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AMDOBELL

THE RETRIBUTION SERIES: 1. "A Step Into a Wider 'Verse"
Thursday, January 11, 2007

"With coin in their pockets from the last job the crew are determined to make the best of their stopover on New Tokyo. A new face brings a mix of conflicting emotions and the sense that something unpleasant is waiting in the wings."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1738    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "A STEP INTO A WIDER 'VERSE" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: G. STATUS: First in the RETRIBUTION SERIES. ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://unilelu.net/Alison/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "With coin in their pockets from the last job the crew are determined to make the best of their stopover on New Tokyo. A new face brings a mix of conflicting emotions and the sense that something unpleasant is waiting in the wings." 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 STEP INTO A WIDER 'VERSE"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

New Tokyo was a generous mix of the very old and the very new, like many of the terraformed worlds it had no identity of its' own. The conglomeration of cultures and periods meshed into something beyond cosmopolitan but with enough mutual points of reference to be familiar to the wide mix of races calling the place home. Kaylee was so excited she could barely speak coherently. Smiling, Inara informed her friend that one of the many things New Tokyo was famous for was its' markets. Kaylee's eyes widened even further, a fever of excitement barely contained behind eyes that shone.

"I hear they got everythin' ya can think of, 'Nara. If ya can't buy it in New Tokyo it don't exist!"

Inara continued brushing Kaylee's hair for a moment or two. "That may be something of an exaggeration, *mei mei*, but I don't think you'll be disappointed."

The girl was bouncing so much that Inara had to stop brushing. "We won't be landing for another hour, Kaylee. I thought you wanted to look your best for Simon?" She teased.

"*Duibuqi*, 'Nara, just I get so excited seein' new places, meetin' new folk an' all."

"Did the Captain say how long we're stopping?"

"A day maybe two, depends on if I can get the parts we need for Serenity."

"Call it two days."

The Companion bit back a sigh, she might have known the Captain would be snooping just outside her door. "Why don't you come in and save yourself the strain of eavesdropping?"

Malcolm Reynolds leaned around the open hatch not at all discomfitted to be caught out. "It's more fun this way."

As the Captain walked in to join them Inara resisted the urge to bang her head on the dressing table top. Sometimes she wondered what terrible thing she had done in a previous life to reap this karma. "For you maybe but this is still my shuttle and I would appreciate it if you knocked. You do know how to knock?"

The Captain slid his hands in his back pockets. "Absolutely. Never again."

His reply was flat with no attempt at sounding sincere. Kaylee giggled a little, enjoying the banter between her two friends. Too happy to allow anything to take the shine off her good mood. She did not know that beneath the prickly gloss of bon homie lines had been drawn that neither would cross. Every conversation a fencing match with one or the other testing the defences and looking for cracks in the other one's armour. Kaylee would have thought it romantic. It wasn't, though a certain amount of mutual attraction blurred the edges and complicated things in ways that confounded the mind. Inara, being a fully trained and exceptional Companion had the edge and that was all manner of disturbing for Serenity's Captain. Kept a man on his toes. The sweet smile she turned on Mal was like a shiny exotic blade dipped in a poison so discreet it could be mistaken for honey. Kaylee saw the shine and missed what the dazzle of it was concealing but the Captain was all aware of how sharp and deadly it could be. His smile did not falter but neither did it quite reach his eyes. If Kaylee had been paying closer attention she would have said he looked a mite haunted.

"Two days gonna be enough for you, little Kaylee?"

"Shiny Cap'n!"

He took his right hand out of his pocket and rotated it in his mechanic's direction. "Then best you get ready. Ain't stoppin' for no stragglers, *dong ma*?"

Inara frowned but the Captain had already turned around and left, his crisp footfalls all business like and Captain-y. Inara murmured a rude imprecation under her breath only catching herself when Kaylee gasped. "Cap'n was on'y teasin', 'Nara."

The Companion smiled to take the sting out of it. "So was I *mei mei*. Now, are you going to fetch Simon before the Captain leaves you behind?"

Kaylee laughed brightly. "Cap'n wouldn't do that."

"Let's not find out shall we?"

