HEAVEN AND HELL: 6. "Phoenix Rising"
Sunday, February 29, 2004

"The job on Rainbow goes well. Zoe cannot shake off the feeling that this is all wrong. Jayne keeps watch while the connection between River and the Captain deepens."



SUMMARY: "The job on Rainbow goes well. Zoe cannot shake off the feeling that this is all wrong. Jayne keeps watch while the connection between River and the Captain deepens." 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

* * * * *

There really was pretty much nothing of worth left standing on Hera. Didn't stop them coming though. More it seemed with each passing year. Singly or in groups made no difference. A patchwork of folk drawn from all corners of the 'verse that was. Some with anxious eyes skipping from nondescript view to empty war ravaged plains. Winds whipped unbroken across a land that was suffering still. Her few trees uprooted or burned down. Her peaceful valleys like a landfill where the bodies of the dead lay unblessed and un-numbered. The crude earth heaped over shattered bone and ripped flesh like some grainy blanket blocking out the view of Hell while Heaven looked down and lifted not one finger nor shed one tear of remorse. The impalacable eye of God a thing beyond mortal understanding. Or so it seemed to them as were left. Those with a burden to carry that could never be laid to rest.

Tyrone Garvin clamped his teeth tight together. So hard it would have made his jaw ache had he been in a mind to be thinking on it. His thoughts were as blurry as his eyes, wrapped in memories that hurt him more than gorram shrapnel. Heart all contracted and painful. Not so much with memories of the past but the future unfurling uncertainly before them like a flag they had borrowed and would have to give back. He thought about Alex Trent and repressed a shudder of revulsion but who was he to speak out? Alex was simply carrying out the man's request albeit in his own fashion. No, he would not call it an order. Alex was not the kind to respond to such and something about the smugness of what he had done set awkwardly in Tyrone's heart and mind. As if the man had intended one thing and Alex had twisted it into another. Showing the 'verse a different face. It was not an angle that flattered him. Yet Becky loved him. That fact and that fact alone kept him from ripping the useless craven *tamade hundan* to pieces with his bare hands.

He had no notion what Alex was really up to except that he seemed to have cast off his Independent roots like a man shedding clothes that no longer fit him. Thinking back he wondered if they ever had. He sighed. Many of the solemn drifting faces he knew. If not by name then certainly by sight. This was risky he knew. Foolish some might say but it was a pilgramage of a debt owed that could not be repaid. An honour the dead claimed from the living as certainly as he did his every breath. And he begrudged them no moment of it. Wished he could do more but being here on Unification Day was a death warrant lacking only its' execution. So the faces were nervous, wary, sad and solemn by fitful turns. Often tearful. Many had lost friends here. Family. Comrades in arms every one. As Tyrone finished paying his respects he went to find the small Buddhist temple some of the soldiers had fashioned into a ragged hillside. It was as spartan as the ravaged land around it yet stepping into the crumbling cave he felt a hush of peace descend upon him like a blessing from on high.

The small cave only went back a dozen feet, the earthen roof arched barely a few inches above his bowed head. At the back a small pedestal had been made of impacted earth and on this makeshift altar sat a heavy bronze statue of the Buddha. A fascimile of Siddharta Guatama the original prince who had given up everything in the search for enlightenment. The timeless serene face stared benignly back at him and Tyrone felt tears prick his eyes but let not one of them fall. Instead he reached into his jacket and carefully withdrew the incense and a small silver and jade censer. The censer had a green jade bowl approximately four inches in diameter, this was gilded with silver forming a base with three lotus leaf feet and silver iconographs of the Goddess of Compassion, Kuan Yin. Around the circumference the sacred emblem of the Emperor vied with the Phoenix, the Dragon warring over possession of the firey pearl of wisdom that hung equidistant between them. The pierced silver lid was adorned with dragons so that the incense when lit would furl upwards like fiercy smoke from their open mouths from within which the Phoenix would rise again.

