TEMPTATION SERIES: 47. "Distraction"
Sunday, January 1, 2006

"With everything going to hell in a handbasket the race is on."



SUMMARY "With everything going to hell in a handbasket the race is on." 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.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

When people told River what to do it made her brain feel redundant. She wasn't stupid and didn't like it. But sometimes. Sometimes it was useful. Like camoflage but without having to worry about the fit. So she let Zoe and Jayne take the lead, her mind busy scanning and searching through the frantic minds fleeing the widening arc of destruction. Simon tried to talk to her but she wasn't listening. Couldn't afford the distraction. All she knew was that time was running out. Not for them but for him.

* * * * *

When the first explosion hit, Elliott Field thought he would wet his rutting pants. Bad enough to be searching for an escaped prisoner that should be so close to dead moving unaided would be kind'a miraculous. Now they had the very real possibility that the whole gorram place would come crushing down on their heads. The only good thing was if that happened they wouldn't have to worry about the Governor killing them. Nature would do the job for him. For free.

"We gotta get outta here!" Yelled Marlowe.

"Huh!" Snorted Elliott. "Was your damn idea to come lookin'."

Marlowe closed the gap between them, his lips peeled back and teeth clamped together in an angry snarl. "I'm tryin' to save your worthless gorram hide, you ingrate!"

"Oh, an' savin' your own self don't come into the picture?"

Annoyed and impatient with the both of them, Rich Tucker pushed between them. His deep level voice managing to penetrate before things got too heated. "This could save us all boys! We get out an' leave all this *goushi* behind, you hear? It'll be mostly prisoners an' such get buried." Rich allowed himself to grin slowly, waiting for them to catch on. "Which means our gorram problem gets buried with it, *dong ma*?"

They stared at him. Elliott nodded slowly. "Could be, but you're forgettin' one thing. Reynolds ain't in his cell."

"So?" Said Rich, just a hair's breadth from laughing outright in his face. "Who's gonna tell 'em? Not me!"

Elliott looked at Marlowe then grinned. Just then another explosion shook the tunnel. With just a look the three guards abandoned their search and ran as fast as they were able to the nearest exit. Not a dozen yards from where they had been standing a room crammed with the injured, the dead and the dying began to stir. Hilary Johnson crawled to the pressed shut door and inched it open. Like most of the others she was not able to stand but crawling she could do. Not trusting the purplebellies Hilary spent several precious minutes listening and watching but when there was no sound of returning footsteps she figured they really had gone. For now that was good enough.

The crawl back through the doorway was painful and tiring. The old man sitting nearest the pile of bodies waited for the all-clear. A young slim woman beside him watching and waiting anxiously. No breath to speak Hilary nodded and the young woman had to bite her bottom lip to keep the cry of relief from escaping. The old man was small, wiry, and fitter than he looked. Years of poor living had actually acclimatised him to the brutality of their incarceration better than the others. He watched the young girl's face. Even dirty, dishevelled and thin as a gorram rake there was a quality to her that shone through the grime. It drew the old man to her and brought the soft warning to his bloodied lips, not wanting her to pin her hopes on a man not long for this 'verse. "He may already be dead, young 'un, so don't go raisin' those hopes."

Her look hardened. "He ain't dead." She whispered hoarsely, her throat full of dirt and dust. Her heart heavy but by no means willing to give up no matter how slender the hope. She knew the old man would figure she was just fooling herself.

The wizzened and careworn face watched her trying to roll the top figures off the pile with hands that bled. Then he sighed and leant his wiry frame to the task. She never thanked him but as their eyes met over the wall of bodies the gratitude he saw made it hard for him to swallow. In that moment of complete understanding he would have given her the gorram 'verse. Hilary did not say anything but waited until she had her breath back and crawled over to them. Only the three of them were conscious and mobile. In silence they worked, ignoring the way roof, walls and even the floor shuddered between explosions. When at last they had cleared the bodies off Serenity's benighted Captain, it was surprisingly gentle hands that checked him over. A careful touch to take the fevered pulse, lips brushing alongside his ear to quietly tell him what was happening. They were going to help him. He was among friends.

