COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS: 13. "Setting The Trap"
Friday, February 18, 2005

"River puts two and two together and the pieces of the nightmare begin to reflect a chilling pattern."



SUMMARY: "River puts two and two together and the pieces of the nightmare begin to reflect a chilling pattern." 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 "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Dr Simon Tam stared. Stunned. Top Three Per Cent and he still had trouble wrapping his head around something the Captain had intuitively sensed and he had missed. He was on board Serenity having just checked and re-checked the blood under Tyrone Garvin's fingernails against that in his veins. The two blood types did not match. He moved back from the body and sat without saying a gorram word. He did not even jump when River spoke, unaware that she had snuck in while he worked. Had thought he was the only one on the ship but he might have known that largesse would not last. At least not long enough for the shock to wear off.

"It was supposed to look like natural causes."

He stared at his sister but River was looking down at Ty's body. Her expression sad and somewhat distant. Simon blinked. "What do you mean, *mei mei*?"

His words drew her sorrowful eyes to his face. "He didn't go willingly, Simon." When Simon just stared at her nonplussed she elaborated. Filling in the blanks for him. "He struggled all the way but they couldn't drug him or cause him physical injury. So he was manhandled into place until brick by brick he couldn't move any more."

Simon's mouth dropped open in horror. "*Wode ma*! Mal said they found him in a brick built *jianyu*." River nodded, her eyes drifting back to look at Ty. "Built around him." "*Wo bu dong, weishenme*?"

She looked at her brother with a mix of compassion and anger. Compassion for the dead man and anger towards those who had done this to him. *Tian Yesu* thought Simon, no wonder the Captain was so upset. River's words jolted Simon out of his glum reverie. "They wanted him to die slowly, feel the breath inch out of his dying lungs. Make him suffer without laying a finger on him."

He was frowning. River knew he didn't understand. Not really. Simon stared at his sister. "But why? Why be so cruel?"

"Revenge. Spite. They were settling scores."

Simon glanced at the dead man. So young, only a year or two older than himself. It was more kinds of wrong than he could imagine. "What did he do to deserve this?" He whispered.

"Didn't have to do nothin'."

The Captain's voice made Simon jump, as if he had been looking into a box that was marked 'fragile' and 'private' in big red letters. Both amounted to 'keep out'. He looked at the Captain's drawn and tired face. The man looked awful. Did he never sleep? "What do you mean he didn't have to do anything?"

"Was a Browncoat. Alliance don't need reasons to hate."

Simon blinked. "The Alliance did this?"

River spoke up before the Captain could answer. She was shaking her head. "*Bu qu*, wrong end of the stick."

Something in the Captain shifted, sharpened. More alert now than he had been for hours. Part of Simon celebrated the change while another part sorrowed as to the likely reason behind it.

"You sayin' Alliance didn't do this?"

"You were supposed to think it was them. They'd been so careful. No marks, no torture. You were supposed to think he had been kept in the *jianyu* for weeks, months even, till his air ran out. Starving to death before he could suffocate."

Simon frowned. "But he did starve to death."

"Ni bu dong*, Simon. They brought him to the brink of death. Starved him, tormented him so he couldn't sleep. Had no rest from their taunting. When his strength and resistance was finally failing they dragged him to the place they had chosen and bricked around him. No windows, no doors. Just death waiting."

They could feel the Captain's anger adding heat to the cold room. A mental image of Shadow forming in his mind and pricking his eyes with unshed tears. Unable to bear it he bowed his head and covered his face with his hands. Simon got to his feet, alarmed and uneasy. He had seen the Captain in so many dark and dangerous situations and never had the man come even close to unravelling emotionally. Seeing him so distressed made him anxious for the man's well being. "Captain, are you alright?"

For a moment he got no response. Took a step towards the Captain as if to offer comfort only River was gently shaking her head. He froze. Waited. The dull muffled words seemed to be dragged out of the Captain by some unseen force that made Simon shudder deep inside. How creepifying was that? "*Wo dong* now, Simon." Mal raised his head but did not look at the two Tam siblings, his eyes locking on the still cold face of his one-time friend. "Clever *tamade hundan*," He spat with quiet intense venom.