Reverently he removed the lid and lit an amalgam of incense, inhaling the distinctive myrr mixed with sandlewood and other precious essences. Each symbolic of his prayer and servant to his intent. In an old blackened brass bowl that lay before the Buddha himself Tyrone burnt paper ingots, dragons, and images of all those things that had been lost yet lay within the purview of every dream his heart inspired. The prayer was strong and true, the incense rising straight up to all nine Heavens. Prayer flags adorned the earth walls of this small sacred space. Many now faded with the images barely visible, their colours muted but their meaning no less powerful. Hours he stayed, time losing all meaning and function. It was the failing of the light outside which moved him up from knees that creaked from kneeling too long. Time to go. Carefully he gathered up his censer and withdrew. He wanted to be away from this benighted planet before the first rays of light kissed the morning sky, knowing as his steps became more brisk that by daybreak the place would be ringed by Alliance troops.

It seemed. Not even in defeat did the Alliance relax their chokehold. But. Merciful Buddha prevailing, it would not last forever. One day their people would be free. Like the Phoenix they would rise again.

* * * * *

"What we haulin'?"

The Captain grunted and put his shoulder back to the crate. Jayne easing the weight between them to hold it steady before lifting it onto the mule. "Feels like solid rock." He huffed then paused. "Josiah said it was a pump."

"Pump?" Jayne scowled, his emphasis on the word making it come out like a swearword.

Mal couldn't blame him. It was rutting heavy. "Yeah. Lauren's way too waterlogged to be good for much. Seems them folks want to drain some of the land. Turn it over to farmin' an' such."

"Huh, don't know why they bother. Should leave 'em flooded and use 'em as paddy fields."

The Captain raised his eyebrows and stared at him. "You know that's a good idea, Jayne."

The big man scowled. "Ain't no call to go makin' fun a me, Cap.."

"Not makin' fun, it *is* a good gorram idea. Think I'll suggest it to Pepper when we get back to Lauren."

Jayne's face cleared, a look of mild amazement replacing his formerly dour expression. "You mean that?"

He nodded. "Yep, word of honour."

A smile lightened his face and Jayne's dark mood lifted with it. "We could send a wave and not have to lift another ruttin' case of metal." He suggested hopefully.

The Captain laughed and stretched his back until it clicked. He ached something fierce now, that was what he got for stopping to jaw before the job was done. "*Bu qu*, Jayne. We made a deal, *dong ma*?"

By the time they got the last of the components to Serenity both the Captain and Jayne had descended into monosyllabic speech and the odd grunt. Both were tired but the Captain was happy. Job would be done soon. Just needed to settle the cargo, lift off and lay in a course straight back to Lauren. It was Kaylee's turn to cook so this time they could all eat food they could swallow. Added to that and the beguiling charms of a certain little lady and the next few hours were looking shinier by the minute. Unseen a dark stocky shadow faded into the background. The man waiting until both men were back aboard the ship before retreating to find a cortex link.

In her shuttle Inara listened to the update in silence. The swarthy man related everything in precise and emotionless detail. When he was done Inara thanked him and cut the link. So. The Captain had met the contact and collected the materials for Lauren. No side trip. No clandestine meetings. Her brow furrowed, wondering what in *diyu* she was missing. Or could it be the Captain was smarter than she thought? That notion did not seem as foolish as it would once have done. After more than a year on this *boat* she had learnt that Serenity's Captain was not the dull untutored man he appeared to be. There were depths to him that cautioned her against complacency. Sides to him that could plunge the unwary into a whole 'verse of trouble.

Her frowned deepened. Yes. Captain Malcolm Reynolds was just the sort of man they would recruit. But how to find out what he was up to? How to uncover the others in this nest of vipers? Sometimes to heal the whole you had to destroy the parts that had gone bad. Cut out the pieces that threatened the rest before contamination set in and the sickness spread. Not that the Alliance body politic was in any real danger from one Malcolm Reynolds but the dream he kept alive had to be crushed. Men won wars but it was ideas that won the peace. That was a harsh truth that battle weary soldiers often missed. They thought that with enough guns, troops and money they could win any conflict and that would be the end of it. But winning was not simply being the biggest bully in the playing field. Not simply holding all the cards and vanquishing any who stood against you. To keep it. To hold it in perpetuity you had to capture the hearts and minds of the people. Solidify the conquest so completely that any other outcome would be simply unthinkable.

