GENIUS SERIES: 21. "Hope and Fears"
Friday, March 10, 2006

"Zoe performs emergency surgery and tries to work out what in the nine hells is goin on. Last but not least is the worry about which side River is on."


TITLE: "HOPES AND FEARS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: No specific pairing. STATUS: SEQUEL to "BETTER ANGELS" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE:

SUMMARY: "Zoe performs emergency surgery and tries to work out what in the nine hells is going on. Last but not least is the worry as to which side River is on." 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

* * * * *

Zoe was so beyond mad she could hardly form words. Watching Inara hover over the Captain while she did her best to stop the bleeding was annoying her more than it should have, the thin trickle of guilt bleeding through from her back brain as if she should somehow have been expecting this. But who would have thought Simon would pull a gun on the Captain? *Her* gun of all things. There could be no accident involved, no sudden snap of the mind, for everything pointed to a level of premeditation that chilled her. Whatever the good gorram they were dealing with it left an itchy feeling between her shoulder blades. Simon and River were siblings. No matter the mess Regan and Gabriel Tam had made of their lives the children were the only two genuine kin. She supposed an argument could be made for Regan being their mother but who knew where all the genetic material had come from? None from Gabriel but how much if any from Regan Tam? And how might that affect the landscape?

Up to her wrists in blood, Zoe shoved the worry and disparate thoughts from her mind. Fortunately Jayne was hanging around the infirmary, whether to actually help if needed or to shoot Simon should he wake up was not clear. "Jayne, second drawer on the right."

Jayne opened the drawer and followed Zoe's instructions until all the equipment was laid out for surgery. Inara's eyes widened.

"You should perhaps leave now, Inara. This is gonna be messy."

The Companion shook her head. "*Bu qu*, let me help."

Zoe stared at her for a moment.

"*Qing*," She all but pleaded. "I need to do this."

An abrupt nod was all the agreement Zoe gave then she was too busy cleaning the site of the wound before checking whether the bullet was lodged inside or had gone straight through. Jayne eased the unconscious Captain onto his side. With a sigh of relief Zoe nodded for Jayne to ease him back again. The bullet had gone right through. Three hours later the entry and exit wounds had been sewn shut and she had Mal on a saline drip. He needed blood but Wash had been the only one with the same blood group. A sob made her turn her head, Kaylee was standing in the doorway crying, her body trembling with reaction. Zoe didn't have time for this.


The Companion looked up and Zoe nodded to the doorway. Seeing the state of the mechanic, Inara gave Mal's hand a squeeze then went over to Kaylee, drawing the girl into a comforting hug while gently steering her out of the infirmary. Jayne watched in silence, waiting until Inara had closed the door behind them before speaking. "What ya gonna do about him?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*, Jayne. He lost a lotta blood an' I don't know where we're gonna find a donor in time."

"Not Mal, *him*."

Zoe followed the jerk of the big man's chin and realised he was referring to Simon. River Tam sat curled up in a chair beside her brother, her hands holding one of his, her eyes big and glassy. River looked even paler than normal, as if she was disappearing before their eyes. Zoe sighed, weary in heart and soul. "We patch him up then we'll see."

"Huh, why bother? Waste of gorram supplies. The *tamade hundan* brought this on himself. After all the Cap done for him he don't deserve to breathe. If you're squeamish I'll do the job myself. Never liked the prissy little..."


The quiet but sharp tone in Zoe's voice shut him up. She ignored his offended glare.

"Nobody's endin' anyone 'less it's me, *dong ma*? Simon's not goin' anywhere an' we got more important things to worry about."

Checking the Captain to make sure he was stable, Zoe moved on to Thadius. The man was still unconscious and she could now see a deep graze to the side of his head. Another inch and Thadius would have been blinded if not killed. Zoe began to undo his blood soaked shirt, wanting to see how badly he was wounded only to discover the blood on his shirt and vest was not his. Her hands trembled slightly as she realised the blood was the Captain's. Of course, Thadius had been standing to Mal's left and slightly behind him so when Simon shot the Captain in the gut the bullet's exit sprayed blood and bits of flesh onto Thadius. Man had quick gorram reflexes though, pushing the Captain aside in time to avoid the second shot but Thadius had not been so lucky his own self. Or rather he had been. The shot grazing his head rather than boring a hole straight through his skull.

