Levels of Heaven: Depths of Hell part8 the final
Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mornin Coat! I’m sure a lot of you known that Firefly played all day yesterday on the Science Channel (I love those guys). Firefly is still so entertaining, it never gets old! While watching I finished the “Levels of Heaven: Depths of Hell fan-fic that I’ve been writing. Chapter 8, the final is posted below. Hope you like it. It was a lot of fun for me. My deepest thanks to all that posted comments. Feedback helps guide me in the right direction….Anyway, good day to you all, ZBP


Levels of Heaven: Depths of Hell Part - 8 The Final Honor Among Thieves/ Mal Was Faster Names, places & points of interest; Sheriff Lance Bargo Deputy Jason Lightfoot Blue Canyon Falls ****************************************** Sheriff Lance Bargo looked at the petition. All it needed was his signature to become valid. He gazed up at the man who had brought the document over to him when he’d returned to the jailhouse and sat down at his desk. That individual had been Deputy Jason Lightfoot.

“Are you sure?” The Marshal of Jefferson territory asked. A definite expression of puzzlement etched across his face.

“Sure as I’m standing here.” the deputy answered, his head still sporting the bandage from the knock on the noggin he’d received the night before.

Bargo returned his focus to the paper he was holding in his hand.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had to sign one of these,” he exhaled a breath showing a bit of frustration at having to be the one to legalize the document. “ Fact is, I’ve never had to sign one my whole time as Sheriff of Gladys City…….. maybe I should go talk to him.”

“Sure Sheriff, but I don’t think it will help. He was pretty firm in his commitment in seeing this through.”

The Marshal looked back up to his Deputy.

“Still, I’ll sleep better tonight knowing I did all within my power to see that this had been avoided.”

The lawman stood, then venturing out the door.

---------------------------------------------- Honor Among Thieves --------------------------------------------

“Doc, he gonna be alright?” Jayne Cobb asked as he viewed Simon Tam in the small, but well lit room of the Serenity infirmary.

“Yes, he’s going to be fine,” Doc Tam answered. A small grin starting across the Doc’s face as he viewed the look of intense concentration on Jayne’s mug. The Doc was amused with the resident mercenary for showing compassion for a fellow thief, lawbreaker, and looter of men. Well, maybe ex-lawbreaker. Bucky Tosskin had left those criminal days far behind.

At one time Tosskin had been the pilot of the ship Jayne Cobb had been a member of, just prior to Jayne’s signing on with Serenity.

In an earlier time Jayne had been a member of the “Marco Gang”, run by petty gangster Marco Long. The big mercenary had been the muscle for that gang of thieves before becoming part of Serenity’s crew. Fact was, he had been with the crew of the “Angel Wing” the day they’d caught up with the Firefly transport vessel. Jayne had actually had been the one who’d tracked them down, which led to the interrogation of Mal and Zoe on Serenity’s loading ramp. That had been the day that Jayne had switched sides. Not that he’d felt any loyalty to anyone aboard the Angel Wing. He had always viewed himself as a loner. A man out for his own accord, a dúláidúwang (maverick), although he couldn’t spell the word. However, he wasn’t without honor, tradition and loyalty. He did have respectable traits. Some that would even shock Inara had she wished to know him better.

That was the thing about Jayne. He went much deeper than surface structure. Yet to find that out one had to reach down into his core, spend time with him. Time that most folk considered a waste. Mal saw value in the big mercenary, and Jayne knew it. But Cobb was also like a wolf waiting outside the sheep’s pen. Given a chance he’d have a bloody snout come breakfast time if nobody were watchin.

Jayne always wanted to be the biggest fish in the pond. He thought of things in a big way. Big money, big heist, big thieving, big adventure. That had been his goal, part of his admitted gèxìng (personality). Maybe he was out to prove something to somebody, maybe to himself. He wasn’t a bum, just a fellow wanting to attain the sweet things in life, on a very large scale if he could manage it.