Simon was confused. What was going on and why did he get the feeling he would never grasp it? "Captain?"

Mal didn't look at him, his voice pained when he answered. "I know why they took the gorram headstones."


The Captain forced himself to look at the doctor. Owed the man that much at least. "My folks."

Simon blinked. What the *diyu* did this have to do with the Captain's family? Apart from his uncle weren't they all dead?

"When I left the crew on Carousel hadn't meant to be gone long." His voice was low and dull. As pained and reluctant as a heart attack. "Just wanted to spend a moment or two with my folks, say my goodbyes. Expected it would be the last time I visited."

"Laying the ghosts to rest." Added River quietly by way of explanation. The Captain appeared not to hear her, lost in his own thoughts and memories. "Was so ruttin' mad to find the headstones gone. Then this suspicion hit me." Simon did not speak, eyes glued to Mal's tense and pale face. "I knelt on the spot, noticed the soil was soft. Disturbed." Cold fingers of horror were slowly inching their way through Simon's body as if part of him knew what was coming. "Dug down with my bare hands. Had to know." The doctor felt sick but could not stop listening. "Monty tried to stop me, worried I'd gone clear off my ruttin' head." He huffed but there was no humour in it, just a dreadful emptiness. The Captain forced himself to continue. Wanting the doctor to understand the full horror of it. "The graves were empty, Simon. Gorram *liumang* took the remains. All that was left of my family. Them as had bones an' them as were naught but ashes. Bits from the fire turnin' to dust. Every last sign of 'em taken away."

It was painful for Simon to hear. To imagine anyone being that cold and cruel. So utterly spiteful. He felt he was glimpsing a level of evil hard to imagine a living breathing soul being capable of. "But I don't understand. Why Mal? What did your family ever do to deserve the desecration of their graves?"

To his surprise it was River who answered. "Not who they were that mattered Simon."

He stared at his sister but she was looking at Mal. The Captain turned his bleak gaze on her. His eyes revealing a bottomless pit of agony that drew her closer to him. "This was for you." She whispered soflty, as if a quiet revelation would not be quite so obscene. Would hurt him less. Her thoughts were stained with the Captain's' blood. While memories that came from other minds left fingerprints on her soul making her feel unclean. She needed to wash, to bathe, not in water or scented soaps but in the clean bright clensing benediction of tears. Yet the Captain had no tears left and she could not do it without him. So her tears fell inside and flooded her eyes with compassion until he could not look at her any more.

Mal was barely aware of River going to him, taking his hands in hers and coaxing him to sit. Simon was mildly amazed at how docile the Captain was then reminded himself that the man was in shock. *Diyu* it was becoming a permanent state and that was not a good thing. Not for the Captain or his crew. They all relied on the Captain being their guide and their anchor. River glanced at her brother. "Tell the others not to come."

"River I don't think..."

"Don't think Simon, do."


River shook her head. "Captain needs to be quiet Simon. I'll stay with him."

"That's not a good idea, *mei mei*. I should..."

"I know what I'm doing."

Her brother stared at her as if wondering who this woman was who was wearing his sister's face and what in the nine hells he should do about it. If he was honest with himself it always disturbed him how much the Captain and his sister seemed to connect as if they were on the same wavelength. Yet how could someone as grim and psychotic as Malcolm Reynolds have anything in common with his beautiful and gifted sister? Not that the Captain was always grim and psychotic. As Kaylee would say the man did have a sunny side not to mention a very black sense of humour and an almost old fashioned notion of honour that lent him a battered nobility like some world-weary knight from the legends of Earth-that-was. A knight who had fallen on hard times and taken to a life of petty crime and thieving though perhaps he shouldn't mention the petty. He did not realise his sister was smiling until she spoke, the humour in her words making him look at her.

"He sees me and I see him. We don't hide from each other, Simon. No mystery just souls travelling on the same road."

