Sunday, June 11, 2017

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.


TITLE: "THE WAY IT WAS" SERIES: UNFIINISHED BUSINESS CHAPTER: 5. Sequel to "MEANS TO AN END" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: "The captured crew are released but separated from the Captain. River has a plan. Meanwhile Mal finds out the reason for the elaborate set up."

"THE WAY IT WAS" A "Firefly" Story written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

"What do you mean you can't find him?"

Lem's expression turned sour at the accusation in her voice. "Must'a switched off his transponder."

Her expression darkened. "He deliberately ditched the job."

Lem Turner didn't say anything. He had known the scheming *pofu* long enough to know that she could hold a grudge longer than most men lived. If there was a dark, smelly pit up the ass end of *diyu* this woman would shove Jer right up it. He wanted no part of her notion of revenge. Lem was careful not to mention that the job she was talking about was not the one she had hired his friend to do.

"Can you find him?"

He shook his head. "*Bu qu*. Best you can hope is he'll surface this side of the Great Divide."

"There's no such place."

Lem said nothing. What he suspected wasn't based on fact and they both knew it but his sixth sense was seldom wrong. Kind'a like the itch he was getting in the back of his neck. He wanted to be gone but had to handle the leaving part without too much haste. Didn't want Saffron arranging some sudden and extremely painful death. Not that she would handle it herself but that witch had a thousand ways to leave a man at death's door without doing her own dirty work.

Once the wave was shut off Lem leaned back in his seat and let out an explosive breath. "That's one huge gorram shit-storm ya kicked up."

In the shadows out of monitor range a voice echoed in the darkness. "Woman's a leech, Lem. I did the job but she wouldn't let go. When I lost the ship it was time to get out, you know how it is."

Lem nodded. "Don't tell me where you're gonna go, 'dong ma'? That way she can't torture it outta me."

The chuckle was dry and without humour then Jer was gone. Lem sucked on a sour drop and didn't watch his friend leave to rejoin his ship. Lucky Saffron didn't believe in the Great Divide nor the monster folk that haunted that place.

* * * * *

"*Wo bu dong*, how come ya could hear each other like that? What kind'a freak show are ya?"

Malcolm Reynolds felt better after the rudimentary shower though not so impressed with the ever present audience. Still, he was walking and talking and that was more than he had expected just hours before. 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. He couldn't blame them. It was their kids after all.

"I didn't understand it my own self. Voices in my gorram head an' all of 'em always in agreement though I never heard 'em discuss anythin'. Mostly it was Thad who was the spokesman." Clem sat on an upturned box and gave the Captain a thoughtful look. "I last saw Michael the day he went to the Academy. Excited as could be, he was full of it." He paused to swallow hard and contain his emotions best he could. "Three letters me an' his ma got then nothin'. Couldn't find out a ruttin' thing neither, was like he vanished off the face of the 'verse."

Matthew Grant nodded. "Was the same with Ruben, though his joy was quiet-like. You could see it shining clear through the skin of his face, we were so gorram proud of him."

One by one the fathers told their stories, their voices hushed as if every word were sacred. Mal guessed they were. He answered every question as honestly as he was able but the darker details he tried to shield them from. As the questions petered out Duncan Ottis Clay narrowed his eyes. "What ain't ya tellin' us?"

It was one of those questions you hope never to be pinned by but Malcolm Reynolds could no more deny them the full truth than he could turn his back on those that had been so briefly in his care. Each of them had made a home aboard his boat and in his heart even if their presence had been somewhat alarming to his crew. "The end was brutal, didn't think it right to speak on it."

"Just tell us, Mal." Growled Marshall Roth Carpenter.

The Captain nodded, remembering the man's daughter Helen. The Healer among them. "It was a job, collect an' drop, only before we could make the drop the Alliance appeared an' ordered us to prepare to be boarded. That was when I opened the boxes. The first box had Thadius in it. Naked as the day he was born. I was in shock, then the boy looked up at me an' I couldn't gorram move. As he looked me in the eye his voice was in my head. It was the strangest thing how I just trusted him, natural like. Opened the other boxes an' one by one all the children climbed out, every one of 'em takin' their cue from me as if we'd known each other forever. Gave the boys some of my clothes, the girls gave Helen a dress an' some shoes an' such. On'y made it in time before the gorram purplebellies boarded my boat."

As the Captain related the story in full the men listened, no one interrupting or saying a thing until the end. Malcolm Reynolds described the consternation among his crew when the kids were discovered gone and no one knew their fate until they finally returned bleeding and dying having exacted a fitting and brutal revenge on those responsible for their creation.

"They weren't created." Harlan Hatcham spat, his voice thick with emotion.

"No they weren't but they were used, had all manner of unseemly things done to 'em at that so-called Academy. You thought you were sendin' your kids to get the best education in the Verse but you were lied to. Those kids were bein' changed, experimented on, altered an' turned into weapons for the gorram Parliament."