Anyway, Bucky Tosskin had abandoned the Angel Wing days prior to them catching up to, and capturing Serenity. He had become disillusioned with the pirating life and suddenly developed a desire to become a farmer. He and Jayne had become friends aboard the ship and, other than family, the big mercenary had developed somewhat of a kinship to the ex-Alliance flier. Not many folk were able to engage that kind of respect from the big man. Malcolm Reynolds had, so had Zoe, Kaylee, and Shepherd Book. Even Wash, Simon, and his nut-cake little sister demanded some bit of respect from “The Man They Called Jayne”. Still, he continue to be at odds constantly with most folk around him.

Respect from Jayne came at a price. He was always pushing the envelope. Mal had to continuously be on guard around the big man. Jayne was the kind of person that would attempt a take-over in a flash, given a chance. But right now his attention was the concerned of his friend Bucky Tosskin…..

“He seems to be doing Ok Jayne.” Simon said, wanting to comfort the mountain of a fellow standing there, “ I’ll give him until this afternoon to sit and rest, take in fluids and medication. If I see an improvement he can go home.”

Simon also looked at Candice Naples standing at her uncle’s side. She was a cute girl, blonde haired, much like the many young nurses he remembered on Osiris. Coming to Minear had been quiet an adventure for her. One that she could tell many stories about once she returned home. Of course, if her parents were anything like his and River’s, then they may think she’d gone mad at the hands of her uncle. The inner planets were a bit isolated from the reality of what happened out on the rim. Turning a blind eye is what people sometimes do. The Doctor knew that from actual experience. Still, what could he do? Publish a book? Hardly, “The Adventures of Doc Tam and the Fine Young Cannibals”. He laughed, that would be considered an evil fairy tale, demented fiction by any civilized society. Probably thrown out with the trash, seen as not worth reading. It brought a little chuckle to his mind though. An image of him sitting at a book signing for “Best Seller” of the year. Maybe there could be a series of books, “The CASTLE of Doctor Tam”, subtitled- “secret crime fighter, with his young sibling River” !

Simon laughed out loud. No, that wouldn’t work either, after all, THEY performed crime, they didn’t solve it!

Simon never regretted one minute his becoming a doctor. It was his calling, his mìngyùn (fate/destiny). Whether on the rim worlds or the core planets it was what he was meant to do. Rim towns like Gladys City were starving for doctors. These wild worlds had so few. Even after the war, any browncoat physicians that showed excellent skills were recruited into the governing bodies management system. All that was left were horse doctors and animal vets good enough to care for the folk out here on the edges of the known verse. Of course that was a bit exaggerated too. There were many exceptional physicians still practicing out in the border and rim societies. The Unified worlds sometimes painted a dark cloud about the folk willing to live out here, but then the rim folk spoke unfavorably of the core too. It depended on one’s present company which side of the coin you had to listen to. Simon at present, was more onboard with the frame of mind presented by Serenity‘s crew. Not hard to change your color of coat whenever you eat, sleep and bleed with the very folk you at one time thought were close to savages. Still, Simon didn’t shy away from speaking his mind and mentioning the good things of government rule. Of course Mal didn’t like him talking that way, but not everyone aboard Serenity fought in the war, and not everyone had to agree with the Captain’s views. His boat may not be the rutting town hall, but Simon certainly had enough freedom to speak his own peace.

The Gladys City township didn’t have a doctor at the moment. Someone interested in the medical field would have to be totally in love with the medical profession, and not give a dàshu hòuduàn (rats rear-end) about financial reward to voluntarily ply their trade here. The Rockwell mining Company had a couple of experienced medical personnel on staff, but those folk chose to live in the slightly larger town of neighboring Watsonville. For now it was only him, and that was to be for only another day or two.