She paused and the smile slowly vanished when she realised he still did not understand. Would always be suspicious of something he could not sense or explain for himself. It was part of the reason why his social skills came second to his academic ones and why any relationship he developed with Kaylee would depend more on her ability to propel him in the right direction than any intuition on his own part. Simon could be such a child. It was also part of the reason why she loved him. She watched as her brother drew up a chair and sat down. His meaning plain. River sighed inwardly then turned her attention back to the non responsive Captain. Joining him in the silence that was the only thing that could give him a semblance of peace. Content to wait him out until he was ready to rejoin the rest of his crew.

* * * * *

Jayne Cobb could feel their eyes on him, like dozens of curious little fingers wanting to reach out and poke where they shouldn't. He scowled and refused to look up. The children edging closer while he pretended to ignore them. He shouldn't be having this much fun not when they always seemed to find a way to turn the tables on him but Jayne had a plan. He would prove he could be just as gorram sneaky as the rest of them.

Mrs Frye couldn't help it, she had a soft spot for Jayne. Watching him with the grandkids was an eye opener and warmed her heart towards the big gruff man. Could see clean through him and couldn't help the smile that would touch her lips. Course the children saw through him too and played on it with a ruthless abandon that had her laughing all inside like she was six years old her own self. It told her the mercenary was from a big close knit family himself even if he never mentioned them. He carried that knowledge in him, shared it among her own brood. She watched Kaylee watching Jayne and turned her head at her *zhangfu's* footfall.

"Still not back yet?"

Her happy faltered a mite. "*Bu qu*," She said softly. Worry crowding in behind the thinning smile. "Dont' know what he expects to find."

Mr Frye harrumped and took a seat on the doorstep beside her. "Kaylee's doc knows what he's doin', *bao bei*."

She nodded absent mindedly, not thinking of the doctor but the young Captain who was carrying so much on his slender shoulders. Wasn't right. The whole gorram lot of them should be settled someplace with families and homes and lives lived in peace and such. But that was not their lot. Kaylee had hinted at some of the complications, something to do with people being after River and Simon. Though why anyone in the 'verse should harbour ill thoughts against those two innocents she did not know. It baffled and upset her, the more so because the longer they stayed the more she wanted to keep them. Keep them close and safe. Made her appreciate how protective the Captain was. That he had arranged for Kaylee and the rest of them to spend Christmas on Carousel while hiding his own sadness made her heart ache. She wished to *diyu* there was something they could do for him.


Mrs Frye turned to look at her husband. "*Shenme shi*, Martin?"

He gave a little shake of his head but was not looking at her. Inara and Shepherd Book were walking across the grass towards them with Charlie and little Ricky Boyd - Kaylee's cousins on her mother's side. Zoe and Wash were back in the kitchen squabbling and flicking water over each other as they peeled the potatoes. Peas had already been shucked of their pods by River before she had gone trailing after her brother and the Captain. Monty, Frank, Johnny and Kaylee's older brothers were coming back from the barn after helping with the stock. Sun had come up brighter than it had set and it was looking to be a fine day. Mrs Frye had to squint to realise that her husband was looking beyond Inara and the Shepherd. Heads turned now as the rattle of wood turned wheels and muffled clop of hooves on soil drew their attention to the unexpected visitors.

Martin Frye was on his feet now, stepping down off the step as Jayne snapped to full alert, one hand sliding all casual like to rest on the butt of his gun. The kids shooed off with a look that even deep in their play they knew better than to ignore. His eyes narrowed and fixed on the approaching buggy. Nothing too obvious but an ounce of caution was worth a pound of regret.

Inara looked round in surprise. Her expression one of curiosity. The man driving the buggy looked to be in his late fifties, grizzled grey hair cut short to his head but sticking up in all directions as if surprised to be there his own self. Beside her the Shepherd had straightened with interest, a look on his face that was curious but also measuring. He had noticed Jayne's reaction but could see no reason for his sudden caution. "Seems the neighbours have come a'callin'." He offered mildly.