Relieved to have some good news, Zoe patched Thadius up and gave him a shot to ease the pain. That boy would wake with a killer headache but at least he would wake. Given how he had saved the Captain's life, Zoe was warming up to the boy. Maybe the Captain had been right about trusting their strange cargo after all. But then, they had trusted Simon once and look where that had got them? Did everything the Alliance touch turn to *goushi*?

* * * * *

It had been easy to placate Director Rossheim once Regan Tam had confided in him about her daughter. In fact, she was well aware that he would already have been aprised of River's unique abilities but as yet none of the Alliance hierachy knew where the girl was. Her own liberties for now overlooked, Councillor Tam was able to convince the Director to divert resources to aid in the search for her missing daughter.

* * * * *

Twenty four hours. Just a day. Less than a week, much more than a minute. To those anxiously waiting it could have well been years. Only it wasn't. The moment Simon Tam opened his eyes he wished he had kept them closed. Leaning over him was a very unhappy looking Jayne Cobb. Fortunately Zoe appeared and said something to the mercenary which thankfully caused him to move to the other side of the infirmary. Infirmary? Simon winced and tried to recall what the good gorram had happened.

Zoe watched him closely, taking something of a twisted pride in the two lovely black eyes either side of his broken nose. Simon's mouth hung half open so he could breathe, the raspy breaths also indicating a very dry throat. Zoe did not offer him any water, she wanted to see his reaction as full consciousness set in. "What... what happened?"

"Was rather hopin' you'd tell us."

He blinked up at her, wondering at the grimness of her countenance. Had they been attacked? Was that how he had ended up here, on one of his own beds? No. Not his. Not any more. He had left, hadn't he? Simon frowned slightly then wished he hadn't, the movement of facial muscles pulling at sore flesh and damaged skin. His face was throbbing something fierce but instinct told him Zoe would be far from sympathetic if he asked for some pain relief. Might actually give it to him in the form of Jayne's fist to his face. Simon paused, now why in the *diyu* would he think that?

"Feel free to start explainin' yourself any time, Simon."

Confused, he squinted against the harsh infirmary lights and stared at Zoe for a moment. "Suppose you tell me."

Her stony expression made his heart sink. His mind as foggy as the thickest mist. "You remember docking with Serenity to see your sister?"

Mention of River had Simon turning his head to look for her but she was not in the infirmary. That made him frown, not imagining what could cause her to leave him when he was injured. "Where is she?"

"Was dead on her feet. Sent her to get some sleep, that was just over two hours ago."

Simon knew she would be back soon, could sense her moving restlessly in her bed as if sensing that he was awake. "I came to take her home."

"Which home is that?"


"You said you came to take River home, which home is that?"

He could not think, head so muzzy and heavy it was a wonder he had managed to keep his eyes open. "Um, home. Where I am."

"Where's that?"

"Here, there..."

"You mean Osiris?"

"*Bu qu*, not a place. Wherever River and I happen to be, that's home."

"River thinks of Serenity as Home."

Simon nodded. He knew that.

"She doesn't want to leave it."

"*Qing*, tell me what happened. Everything's so fuzzy and I have the feeling something bad happened."

"Besides me breakin' your nose?"

His eyes widened in shock. "You did that?"

"After you took my gun an' shot the Cap'n. Seemed like the thing to do."

Simon Tam stared at her as if Zoe had sprouted three heads, all of them talking *fei hua*. "I did what?"

