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WHAT BEGINS WITH AN APPLE (11) Part (04)
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Nightmares, therapy, and threats.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2587    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

WHAT BEGINS WITH AN APPLE (11)

Part (04)

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Follows TWO BY TWO BY TWO (10). Precedes ENDS WITH A HORSE (12).

The series so far:
A LION’S MOUTH (01)
ADVENTURES IN SITTING (02)
SPARKS FLY (03)
EXPECTATIONS (04)
BREAK OUT (05)
THE TRIAL (06)
SHADOW (07)
ONE MAN’S TRASH (08)
BANDIAGARA (09)
TWO BY TWO BY TWO (10)

Nightmares, therapy, and threats.

* * *

The colors were lost from the world, but neither was it black and white: everything was shades of grey. The ruins of the house were covered with harsh, grey dust that swirled up in choking clouds as he walked.

“Malcolm,” his mother’s voice said, “you left me all alone. Followed in your father’s footsteps.”

Where are you, Ma? He couldn’t see through the swirling grey.

“You left us behind.” It was his sweetheart’s voice. He reached out his hand toward Mindy’s voice, but he couldn’t touch the Shadow girl. He couldn’t see her, neither. It was getting darker.

“You went out into the darkness. Blacker than the space it moves in. You didn’t save us.” Stop it, Ma.

“Mal, you left us behind. You left us here to die.” Don’t say that, Mindy!

“It’s all gone, every last bit.” Ma!

“Every one of them.”

“They’re all dead,” the disembodied voice said. “Sarge, this is worse than dyin’ in battle.” Grayson was slumped behind the battered parapet, like the rest of them. “Starving to death. Ain’t no point. Bendis was lucky the bullet found him. Better than what Tedesco is going through.” He directed his gaze to where Tedesco lay struggling to breathe, with a wound too serious for field treatment. Not that they could have treated it anyway, with their non-existent medical supplies. They didn’t have so much as a single pill to ease the pain, and they couldn’t even spare Tedesco a bullet. They’d run out of ammo. Mal reached for his gun, but with no bullets, it was no more useful than a stick.

It looked like a stick. He held it in his blue-gloved hand. Two spicules extended from either end. A trickle of blood dripped from Ip Neumann’s nose. Ip dabbed at it, and found that blood was seeping from under his fingernails, from his bloodshot eyes, as he bled out from every orifice…

NO! Mal’s shout was ineffective. He was too late.

Это курам на смех (Eto kuram na smekh) !” he pronounced, and River fell down in a slump. Blue hands picked her up and took her. Mal couldn’t get through to the lab, where River sat strapped in a chair, with needles and wires affixed to her head, screaming, screaming, screaming.

Her last word was cut off by a scream as the Qianxia detonator went off. Kaylee plummeted from the side of Serenity, her and the unborn baby.

“She was pregnant, Mal!” Simon exclaimed, white with anger. “How could you put her in danger like that? You took her from me—you took her and killed her, and my child. You killed them, you 混蛋 húndàn! They were defenseless, and you killed them like a coward. How do I know you won’t kill me in my sleep?”

“I told you already!” he retorted hotly. “If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake, you’ll be—”

Simon was facing him, and he was armed.

Mal drew his gun and pulled the trigger.

“Simon!” Mal called as he staggered up the ramp. “Simon! Where the hell are you, Doc?”

There was no answer. Mal shifted Zoe’s heavy weight on his shoulder and struggled into the infirmary. “Simon! Doc! Zoe needs your help!” He laid her down on the table, and that’s when he remembered that Simon was dead. Zoe’s body armor hadn’t stopped the bullet, and a bloom of red blossomed and spread across her chest. Mal tore open the drawers, looking for bandages, clamps, sutures, anything to stop the bleeding. “You can’t stop it,” Zoe said faintly. “Now Wash and I match,” she added. “Matching holes in the heart.”

“No, Zoe, no!” Mal cried, as he pressed a gauze pad on her wound. It soaked through in seconds. She needed fluids. He ransacked the cabinets. Where the 地狱 dìyù did Simon keep all that IV fluid?

“You killed me, sir, just like you killed Wash…just like you killed our baby.” Zoe ceased breathing.