The Companion was not so sure. The woman in the buggy was in her twenties, slim and lithe with bright quick eyes that seemed to be scanning them as they approached. The buggy stopped just shy of the front porch. Mr Frye smiled and nodded at the driver. "Clem, what brings ya out here on this fine mornin'?"

Clem Peters nodded to his passenger. "Little lady needed a ride on by, figured ya must be expectin' her."

Martin Frye gave her a startled look. Didn't recognise her and no one had asked to be visiting. Before he could speak the girl solved that little mystery, amused at the way Mr Frye's eyebrows rose and quickly disappeared in what was left of his hairline. Unable to find anything witty by way of response he just stared at her then his wife was bustling passed him, a smile on her face that fair dimmed the sun. "Come on down, *fengmi* an' be welcome. Any friend of Mal's is a friend of ours." The hesitant look on Sarah's face faded into relief. Martin Frye got a well aimed nudge in the ribs and took the bag Clem handed down while his wife helped the girl down from the buggy. Though she was dressed in travelling clothes Kaylee could tell what money she had was well spent. Curiosity propelled her on feet that barely felt the ground beneath her. "You a friend of the Cap'n's?"

Sarah smiled back. It was impossible not to. "*Qu*, is he here?"

The ruckass brought Wash and Zoe out of the house, everyone now crowding closer. Kaylee shook her head, fascinated by the way Sarah's hair was hanging in ringlets. Mighty pretty dark bouncing curls that seemed to laugh when she tossed her head. Ain't never seen hair so pretty nor a girl less conscious of it. "Nope, ya missed him but he'll be back. Had to see to somethin' on the ship."

Monty's booming voice brought a laugh to her lips as Sarah was taken up in a huge bear hug. Monty swung her around in his arms, Zoe staring pole axed at the pair of them. Who the good gorram was this and why in the nine hells didn't she know her? When Monty finally set the girl down there was a twinkle in his eyes and laughter held just in check. He couldn't wait to see the look on Mal's face when he saw her. Girl was just what the boy needed, a gorram tonic.

"Um, not to interrupt the happy greetin's an' such," Said Wash drawing closer. "Did you say you came to see the Captain?"

She nodded and Monty just could not resist stirring the pot a little, just for the fun of seeing the looks on their faces. "Yup," He said, one big arm wrapping round the girl's narrow waist. A smug look defying anyone to gainsay him. "This is Mal's girl. Her name's Sarah Moore."

No one spoke. Stunned expressions reflected from face to face, words for the moment failing them. Inara Serra was closer now. Close enough to get her first good look at the woman in the pretty blue dress and knee length baby blue calf skin boots. She was dusty from travelling and her short sky blue cape was open at the throat. The girl's eyes sparkled back at Monty and Inara felt her vision darken, hating her on sight.

* * * * *

He couldn't believe this was happening. Not to him. Not after all he had done! But the wizzened face held a disingenuous smile, the eyes flickering with reflected light for the man had none of his own. Alex Trent felt his mouth go dry. Fear coursing through his veins with the enormity of his error. "*Qing*, don't do this." He pleaded.

The mild voice merely heightened his fear taking it to a new level. "You failed, yes?"

Alex fought the restraints but it was no use. Muscle against metal stronger than steel. But the body did not give in so easily and so he continued to struggle while fighting back the threat of tears. He was a rich man now. Had enough to buy whatever the gorram he wanted anywhere he rutting well chose. He would die a rich man but without the power to spend one single coin of it. Adelei Niska watched as the full realisation sank in. His calm predatory face showing a great deal of surpressed pleasure. Feeding off fear kept the old man alive. More than the blood in his veins, the blood on his hands excited him. And now that blood would be put to good use. Soon. Very soon he would have what he craved and once again the 'verse would know that for Adelei Niska, his reputation was solid.

