enough measures to ensure the Captain's survival. That had been unexpected. Regan was well aware through her son that Jayne Cobb had sold them out on Aerial. Had thought Malcolm Reynolds must be the King of Fools to keep him on. It had lulled her into a false sense of security, believing the big man would do nothing to put himself in harm's way for the Captain. But she was wrong. That error in judgement had foiled her plan.

*What of the job?*

Her contact's response was smug. *They got away but took the cargo with them*.

A slow vicious smirk spread across Regan Tam's face. Laughter and amusement swept the anger away. Irritation fading into the delicious anticipation of a dish best served cold. *This could not be better*. Regan Tam paused to savour the moment. *Captain Reynolds will rue the day he stepped between me and my children*.

The contact made no response. The connection already being severed as Regan prepared to rejoin the other Councillors. She unlocked the door then went to the sink and splashed water on her face. As she shook the water off her hands and reach for a plush towel she carefully wiped the smirk of satisfaction off her face.

* * * * *

Lost in thought Jayne Cobb was startled when Kaylee spoke. Rutting *diyu* she was only inches from him! How the good gorram had she done that without him noticing? He frowned. "Shouldn't go sneakin' up on folk, could'a shot ya dead."

Her sunny smile was impervious to his dark mood. "*Duibuqi*, just ya looked kind'a sad."

That made him take note. Unconsciously he straightened up some and gave her a long slow look, his thoughts cycling through a number of permutations he could come back with. Variations on the truth to deflect attention. Didn't want her thinking that what had happened had shaken him. But Kaylee did not wait for him to fabricate an excuse.

"Long as you're alright, Jayne." She chirped, then paused. Her smile hesitating as she considered him a little more closely. "Ya are alright, *dui*? 'Cause ya know the Cap'n's gonna be alright?"

He nodded, voice gruff. "*Wo zhidao*."

The beaming smile was back again, even brighter if such a thing were possible. "Shiny!"

Before he could react Kaylee stood on tip-toe and kissed Jayne's cheek. Stunned, he just stared at her.

"That's for savin' the Cap'n's life."

Staring at her in shock he couldn't move. By the time his senses had returned to him Kaylee was gone, her feet a happy clatter that sounded like it could be put to music. Zoe's voice interrupted his thoughts and shook him out of his reverie. Turning to look over his shoulder he noticed the grim expression on the first mate's face.

"Need to speak to you, Jayne."

He gave Zoe a wary nod and got up off the weight bench, not a clue what she wanted but sure it was nothing good. At times the woman could be downright scary especially when it came to the Captain. Neither spoke until they reached the commons room. Jayne glanced around, not sure whether to be relieved or alarmed that no one else was in the room. Obviously River was flying the gorram ship and Kaylee had gone skipping off to the engine room. With the Captain in the infirmary he reckoned Inara was probably there as well. Not that he expected Mal to be laid up for more than a few hours. Soon as all the drugs wore off he'd be stomping and swearing up a storm over what had happened on Sophia. Zoe turned and gave him an even look.

"What happened?"

"Everythin' went like clockwork till we picked up the cargo. Me an' Mal just finished loadin' the mule. We was talkin' one minute then I seen a glimmer. Bright an' distant but one I'd know anywhere. Kind'a reflection you get off a high powered rifle sight. Didn't have time to warn Mal so I shoved him outta the way. Reckon my bullet passed the one as hit the Cap. That's when I let rip. Pretty sure I got the *hundan*."

The steel in Zoe's expression did not shift. "How d'you know that?"

Jayne gave a little shrug. "Didn't have time to go an' check. Cap was hit, figured best to get back to the boat, *mashang*. But I know guns an' that shot was true."

"But you could'a missed?"

The look he gave Zoe would have turned mere mortals to ash. On Zoe it had no effect. It was like he had always thought, gorram woman was a stone killer. Made a man all kinds of relieved to be on the same side. Though if he ever did anything that got the Captain killed the next shot out of her gun would be through his head. Knew that as well as his own name. Didn't scare him none. Nothing in the 'verse would make him turn on Mal now, not that he had any intention of putting it into words. "Didn't."

Zoe leaned forward ever so slightly but it was enough to stir the hairs on the back of Jayne's neck. "Sound awful sure for a man who didn't check his kill."

Before he could answer the Captain half limped and half stumbled into the commons room, Inara fluttering around him like a gorram butterfly. Only the Companion's annoyed expression telegraphing the argument the two had been having a moment ago. "Will you stop fussin', woman? I told you, I'm fine. Walkin' an' talkin'."

His second tried to hold back a smirk, her whole demeanour relaxing. "You mean walkin' an' limpin', sir."

The Captain glared at her. "When I want a gorram clown I'll go to a circus."

"Didn't we wake in a foul mood." Quipped Inara as she breezed passed him to go to the kitchen. The Captain's eyes narrowed on her.