But Malcolm Reynolds heard not one word. Was oblivious of their efforts to gently rouse him, and when that wouldn't work was blessedly unaware of the clumsy pull of hands dragging him out into a corridor now rutted with fallen bits of beam and uneven from rock and falling dirt. The old man squinted in the dim light, the tunnel even hotter than it had been before and now becoming so stuffy he fretted that the exits must be blocked. "*Mashang* or your friend will die an' we will join him!"

The girl did not so much as blink, her hand almost a protective and proprietorial grasp on Mal's shoulder. Hilary nudged her gently, they had to get going. With a smile that never reached her eyes the girl helped them manhandle the Captain along the tunnel, shuffling their slow, painful but inexorable way out of the very pit of hell.

* * * * *

Jayne was not sure exactly what he had been expecting but the chaos of fleeing bodies errupting from the exits to the mine shook him more than a little. It was River who noticed some of the Alliance ships overhead were landing presumably to aid any rescue but she did not trust that their intentions were that honourable. Instead she urged the others to hurry even as she grabbed handfuls of earth and began rubbing it into her face, neck and hands making sure to rub it into her clothing as well. When Simon opened his mouth to query what she was doing she pre-empted him without breaking her momentum. "Camoflage."

Shepherd Book frowned but said nothing as he copied her. The others exchanged looks then did the same, only realising how sensible this was when the Alliance soldiers began to exit the landing craft. Simon felt his heart lurch when he looked at the fleeing people. Some were obviously physically hurt, others suffering a varying amount of mental trauma, all of them were in something akin to shock. Where was the Captain? Would he be found alive or with a bullet in his head? Was that the way Governor Cyrus White dealt with his enemies? River put a hand over Jayne's next charge and gave a little shake of her head.

"For later."

Jayne scowled. "What if there ain't no later?"

Her smile was dazzling but vanished as soon as it appeared, leaving the big man feeling more than a mite dazed. "There will be."

At first no one seemed to notice River and the others were headed against the flow nor that they seemed calm and focused. Shepherd Book began to feel that itch on the back of his neck and only through force of will did he resist the urge to turn and see who was looking at him. Breaking into a run, River got to the nearest exit, waited and listened as people came tramping out then looked back at Zoe and shook her head. Zoe's face paled but she didn't speak. Then River was up and running again to another exit. This went on for a few minutes until she came to one exit on the other side of the mine. With a grim smile she nodded, waited for the press of people running out to thin, then without a word darted inside. Simon swore and ran after her. Zoe glanced at Book and Jayne.

"*Wei*, don't look at me. I ain't got no death wish."

She fixed the mercenary with a stony stare. "We're not leavin' without the Cap'n."

"What if he's dead?"

"River says not."

"Huh, since when we trustin' that moonbrain?"

"Since she is nearly always right." Said Book.

For a moment Jayne stared at them as if they were *shenjingbing*. Simon could almost sympathise with the big man but they really couldn't afford to delay. Too many ships were coming in to land and the line of purplebellies was beginning to drown out the crowd of captive workers. Their window of opportunity was beginning to close so fast the doctor could not help but fret whether they would get out alive themselves. He said nothing of his reservations, River was anxious and tense enough. And that was before Zoe insisted the time had come to split up.

* * * * *

Chung-li, Rafe and Molly reached the surface with flagging lungs. The press of people reassured the Chinaman that they could slip away from the throng undetected. But then he saw the ring of Alliance ships and his heart faltered. Sensing his distraction, Rafe turned and noticed what had caught his friend's eye. Unconcerned he put a hand on Chung-li's arm. "Have faith, my friend,"

For a moment time paused, Molly pushed away from them to sit on a fallen treetrunk. Rafe was tired out and heartsore but finding Molly had injected hope where there had been none and now he desperately needed to search among those coming out of the mine in case any more of his friends and family had survived. Chung-li put a hand on his shoulder. "Wait with Molly, when you see a chance to slip away do so. I will look for the others then come and find you."