* * * * *

Simon Tam had almost dozed off. The silence on the ship was hard to get used to. he missed the hum of her engines on idle, the feel of her warmth an echo of skin on steel. The various noises of her crew going about their business when they weren't sticking it in everybody elses. It had become a home to him. Him and River. Now it felt like a shell and the disparity was somewhat unsettling, he knew not why.

"Time to go back." Said River quietly.

Her words were gentle but with an underlying firmness that made it sound more like an order than a piece of information. The Captain raised his rhumy eyes to meet hers. River smiled at him, raised her right hand and grazed his cheek. He looked so sorrowful that it hurt her but that would change soon. Not for long enough but any rest and ease was better than none.

"She's waiting." River murmured softly.

The Captain blinked. "Who?"

"Past and present but not future."

He began to frown but River stood up, her hands tugging on his and bringing the Captain to his feet. Simon watched warily wondering what in the nine hells she was talking about. One look at the Captain reassured him that the man was no wiser than he was. Somehow that comforted him. How sick was that? Simon stepped passed them and pulled the sheet over Ty's face. The body reduced to an anonymous corpse. He wondered what the Captain intended to do with the body. Was that why he wanted to return to Shadow? To bury Tyrone Garvin? But that made no sense or did it? What parts of the story was he missing and why did he get the feeling he would not like the answer?

They left Serenity in subdued mood. The Captain looked back once then set his face forward, his expression carved in stone. It was beginning to rain lightly yet perversely the sun still shone as if determined not to allow anything to stop it. River smiled at Simon's worried face. "Don't worry Simon, it won't rain."

"But it is raining, River."

She shook her head and gave him a mysterious little smile as if she were playing with him which, knowing River, she could well be doing. "Not rain, mist."

Simon's frown began to deepen then the mist seemed to evaporate, the sunshine gaining heat as it blazed defiantly down on them. River's smile widened. Her brother shook his head, amused and a little frustrated with her. "You're still a brat." He said quietly.

She stuck her tongue out at him then looked at the Captain. "Time to leave the sadness behind. Just for today."

"Don't think I can do that."

They were coming in sight of the house now when all three of them stopped suddenly in their tracks. It seemed as if they were expected. Serenity's crew along with Monty's and Kaylee's family were all standing in a loose group in front of the house, eyes turning to face them. Frank Reynolds had an odd look on his face but Mal figured he had to be feeling more than a mite awkward given their last converstion. A crowd of smiles from most of the others made him feel like an exhibit at a gorram zoo. Only Inara and Zoe were not smiling and Monty had a look on his face that made Mal wary. What the good gorram was going on? He resisted the urge to look over his shoulder to see what they were looking at. River tugged his hand and he followed her and Simon until he found himself facing Monty, the big man unable to stop beaming at him. Mal looked to Zoe for enlightenment but she wasn't telling. In fact her face was so closed off he felt his heart miss a beat. Right now he wasn't sure he could handle any more bad news.

"Ya took your time, Mal!" Said Monty cheerily.

The Captain's eyes narrowed on his friend. "What you doin'?"

"Got a surprise for ya."

Now he was beyond wary. River squeezed the Captain's hand then darted passed him to where Kaylee was bouncing on her feet with excitement. Shepherd Book looked mightily amused but Simon caught some of the Captain's reservations, he was not much of a one for surprises himself. The Captain took a steadying breath and decided to get the worst over with. "What kind'a surprise?"

Monty didn't answer him in words he simply stepped to one side, watching the expression on Mal's face change into one of disbelief and astonishment. Sarah smiled shyly then grinned. He had nothing in his head but a kind of numb shock. "I had to find you, Mal." She stepped closer. He could not move. He was dreaming, right? Had to be a dream. But no, this dream walked right up to him, closing the space between them until there was no more than an inch or two of separation. She tilted her face up at him, her smile now teasing lips he had kissed with the sort of abandon that came so rare to him. Was frightened to touch her, afraid that like so much in his life she would turn to blood and ashes.

Her voice was low now, quiet and silky on his ears. Intimate in ways not belied by the words she used to draw him in. "You took some finding."