**************** “Are you sure I can’t talk you out of this!!?” Sheriff Bargo asked Carson Maxwell as he stood in front of the Company Facilitator’s desk. He felt an urgent need to resolve this issue before it ended in another tragic circumstance by the end of the day.

“No Sheriff, the dye has been cast. This feud has gone on longer than I can tell you about with Mr. Reynolds and myself. It’s about time I put an end to it!”

“Well, accusing you of having government ties is not a crime, but saying that you where the one who likely released Graham Dehn from jail and helped aid in his escape is akin to slander and could rightly be resolved by the local Judge in Watsonville. There’s no need to bring it to the point were you and Mr. Reynolds have to settle your differences out in the street.”

“The law provides for a duel does it not? An agreement upon which a time and place will be set aside for a man to defend his honor, or of one he has chosen to support? “

“It Does.”

“It’s all legal and binding is it not?”

“It is…….when my signature ends up at the bottom of the page. Although these occasions are rare, duels are still an accepted account of reaching a settlement as viewed by rim and border law. As long as it‘s between two people that understand the terms. It just doesn’t happen that often.”

“Well I appreciate your concern Sheriff. It is noted, yet I suggest that you apply your name to the document. The petition I engaged, and was awarded by town hall this morning for the right to settle a dispute, and an irritation that has followed me from town to town, from one world to another. That irritation is about to reach an end. Finalized at high noon today, out at the landing grid west of Gladys City. I assume it is your duty to have the streets cleared and the surrounding area void of bystanders by said time?”

“The streets shall be cleared for you sir.”

Sheriff Lance Bargo’s head drifted down a bit. Looked as if the Rockwell Mining Company employee was really going to go through with the ordeal.

“Good, I thank you!” Carson finished.

************** It was three minutes until the noon time hour on Minear 2. Malcolm Reynolds stood at the top of the loading ramp of Serenity. His arms were folded across his chest in a manner speaking of confidence and self assurance. His trustily side arm belted down, hanging true on his hip. He scanned the neighboring buildings to the east. Although the streets were clear, he could feel many an eye resting in open windows, or peering through cracks in open doorways. The week had been something of an excitement to the residence of this township. A escape from it’s day to day drudgery. When word of a gunfight had trickled through the territory there were many a witness come to see what was going on.

That was the thing about people, Malcolm Reynolds considered. As savage and barbaric as a gunfight or sword duel might be, there were still people willing to attend the show to see the soil become soaked with someone’s blood. One day there may be stories told about this, and folk would argue over the details. He hoped they portrayed him as tall and handsome. A little smile creased his lips.

Malcolm walked down the ramp, then stepped ten paces out in front of Serenity. There was a man sitting beneath a makeshift shelter fifty yards in front of him. The man looked to see the Serenity Commander standing in the bright overhead sunlight. He took one more swallow of water from the drinking glass that was set on a stool beside him, he then stood also. Carson Maxwell walked out from beneath the cover of his shelter then stopped.

The men viewed one another from a distance for a moment, then started to walk again. Their paths leading straight towards one another until they were but twenty paces apart, they stopped. Each planting his feet rigidly to that spot.

“So we engage again Captain Remolds!” Carson addressed the ex-browncoat sergeant, “Not sure that you know, but I haven’t wasted my time daydreaming when it comes to close quarter gunplay. I‘ve had plenty of time to practice!”

“Have ya now?”

“Yes, seems last time you had me at a disadvantage, this dueling with weapons that aren’t sharp happens to be one of my weaker traits. I prefer swordplay myself.”

“Do ya? Well there you might have me at a disadvantage.” Malcolm’s words were relaxed and smooth, “Although I’ve grappled with a sword or two in my day. But fraid we won‘t be using swords today!”

Malcolm knew that the ex-operative’s claim of being at a disadvantage when dueling with pistols was niú lashi (bull crap). As an agent for the government his training likely cover every way, method, instruction and instrument under the blue sky he could use to kill a man. Malcolm would even be willing to bet that toothpicks were a danger in this man’s hands. Still, the Captain was no slouch in whipping out his own weapon quickly.