It was a wonder Jayne didn't reach across the infirmary bed and strangle the man, he was so gorram angry. And hearing Simon pretend he didn't remember a rutting thing was almost more than a body could bear. A look from Zoe kept him in place though Jayne didn't like it. Zoe was beginning to think she must have hit Simon too hard. "You docked with Serenity, asked River to leave with you but she refused. You then yelled at the Cap'n, drew my gun an' shot him. Point blank range, even you couldn't miss. First bullet went through his gut, lost a lot of blood. Thought we'd lost him."

"*Wode ma*, I can't believe I did that." Simon exclaimed in horror, closing his eyes then opening them seconds later to see a curious look on Zoe's face but he didn't think about what it might mean, too concerned with what had apparently happened. "Is he...? I mean, did I...?"

"He ain't dead if that's what you're askin'." Growled Jayne, unable to stay silent a moment longer. "Not that ya didn't try again."

The last bit of blood in Simon's face drained away. "*Tianna*, I tried to kill him - twice?"

Oh, Simon was good. If Zoe hadn't been present when he had tried to take the Captain out she would have been tempted to believe it hadn't happened. Bloody near-corpses notwithstanding. "Are you sayin' you don't remember what you did?"

"I.. I don't know what to say."

"How about ya say nothin', just take a nice long walk outta the airlock? It's better than ya deserve you *hundan*."

"Jayne, you ain't helpin'."

"*Wei*, I said I wouldn't kill him outright. Never said I wouldn't wanna."

Simon started to sit up, pausing when a wave of dizzyness swept over him. No one helped or hindered him. Once his head stopped spinning he glanced around, locating the Captain at the other side of the infirmary. He appeared to be on oxygen and one of the readers was hooked up presumably giving blood. Simon blinked and tried to put a name to the face. Helen. The girl. Come to think of it he couldn't recall ever having heard the woman speak and yet here she was giving blood to the Captain. A thought occurred to him and he gave Zoe a sharp look. "Is she even the right blood type?"

Zoe nodded. "One of two matches."

That suprised him. Simon thought the only match had been Wash. "Who's the other one?" "Ruben."

His expression said *who* then Simon remembered.

"Ruben's already been an' gone."

"How much blood did the Captain lose?"

"Like ya care." Sneered Jayne.

"I don't remember what happened Jayne but there has to be a perfectly good reason why I did what I did."

"Uh uh," Jayne shook his head and shifted, one hand on his gun, the fingers itching around the trigger guard, his expression eager and frustrated at not being able to end him. "I was there an' Cap never said nor did nothin'. Just walked into the commons room with ya an' ya turned an' yelled at him, grabbed Zoe's gun an' shot him. I should'a shot ya dead there an' then. Still might."

"*Wo bu dong* but I'm sorry."

"Sorry ya missed, ya mean."

Simon looked from Jayne to Zoe then back again, a helpless expression on his face. "I should take a look, make sure he's alright..."

Before Zoe could block him Jayne drew his gun. "Ya mean make sure ya kill him this time."

"Jayne," Said Simon in exasperation, trying to keep his voice calm. "I'm not going to kill the Captain."

"No, ya ain't. Take one step in his direction an' it'll be the last move ya make, *dong ma*?"

"Look, I understand how you feel..."

"No," Said Zoe, her expression grim. "You don't. Stay put if you know what's best for you, least 'til we sort this out."

Just then the door opened and River and Inara came in. Inara gave Simon a wary look and kept her distance. Simon frowned. River ignored everyone but her brother, settling on the chair next to his bed she smiled at him. Knowing now what had happened it unsettled Simon to see her looking happy.

"You could have died." She said by way of explanation. "Could'a, would'a, should'a."

River stared at Jayne for a moment. "Empty vessels make most sound." "Ya should know, moon-brain."

"It wasn't Simon's fault. Someone else pulling the strings."

Jayne was about to argue but Zoe stiffened at River's words. "What do you mean?"

"Far, far away."

"What she talkin' about?" Jayne asked Zoe.

"She's right here!" River snapped. Then calm again she looked at Zoe, her expression intent as if trying to burn every word into the first mate's mind. "Apron strings only stretch so far. It's a myth."