"I didn't, like I said I'm fine, not so sure about you though. Could be you're a mite tetchy."

Inara's hand paused above the kettle then she turned and glanced from the Captain to Jayne. "Are you sure he got hit in the shoulder, Jayne? Because I'm pretty sure it must have been his head."

The Captain did not reply, he felt kind of muzzy headed and just wanted to sit down. Zoe frowned but didn't comment on it. Instead she watched him take a seat at the table and picked up her conversation with Jayne hoping it would prompt some input from Mal. Inara watched and listened while she put the makings together for a pot of tea. "Was just askin' Jayne what happened, sir."

Mal nodded. "Don't make sense."

"That's what I've been thinkin'." Jayne responded, grabbing a chair and sitting across from the Captain. Zoe leaned on a chair back, the tension creeping back into her like quick setting concrete.

"Think it was a set up?"

The Captain looked at her and nodded, holding in a hiss as his shoulder caught at the movement. Gorrammit, that hurt. "No question, what I can't figure is why."

Jayne frowned. "What about who?"

"That too," The Captain agreed, nodding his thanks as Inara put a mug of tea in front of him. "*Xie xie*."

They waited while he took a sip, the Captain taking his time about it as he thought it through. Inara sat next to him. "Who set up the job?"

"Man named Corbin, an' 'fore you say it he ain't behind this *goushi*."

"How d'you know that, sir? We ain't dealt with him before, could be..." The Captain put his mug down and shook his head. "Wouldn't make sense. No profit in it."

"Would be if them as paid Corbin wanted ya dead."

Mal looked at Jayne for a long moment. "What about the cargo?"

The mercenary shrugged. "What about it? For all we know them crates could be full o' rocks."

"We got paid half up front."

"Could be a hook."

"Pretty expensive hook."

"Jayne," Said Zoe slowly. "Is there some reason you're convinced Corbin is behind this?"

"Na, just thinkin' aloud." Inara had a horrible feeling. "How many people knew about the job, Mal?"

The Captain thought a minute. "Aside from us? Only Corbin as I know of."


"Jayne, that don't mean squat. Anyone could'a followed us, *dong ma*?"

"Ya ain't seein' the big picture Mal."

"Then best you point it out." "Whoever set this up *knew* where we'd be. That sniper wasn't there by accident which means Corbin's in on this deal whichever way it plays out."

"*Weishenme*? We got a sweet deal goin'. We got half the money an' we still got the cargo."

"Yeah, well maybe he got a sweeter one. Money, Mal. It's always about the gorram money." Jayne paused. "If they're happy to let us keep the cargo an' coin from this job then we're talkin' a real big payoff. Ain't many folk got that kind'a coin to throw about."

Mal could feel himself going cold. "What you thinkin', Jayne?"


Silence fell like an Artic winter on Earth-That-Was. Inara just managed to hold back a shudder. Zoe gave the Captain a long look before shaking her head. "I don't think this is Niska."

"*Weishenme bu*?"

"One sniper, sir? Man like Niska don't skimp when he takes a man down. If he had come after you the least you could expect would be a crossfire. Something with more certainty than this."

It was disconcerting how his breath steadied at the logic behind Zoe's words. Made Mal all manner of relieved though he didn't cotton to anyone taking pot shots at him anyhow. Least it wasn't that twisted *liumang* and that wasn't nothing. Air was a mite sweeter going in and out of his lungs with that thought sticking in his mind. Still left a whole pile of questions with no easy answers though. He rubbed his head, could feel a headache coming on.


The Captain looked up and gave Zoe a little false smile. "Head aches a bit, nothin' to worry about."

Inara smirked. "Told you he was hit in the head."

* * * * *

It was harder than Simon would have believed to project a calm he did not feel. The desire to exit the building so strong that if he didn't keep his concentration on staying his feet would find their own way outside before the notion took root in his brain.

"Agent Tam?"

Simon schooled his features and presented an unpeturbed and slightly distant demeanour to the man who addressed him. His uniform crisp and hair slicked back. "*Shifu*?"

"You have done well but we still need to retrieve your sister."

"I don't know where she is."

The Director nodded slowly, more to put Simon at his ease than in agreement. "We know which ship she is on." "Sir," Said Simon carefully, not trying to sound as if he was deliberately putting him off. "Do you know how many Firefly transports are still in operation?"

"A great many but that does not concern me."

The doctor frowned slightly. "It doesn't?"

No attempt was made to reassure River's brother. "No." The Director paused, watching Simon closely. "There is only one called Serenity."

* * * * *

Zoe wanted the Captain to rest but it was like King Canute from Earth-That-Was trying to hold back the tide. "Ain't no invalid, Zoe."

She followed him up on to the bridge, her face almost expressionless unless you looked closely then little lines of worry and care could be seen making spider cracks across her face. "Just think you should rest while you can is all."