“No! No! Breathe, dammit!” Mal tried to administer CPR, but the hole in Zoe’s heart would never heal. As Mal watched, helpless and ineffective, the wriggling of the baby in Zoe’s belly grew weaker, and ceased altogether.

“Mal, I’m leaving.” Inara stood framed in the doorway of the infirmary, an inscrutable expression on her face, as Mal lifted himself away from Zoe’s body.

“Inara.” He reached for her, but his hands were covered with blood. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t leave.” Again, he wanted to take her hand, but his own were covered with blood. He didn’t want to ruin her, too. “I don’t think I could take it, losing you again.”

“Poor Mal. I never said I loved you. Did you really think our liaison meant something?”

He was struck dumb with pain, like a stab in the heart; he could barely breathe as the pain blossomed and spread through his chest.

“Besides, why should I stay? You’re a faithless two-timer.”

“Inara, don’t you know me better than that?” He could barely speak; his throat was constricted with emotion.

“Why would I bother?” she replied lightly. “You’re not worth knowing.”

“Stay. Stay,” he begged. “Let me take care of you. Let me protect you.”

“I don’t need your protection.” Her voice was scornful. “I don’t want it. And what does your offer of protection amount to, anyway? You’d try to save me, at the cost of my life. Like you did with my friend Nandi. You can’t protect anybody.”

She turned and left. He followed her dumbly into the cargo bay, where porters were carrying her luggage down the ramp to a waiting transport. He had a heart-wound, like to be fatal. “Inara,” he gasped.

She glanced over at him with a saucy smile, the practiced kind she gave to clients, and linked arms with her red-headed companion. Saffron. “He was my beta test case, you know,” she remarked to her, shop-talking, “for earning my Continuing Professional Education credits.” Saffron gave her a sly smile and nodded knowingly, and Inara continued the tale. “I was able to practice some new techniques, as recommended by the Guild Board of Higher Education.” Saffron made some kind of inquiry. “Oh, they were very effective,” Inara assured her. “Head-over-heels doesn’t begin to describe it. He even made me an offer of marriage.” She giggled, and Saffron joined in.

Despite the distance, Mal heard Saffron’s response. “But he’s already married to me, honey!” she stage-whispered.

“More’s the pity,” Inara commiserated. “Too bad he isn’t nearly as good in bed as he thinks he is—we could’ve had a three-way.” A gale of musical laughter spilled from her lips. The two women turned and headed down the ramp, arm in arm. “Now that I’ve honed the technique, I’m ready to try it with a worthier partner.” She stopped at the foot of the ramp and directed her gaze at Mal, her face suddenly serious. “You don’t have the cure for what ails me.”

“You actually thought she really wanted you,” Saffron added with a scornful smile. “You are such an easy mark.” Inara joined her in derisive laughter, and they walked away without another backward glance.

Unable to bear it, Mal ran after her across the cargo bay and started down the ramp, but his progress was abruptly halted by an armed Fed. “You are bound by law, under the provisions of the Criminal Code of Law of the Union of Allied Planets.”

The Fed’s words were backed up by the force of an entire squadron of well-armed, armored Feds, with their weapons all aimed squarely at his heart. “I get to do the honors,” Jayne quipped as he appeared from amidst the crowd of Feds. He strode up the ramp and clicked the handcuffs in place, binding Mal’s hands roughly behind his back. “Went straight to Badger and sold you out to the Feds. Collected the re-ward.”

“They doubled it, on account of our combined evidence being good enough to put you away for life.” Badger’s smile showed all of his bad teeth.

“This is for what you done to Shepherd Book, Mal,” Jayne said. “You hid under the Shepherd’s skirts, let him take the fall for you. Ain’t no more ’n what a rat’s ass like you deserves.”

Jayne then proceeded to denude Serenity of valuables, right under his nose, as the Feds held him in custody in his own gorram cargo bay. “This is where he likes to stow the contraband,” Jayne remarked conversationally, as he opened up the smuggler’s hatch. The Fed took note of the Lassiter, the wobbly-headed dolls, the gen seed, the Alliance stamp on the gold-wrapped nutrition bars, and wrote down each item that Jayne extracted on his electronic tablet, adding it to the list of charges. Jayne pulled out a wad of Federal credit bills. The stolen Fed payroll. “This ties you in to that armed robbery on Lilac. People were killed.”