“Yes, I’m afraid also,” Carson spoke again, “that this time the situation may turn out differently between us!”

“ I agree!” Mal replied.

“ Oh, how so?”

“ Last time I let you live!”

The ex-operative smiled on that account.

At this moment the whole town was on pins and needles. They could hear bits and pieces of the conversation between the rivals but the chatter was piecemeal and confusing at best.

“You’ve always been good with speech Mal.” Maxwell spoke.

“Only when I have someone interesting to talk to.”

The men engaged in a little mutual respect. Not that it meant anything to the onlookers, but what did it harm? One of them would be dead in a short while. There came a silence, then each man held his arms at the ready. It was time to bring this to it’s conclusion.

Mal, hands were out, and at his side. The ex-government agent, hands at the ready too, pistol tucked dutifully into the breech of his pants. There was no sound to be heard, not even the chirping of a bird! Suddenly there was movement! One reached for his weapon just as the other reached for his, two shots rang out loudly, shattering the quiet of Blue Canyon Falls and echoing off the mountains near the township of Gladys City! Each man stood motionless, weapon aimed in the others direction. Not a muscle moved, nor another shot fired. They starred at one another. The folk watching from the sidelines wondered if the targets had been missed? Then Carson looked towards the town, he took a step forward, then fell to his knees, a moment later he lay all the way down in the dirt.

There was a discernable gasp from town. A sudden intake of air that was noticeable even to folk deep inside the buildings.

Doc Tam rushed from Serenity. The people of the township began to gather as if awaiting a parade.

“ Back everybody!” Lance Bargo ordered, “Keep ‘em back Jason!” he told his Deputy and the others in his charge.

Simon reached the side of the man laying in the dirt on the landing grid. He knelt down over him and examine the damage. His hands busied themselves searching for signs of life, he found none. His head turned to view the Sheriff standing steps away. The Doctor’s response was not a favorable one.

“Ok folks, show’s over, everyone go home!” Lance shouted. A dreariness fell over the township at that moment. A darkness of soul that it hadn’t witnessed in a very long time. There was weeping, and sounds of sorrow. In the short time Carson Maxwell had been among them, he’d become as popular as the good “Shepherd Neil”. Clergy who lived in a township one thousand miles away. He had also become an “Adopted Son of Gladys” and accepted by many of the townsfolk as one of their own.

The undertaker came and dipped down next to the body. He began taking measurements for a wooded box.

“No need for that,” Malcolm said as he stood feet away from where the body lay.

Sheriff Bargo looked at the gravedigger.

“He’s right. Maxwell’s wishes where to be set free in space,” the Lawman then looked over at the Captain of Serenity, “best you leave town in the next few minutes. Your welcome here has gone way past overdue.”

The bodies of Clive Hinds and Carson Maxwell were transported into the cargo hold of the Carpathia. The Captain of that transport vessel was delivered an envelope labeled “Carson Maxwell”, and told to open it once the Carpathia was in the air.

Malcolm Reynolds loaded his crew onboard his ship, plus the young woman, Candice Naples. As per agreement with Bucky, Serenity was to see that she reached a safe port back on Persephone. Malcolm’s ship was set loose from the mandatory lock-down and set free to go on her merry. They were in the air within five minutes, and in seventeen they were in atmo, leaving the dust of the small community of Gladys City behind.

**************** Epilogue: Mal was Faster

Bucky Tosskin looked across the table at the person he was sharing breakfast with. Although he didn’t mind being alone, he liked having company also. He drew a teacup to his lips.

“Ok, explain to me again how this all played out?”

