Disclaimer – Everything either does belong to Joss or it should. I'm just borrowing his shiny 'verse for a while. You could say the inspiration for this story is Joss Whedons actor recycling program.

- - - - - - - - - -

Firefly Class Transport Serenity – In Transit – 2517AD

Mal was pacing the bay trying to think how he could get Inara to stay without having to blurt out his feelings when his stomach lurched.

He was reaching for the intercom when his arm suddenly got too heavy to hold up and he nearly collapsed to the floor before finding himself practically floating,

He punched the intercom button 'Kaylee what the heck is up with the gravity on this boat?'

The mechanic voice responded quickly 'It's not us Captain. The AG Generator is throwing a fit trying to compensate, it's like transition interference when we enter a Gravity Well but there's nothing out there and the field is pulsing up and down'

'If we don't get this sorted the whole crew are going to lose their lunch' Mal stated as he found himself twice his normal weight again and nearly fell once more.

'Mal this is Wash' interrupted another voice on the intercom.

'Go ahead'

'I just got to the bridge. The Inertial Suppressor is going haywire too. Something is really going nuts out here'

'Can someone tell me what's going on' Mal asked as the internal gravity dropped to one-quarter gee and his internal organs felt like they were suddenly springing up into his throat. The entire experience was downright nauseating.

River bounced into the cargo bay she seemed totally unfazed by the shifting gravity and she easily adjusted her pace when the field sprang back up to around 1.5 gee.

'Something up with the Continuum' River said to nobody in particular 'Gravity is just a product of the warping of space-time by matter' she said 'Our Gravity Engine is interfering with a random quirk in reality'

'Care to explain that in Captain Dummy talk?' Mal asked.

As if she had never seen him there before River turned to Mal and rolled her head to one side 'Interference in 10 Dimensional Space-time. The Superstrings are vibrating wrong and our four dimensional perception of the 'Verse is breaking down'

'Still not following River' Mal said 'In fact less than ever'

River looked exasperated 'Everything is superstrings. The nature of the 'Verse is determined by how they vibrate. They're playing off-key and we're strumming the guitar by trying to bend the 'Verse to our whim by technology'

'You're saying we need to turn off the Gravity Engine?'

There was a lurch. Then Gravity on the ship began to oscillate faster and faster.

'Too Late' River said 'Music's all wrong and we all fall down' she lay on the deck so as to best withstand the gravitational peaks. Mal did likewise beside her.

'We going to die?'

'Yes but I can't say if it's going to be now or not' River answered 'Here we go'

Across the ship the whole crew felt themselves being pulled in an indescribable direction harder and harder. The gravitation field got stronger and stronger until eventually they began to pass out.

Wash was the last person on the ship to pass out. He was more used to high-gee manoeuvring than anyone else and coped better with it. His last conscious act was to hit the distress beacon and give full command to the automatic pilot. Serenity and it's electronics was made of sterner stuff than her frail human crew and her computers were still running perfectly.

The entire ship began to vibrate stronger and stronger until neither the Gravity Engine nor the Inertial Suppressors could cope with trying to ride out the storm and they gave out.

Finally an electromagnetic pulse surged through the ship and tripped all the safeties cutting power to the electronics and putting the reactor into emergency shutdown.

Reality tore. Silently in our four-dimensional perception of space but deafening in the true 10-dimensional nature of existence.

Serenity fell out of the 'Verse at a place where ten years earlier the first of the Alliance's experiments in Quantum Weaponry had been tested and abandoned due to unforeseen side-effects. There had been no reason to leave a warning buoy, it was far off the space-lanes and it was thought best not to draw suspicion to another multi-billion credit failure.

A split second later the Firefly fell back into the 'Verse.

Well one of them anyway.

- - - - - - - - - -

Wash opened his eyes. He felt the familiar after-effects of gee-force induced black-out and tried to focus on the controls. Everything was dead.

Shaking himself awake the pilot hit the emergency override switch which put the bridge on battery power then examined the readouts.

'Been out about an hour' he said to himself 'gravity is still down and the reactors off-line'

Wash flicked on the ships loudspeaker system. 'This is the bridge can everyone report in'

The Captain awoke to find himself floating in the middle of the cargo bay 'Somebody switch on the damn Gravity' he yelled.

Unfortunately for Mal his wish was granted and he fell the better part of eight feet to the deck when Kaylee regained consciousness and powered up the AG again.

'You should watch what you ask for' said River walking over to help him get up. He was okay but both his pride and his ass were hurting thanks to a clumsy landing.

Mal walked over to the intercom and pressed the button 'Wash we okay?' he asked.

'Readouts show no faults that'll kill us. We're running off the batteries but I'm showing no faults on the reactor so Kaylee should be able to get her running again'

'What about the crew?'