Only when the Independent Cause was a laughable side note vanquished to the dust of history books would her work be done. Yet even as she contemplated the fate being fashioned for Serenity's Captain, Inara felt a tendril of regret. A tiny little voice of sorrow, a flicker of doubt that such a response was the only way to consolidate the power and gains of Alliance rule. Would it really matter so much if the Independent survivors continued to live and eek out the sad pathetic husks of their lives on distant worlds? What did it matter if one or two turned pirate like Captain Reynolds? They were no more than mosquitos occasionally biting the hand of an enemy they could never topple. Yet even the mosquito should not be underestimated. Left unchecked it could infect them with as serious a malady as the sleeping sickness once known as malaria. Such a malaise could not be permitted to take hold even in the far flung regions of the Rim worlds. The Alliance had stabilised the system. Unified the Core Worlds and set up secure and profitable trade routes which enabled them to prosper. For the good of everything she believed in she must not let herself be swayed. Hardening her heart she considered her next move just as Kaylee announced dinner was ready.

* * * * *

Alex Trent knew what he wanted and was single minded about getting it. Having been dropped off on Boros by his brother in law, Alex spent the next few hours fussing over his wife and making Becky agawp at his playful stories and teasing ways. She chuckled as he tumbled her in her arms and across the couch to kiss her until the only breath she could inhale was his. Laughing in a heap of arms and legs he at last let her get to her feet. "Sometimes Alex Trent I swear I don't know what gets into you!"

He laughed. "Come on Becky, your brother won't be back until the early hours. 'Till then we have the house to ourselves."

"If I didn't know better I'd swear you arranged it that way."

He smiled and kissed her deeply, his hands flying over stubborn buttons and down zips until his hands encountered bare flesh, his hungry lips leaving hers to travel southward. Her breath was harsh and gasping but her hands caught him and interrupted his armorous wanderings before it could go too far. Frowning he looked displeased then changed his expression to one of disappointment. "What is it, *xin gan*?"

"Some of our friends are coming over this night."

He could not hide the scowl. *Our* friends but not *his*. More of Tyrone's old Independent buddies. It mattered not that some of them had once been his. Now that his loyalties had shifted he felt not merely uncomfortable in their company but positively murderous. Still. He would bide his time. Before long all those who had once denounced him as pathetic and craven would be forced to eat their words in the most graphic fashion. A diet of lead should see to that. He would enjoy putting Becky's brother at the top of the list but not yet. Oh no. First he intended to manouevre things so that he and Becky could move out, get a place of their own, so when the inevitable happened he could distance himself from any implication of complicity while continuing to pleasure himself with Tyrone's sister. His scowl softened out into a smile as he helped Becky ease back into her clothing. Allowing his regret to freely show. She smiled at him and kissed him before rising to her feet.

"It's only for tonight, Alex." He nodded. Knew it was their way of surviving Unification Day without landing in an Alliance gaol but why did they have to come here? "Okay, but once they're gone we'll pick this up where we left it, *dong ma*?"

She laughed and trailed a hand through his hair before disappearing to the kitchen. She had work a-plenty to do fixing food for eleven hungry men. Her brother should be back in the early hours. Only when he was safe home would she cease her worrying. Maybe Alex was right. Maybe it was time to leave the War behind them but for the life of her she could not bring herself to believe her brother was wrong. He believed so passionately about the cause and she believed in him. In time she hoped all their scars would heal and that Alex would at last come to understand.

* * * * *

The food was shiny. Kaylee had made pancakes. The Captain couldn't rightly remember the last time he had eaten them but with River and Kaylee racing each other to the syrup pot he had to grin, tired as he was. He looked up and was surprised to see Inara watching him. Uncharacteristically, she did not lower her eyes but locked gaze with him. Weird but there seemed to be some kind of tension in her that did not show on her face. How did he know that? As the thought tickled in his brain he felt something shift in her mind. Surprise then a cold descending wariness that began to chill him. Her eyes dropped to her plate and he watched her carefully cut off and dip a piece of pancake into the well of maple syrup before depositing it all prim and proper into her ruby red mouth. Her eyes flicked up again and regarded him. A ghost of a smile confusing him before she turned away to say something to Simon.