"How will you do that?"

Chung-li smiled gently. "I will know, *wode pengyou*."

Somehow Rafe had confidence that Chung-li would do just that. How did not matter. Stranger things had happened in the long years of their friendship and he was not about to doubt a man he would trust with the last breath in his body. Much as he wanted to go and search with Chung-li he knew he lacked the strength and his body was too exhausted for much beyond shuffling in short bursts. Besides, his Molly was still deep in grief. The father in him reacted to her need, and with a nod he let Chung-li go then moved to check on his daughter. Molly raised her head and looked at him, tears in her eyes. The pain he saw broke his heart all over again.

"Oh, Molly!" He cried softly, the circle of his arms holding his precious child close to his heart. "I miss him too, *xin gan*. I miss them all."

Then she was crying into his shoulder and he was rocking her and shushing her, words of love tumbling from his lips straight from his heart. It was several minutes before he realised they should be moving. As he eased her to his feet he all but stumbled as something big and blocky brushed into him. His fall was broken by strong arms, the voice as surprised as it was welcome. Rafe Connor steadied himself and blinked into the face of Jayne Cobb. "Jayne?"

The mercenary stared at him open mouthed. "Good gorram! Is that you Rafe?"

The man's surprise made Rafe want to laugh but instead it came out as tears and before he knew it Shepherd Book had stepped up to check him and Molly for injuries, Simon Tam hovering at his shoulder and still managing to look almost clean despite the dirt rubbed into his clothes, hair and skin. There was just something about the man that couldn't be soiled.

The Shepherd eased them away from the rest, his eyes darting in every direction while he kept his head as still as possible. Mapping out their best route of withdrawal. Rafe stopped and looked from face to face. "We can't leave Chung-li."

"We won't." Book assured him. "Zoe, Wash an' River have gone to get the Cap'n."

"You know where Mal is?" They shook their heads. "*Bu qu*," Said Jayne. "But the crazy girl thinks she can find him."

Simon shot him a venemous look. "Don't call her that!"

Surprised, Jayne stared at him. "*Shenme*? What else'm I supposed to call a crazy girl?"

"Her name is River."

Book put a hand on Simon's shoulder and dipped his head to whisper into his ear. "No names. This place is full of ears, many of them Alliance *dong ma*?"

Flushing slightly Simon nodded but he still managed to glare at Jayne before turning back to his examination of Molly. While Rafe had numerous visible wounds none were life threatening. He was worried about the man's eldest daughter though. Something about the way she held herself and her silence setting off warning bells in his head. As Book caught Simon's eye, the Preacher inclined his head towards the trees.

"Best we move before we get noticed."

Quietly they drifted to the trees and kept moving until they had worked past the ring of Alliance ships. Book whispered to Jayne to keep a lookout then turned to Rafe. Simon opened his medical case and began to clean up the cuts and odd puncture wounds he found on the man's neck face and arms. Then they were moving again, Rafe wanting to protest and stay close so Chung-li could find them but Serenity's crew were insistent. Too tired to resist for long the Rancher let himself be half guided and half lead to a ship on the edge of a clearing. Stopping suddenly his mouth dropped open at the sight of the Alliance Scout Ship. "*Wode ma*! Are you *feng*?"

Shepherd Book smiled. "It's not what you think."

"Looks like an Alliance ship to me." Rafe muttered darkly. Molly's eyes had widened, fear surfacing and skimming on the edge of panic.

"Yes, it is but we captured it. This ship is our way off this rock."

Jayne loved the look on Rafe Connor's face. Stunned into silence the man could not wait to hear what the good gorram had happened and how in the nine hells they had managed to snag an Alliance ship.