Carson Maxwell sat directly across from his humored friend. He would be spending a week with Bucky before hitching a ride off world on some cargo ship making a stop in Watsonville. Enough time to grow a fair amount of beard, and enough time to formulate a believable disguise. A week also gave him time to maybe take a trip out to the mining crater in which Graham Dehn had supposedly blown himself, and a triplet of Reavers to bits. And time to discuss the details about what had happened on the landing grid back in Gladys City.

“Well you see Buck, the seed of the scam came up initially my first time on Serenity. I knew the Feds wouldn’t stop looking for me as long as there was word that I was alive. The alternative was, not to be. We didn’t actually get down to brass tacks about the plan until we knew that you were safe and the operative was likely in fragmented particles,” he paused to give his friend a smile.

“The day of the shootout the Doc on the Firefly administered a delayed reaction death drug to me. Activated in the drinking water I consumed when I saw Malcolm Reynolds standing at the top of his ship’s loading ramp. This gave me the few minutes I needed to get up and make ready for the gunfight. The second I started to feel the effect of the drug I was to pull my weapon and stage the act of being shot. Quiet the acting job on my part if I must say so myself.”

“As I lay on the ground I was out cold. My breathing so shallow that even the best Law Authority in this quadrant wouldn’t have been able to decipher if I were alive. The Doc, with his experience check my vitals. As minimal as they were, he knew that I was Ok. I was crated in a box already aboard the Carpathia, and the Captain given a note questing that I be delivered here,” Carson took a sip of his own tea, “There you have it, simple, complete and packaged nice and neat. Lacking only a fancy bow.”

Bucky looked at his friend after downing the remainder of his tea. Carson was quiet clever. Bucky learned something from the man in that conversation. Never close the file on an ex-operative. His ghost might come back to haunt you.

“ So, question! Lets say that the gunfight hadn’t been staged. That you and Malcolm Reynolds had actually faced-off against one another in a real gun duel, would you be sitting at the table with me now?”

Maxwell gave a surprise look at his friend.

“Buck! You cut me to the quick! Knowing my background, well at least some of it, don’t you believe that I’d be sitting here with you at the table had it been the real thing?”

“ Well, I guess you would,” Carson’s friend was unaware of what had gone on before, on Mr.U’s world. The pistol duel between himself and the Captain of Serenity. Mal was faster, but only by a hair, but Bucky didn’t need to know that!

Carson smiled and finished his tea also.



Monday, January 16, 2012 2:57 PM


I'm glad you included the epilogue! Liked the line about how Jayne had respectable traits "that would even shock Inara had she wished to know him better." And that even so, Mal knew he still had to be on guard, when it came to Jayne. Liked how you highlighted that Simon still speaks his mind, and that in some ways he still disagrees with Mal when it comes to views of the Alliance government. Mal may not like what Simon says, but he still allows him to speak his piece. Your "High Noon" scenario -- very Western, and very sneaky, too. I figured the ex-operative had something up his sleeve. And I'm not surprised that he didn't want to admit to his friend that Mal is still the faster draw, even if "the ex-operative’s claim of being at a disadvantage when dueling with pistols was niú lashi." I think Mal is completely right in figuring that even a toothpick could be a lethal weapon in that guy's hands! As you say, don't count an ex-operative out, even if you *think* you see him die before your very eyes. If I were them, I wouldn't rest until Graham Dehn's DNA was positively identified as being splattered all over that mine shaft. And maybe not even then. Those operatives are sneaky. Thanks for a good read.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 8:43 AM


Good morning eb
I’m glad that you like the story, and I’m glad that you pardoned all the mistakes. Anyway this bit of fiction was fun for me. I had a chance to get deeper into Jayne’s mind a bit, and experiment with certain aspects of the ex-operative that I thought may be part of his character.
Also, Carson requesting a petition be formed up all legal and binding was his way of maybe throwing the powers that be off his trail. Not that he would totally fool them, but maybe. He may pop up in other fan-fic of mine when it comes to the crew of Serenity.
Thanks for the feedback, it helped to keep me motivated.
See ya, ZBP


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