“No—”

“Some says it was Reavers killed ’em, but Reavers ain’t real.”

“I suspect we have the real Reaver right here.” The Fed nodded in his direction.

“Not a Reaver—”

“And these here, they’re his crown jewels,” Jayne remarked with a chuckle. He held the bag of timonium crystals in his hand. “Enough to buy a crap boat like this many times over.” He pocketed the bag, picked up the other loot, and sauntered down the ramp.

“Wait!” Mal called, but Jayne didn’t. He turned to the Fed, indignantly. “That’s evidence! Ain’t you gonna seize it?”

The Fed declined to pursue Jayne, and Mal eyed Badger warily as the odious little man strutted about his cargo bay, examining its features like a professional estate assessor.

“We’ve already got enough evidence to implicate you and all your associates,” the Fed pronounced. Mal tried to give nothing away with his expression. The Fed rolled right on over him. “Buck Holden, Jack Holden, the entire Holden Brothers Company, your co-conspirators on Beaumonde.” He consulted his list. “Your collaborators on Bandiagara. Mamadou Conteh and Nana Kuyateh, and the rest of the Fajara Village Council.”

Mal tried to keep his reaction to himself. They’d traced the whole damn network, traced Serenity’s course for the last several weeks. That gorram tracking beacon. He hoped they hadn’t gotten as far as—.

“Your accessory on Beylix, Juju Kamara. Melissa Draper and John Houghton on Persephone. And the criminal mastermind of it all, Sir Warwick Harrow.”

Mal objected to letting Harrow get the credit for masterminding the operation, but he wasn’t in a position to voice his dissent. Everyone who was associated with him, anyone who had done him a good turn recently—they all were implicated, and his fall would take them all down.

“Your ship is forfeit,” the Fed pronounced, and Badger turned and grinned gleefully at him. “It will be broken apart and sold for scrap.”

Badger gave a sharp whistle, and a dozen of his strapping enforcers stepped into the cargo bay, armed with crowbars.

“You can’t do that!” Mal protested, as Badger’s crew proceeded to wreck his Serenity, right under his nose. He turned to the Fed. “Due process—”

“You demand due process,” the judge intoned from behind the bench. Mal lifted his eyes to the familiar figure. He couldn’t see much in the darkened chamber. He couldn’t have said if the show-trial was being held in front of all Parliament, or if it was just him standing cuffed and alone in front of the regally elevated bench in the shadowed star chamber.

Like to kill you myself, I ever see you again.

“It is my duty to inform you,” the Operative said, with pity in his soulful eyes, “that I am unable to issue a death sentence. Such mercy is beyond my power.” He regarded Mal with sorrowful eyes. “Malcolm, you are not a Reaver. There was a time when I would have wished you an honorable death—death by the sword—but you are no longer worthy of a good death.”

You can’t take the sky from me, Mal thought.

“You are sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole, in the mines of Morar.” Yes, I can take the sky from you. “You will live to a ripe old age and die in your sleep like an ailing pet.”

You’re a monster!

I don’t kill babies. You do.

His existence was now confined to an underground prison where he couldn’t even see the sky, and he knew he was doomed to live there to an old, old, age, and die alone. But he wasn’t ready to give up the last freedom left to him—the choice to live or die. He could always bait the guards into ending him.

He took the first opportunity that offered to assault a heavily armed guard, out in the open, surrounded by all the other guards. They shot him.

He lay groaning on the ground. Stun only. He wasn’t even knocked out, couldn’t even attain the thankful oblivion of unconsciousness. He could see and hear, just couldn’t move a muscle as the guard said, “We don’t shoot to kill. Ever. You’ll be with us for the rest of your life.”

“Take him to the prison hospital,” the warden said. “Psych ward. Suicide watch.”

Mal lay on the hard hospital bed. He blinked his eyes open, taking in the windowless curved walls and lightless grey metallic ceiling of the room. “You tried to die, Meester Reynolds,” said a familiar Czech-accented voice.

“Seemed like the thing to do,” was Mal’s groggy reply.

The old man’s bespectacled face leant over his. “When you die, I can’t hurt you anymore. And I plan to hurt you for a long, long time.”