"River, what do you mean *mei mei*?" Inara asked, looking up from where she was standing next to the Captain's bed. Helen sat quietly and listened but said nothing. Her eyes sad when she glanced at the Captain. So still and pale, the oxygen mask helping to keep him stable. So much blood lost for so little gain. Helen abhored waste almost as much as violence. "Simon doesn't take lives, he saves them."

"Yeah, well he was obviously havin' an off day." Said Jayne.

Before the argument could escalate a low extenuated moan of pain came from the third occupied bed. Simon frowned. Who else had he shot? Zoe hurried to check on Thadius, happy to see him regaining consciousness. She was right. He woke with one hell of a headache.

"Ruttin' *diyu*, what the *guai* hit me!" Almost as soon as the words passed his lips memories cascaded through his mind. "Oh, *wo jide*."

Zoe laid a hand on his arm, the closest thing to approval on her face. "You did good, Thadius. Saved the Cap'n."

Concern pushed back the pain from his eyes. "How's he doin'?"

"We had to give him a lot of blood, pretty much every drop in his body right now is borrowed."

From Simon's bed, an agony of little curses announced to Thadius that he was not the only one awake. Zoe helped Thadius sit up and smirked at the expression on his face when he found his head wanted to disconnect from the rest of his body for the journey. Turning his head, Thadius looked across at Simon. Saw the worry and shame in the man's eyes and wondered at it. Anger burned like a muted flame, his temper held in check by the need for information. "*Weishenme*? Why d'you do it?"

Simon shook his head carefully, still inclined to see stars when he moved too quickly. "*Wo bu zhidao*. Crazy as this is going to sound I don't remember doing it, still less *wanting* to do it." At everyone's incredulous looks Simon hurried on to explain. "That's not to say that I haven't wanted to knock the *goushi* out of the Captain on a pretty regular basis but I've never actually wanted to end his life, you have to believe me. We just clash, always have. What happened is... well, it's out of character."

"Out of character to shoot him or out of character to miss?" Said Thadius.

Jayne actually gave a bitter laugh at the idea of Thadius assuming Simon was some kind of gun hand. "Simon ain't much of a shot, Thadius. Not that he had to be, standing two ruttin' feet from the Cap. Big gorram hero shoots the on'y man to stand by him all the time the feds was searchin' for him an' his moon-brain sister. Guess loyalty ain't somethin' you get taught in Alliance schools."

"*Bizui*!" Zoe's eyes narrowed. "This bickerin' ain't helpin' nobody. You wanna pick a fight Jayne do it elsewhere."

"I still think I should take a look at the Captain." Said Simon. He felt a little light headed but at least he was only seeing one of everyone now. He needed to be doing something, putting right whatever he'd done and by the look of it he had done plenty.

Zoe hesitated but before she could tell Simon what to do with his false show of concern Inara spoke. Inara. What was it with the two of them that she would always side with Simon? Was it because she and Simon were both core bred and formerly supporters of the Alliance? Or mayhap, they still were. The thought did not settle easy on the first mate's mind. Inara was speaking in her most reasonable voice. Made Zoe think of what the Captain called *wiles*. It had been funny once but she wasn't laughing any more. "It couldn't hurt Zoe and Simon is a good doctor. Besides, we'll be right here." Her tone inferred *what could go wrong?*

Simon ran a hand through his hair and wondered how in the nine hells he was going to fix this. Not just the Captain but the trust that had once existed between himself and these people. He did not for a minute think Malcolm Reynolds would be forgiving him any time soon.

"Faulty perspective." Said River in a quiet voice. In the silence her words carried to every corner of the room as clear as crystal. "The truth will always surprise you."

Too tired and heart sore to fight any more Zoe nodded. "Okay, but I'll be watchin' you like a gorram hawk. Still don't believe that mouthful of *goushi* you spouted but right now my priority is the Cap'n. One wrong move Simon an' you're all out of second chances, *dong ma*?"