His voice felt hoarse, rusty, the creaky whisper making her lips twitch. "Why would you wanna do that?"

"Oh," Her voice had gone coy, her eyes glittering. "No reason but this." Then her arms reached out, hands drawing him across the gap, lips fastening so gently on his became more passionate. The air in his lungs faltered, the warmth of her body cradling the chill in his soul and igniting something he kept in shadow.

Wash didn't look at his wife, his stunned expression saved for the tentative embrace that was engulfing the Captain and Sarah. Sarah's hands sliding down the Captain's back and cupping his backside as the kiss deepened. "Oh wow!"

No one knew quite what to say. They had been expecting some kind of fireworks but not this. Wash glanced at Zoe. "Did you know about...?"

"*Bu qu*." Her response was flat, clipped. Totally unamused.

It puzzled the pilot but before he could call her on it Zoe began to move forward, to tear the rutting *pofu* out of the Captain's arms and demand to know what was going on. But Monty had anticipated her. The intervention of his big solid body brought her up short, her eyes flashed and glared at him but he was not intimidated. He lowered his head and hissed in her ear the only warning he was going to give. "Leave it Zoe. Mal ain't had much happy in his life, we owe it to him to let him have this."

"Who is she and where the *diyu* did she come from?"

Even though he was warning her off spoiling the moment, Monty felt a flicker of amusement. He had no intention of telling her where the two had met or how it was that he had been instrumental in bringing them together. Some things a man should be able to keep private. "Not for you to know, Zoe, just trust me an' leave 'em be. At least when she's gone Mal'll have some memories to keep him warm *dong ma*?"

She stared at him a moment longer then looked passed his shoulder. Mal and Sarah too busy devouring each other to spare a thought for their bemused audience. Jayne let out a whoop of appreciation and wondered where the *diyu* he could get himself a piece of trim. Had never envied the Captain as much as he did at that moment.

"I'll let it go for now." Zoe fixed a fierce gaze on Monty. "But once this is over you an' me are gonna have a serious talk." Monty nodded. Knew what that talk would be about but it would be worth it. Kaylee caught Simon's hand and drew him close, the doctor looking so stunned she could not stop laughing. After a minute or two he looked down at her happy shining face trying to hide his own mounting horror. "Tell me I don't have that idiot expression on my face when we kiss?" She took it as a dare. By the time Simon's brain caught up with the soul searing kiss Kaylee gave him he didn't give a good gorram how it looked.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*mei mei* = little sister *jianyu* = prison *wo bu dong* I don't understand *weshenme* = why *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *wo dong* = I understand *diyu* = hell *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *liumang* = bastard/asshole/criminal/gangster *zhangfu* = husband *bao bei* = treasure/precious *wei* = hey *fengmi* = honey *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *qu* = yes (lite. go) *qing* = please *dong ma* = understand *pofu* = bitch


Friday, February 18, 2005 8:29 AM


Ali, you did it again! You amaze me. Just when I think there is no way it could get any better, it does. *standing ovation*

Friday, February 18, 2005 2:46 PM


What she said.

*Rises from seat, clapping*

*Buys advance ticket to next chapter*

Monday, February 21, 2005 12:55 AM


Agh! Finished too soon! Loved Inara's reaction - I was right there with her! Jayne - ah, Jayne. Perfect.

But now there's so many questions need answering. Chief of which is what in the name of all that's proper is Monty up to? And just how much more misery is Sarah going to bring poor Mal?

Write faster!

Monday, February 21, 2005 6:35 AM


Wonderful installment! I loved everyone's reaction to Sarah's arrival, and Mal does deserve a bit of happiness in his life.

With River's cryptic statement "Past and present but not future.", it kinda makes me wonder just what is going to happen that ruins Mal's happiness yet again.


- Soul

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 12:23 PM


Just catching up...loving this! I'm glad you're already up to 17!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 12:44 PM


Loved this!!! The last part was the best, with all the crews reactions to Sarah. XD
"Tell me I don't have that idiot expression on my face when we kiss?"


You must log in to post comments.



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.