What the rutting *diyu* had that been about? It was Kaylee who brought him back to the Here and Now. "Cap'n, can we go to the Lakes afore we go back to Lauren?"

"I'm thinkin' we should deliver our cargo first, little Kaylee. Folks might be impatient for the goods we carry. 'Sides, that way we can spend longer on Rainbow knowin' we ain't got no deadline to meet. How does that sound, *mei mei*?"

Her pout quickly turned to a happy grin. "Shiny!"

He turned his head to find Simon looking at him. "About the Lakes, Captain. I was just thinking, wondering really, if maybe River and I could go too?"

"Don't see why not. Place seems friendly an' peaceable enough. 'Sides, if we're all there can't see no harm in it."

Wash perked up, his face aglow with happy joy. "Then we can go swimming?"

Zoe patted his hand. "Yes, dear, we can go swimming."

It amused the *diyu* out of the Captain the way Zoe treated Wash by turns like a little boy then a grown man. Sometimes a hero even. Not that he was complaining. His eyes met River's and his heart flipped over, a pleasure that stole every breath in his body then raced it back through his body like wild fire howling her name. *Tian Yesu* he was all kinds of crazy for her. A thought popped unbidden into his head, more pictures than words, and a smile crawled over his face and wiped every doubt from his mind. She smiled back, rolled a half of pancake dripping in syrup on her fork then stuffed the whole lot into her mouth, her cheeks bulging like a chipmunk storing food for winter while maple syrup leaked out of her mouth to drizzle off her chin. He chuckled and her eyes sparkled mischievously back at him. He saw her palm a small pot of syrup and felt his eyebrows go up. Her eyes laughed back at him, her mind drawing pictures for him that made him strain for her touch much as he tried to hide it.

The Shepherd watched them surreptitiously. Interested in the Captain's interaction with River. Wondering whether any of the girl's abilities were somehow rubbing off on him. Wishing he could listen in but not daring to view them more closely. Detection was the biggest threat and so far he had achieved much from being subtle and discreet. They did not call him the Chameleon for nothing. He might wear a Preacher's weaves but he was no Shepherd. It was just another part to play. Another string to his bow. Another skill adopted to achieve his aim. His function as fluid as his morality and as manipulative as any faith.

It was Zoe's turn to wash up. Wash hung back to help with the dishes but she shooed him away. She wanted to talk to the Captain. A worried look crowded his eyes but Zoe reassured Wash with a light kiss and a smile. Her lips hovered at his ear. "Time to clear the air, *bao bei*."

Wash was all kinds of nervous now. The Captain was happy and when Mal was happy so was the rest of his crew. Zoe stirring things up could only be a bad thing but he had no way of being able to tell her that, as uptight and volatile as she got whenever he tried to raise his objections. Where the Captain was concerned she had made herself both guardian and vigilante. Wash did not envy the Captain. Reluctantly he left her to it and escaped to the bridge. River was dancing around Mal, her happy eyes caressing his face, the laughter in them delighting him heart and soul. The Preacher hung back to pour himself another mug of tea though he was not thirsty. Any excuse to watch them a little longer. Inara had been first to leave the table, then Kaylee, Simon and Jayne. With Wash gone Zoe had only to intercept the Captain and wait for the others to leave so she could say what was on her mind. A frown formed as she watched the Preacher, wondering why Book was so interested in the Captain and River. Then it hit her. He was probably imagining some Special Hell to send them to, or rather to send the Captain to. Somehow his warnings always seemed to centre on what the Captain did more than what anyone else on the ship was doing. He became aware of her cool gaze and gave her a nod, leaving with his mug of tea as if that had been his intention all along.

It was now or never. The Captain was bending over listening to something River was whispering urgently in his ear. The smile on his face froze when he straightened to find Zoe staring straight at him. River turned her head and frowned at Zoe. "Not your business."

A flash of anger lighting blue touch paper impelled the Captain to quickly move between River and Zoe. No way did he want Zoe taking her orneriness out on River. The joy on his face flatlined. "*Shenme shi*, Zoe?"

"We need to talk, sir."