The men jumped to their feet, voices competing in outrage. The Captain didn't get up but continued speaking, his voice calm and oddly compelling. "When they left Serenity to get their revenge they were also aimin' to protect those as had protected 'em. They unleashed Reavers on the Parliament, had the satisfaction however gorram brief of seein' those evil folk ripped to ruttin' pieces before the monsters turned on 'em. Ruben managed to get 'em all back aboard the little ship they'd taken an' return to Serenity but by the time he reached us the others had breathed their last leavin' Ruben to pass on their last message to us."

Clem wiped moisture from his eye. "You mean you."

"Each an' every one of you have reason to be proud of your children. I've never seen more bravery from any, even on the battlefield durin' the gorram War."

"What happened to 'em?"

"We gave 'em a good send off. Buried 'em respectful-like. Had our Preacher say words over 'em." The Captain looked from face to face, noting how subdued and now becalmed the men were. It was time to ask the question uppermost in his own mind. "Now, where in the nine hells is my crew?"

* * * * *

Haymer shouldn't have been surprised. After all, his brilliant but scheming 'wife' was nothing if not a study in duplicitous manipulation. He tried not to think about how many other men she had tangled up in her plots and now she was back. But not for him.

"What d'you mean you got paid for the crate? That would be a King's Ransom an' more money than that crew would see in their lifetimes."

"There were five of them. Didn't give me their names or any contact details just that they were reimbursing me in full for my loss and that they would take the matter from there."

Saffron frowned, not liking this new wrinkle. Who were these men and why would they bail out Malcolm Reynolds and his crew? "You must know more about them than that."

"That was all they had to say though I don't see why you're all fired up. I got the impression they wanted Reynolds for something else."

Things were not working out as Saffron had planned. The idea had been for the smirking Captain of Serenity to spend the rest of his days in an Alliance *jianyu* somewhere deep between No and Where. The appearance of strangers bailing him out, even if they were some kind of bounty hunters themselves, did not sit right with her. How could she gloat if she didn't know what had happened to him? Of course, there was another option. She could seek out his crew but that would show her hand and Saffron didn't want anyone knowing she was behind this. Her sigh was the only heartfelt thing about her.

Haymer put a cautious hand on her shoulder. "You got what you wanted. At least the man is out of your hair now."

She let him think he was comforting her but her mind was racing, trying to piece the puzzle together. Were the men who paid Haymer the ones from the ship that had turned up alongside Serenity? If so how had they got there so fast and what did they want with Malcolm Reynolds? Saffron told herself she didn't care but not knowing was eating away at her as if the result she had put so much effort into achieving had been snatched away from her.

* * * * *

It felt like deja vu. The asteroid was a large irregular spinning rock that had chunks missing from earlier collisions which made it look like some giant had taken bites out of it. Rafe was a mite nervous but River was so calm and matter of fact that he found himself being reassured by the moon touched girl. He watched in fascination as River brought Serenity alongside the asteroid, trimming the transport ship's speed to match the rotation then slipping into the biggest opening. Ricky closed his eyes as if expecting the ship to scrape along the inside of the rocky opening. River's mouth dropped open in a soundless laugh, her merry eyes mocking his lack of faith without a word spoken. As soon as the ship settled Rafe wondered about his own ship.

"*Fang xin*, just keep the asteroid between you and them."

"But where will they be comin' from?"

River pointed without turning her head. Rafe and Ricky exchanged a glance. River showed the bug to Chung Li. "Need to go close to the surface so they can pick up the signal."

Rafe shook his head. "Chung Li doesn't have a suit."

"No, but I do."

Alarmed, Simon felt a surge of panic. "*Bu qu, mei mei*, it's too dangerous!"

Her large luminous eyes captured his anxious ones. Simon could not look away. "More dangerous to do nothing."

Simon opened his mouth to protest but he would have been talking to empty air. His beautiful, gifted sister was already gone. Swift on her bare feet with a purpose that he could not bring himself to share. All he wanted was to protect her, keep her safe, even if it was the last thing his sister wanted.

* * * * *

"We have no coin."

Jayne scowled. "Could always shoot somethin'."

The port was busy and big as Paquin was they didn't have any contacts here. Badger was on Persephone even if they were minded to look him up which they weren't. Kaylee looked anxious, her hands twisting together, her eyes wide and worried. "Who can we ask? There must be someone we can ask?"

"An' say what? The moment we mention we got took by the Alliance we'd be in trouble, *dong ma*?"

"Bu we didn't do anythin' *cuode*." Kaylee wailed.

Inara moved close to her friend and put an arm around her. Zoe turned to the Preacher. "Is there a monastery here?"