* * *

Like Hell…just like Hell, Mal thought, awakening with a start. He couldn’t quite bring to mind the dream—or nightmare—that had provoked that particular thought. Extending his limbs, he looked over to find Zoe stirring. She opened her eyes, spotted him sitting on the chair beside her, then stretched and began to sit up.

“Hey Zoe, what’s the news?”

“Feel like to throw up,” she replied.

“Back to normal then.” Zoe’s reaction to this attempt at humor was an entirely internal snort, but Mal understood it perfectly. Didn’t stop him from pursuing this particular inside joke. He made to rise. “Good, see ya around.”

Zoe reached out as if to mock-punch him. He smiled. That was what he’d been looking for. Kills me to see you helpless, Zoe. “What the hell was goin’ on there, Zoe?” he asked, and Zoe immediately understood the context. He meant on Beaumonde, in that back street of New Dunsmuir, when they were ambushed as they made their way back to the ship from Holden Brothers.

“Someone was expecting us to go that way.” She’d had little time to make an assessment of the situation, but that was her firm impression.

“How’d they know we were gonna be there?” That question had been bothering Mal ever since the ambush. “That attack was targeted. They were expecting us. Ain’t no random act of violence when there are four shooters, and at least one of ’em was armed with a 54R sniper rifle.”

Four? Zoe’s raised eyebrows signaled her wish for more information.

“The one with the rifle, I saw clearly. He’d set up in a covered position. Had drawn a bead on you, Zoe, when you were already down, unable to move. That’s why I had to shoot him.” He made eye contact. He was ready to take a kill shot.

“Appreciate that you did, sir.”

“I didn’t get a good look at the others. Two men and one woman. Too far away to recognize anyway.”

Zoe made eye contact with Mal. Clearly, they knew who we were. “Reckon they were expecting us.”

He nodded. “Trying to think if we got any enemies…”

Zoe raised her eyebrows. We?

“Alright,” he amended, “if I got any enemies there on Beaumonde would feel irritated enough with me to do such a thing.”

“Fanty and Mingo?” Zoe suggested. The twins were dead, but perhaps their organization was still alive.

“Operative took them down.”

“On your account.”

“Wouldn’t doubt it. But I don’t think Fanty and Mingo’s crowd would know it was on account of us—me,” he corrected, as Zoe’s look bore into him. “Operative’s thorough, though. Don’t like to leave a mess behind him.” Thoughts of the scene on Haven intruded, and he amended grimly, “Or at least he don’t like to leave survivors. I’m thinking he mighta took out their whole network. Why? You really think it was some of Fanty and Mingo’s people with a chip on their shoulder?” I don’t think it’s got nothin’ to do with Fanty and Mingo.

Agreed. “Sir, what you’re doin’ with Holden is a dangerous game.”

Mal raised his eyebrows. He knew it, but he wanted her to elaborate.

“Said it yourself. Told Buck that you were risking your life and the lives of all your crew, taking on his secret cargo like that.”

哎呀 Āiyā, it was true, Mal thought, as clouds of guilt began to darken his face. He himself had recognized what a dangerous game Holden was playing, but had that stopped him from taking on the lucrative and otherwise legal job? No. He just went right ahead and did it anyway. He was such a gorram idiot, and he never learned. Put Zoe and her baby at risk. Again. Waves of guilt rolled over him. “Zoe, I’m sorry, I’m still not thinkin’,” Mal began apologetically. “We could wave Holden, tell him we can’t—”

“Whatever for?” Zoe interrupted. “We got Holden’s crates sittin’ in the cargo bay.” She gestured through the infirmary window towards the stacks of crates. “Ain’t no point in not delivering them.” She could already hear Mal’s mental cussing as he damned himself for taking on the Holden job. She wanted to nip that one in the bud. Because even worse than Mal taking a risky job, was Mal second-guessing himself about how to handle that risky job. She needed him clear-headed and ready to improvise. “Besides, you were smart enough to negotiate a premium fee for that job.”

You approve? Mal’s surprise showed in his face.

“Gotta keep flyin’,” she stated, with practicality. “Besides, flyin’ with those damn crates can’t possibly be any riskier than walkin’ about the streets of New Dunsmuir on Beaumonde,” she added.

Silence reigned for a beat while they both thought about the truth of that.