He wanted to tell her to drop it. Leave it be. But that look on her face told him that would not work. He either gave in to this and let her have her say or risked her taking that frustration out on River. No way would he allow her to say to River what he suspected she wanted to say to him. He turned to River and gave her a gentle reassuring smile. "*Xin gan*, me and Zoe need to talk. Give us a minute or two?"

River was not fooled. She knew Zoe did not like the closeness between them. Thought their falling in love was all lust and opportunity and all kinds of wrong. Wished she could explain it in a way the woman would understand but in Zoe's eyes she was simply looking out for her Captain. River just saw it as interfering. "I want to stay, *ai ren*."

He touched a hand to her face, so tenderly that her cheek angled into the warm curve of his palm, her eyes locking on his with so much emotion in them that he almost forgot to breathe. It was Zoe clearing her throat that brought him back to his senses. He sighed quietly and shook his head. "*Bu qu, bao bei*. This is somethin' I need to do an' need you to let me do, *dong ma*?"

River turned a sorrowful look on Zoe. "You're wrong." She said softly. Before Zoe could answer River turned back to Mal and kissed his hand, her eyes promising to wait for him. He nodded, the unspoken vow solidifying between them. *Love you* her eyes sang. *Love you too* his lips replied. Then she was gone, not looking back but knowing that Zoe was frowning after her. Wondering what in the nine hells had just passed between them.

Out on the catwalk Jayne Cobb took up a thoughtful pose. Leaning on the railing he ran a soft cloth over his favourite gun, alert to the comings and goings of the rest of the crew. Watching to see what the Preacher would do now that his plans had been foiled as foiled they surely were. Few people had learnt to read the Shepherd as accurately as Jayne though he was careful not to make it obvious. There were too many odd inconsistencies about the man of the cloth to please the mercenary though that did not make Book a bad fellow. Just an unknown quantity. This thing with the Captain and River was bringing out all kinds of unexpected sides to folk and it unnerved Jayne the way the crew dynamics were shifting around him. Gave him the feeling they were all walking on rutting quicksand. Gorrammit. Why couldn't anything ever go smooth?

* * * * *

"You know this is all kinds of wrong, sir?"

He huffed. "Zoe, this ain't noway your business."

"*Bushi*. You're my business Mal, always have been, always will be."

"No," He said gently. "We've both moved on since Shadow, Zoe. Since the surrender and the end of the War. Don't start another conflict to fill the gap, *bao bei*. Ain't nothin' so painful as a friend that don't know when to let go."

"Is that what you think I'm doin'?" She asked softly. Her chocolate brown eyes almost swallowing his as they widened.

"*Qu*. Know so." He paused as he fought for words to bring her down gently. "Zoe, this has got to stop. I love River, an' no I ain't meanin' the lust of it though lust is a shiny thing. Ain't that. This is heart an' soul. I feel things for her I've never allowed myself to feel since I left Shadow."

Her heart lurched with pain. It was sharper than she had expected. Hurt more than she could have imagined. Rutting hell, the Captain had to go and fall in love. She closed her eyes a moment, startled when he gently touched her face. Concern and caring written in his eyes but also something more. A certainty that his decision would not change. That he could not be budged.

"She'll break your heart." Zoe whispered painfully.

He stroked her cheek with his fingers, almost an absent minded gesture as if the years between them were rolling back. He was back on Shadow. Comforting her after the death of her father. Not with words but a look, a touch, a shoulder to cry on. Now he was doing it again and it almost undid her. It should be her comforting him not the other way around. He shook his head gently. "No, *bao bei*. Got nothin' to comfort me for. I got River an' I couldn't be more gorram happy if we'd won the ruttin' war an' that's the truth. Nothin' you can say or do can change that. Be happy for me, Zoe. If you can't do that then at least don't try to take this away from me."

Her eyes filled with tears. How could she tell him how much he meant to her? How much she relied upon him to be strong? Unchanging? This thing with River left her all at sea. Her heart swamped with sadness that had nothing to do with jealousy but everything to do with loss.

"Ain't gonna lose me, Zoe." He whispered.