Serenity's former doctor nodded and let River help him slide out of bed, his bare feet oddly grounded by the cold floor. Thadius was watching him closely but Simon ignored the man. Zoe took a step towards him and frowned. "What happened to your clothes?"

Simon looked down, realised he was still wearing Robert Paxton's clothing and flushed. Now was so not the time to explain how he had come by them. He could hardly re-earn their trust by explaining how he had drugged the rightful owner and placed his own Alliance implant in the unwitting stooge. Fortunately, River came to his rescue.


"We can talk about this later, let me take a look at the Captain before I pass out."

A flicker of concern crossed Zoe's face. "That likely?"

"Right now I wouldn't rule anything out."

River helped Simon walk over to the Captain's bed, Zoe half nervous and half hopeful. Inara actually looked relieved. Thadius Clay watched from his bed, surprising Zoe by not getting up and placing himself between the Captain and Simon. Or maybe having done it once the man was rethinking that strategy. She had forgotten about Helen. The girl absorbed the unspoken command from Thadius and watched from the other side of the Captain's bed, the line of blood still flowing through the iv line from her to the Captain. Simon washed his hands carefully, smiling his thanks when River handed him a towel. In silence his audience watched as Simon painstakingly checked the Captain and determined that Helen could stop giving blood. Simon withdrew the needle and swabbed the injection site, putting a little cotton wool then a plaster over it. He smiled kindly at the girl.

"You did a good job, Helen."

Helen did not ask any questions, her mind tenatively brushing Simon's to try to pick up any residual thoughts that might give away his true intentions. But his thoughts were blocked and any intrusion would not be the wisest thing to do with River still in the room. Next to go was the Captain's oxygen mask, Simon carefully checking and rechecking before deciding that it would not be needed any longer. Zoe haunted his steps, just staying out of his way enough for him to do his job but close enough to see exactly what he was doing. Simon found it very wearing but couldn't blame her. The woman had already lost her husband and losing her closest friend was not an option.

* * * * *

Kaylee Frye sat in the engine room and tried to concentrate on her impromptu bout of maintenance. Keeping busy was the only thing helping her to keep it together. Everything had gone to *diyu* in a hand basket and the crew was so uptight and jumpy she couldn't stand to be around them. Everything was putting her on edge not least the presence of Simon. Despite his confession that he didn't love her she still worried about him. Worried about the Captain too, even Thadius. But it was to Simon that her thoughts kept returning, her heart insisting that he hadn't told her everything. After all, how could she have invented all those shiny things he'd said to her, the way they fit together, the happiness they had shared? Sure the sex was mind blowing but only because it was Simon. *Her* Simon. Only he wasn't hers any more.

A stab of guilt was pushed aside as she worked. The Captain would understand if she didn't come visiting until Simon had gone. Working away through the mist dimming her eyes Kaylee almost fancied she believed the lie. Unwilling and unable to watch him leave again.

* * * * *

Commandant Austin did not query the Director's orders but he did find his eye drawn again and again to the imposing and somewhat remote figure of Regan Tam. Having a Councillor aboard his vessel was rare enough but the news that this was a mission authorised by Parliament had raised everything to another level. Whatever they wanted with that *lese* Firefly he had no intention of getting in the way. Austin was ambitious not suicidal. His instructions were to find the ship and obey any and all instructions from his high ranking passenger. It had been something of a shock to hear the ship's name, Serenity. Although he had never seen the ship he was aware of some of its' history from his good friend Harkan. The man had brought back the most outlandish story he had ever heard and if that didn't beat all had evinced a certain grudging admiration for the Captain, a former browncoat called Malcolm Reynolds. As important and hush-hush as this mission was Austin could feel his pulse quickening with eager anticipation. After Harkan's run-in then Miranda, that ship and crew had already passed into the annals of legend. Commandant Hugo Austin secretly confessed to more than a passing curiosity in both ship and crew. Maybe, just maybe, if he did this right he would be worthy of legend too.