The girl nodded and happily bounced out of the shuttle, Inara remaining where she was for a moment to collect her thoughts. Inwardly finding that centre of calm that would allow her to continue amid the distractions that typified life aboard this ship.

* * * * *

In the cargo bay Wash was getting the mule ready. Zoe put a hand on his shoulder and kissed him as the pilot looked up and grinned at her. Shepherd Book stood to one side, a thoughtful expression on his calm face. The rattle on the metal staircase announced the mercenary's arrival, his arms and body bristling with weapons. Wash stopped his preparations and stared at him. "Jayne, we're goin' to a market not a battlefield!"

Jayne looked down at himself, couldn't see a gorram thing wrong. "Huh? Just wanna be ready."

"For what? Armageddon?"

"Arma-what?"

"End of the World." They looked round as River joined them. "You think you'll see it coming but you won't. That's what makes it so devastating."

Jayne frowned. Gorram girl was always the voice of rutting doom. Morbid and creepifying that's what it was. He would have said something but the Captain appeared, a tired twisted smile on his face. "Soon as we get paid you can go explore an' such. Ain't no reason not to take care, *dong ma*?"

Shepherd Book frowned slightly. "Are we expecting trouble, Captain?"

The Captain tried to shake off his mood. "*Bu qu* but it does always seem to find us."

Two hours later, in the dusty shine of the mid-day heat, the crew took their cut and drifted off in ones and twos to see how fast they could spend it. The Shepherd hung back, watching the others depart. Inara had already left to meet a client and for once Simon and River felt safe enough to leave the ship. Kaylee so excited to be exploring with her friends that the warmth coming off the girl could have powered the gorram engine on its' own. Never did fail to amuse the Captain how much joy his *mei mei* could cram into everyday things. Still, she was happy and his crew was all in one piece. It was as much as any Captain could wish for.

"What are you going to spend your money on, Captain?"

"Huh?"

Book turned amused eyes on the Captain. Noted the man looked stressed and tired. Maybe it wasn't just the crew that needed a few days planet side. "A simple question, Captain. I asked what you planned to do on New Tokyo."

"Thought I'd take a look around the market, the space port an' such. See if anyone's wantin' goods haulin'. Be good to line up a new job for when we're ready to leave. What about you?"

"My order doesn't have a monastery here though I have heard there is a famous Buddhist temple on the other side of town."

The Captain raised a brow. "You thinkin' of switchin' your allegiance, Shepherd? 'Cause I'm fair certain I've heard the Lord your God is a jealous God or somesuch."

A pleased smile teased at Book's lips. Only when he got the man alone did the Shepherd get little glimpses of the good Christian boy the Alliance had beaten into a reluctant non believer. It saddened him and gave him a spark of hope at the same time. Then he would remember the Captain's warning not to go making him his mission, that he was welcome on his ship but God wasn't. He hoped in time that falling out with the Almighty would heal. Maybe not today but... He realised the Captain was talking again.

"Silence ain't no answer."

A smile spread across the Preacher's lips. "Sometimes it's the only answer."

Then with a polite nod Book walked off down the ramp and into the thickening mill of folk heading to and from the busy bustle that was New Tokyo. Within seconds Book was swallowed up, lost in the crowd. The Captain paused then went back inside and checked his boat one last time. Felt all manner of wrong to leave her empty but Wash had rigged up an alarm of sorts and he had coaxed Kaylee into fitting an automatic over ride and disconnect in the engine should anyone try to start her up without entering the newly programmed code. Maybe he was just being paranoid but that run in with Jubal Early had shaken him up more than he cared to admit. Fortunately his crew had recovered but still the lingering taste of self blame kept him awake the nights that memories of the war didn't rob him of sleep first. An hour snatched here and there had become the norm. Lately even that short shrift was being whittled away leaving him uneasy and feeling more than a mite exposed. It irritated him that Inara could get to him so easily but if she was the worst of his troubles he would be a happy man.

With a sigh he knew he would not be able to leave the ship and relax. Resigned to waiting until some of his crew had had their fun and returned so he could go and explore the sights for himself, the Captain was surprised when a man in some kind of ceremonial dress approached the ship with a dignity that belied his short stature. The Captain's eyes narrowed slightly. At first he thought the man was Chinese but once the head whipped round and those intense eyes locked onto his, the Captain realised his mistake. The man straightened his stance and took three measured steps towards the bottom of the ramp then bowed. Mal raised his eyebrows. What now?