"I'll rest when I know which *tamade hundan* set us up."

As they stepped on to the bridge, River half turned. One eye on the controls, the other looking back at them. It was just a glimpse then she was facing forward again, her hands moving expertly over the ship's controls. "Not who you think."

The Captain paused mid-step then made himself carry on walking until he stood beside her chair. "Care to be more specific?"

River glanced up at him, her eyes steady but serious. "You won't like the answer."

"*Diyu*." Grunted Mal as he sat in the co-pilot's chair. "Don't like the question."

"Who set us up?" Asked Zoe, not in the mood for any rambling riddles. She didn't have time and she sure as the *guai* didn't have the patience.

Before River could answer the proximity alarm kicked in and all three of them turned to look out of the bridge window, the big looming shape of an Alliance cruiser filling their view and hitting them hard with shock. Only River did not look surprised. The Captain took a raggedy breath and ignored Zoe's virulent string of Chinese curses. "River?"

The girl shook her head, didn't want to answer him. Her throat dry and closing, her mind wanting to retreat and shut down from painful truths. Jayne and Inara came through the door to see what had set off the alarm just as the ship lurched beneath their feet. Kaylee's frantic voice could be heard over the com, the sound of hissing steam in the background telling them that bad had just got worse even before the words were out of her mouth. "Cap'n! We been hit, port stabiliser's sheered off an' we're losin' fuel."

The Captain closed his eyes a moment, feeling the ship begin to spin before his little albatross cut the other stabliser to stop their spiral. "*Wode ma*, could my day get any worse?"

River glanced across at him, her look and tone apologetic. "Alliance Commandant, wants to talk."

Mal's eyes opened and fastened on hers. "Does he now? Best put the ruttin' *qingwa cao de liumang* through."

* * * * *

His head hurt. They said bad news travels fast but in Simon Tam's experience it beat the speed of light. He just *knew* and the panic that flooded him was only exceeded by the growing rage. Although he did not know what had happened his sixth sense told him his sister was in danger. *Tianna* why couldn't things have gone smooth for one more day? It was all he needed but no, that *lese* piece of *goushi* laughingly called a transport ship would soon be in enemy hands. He wanted to put his head in his hands, curse and bewail cruel fate, but he could not do so. Too many eyes and ears watched his every move. Listened and debated the words that fell from his mouth. He could never be quite sure whether they were impressed or horrified. The lack of comment would have alarmed him but for the lack of condemnation.

Simon stayed calm because he had to. There was far too much at stake for him to lose his nerve now.

* * * * *

Captain Malcolm Reynolds stared at River as if the girl had finally taken leave of what little sense was left in her addled brain pan. "*Shenme*? Why in the nine hells would I wanna do that?"


Jayne's eyes widened then a feral grin spread across his face. "Ya sayin' that gorram cargo is weapons? Why didn't ya say?"

The girl shook her head. "*Ni bu dong*, not that kind of weapon."

The com light blinked indicating that the Alliance Commandant was getting impatient for a response. Any second now Mal expected to be blown out of the Black. Either that or boarded. Made him more than a mite tetchy. "River, ain't got time for no puzzles, *dong ma*? What you talkin' about?"

"Time to open the box." Zoe and Mal exchanged a glance. The Captain's headache was getting worse. Inara was not sure what to think, hoping that this was not a sign that River was becoming unstable again. Jayne frowned. "Which one?" At everyone's blank looks he clarified his question. "We got five boxes, *dui*?" Mal nodded. "Which one's got the weapon?"

A slow evil smile spread across River Tam's pale face. "*All* of them!"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *duibuqi* = sorry *dui* = correct *wo zhidao* = I know *hundan* = bastard *mashang* = at once/right away/quickly/immediately *xie xie* = thanks *goushi* = crap/dog shit *dong ma* = understand? *weishenme* = why? *weishenme bu* = why not? *lese* = crappy *liumang* = asshole/bastard/criminal/gangster *shifu* = sir *guai* = devil/ghost *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *wode ma* = mother of God *shenme* = what *qingwa cao de liumang* = frog humping sumbitch *tianna* = oh God! *ni bu dong* = you don't understand


Saturday, February 4, 2006 6:55 AM


YOu've done it again Alison!

You start with what seems a deceptively simple story, that looks like it'll be finished up in a few chapters..and then suddenly it gies all over the place, lots of unexpected twists and turns, shock and surprises.

Get typing!! I need to know how this works out ;)

Saturday, February 4, 2006 11:29 AM


Amazing, bracing, exciting! I want more now I can read it! *wiggles*

Sunday, February 5, 2006 1:57 AM


Great story. More, more! Please?

I'm loving the twists and turns.

Love the hint of Jaylee.

Sunday, February 12, 2006 8:37 AM


So... Another 50 chapter epic then. Or, are you aiming to rival STA?


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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.