* * * * *

It took hours before Simon was satisfied. Wearily he informed Zoe that the Captain's condition was stable and he would be fine. All the man needed was time for his body to heal. Then Zoe ushered him back to bed and told Jayne to dope him. Simon opened his mouth to protest, his eyes widening in alarm and irritation at the rough sting of the injection emptying its' contents into the side of his neck. Stunned he stared at Jayne who was grinning back at him. "What was that?"

"Knock out drops, doc. Can't let the crazy man run loose around the ship."

Simon wanted to correct him but already his lips were going numb. His brain felt like it was siezing up. Dimly he was aware of Zoe speaking to Jayne, his eyes sliding closed while the black hovered behind his lids.

"How much you give him?"

"Enough to drop a gorram horse." "Jayne, I said dope him not kill him." "Ain't gonna kill him, Zoe, just enough to make sure he stays down 'till we wanna bring him round."

"An' if we don't?" "Hell, I've hefted dead weight before."

Simon heard no more. Zoe checked to make sure he was under, knowing River was keeping a close eye. "River, how come you never warned us about the gunplay?"

Although the words were casually spoken Jayne knew they were anything but. It was something he had been wondering his own self, River being their own little albatross and all.

"Couldn't see or hear. The path was blocked. As good as being blind."


"I never knew."

"Knew what, *mei mei*?"

River stared into Zoe's eyes for several seconds, as if judging whether or not she could be trusted. To tell or not to tell? Zoe wondered whose side River was on. Silly question really. It would be Simon's. No matter what the boy did or said he would always be River's brother and she would follow him to the end. Rather like Zoe and Mal not that the first mate wanted to be finding parallels. Her job was hard enough without fighting the sympathy vote. She turned to speak to Thadius but he had drifted off to sleep, Helen now sitting beside him. Zoe was so gorram tired but reluctant to leave. Inara could see the first mate was dead on her feet.

"Get some sleep, Zoe, I'll stay."

Frowning she was about to protest when Jayne cut in. "*Fang xin*, was fixin' to stay my own self anyway. I'll wake ya if anythin' changes."

It was weird how comforting that gruff promise was. With a nod Zoe left the infirmary, Jayne sparing a glance in River's direction before seating himself the other side of the Captain. Inara gave him a sour look but he ignored it. Gorram Companion might be bedding the Captain but that was like to change as often as he changed his rutting socks. Woman forever blowing hot and cold. Too bad if she didn't like the company, Jayne was determined not nobody on this boat was going to have another chance to hurt the man. And that included crazy moon touched girls and flighty Companions who thought too damn much of themselves. Yeah, he would stay and watch over the Captain. If nothing else it would be one less worry for Kaylee.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *qing* = please *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *dong ma* = understand? *lese* = crappy *goushi* = crap/dog shit *diyu* = hell *shenme* = what *tianna* = oh God! *fei hua* = nonsense/garbage talk *hundan* = bastard *wode ma* = mother of God *wei* = hey! *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *mei mei* = little sister *guai* = devil/ghost *wo jide* = I remember *weishenme* = why *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *bizui* = be quiet/shut up *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart


Friday, March 10, 2006 11:48 AM


Wow... two posts in one day. You're spoiling us.

I'm still confused about Simon. I can't decide how much I want to hate him.

Lucky the new defrostees were about for that blood transfusion. Also grateful that you didn't kill off Thadius.

Good stuff again Ali!


Friday, March 10, 2006 12:18 PM


I'm still hoping that Simon didn't mean what he said to Kaylee. That there is still hope for them.

Good to know someone else was pulling the strings and made Simon shoot Mal. . .

Please do write faster. I'm now hooked on this and am eagerly awaiting the next part.

Friday, March 10, 2006 12:41 PM


Thank you!!! Your fiction is really addictive! :D

Friday, March 10, 2006 8:02 PM


Interesting. Simon certainly is a mystery here. I wonder who is pulling Simon's strings and why he is behaving as two completely different people. I look forward to your next chapters.


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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.