Mal shifted his position and spoke for both of them. “So you’re thinking that attack has something to do with Holden’s cargo.”

“Damn right I am.”

What? That was the big question, really. In what way was it connected?

Don’t know, sir.

* * *

“So, what explanation did he give?” Zoe asked. “He tell you how he come to know a Blue Hand operative?” Mal avoided her gaze, which answered the question plainly. “How is it you ain’t talked to him yet?”

“Couldn’t find him, Zoe,” Mal replied, a bit defensively. “Good thing for him, too. Mighta spaced him, if I found him earlier. But weren’t nobody around. Couldn’t find nobody on this boat.”

Zoe rolled her eyes. Ain’t exactly the biggest boat, sir.

I wanted your lights on this, Zoe. Knew I was hot-headed. Needed your calm to cool me down. Afore I did something stupid.

Again.

“Well?” he asked.

Zoe’s stomach gave a loud rumble. “Think you could get me something to eat, sir? These are tough questions on an empty stomach.”

* * *

Mal had wanted to lay into him. Rough him up. Throttle him. Make him tell all, preferably by violent means. But by the time he finally caught up with Ip Neumann, so much had happened that throttling seemed beside the point. Ironically, he found him in the dining room, right back where he had started when he stormed off the bridge after hearing from River that Ip gorram knew Bill the gorram Blue Hand assassin.

He found the young scientist sitting at the dining table, staring blankly at the wall. So how is it, Ip, that you’re on a first-name basis with one of them gorram Hands of Blue operatives? How did you neglect to mention that? How did you convince him not to follow you and River back to Serenity? Or did you make a deal with him that I don’t know about? All those questions died on the tip of his tongue when he saw the look on Ip’s face. Mal recognized that look. It was the look of a shellshocked green soldier who’d just survived his first battle, and couldn’t wrap his head around it.

So Mal didn’t hit him and demand answers. Instead he sat down opposite him and asked, “You ever kill anyone, Ip?”

Ip shifted his stare to Mal.

“I reckon you haven’t,” Mal continued. “It’s not easy, to watch the lights go out up close and personal like that.” It wasn’t easy. It was never easy, to kill or to watch someone you counted as a friend kill someone. “Don’t blame River. Them Blue Hands wanted to take her. Use her. Abuse her. She was right to fight them.”

Ip nodded slowly, but still didn’t speak.

“Should talk it out, Ip,” Mal advised. “Ain’t nobody on this boat but would understand what you’re feelin’ there, Ip. We all been through it.” He couldn’t always have said that. But the battle with the Reavers on Ferdinand Moon had done it. Serenity’s crew had all had their baptism of fire.

Ip gave him a look, sharper than before. “You don’t feel comfortable talkin’ it out with me, you find someone else you can talk to. But don’t keep it in and let it eat at you until you’re hollow,” Mal said sagely. Man was still kinda stunned, but Mal could tell that what he was saying was registering.

Mal was surprised hisownself at the wisdom he was professing. Shoulda followed my own gorram advice, he thought, after Serenity Valley. If only he’d been so wise back in the day. Well, he weren’t, and even if he were, he was dead certain he woulda been too ornery to follow such gorram sensible advice back then. Easier just to leap into that black pit and bury himself there. Wonder if it woulda helped.

Maybe Ip would talk to him directly, but Mal didn’t think it likely. Mal fully expected Ip would seek out River or Kaylee, maybe Simon or Inara, to talk it out. But no matter whom he chose, Mal would get the download.

“I lost my innocence on the battlefield, Ip. Weren’t no more than twenty-one, younger than what you are now. Every one of us, Ip, has it in us somewheres. The ability to kill. Just a question of what it takes to awaken the beast within.”

Mal stretched and shifted in his chair. So much for the counseling session. Now for the interrogation. He looked Ip directly in the eye. “So, as I understand it, you knew the Blue Hands.”

Ip nodded.

“You knew ’em. Both of ’em?”

“Just…one,” Ip answered, haltingly.

“Bill,” Mal prompted.

“He was…a friend.” Ip still spoke as if stunned.

“A friend,” Mal repeated. He leaned closer to Ip, looming over him and favoring him with the kind of look that got responses. “You consider this Blue Hand man a friend?”