"A small one but it's a closed Order. They don't look kindly on strangers."

"You're not a stranger."

"No, but it is not my Order."

"What if you went on your own? Made enquiries, all tactful like?" Asked Wash.

The Shepherd gave the pilot a nod, it was a good idea but that was not what was distracting his attention. Zoe's eyes narrowed and her voice dropped to a bare whisper. "Shepherd, somethin' *cuode*?"

"We need to move. We're drawing too much attention."

* * * * *

Captain Malcolm Reynolds was obliged to the men for the lift aboard their shiny vessel but alarmed to find empty space staring back at him when they reached the place where his ship should have been. He turned anxious accusing eyes on them.

"Where's my boat?"

Clem shrugged. "This is where we left it."

"You said it couldn't fly."

The men looked at each other, a little shame faced to admit they had disabled the Firefly. "Weren't takin' any chances." Duncan explained.

Mal could feel his blood rising. "Chances? You got my crew taken not to mention torturin' me. Didn't have to disable my boat an' sayin' that if you made it so Serenity couldn't fly then where the good gorram is it?"

"*Tamen bu zhidao*." Harlan Hatcham paused, an unwelcome thought occurring to him. "Could be pirates or some other scavengers found her driftin'."

"She ain't salvage, *dong ma*?" The Captain's expression set into stone, his eyes glinting darkly, a look with no give in it. "You got me an' mine in this mess, I'm thinkin' you're gonna help get 'em out of it."

"But we don't know where your ship is, Mal."

"*Bu qu* but you got resources, *dong ma*? Resources I don't got."

The men exchanged wary looks. They had been going to drop the Captain off at his ship then go on their way, hopefully never to meet again. This new wrinkle made them uneasy and not just because they didn't know where Serenity was. A nasty suspicion was growing between them as to who had taken the ship, one that would pit Serenity's Captain against them in a way that none of them wanted to contemplate.

* * * * *

Simon glanced at the anxious faces, all of them trusting in his sister to do what they could not. That everything hung upon someone answering the signal put out by the tracer made him all kinds of uneasy. After all, the Alliance wanted River and if they got their hands on her there was no telling what they would do to her. That he was also on their Wanted List meant little to him, he would never leave his sister to save himself and the very thought of all the things they might do to her made him quail inside.

"Won't happen."

Simon stared at her. "You can't know that, *mei mei*."

"I know and I comprehend."

"What they did to you..." Her brother trailed off, unable to go into the painful details of how they had cut into her brain over and over again.

"You worry they'll come back, finish what they started but you're *cuode*, Simon." His look sharpened. They were the only two on the bridge right now, the others having gone to rustle up food for them all. Simon was inordinately grateful to be having this conversation in private. "*Mei mei*, you can't know that."

River tilted her head. "You think it was the Alliance that boarded Serenity but it wasn't."

"Then who was it?"

"Darker, slippery and answerable to no one."

Simon went cold inside. "Blue Sun?"

River shook her head. "You're not listening."

"I don't know anyone else who would go to so much trouble."

"We have enemies a-plenty, don't need to add to 'em."

It disturbed him to hear his sister mimicking the Captain. "*Wo bu dong*."

His sister raised her head suddenly, her eyes no longer fixed on his. "Find out soon."

Alarmed, Simon tried to catch her as she darted passed him. "River! *Ni shang nar*?"

River paused just before vanishing through the doorway. "We need Vera!"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*pofu* = bitch *diyu* = hell *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dong ma* = understand? *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *jianyu* = prison *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *mei mei* = little sister *cuode* = wrong *tamen bu zhidao* = we don't know *ni shang nar* = where are you going?


Sunday, June 11, 2017 1:39 PM


First, apologies for taking so long to get this next part posted. Massive problems with the computer, all fixed now but my long time email address ( is no more. I don't know how to update my email address as a point of contact on this site so here is the new email:
Hopefully Haken will see this and do the necessary so anyone wanting to leave feedback will do so through this email addy. Many thanks.
Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Thursday, June 22, 2017 10:11 PM


Hi! Glad to see your back with moer of the good stuff!

Friday, June 23, 2017 6:15 PM


Thank you, Buckshotpilot. Good to hear from you, am working on the next chapter. Keep flyin', Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying.

Personally she didn't care if Serenity was towed off to a junk yard and stripped into spare parts. She had promised the ship to Jer and his crew as a bonus but it looked like scavengers had beaten them to it.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

What in the nine hells were they so afraid of? Then he remembered Tracy. The body mailed to them by their old war buddy and all the trouble that had brought down on them.

If it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two?

The man was in a terrible condition, his pulse weak, and for some reason he was soaking wet which did nothing to staunch the blood soaking through his clothing and seeping from the poorly tended wound where he had been shot.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 8. "All The King's Horses"
Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 7. "Friend or Foe"
Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.