That broke her. How could he tell what she was thinking? Did he really know her that well? Stiffling a sob she leaned into him and closed her eyes, his arms folding gently round her. For a couple of minutes neither moved. The Captain didn't say anything. What use were words when the silence spoke more eloquently for both of them? He let her cry. She let him hold her. In that moment of truce the disapproval she felt was put on hold. No more sour looks or interfering. It was his life and it was time she let him live it. If River was his happiness she would find some content in that. But woe betide the girl if she hurt him. No promise in the 'verse would stop her from sending River Tam straight to *diyu*. Didn't much care which one.

* * * * *

He was all worn out and weary from the emotional drain on him. River did not smile as he descended the ladder into his bunk. Knew he was upset and saddened though his face lit up when he turned and saw her sitting on his bed with her legs crossed under her. Waiting for him. He smiled then laughed when she brought her hand up to show him what she had concealed in it. The little pot of maple syrup took the sting out of Zoe's disapproval. "What you plannin' on doin' with that? Seems to be you're all out of pancakes."

She gave him a wicked grin and put the pot on the small bedside cabinet. He watched her as he slid his suspenders off his shoulders. Silently she watched him undress, making no move to leave the bed. He was amused at her restraint, this being a first for her. Maybe his allure was wearing off? A thought popped in his head. *Not wearing off, just conserving energy*

"That so?"

*Think don't speak*

His hands paused, his look stumped. *Can I do that?*

She grinned. *Just did*

*How in the nine hells we doin' this?*

A mucky little smile teased her waiting lips as she scooted to the end of the bed so she could reach out and touch him, her hands tugging on his belt to draw him nearer. *I have a few ideas*

He smirked. *Bet you do, you havin' that syrup an' all*

She saw his happy glow dull as he thought of Zoe. River read the pain in him as clearly as if it were her own. "Zoe is your Simon."

Mal had his shirt off now, was taking off his gunbelt. He paused then carefully put his gunbelt to one side and sat beside her. "*Shenme*?"

"She wants to protect you." Her warm hands gently trailed over his bare chest, enjoying the tactile feel of him while sorting through her thoughts. "Has been protecting you for so long she's afraid to stop. To let you go. Thinks if she does she'll lose you."

He looked amazed. "River, how you know that?"

River looked sad, one hand rising to touch his face. Her fingertips mapping the features she had learned to love so much. Her touch saying she loved him as much as the look in her eyes and the passionate joy in her heart that was fashioned in his name. "Just like Simon."

They were both silent for a sobering moment or two.

"They don't understand that unless they let go it will all turn to ashes.

"River," He said softly, as she began to finish undressing him. Now sliding off the bed to kneel at his feet to remove his boots before tugging off his pants. "Do you see how this is gonna work out?"

She wanted to lie to him. To gloss over something that would be as painful to him as any torture devised by Niska. As bitter as the surrender at Serenity Valley. As soul destroyingly traumatic as the death of those he had loved. But River loved him. In all his ways, loved him too much to build what they had upon a bed of lies no matter how pretty they were dressed up. She loved him. Heart, mind, body, soul. Only the truth would keep the love they shared intact. Though all the demons of *diyu* and every *shangdi* in Heaven opposed it.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dong ma* = understand *diyu* = hell *xin gan*/*ai ren* = sweetheart *mei mei* = little sister *bushi* = not so *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *bao bei* = precious/treasure *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenme* = what *shangdi* = God


Sunday, February 29, 2004 11:40 AM


This can go in so many directions...on the edge of my seat, biting nails furiously !!

Monday, March 1, 2004 9:43 AM


Hurrah - Zoe looks to be accepting. The new team can't be anything short of invincible. Or, do you have something planned... Write more soon!

Monday, March 1, 2004 7:36 PM


Reflecting on the shiny story late tonight... All curious now how, if River has the power to bequeth telepathy on her lover, how come she lacks the power to discern Inara's and Book's intentions? More mystery!

Monday, March 1, 2004 11:58 PM


artships, there is a reason for that. Keep playing close attention to everything that happens from here on. As for anonymous not knowing what age River is you should recall from the first story in the series that she is '18'. Remember the great pains she went to in order to make sure her brother and the rest of the crew know that she was not being manipulated by the Captain but had 'chosen' him for herself. She wanted them to know, and Simon in particular, that she was now an adult and able to chose who she loved for herself. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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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.