"*Kon-nichiwa*, I am looking for passage to Tagawa."

The Captain resisted the odd urge to bow back. Now that he could see the man clearly he realised he was Japanese. His manner and dress that of a samurai, only he was not one of the parading peacocks he had seen on other worlds. The Chinese tongs and the various crime families seemed more than worlds away from this man. There was a deep calm emanating from him that made his visitor a singular fellow. Mal shook his head slightly, careful to make it a respectful negation not a dismissal of his uninvited guest. "*Duibuqi*, can't say I've heard of any such place Mr...?"

"Hanimoto. Akira Hanimoto."

Mal nodded and leaned forward into an almost-bow. "Mr Hanimoto, my name is Malcolm Reynolds an' I Cap'n this boat. Where did you say Tagawa was?"

A funny little smile brightened just below the man's skin, like a light kept dim until it was needed for illumination. "As far from *jigoku* as possible, *taisa*."

The Captain frowned, not familiar with the place or the term of address. "Not heard of that place either. Maybehaps you need another boat."

A rare smile lit Hanimoto's face for just a moment then all humour vanished, the only trace that it was ever there a lingering amusement in the man's eyes. "*Jikogu* means the underworld, the afterlife, *taisa*. It is hell."

"I imagine it would be." Murmured the Captain.

"Tagawa on the other hand is a village, a settlement on a nearby moon."

"The name of which is...?"

"Sandeaster."

"Never heard of that either."

Something flitted across the man's eyes, like a cloud obscuring the sun. "That is because it lies in shadow."

Mal blinked. Sure he had misheard the man. Did he say Shadow? The Captain closed his eyes a moment, the better to calm old memories from stirring. Memories he in no way was minded to have rekindled. When he opened his eyes there was no sign of the samurai. Uncomfortable now, the Captain peered all around, looked for the slim proud figure in the crowd, the silk folds of his *haori* and *hakama* not even a flutter of colour to catch the eye. It was as if the man had never been. Suddenly the Captain didn't want to leave his ship. Wished instead they had never landed on New Tokyo but that was where their last cargo had been dropped and it was the shiny payment from that piece of business that was even now enabling them to resplenish their supplies, get the parts Kaylee needed to finish those niggling repairs and still leave enough coin to make his crew happy for the first time in weeks. Real coin to jingle and a shiny place to spend it. As discomfitted as he felt, Mal couldn't bring himself to regret that.

* * * * *

The market was a vibrant riot of activity, colour, noise and smells. Simon tried not to wince every time a vendor tried to get him to taste something from one of their hand carts, the steam rising from covered dishes so deep he couldn't see the bottom even through the thin stringy soup. Something white and limp traced contours he did not recognise. It made him want to heave even though Kaylee was trying to push him forward, encourage him to take a mouthful so that she could find out how good it was. Since when had he become the official taster? He vaguely wondered if he ate it and dropped dead if they would be sorry then mentally berated himself for his uncharitable thoughts. "I don't think so, Kaylee. Why don't you try?"

Beaming at him, Kaylee opened her mouth and let the vendor lift one trail of white strands from the soup and onto her waiting tongue. Simon marvelled that none of it hung out of her mouth, the chopsticks as sure as any knife or fork in the hands of an expert. Kaylee closed her mouth and chewed, eyes closed, a big smile blossoming on an already ecstatic face. River was bobbing next to her, pushing Simon aside so she could edge in next to her friend, her mouth opening ready for a free taste. Simon was about to suggest she wait for Kaylee's verdict but the vendor beat him to it. Closing her mouth and chewing on the tasty morsel, delight spread over her face. River looked at her brother, noticing his wary expression. "Ginger."

"Ginger soup?"

She laughed, a bright silvery sound that made her brother's heart ache. How long had it been since he had seen River so carefree? "No, there's spring onions and chicken stock and..."

The vendor errupted into an excitable diatribe. River nodded, acted chastened then turned back to Simon.

"*Duibuqi*, if you want to know what it tastes like you have to buy a bowl."