* * * * *

Zoe was getting more and more worried. Only the presence of her *zhangfu* kept her calm enough not to panic. This was awful, worse than she had expected. They passed a lot of poor emaciated souls stumbling and half falling out of the exit. River appeared not even to notice them, so focused was she on getting to the Captain. That at least reassured Zoe that they were doing the right thing but seeing the state of the people alarmed and worried her. These people were ordinary folk. Men and women who had been hijacked from their homes, taken captive for one reason and one reason only. To work until they dropped making that odious creature Cyrus White rich. It made her sick and angry. The fury muted by concern, hoping River knew what she was doing. Without turning her head River urged them to move faster.

"Have to hurry. Even with help they're going too slow."

Wash frowned. "Who is?"

"They can't run, can't crawl." Said River, her voice distant as if seeing something they could not see. Zoe felt the blood in her viens begin to ice over. River looked over her shoulder at Zoe. The words seeming to be for her alone. "Need someone to carry him."

Her heart faltered. Not that Zoe would ever have said anything out loud but the notion that her Captain and friend was in such dire straights filled her with a pain and emptiness that no words of comfort could fill. Not until she could set eyes on him again would she take another easy breath. River nodded then looked forward again, no other words passing her lips. Moving swiftly now, her steps assured, Zoe and Wash doing their best to keep up. After a few minutes River stopped suddenly and Zoe almost ran into the back of her. A cry escaped the girl's lips then River dropped to her knees, Wash peering anxiously over her shoulder to see why. What he saw brought a wave of bile to the back of his throat. Zoe pushed past him and knelt beside River.

Malcolm Reynolds lay where they had dropped him. His breathing faint and ragged, his clothing in bloody tatters, every inch of his visible body cut, gouged, grazed or bruised. One eye was shut, the other close to joining it. His face was a mess of broken bones and congealed blood. The bubbling rasp of his faltering breath brought tears to Zoe's eyes. River's hands were impossibly gentle, her look fierce but tender, an odd combination that boded ill for those who had hurt him and the patience of love unending for the man himself. Despite his injuries, River gently kissed the broken lips, her small hands framing Mal's face while her mind slipped into the pain filled landscape to which his flagging spirit clung. Tears rolled down her face leaving tracks through the dirt. It was only when an old man pulled himself to his knees that they realised those next to the Captain were not dead. Wash stumbled back a step. "Woah!"

The old man blinked. "Who are you?"

Zoe frowned, ready to take offence but River stepped in. "You rescued him." She said.

"How do you know that?"

River nodded to herself. "*Wo zhidao*." She looked down at Mal, then met the old man's eyes again. "You tricked them, got him out. *Duibuqi*."

The old man just stared at her. "You didn't answer my question."

Before it could be answered the girl who had helped drag the Captain from their cell raised herself awkwardly on to her knees. Zoe thought she was like to fall over any minute. "You're from Serenity."

Surprised, Wash blinked at her. "*Qu*, we are but how do you know that?"

"I recognised Mal. Remember you visited us, helped my father."

Pieces were slotting into place now. Zoe nodded. "You're from Glory."

The girl did not smile. "Rafe Connor is my father."

"Then you are..."


Zoe looked at the old man. "An' you are?"

"David Hall."

Zoe looked at Rose but the girl shook her head. The old man was not from the Ranch. Just another survivor. Quick introductions were made as Zoe and Wash took the Captain's weight between them, an anxious River wanting to help but knowing the only way to do that was to get Mal as quickly as possible to Simon. The old man and Rose could do with the doctor's attentions as well once her *ai ren* had been put back together again. Her mind sought to soothe his, her thoughts walking through the shattered landscape and filling the pain with love. The promise of an end to his nightmare enough to bring a measure of calm in that deep dark place threatening to swallow his very soul. River projected herself into his consciousness and concentrated on synchronising his fragmented breathing with her own, slowly bringing peace and calm and allowing him on some subconscious level to know he was no longer alone.