'Everyone has called in except Inara'

Mal span, pounded up the gantry stairway and shot through the airlock into Inara's shuttle only to find her sat there looking in horror at the total chaos around her

'Everything floated around' she said 'It'll take me days to sort this mess out' she looked at the expression on his face 'what's wrong with you'

'When you're told to report in you rutting well report in' Mal yelled.

'Don't you use that tone of voice at me Malcolm Reynolds'

'I thought you were hurt' Mal yelled back 'Good God woman don't do that to me' he snapped and then stormed back out of the shuttle heading for the bridge.

Inara watched him stamp away. Despite the mess around her she smiled.

- - - - - - - - - -

'Tell me again Wash where are we?'

'For the last time Mal I don't know' replied the pilot 'we aren't where we were. We aren't anywhere near where we were. According to the navigation computer and my star-charts we're not even in the same gorram Galaxy'

Mal looked out at the stars. They all looked the same to him 'There's got to be a computer error or summat'

'Captain let me explain this to you. We determine our position in space by triangulating our position relative to Pulsars because they're easy to spot and we know where they all are. I don't know where we are but I do know the Pulsars aren't where they should be and more than that there's the wrong number. We are not in the right Galaxy'

'You're sure'

'I don't tell you how to hit people and you don't tell me my trade'

Mal looked outside into the black 'How in the name of the nine hells are we in the wrong gorram Galaxy?'

'Wrong gorram Universe' River said entering the bridge 'we're somewhere else entirely'

'What?'

'We've fallen into another part of the multiverse. One of the infinite number parallel to our own. Our 'Verse ripped and we fell through into this one. We felt it tear'

'We're in a parallel universe?' Wash said doubtfully 'It's Science-Fiction time again'

'This was always a theoretical possibility the top minds have debated it for five centuries. I guess we're just lucky' River said 'Or not'

'Are you buying this Mal?' Wash asked.

'Well either you're right about it being the wrong Galaxy, or she's right about it being the wrong entire Universe but one way or another we're in the wrong darn place. How do we get back'

'The tear must exist on both sides so we reverse course and induce a similar event to the one that got us here'

'And we do that exactly how?'

'Our Gravity Drive and Inertial Suppressors seem to have induced the effect so I assume they do the same over here when we go back to the rip' River responded.

'Then we've got a problem 'cause the Inertial gear ain't running like it was'

'Can Kaylee fix it?'

'Sure but only on the ground. It's a sealed unit that doesn't like being opened to vacuum because of pressure differentials and you can only get to it externally. They never go wrong so they don't bother making it too convenient fixing them'

'We need to find a planet with a breathable atmosphere?' Mal said wincing 'What's the chance of that?'

'Nah Mal we just need pressure, type of gas don't matter none. We can work in EVA suits'

'Look for a planet' Mal ordered 'I'm going to check on the engine room'

- - - - - - - - - -

The stench of sulphur was in the air and a yellow cloud wafted over the village. It was sacrifice day again and soon the minions of the Evil One would arrive to choose a plaything for their master.

The villagers cried and wailed. Some considered running but this was the only sheltered valley any knew of where water flowed and crops could grow. Others talked of fighting but that was hopeless. The other villages had tried that and had ended up either dead or working themselves to death in the quarries.

You could kill the minions, although even that was hard when your best weapon was a club or quarterstaff but the Evil One himself was invulnerable. He was strong beyond belief, vengeful beyond measure and ingenious in his wrath.

Each family prayed it would not be them that had to give up the sacrifice this time. Those that still had faith also prayed for deliverance.

Most doubted that there was anyone listening to their cries.

- - - - - - - - - -

'You're kidding?'

'No seriously it's oxy-nitro and pressure should be well within tolerances' Wash answered. 'Not a lot of vegetation, looks volcanic for the most part but from the spectrum it's not too far off from the norm'

'Temperature, pressure, gravity?' Mal asked.

'Hotter than a terraformed world, pressure maybe 11 pounds per square inch at sea level so it'll feel a bit thin but the oxygen content is up at 25 so you won't get light headed. Gravity is about .75 gee' Wash replied.

'There must be a lot of phytoplankton equivalents in the oceans if the oxygen is that high on a world where the land is barren' River theorised.

Simon was nonplussed 'What are the chance we'd find a world with a breathable atmosphere?'

'I could calculate them but suffice to say they're not very high' River replied.

'Perhaps a higher power is intervening on our behalf' Book said 'In any case I imagine we'll be landing'

'Got no choice if we want to fix the boat' Mal said 'Take her down Wash'

'Lots of nasty thermals from the volcano's so I suggest everyone straps in it could get bumpy with the inertial suppressors not working right' the pilot said. I'll give you five minutes to get prepared before I drop her out of orbit'

'Always knew there was a reason I found myself a good pilot' Mal said.