Kaylee's eyes snapped open and Simon froze, trapped by two pairs of knowing eyes begging him to just do it. Sighing, Simon asked how much and bought three bowls. Even he knew when to concede defeat.

* * * * *

Jayne Cobb found the sushi bar by accident. He wasn't looking for that kind of bar but this one had the most amazing smells coming from it and there were waitresses in all shapes and sizes doing amazing things with their bodies in some kind of exotic floor show. It was like no bar he had ever seen in his life. The place was crowded but the raised circular dias in the middle was kept clear for the entertainment. Jayne asked for a drink and frowned when he was given a pottery narrow necked vase and a tiny little pottery cup. "What the good gorram is this? Said I wanted a drink."

The waitress smiled and bowed. She was Chinese but Jayne could see the girls came from every corner of the 'verse. A beautiful dark skinned girl was doing something with tofu that made him feel so horny he couldn't sit still. "Beer coming." The girl explained as she pushed the little vase towards him.

"Then what's that?"

"Saki."

"I didn't order no saki an' if I did I wouldn't be able to drink it out of no thimble." The girl looked over his shoulder and out of instinct Jayne half turned, saw the man at the sushi bar raise one of the tiny earthenware tumblers in his direction then drink it down in one. Huh. Jayne looked down at the ridiculous drink and poured a shot, throwing it back and preparing to do a quick refill when he coughed. The heat hit the back of his throat like liquid napalm making his eyes tear. Glaring at the girl he took a moment to find his voice. "Ya tryin' to gorram kill me, girl?"

The waitress hurried away. Jayne pushed the rest of it away from him, aware that the man at the bar was now standing next to his table. That was weird. When had he moved?

"What d'ya want?"

The man stared at Jayne for a moment. "You are not very friendly, are you?"

"Ain't paid to make nice with the natives."

Although the man's expression didn't alter, Jayne felt a pricking sensation. His interest in the entertainment vanished, all of him alert and paying attention. The man nodded. "That's better. Now you show respect."

Jayne was about to teach the man his own version of respect when the room seemed to clear as the man stepped to one side. Frowning, Jayne looked up and felt his mouth go dry. Gorramit, this could not be happening. Several large bully boys stepped aside to allow a smaller figure to walk between them. The suit, the lined wizzened face, beady eyes and metal rimmed spectacles finished the nightmare made flesh. As he reached Jayne's table, it was as if all other sounds in the room had been sucked into the atmo. "You recognise me, yes?"

"Wish to *diyu* I didn't."

Adelei Niska smiled, a more creepifying sight Jayne Cobb could scarce imagine. His hands itched to riddle the *tamade hundan* full of holes but Niska was not stupid. Everywhere he went his well armed henchmen went with him. Jayne watched as Niska pulled out a chair and sat calm as you please next to him. "You wanted a drink, Mr Cobb."

"How'd I know ya won't try an' poison me?"

He laughed, the light glinting off his glasses as Niska's head tilted, momentarily hiding the man's eyes from Jayne. "Poison, is a woman's weapon - yes? I prefer... more entertainin' ways to get what I want."

"Like torture."

It was not a question and Niska did not treat it like one. Looking over his shoulder Niska nodded and a waitress came up and put a beer on the table, a jug next to it to refill it as and when Jayne might want. Right now, much as he wanted to drown himself in alcohol he couldn't seem to operate the right muscles. Distrust kept him wary. For all he knew the pitcher could be drugged. Plus he was going to need all his wits about him. "Ain't said what ya want."

"What does a man like me always want?" Again that creepy smile, that false bon homie as if he was every child's favourite uncle only his kids would be the ones screaming themselves to sleep. That was, the lucky ones that got any kind of rest at all. "Malcolm Reynolds, where is he?"

The hairs stirred on the back of Jayne's neck. If he could have he would have wrapped a hand around that scrawny neck and not let go until he'd squeezed the life out of him. He'd seen what the man had done to Mal and Wash. Seen the ear Zoe brought back when she went in to retrieve Wash before the whole crew had gone in and taken on the skyplex to get the Captain back. Somehow he didn't think a rescue like that would be launched any time soon for him. For one thing none of the others knew where he was. He was also pretty gorram sure none of them had any idea that Niska was on New Tokyo.