* * * * *

On board Serenity, Inara cradled the fretting child. Jack squirming in her arms, perhaps sensing the tension from Captain Rankin and the four purplebellies who had accompanied him. Kaylee wanted them off Serenity but she could hardly throw them out of the air lock. Even if she had strength enough to do it she could not risk her unborn twins. Big enough now to waddle when she walked, Kaylee was getting angrier and angrier. The sight of those *tamade hundan* on Serenity was enough to make her seethe and her blood boil. Every step they took across the deck plates offended her. It was as if their presence caused Serenity pain and that in turn hurt Kaylee.

Inara tried to keep the mechanic calm, projecting an air of unconcern. Captain Rankin had hoped to panic her into giving away their real purpose in Alliance space but nothing seemed to discomfit her. Not so the mechanic. Leaning close, the Alliance Captain deliberately tried to intimidate Kaylee. Knowing exactly what he was up to and why, Inara was quick to intervene with enough grace and poise to make the man step back. "I should perhaps warn you that Kaylee is heavily pregnant and has a tendancy to throw up at the most inopportune times."

Captain Rankin stared at the Companion's placid smile. How the good gorram could she act so polite and with such obvious fake sincerity that he wanted to be sick? And yet she had done nothing wrong. Neither of the women had. Truth to tell he did not see either Inara or Kaylee or this *lese* ship as any kind of a threat. Gorramit the rutting heap wasn't even armed. Then Rankin got a wave, the message patched through to his concealed earpiece and alerting him to the unprecedented panic developing down on Hope. For a moment he frowned at the Companion as if this was somehow her doing, but Jack chose that moment to start crying and Inara had her hands full calming him down. All of a sudden Captain Rankin decided he had had quite enough of rusting Fireflies.

"I am leaving now but I warn you not to make any move without permission or you will be treated as a hostile vessel."

Inara's eyebrows rose in a slow delicate arch of disbelief. "Hostile vessel? Captain, as you can see Serenity is a transport ship. She is not even armed."

The man straightened. "Yes, well, I'm only repeating Alliance protocols you understand?"

"What is it you think we can do?"

Flustered the Captain chose not to answer. Instead he gave a curt nod and left, his men falling in behind him. Inara and Kaylee stared at the departing soldiers then waited with baited breath until the Alliance vessel had detached. Inara smiled at Kaylee then noticed the girl was sweating heavily. "Kaylee? *Shenme shi, bao bei*?"

"*Wode hen hao*, just the babies kickin'."

A wail from little Jack distracted Inara. Rocking and shushing the infant it took a moment or two for the Companion to realise that something was wrong with Kaylee. Before she could shift the baby to her hip and reach out to her friend, Kaylee's eyes rolled back and she collapsed at Inara's feet. All the blood draining from Inara's face she carefully knelt next to her stricken friend and felt for a pulse. That was when Serenity's proximity alarm sounded. The jarring sound making Inara's speeding heart increase to the edge of panic. Trying hard to gain an element of calm, Inara Serra swore in her most colourful Mandarin and wondered what in the nine hells would go wrong next.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*goushi* = crap/dog shit *dong ma* = understand? *shenjingbing* = crazy *mashang* = quickly/at once/on the double/immediately *wei* = hey! *wode pengyou* = my friend *xin gan*/*ai ren* = sweetheart *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *shenme* = what *wode ma* = mother of God! *feng* = mad/insane *zhangfu* = husband *wo zhidao* = I know *duibuqi* = thanks *qu* = yes (lit. go) *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *lese* = crappy *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *wode hen hao* = I'm very good/okay


Monday, January 2, 2006 11:30 AM


Ack! I agree, these cliff hangers are killing me too.
It's bad enough I dream Firefly characters every night because of the gorram cliffhangers, I have to live the suspense all day too!

<batting eyelashes prettily> More please!

Thursday, March 16, 2006 7:02 AM


Eeks, Mal is in a bad way! Great description of just how bad.

Love the way the threads are coming together.


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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.