“Not anymore, Captain.” Mal’s words and stance carried a certain menace that prompted Ip to speak in his own defense. “Obviously. I know him…knew him. I knew him…when he was Bill. He was never a very close friend, but I always considered him a…” Ip couldn’t really finish the sentence. The idea that someone he’d considered a friend had come to kill him in cold blood overwhelmed him. “He isn’t Bill anymore,” Ip half-whispered, shaking his head.

“Not a friend no more. Friend don’t come to kill you in a half-lit alley.”

“Wasn’t Bill when he came to…kill me. He was…a machine. An unfeeling cog in a big machine, a machine with no 心 xīn, no morality, no…”

* * *

Listening, prompting, questioning, and yes, threatening when he needed to, Mal extracted the story from Ip. How he had met Bill Borjigin at Blue Sun Bernadette, introduced by their mutual friend Hari Nyiri, the Reaver Studies scientist and Ip’s best friend from those days. Hari Nyiri, the same friend Ip had contacted, with Mal’s permission, to investigate who had purchased the tracking beacon that wound up stuck to Serenity’s hull on the way to Bandiagara. Mal prompted Ip to tell how he had done Bill no small favor in helping him find a place to live on that overcrowded world. It turned out that housing on Bernadette was a big deal—and not easy to get unless you had money or connections. Mal in fact recollected that the overcrowding prompted settlers to leave Bernadette every year, giving up whatever amenities that super-urbanized Core world had to offer just for the sake of more living space. With Ip’s help, Bill had been able to bypass the waiting lists for housing. Ip had persuaded his aunt to find Bill a comfortable place to live, one that would have been beyond his means, had he applied through ordinary channels. In the alley on Beaumonde, Bill’s humanity had surfaced long enough to make him hesitate, and River took advantage of that moment of distraction to dispatch Bill’s partner. Putting the pieces together, Mal gathered that Ip had stood up to the Blue Hand man, not just once, but again, insisting that the man let him take River home with him. Mal was in fact impressed by Ip’s apparent show of backbone, having the guts to stand up to a man holding a lethal weapon, but he was careful not to show it on his face.

“…so I picked her up and carried her back to Serenity,” Ip finished.

Mal nodded. “Did you see what become of the Blue Hand? What’d he do next?”

Ip shook his head. “I looked back at the head of the alley, but Bill was gone.”

And there they were with ‘Bill’ again. “Listen, Ip. Don’t think of that man as ‘Bill.’ He ain’t your friend. He done you a good turn there in that alley, letting you go. Had enough of a scrap of humanity left in him to pay off his debt to you. But now the debt’s paid. You can’t play that card again.”

Ip nodded.

“You don’t have nothing to do with him in the future. You leave him no trail. You give him no hint of where you are, nor what you are doing. He tries to contact you, you don’t respond. And you don’t, under any circumstances, attempt to contact him. Not directly—”

“I wouldn’t—” Ip began.

“—Not indirectly,” Mal continued.

Ip looked puzzled. “How—?”

Mal saw that Ip did not understand the danger and became more explicit. “You got mutual friends with this Blue Hand man. Your aunt. This fellow Hari. Probably a whole raft of Blue Sun folk you know. Don’t go talking to your friend Hari about him. You be very circumspect in talking to your Blue Sun friend about anything. Talk about old times, your ma and pa, those double dates you went on back in the day…”

“We didn’t—”

“Point is,” Mal continued, “you don’t talk to this Hari friend about me, about who you work with now, about River, about this incident with the Blue Hands, about Bill especially—you talk to this Hari about the tracking beacon. That’s the only part of our business that’s also his business. Is that understood?”

Ip was quiet for a moment, wondering at the Captain’s insistence upon secrecy. “Understood, Captain.”

Mal wasn’t convinced. Motor-mouth Ip was like to talk to anyone and everyone, about things a man had best keep to himself. He pressed further, holding Ip’s eyes with his own. “Don’t never try to contact this Bill. I don’t want you talkin’ to no Blue Sun operative. Nor any kind of Operative. Is that clear?”

Ip nodded.

“Because if I do find you been talking to such, I’m gonna kill you.”