"Where is Malcolm Reynolds?"

Jayne swallowed. "What ya askin' me for? I ain't the Cap's keeper."

"A pity," Niska oozed in a patently false sham of regret. "to die for so little and want so much."

"Huh?"

As if at some pre-arranged signal, Niska's henchmen closed in. Fast for men of their size but strength and numbers achieved their purpose with ruthless efficiency, disarming and immobilising the mercenary before he could so much as draw his gun. Not that it would have done him any good but at least he would have had the satisfaction of placing a gorram bullet between the eyes of that twisted *liumang*. Niska leaned forward so that he could speak without raising his voice, strong hands pulling Jayne's arms behind his back and fitting steel cuffs around his wrists. With both hands behind his back and a man holding him in his seat he wasn't going anywhere unless it was what Niska wanted. Beads of sweat gathered on Jayne's brow like an escape committee. "I'm thinking Captain Reynolds will not let you be a captive for long. Such loyalty!" "Don't count on it. We don't always see eye to eye."

Niska looked surprised but there was no telling how genuine it was. "You are not friends? And yet you attack my skyplex to free him."

The mercenary didn't speak. Didn't explain that he went along only because the others shamed him into it. Plus he didn't want the crew to get the Captain back and for Mal to know he was the only one who had refused to lift a finger to help. The man had more lives than a gorram cat but that aside Jayne liked being on his crew. Having a place to lay down his head, a room to call his own, food in his belly and company that didn't leave a stain in their wake. Plus, the Captain had earned his respect and pretty much most of his trust. That was something seldom given and a fact he wouldn't own up to even under torture. Couldn't have a mercenary beholden to anyone even if the man was his boss. Folk would think he was weak. Niska tented his fingers and tapped his chin, watching Jayne with a thoughtful expression on his face.

"Also, I miss Crow. Someone I think has to pay for Crow, yes?"

Then Niska was rising, Jayne being propelled to his feet and pushed along. No one in the bar said anything or made any attempt to interfere. Cursing himself for getting caught, Jayne vowed to find a way out of his predicament and when he did, Adelei Niska would never have to worry about his reputation again.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*mei mei* = little sister *duibuqi* = sorry *dong ma* = understand? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *diyu* = hell *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard

JAPANESE GLOSSARY:

*kon-nichiwa* = good day *jikogu* = the underworld, the afterlife, hell *taisa* = captain *haori* = a half-length coat *hakama* = trousers with wide flaring sides

COMMENTS

Thursday, January 11, 2007 10:59 AM

AMDOBELL


This story is set at the end of the series but before the BDM. Hope you folks enjoy it, if so don't be shy and leave a comment. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, January 11, 2007 12:25 PM

STORMWOLFDAWN


Oh wow Jayne in Niska's claws, I am like totally interested and want more of this story soon. I love Jayne in danger stories...hell I love Jayne lol. More soon please

Thursday, January 11, 2007 7:11 PM

JETFLAIR


I've never been lucky enough to catch one of your stories at the beginning, I'll try to keep up with this one :) It's an intriguing start; Niska's always good for a hair-raising story. Jayne being the crew member I'm least fond of, it'll be interesting to see how this plays out. Him getting snathched should bring up some interesting studies in loyalty among the crew!

Friday, January 12, 2007 11:06 AM

HOMESPUN


Oh, this should be good! I like how you write Jayne, and this ought to raise some good questions.
And this:
"The sweet smile she turned on Mal was like a shiny exotic blade dipped in a poison so discreet it could be mistaken for honey." - nice!

Sunday, January 14, 2007 1:20 PM

READOUT


I liked the way you used all the firefly terms here, such as "morbid and creepyfying." Yay for Captin-y things!

Sunday, January 14, 2007 4:25 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Ooh...this ain't good. Definitely not good at all:(

Still...great opening gambit, AMDOBELL! Loved what you did here and I can't wait to see how Jayne's capture is going to affect the crew;)

BEB

Sunday, March 30, 2008 11:11 PM

WYTCHCROFT


just re-read this - still holds up nicely, your patented lean prose and you nailed niska pretty much too:)


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