‘I’m gonna kill you.’ It was just an expression—‘My mother’s gonna kill me if I stay out too late’—wasn’t it? Ip was ready to nod again, and laugh it off, but the intimidating expression on the Captain’s face took him aback. What—seriously? Ip wondered. He looked into the Captain’s eyes, searching for the telltale twinkle that would let him know the man was joking. Again he felt a sense of unreality. This was like another one of those bad spy thrillers. ‘If you talk, I’ll have to kill you.’ Is he serious? He looked again at the Captain, and gulped. 仁慈的佛 Réncí de Fó, he does mean it seriously.

The Captain stood and loomed over Ip, a hard expression on his face, and gave him a curt nod. Ip was about to speak again when he caught the twinkle in the Captain’s eye, just before the man spun on his heel and exited the dining room. 天啊 Tiān ā, what a 混蛋 húndàn. He really had Ip freaked out for a moment there.

* * *

*

*

*

glossary

Это курам на смех (Eto kuram na smekh) [That's for chickens to laugh at (Russian)]

混蛋 húndàn [bastard]

地狱 dìyù [hell]

哎呀 Āiyā [Damn]

心 xīn [heart]

仁慈的佛 Réncí de Fó [Merciful Buddha]

天啊 Tiān ā [God]

混蛋 húndàn [bastard]

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COMMENTS

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 7:19 AM

NUTLUCK


Ip got off lucky for now anyways, least till the Reaver Chickens get lose on the ship.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 12:05 PM

BYTEMITE


>Ip was quiet for a moment, wondering at the Captain’s insistence upon secrecy. “Understood, Captain.”

*facepalm*

He is approaching violation of common sense levels here. SOMEONE JUST TRIED TO KILL YOU. MAKING YOURSELF A BIGGER TARGET IS NOT A GOOD IDEA.

Lol, Ip is great and you really get things across about how naive he is. This was a good conversation, as was the captain's psychotic (not entirely facetious) joke.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 12:06 PM

BYTEMITE


The Reaver chickens are eating so much human flesh at the moment. You don't even know. Really henpecked if you get me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 2:09 PM

AMDOBELL


Freaked out or not I hope Ip takes Mal's warning to heart as his inclination to trust people first then think about it after puts everyone on Serenity at risk. As for Mal's nightmare, gorramit it seemed almost endless. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 6:16 PM

PLATONIST


One of the best nightmares I've read, very realistic in terms of Mal's fears.

Thursday, May 24, 2012 4:02 AM

EBFIDDLER


Thanks, all, for the feedback. Thank you, Platonist, Ali and ZM, I tried to fill Mal's nightmare with his fears and anxieties, and he has no shortage of them. I hope Ip learns something from his talk with Mal; he really does need to get some control over his propensity to talk, talk, talk. I am very much enjoying everyone's speculations about the chickens. ;-)

Friday, May 25, 2012 7:25 AM

M52NICKERSON


I'm sure Mal will react very calmly (as in murdering mood) when he finds out Ip has been talking to THE Operative.

Very nice Ebfiddler.

Monday, May 28, 2012 5:40 AM

MARKOMI


Something I particularly enjoyed about this was the reason for Jayne's selling Mal out. Even though it was just something Mal subconsciously cooked up, I'm glad somebody finally gave our favorite man-ape some motivation besides money. This is often a problem with Jayne in fanfics, either there's no development in the character at all or there's too much too fast. So thanks, eb, for leaving that little clue :)

Monday, May 28, 2012 9:22 AM

EBFIDDLER


M52 -- I think you know Mal well. :-)
MK -- Of *course* Jayne is motivated by things other than greed. There's also food and sex. ;-) Just kidding! I agree completely, Jayne has grown, and Mal has (at least subconsciously) picked up on it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 6:50 PM

ZZETTA13


eb you really had things stirred up for the Captain there for a while. That was likely the worst nightmare Mal ever had. I really liked your use of almost every punch line used throughout the entire series and BDM. That was very cool!
So Mal finally caught up with Ip. Good thing he’d had time to cool off a bit. I don’t think Mal could stress it any better about Ip not making contact with Bill anymore, or anyone else that would show more than a passing interest in Serenity’s business. Best Ip take Mal’s advice seriously, or it won’t be pretty.
Excellent story eb, very enjoyable, Z

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 4:51 PM

EBFIDDLER


Thank you, ZZ, and I'm glad you appreciated the many references in the nightmare.


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