'Don't underestimate me Captain. I'm a great pilot' Wash replied then started playing with his switches.

- - - - - - - - - -

In an inexplicable location somewhere, and somewhen, else in the multiverse the Powers That Be smiled to each other. They had once again given fate a little push to restore the balance and soon their new champion would be bought into the game.

All they needed to do now was induce a minor volcanic eruption.

- - - - - - - - - -

Serenity was shaking so hard Wash had his mouth clamped tightly shut so as to not risk biting off his tongue. Typically he talked all the way down from orbit to landing, usually to himself, but this time he couldn't even if it hadn't required his total concentration.

He had chosen a relatively calm plateau for a landing site and was nearly on final approach when the nearest volcano blew its top and started raining rocks all over the place.

Wash bought the Firefly into a steep turn and went looking for another place trying to avoid the more vicious thermals and more uneven ground.

Then Eden appeared.

A Valley between two small mountain ranges that shielded it from the Volcano's that otherwise littered the landscape.

It was green with lakes and fields and…

Fields?

Wash did a double take. Honest to god fields as in agriculture! I must be hallucinating he thought.

Anyway it was the best landing spot he could find so the Pilot bought Serenity into a shallow approach.

Is that a town?

Well if you're going to visit another Universe you might as well introduce yourself to the locals Wash thought and he chose a relatively unkempt field about half a mile away from the small cluster of dwellings and bought the ship into land.

Wash powered down the engines and flicked a switch that turned on the ships internal loudhailer.

'We're on the ground and you ain't gonna believe this but I found a settlement' Wash paused 'I want to be the one to say "take me to your leader"'

- - - - - - - - - -

The villagers had seen the great metal bird thunder overhead supported on pillars of fire and assumed it was another manifestation of the Dark One.

Those who had been in the fields to the south of town where it set down fled in terror back to their dwellings to hide and pray.

The more courageous peeked through barely open doors when strangely clad apparitions appeared in the Village talking in the same strange tongue as the Dark One. The evil language of mysteries and incantations that the Dark One had made them all learn and which he called "English".

One of the apparitions stopped in the village square.

'We mean you no harm' it called out 'Ours is a peaceful race'

'Jeez Wash is that the best you can come up with?' another exclaimed.

'Err guys you really ought to see this' said an apparition with the voice of a woman. she waved them to meet her at the other end of the Square where the Obelisk was.

'Does that look familiar to you?' the woman asked pointing to the stonework.

'Son-of-a-bitch' cried another in a tone of disbelief.

The one who had been first to speak stared at the Obelisk 'Who the hell is Caleb and why is his name written in English on an Alien World, in a different Universe below a pretty recognisable carving of you Mal?'

One of the apparitions removed a wide hat and for the first time the villagers peeking out saw that it was the Dark One himself.

'Okay' he said 'This is what going mad feels like'

The crew looked at each other. This was turning out to be a staggeringly weird day. River traced Mal's features in the stonework with her fingers 'Mal means bad' she said 'Caleb is'.

'We welcome you Lord Caleb' said a strangely accented voice.

The crew span and found themselves facing a fairly ordinary looking human of about sixty in a light tunic and what looked like cloth pants. The only one who hadn't spun was Jayne who was already behind the man pointing a firearm at him. It's difficult to get the drop on the big mercenary.

The rest of the crew had also drawn guns and were covering every direction.

Mal looked at the man then walked up to him 'If you're talking to me my name ain't Caleb and I don't know the man'

The village elder looked confused. Perhaps this was a test? He dropped to his knees in supplication just in case.

'We are ready for the sacrifice. We are honoured you came in person' the elder said 'bring out the tokens' he called out.

Other villagers appeared. All fathers Mal guessed bringing out their teenaged daughters, there were half a dozen of them. You could hear women and children wailing from within the simple houses. The girls were clearly petrified and were crying.

'Choose the most worthy Lord so she may please you' the elder said.

Wash started laughing 'What is it about you, crappy towns and getting offered wives. Just don't kiss her this time'

'I think they're meant for someone else' Mal said 'No offence but I ain't looking for a bride I'm just here to say howdy'

'A bride my Lord?' the Elder said puzzled 'these are sacrifices. Dirty Girls to be your playthings'

Mal looked around in horror 'I ain't interested in taking a young girl for sexual slavery or some such neither. And get off the damn ground'

The elder sprang to his feet. this was getting really strange now 'but this is the way of things have you decided to change our laws'

Mal turned to his crew and shrugged his shoulders.

Book spoke up 'I fear you have mistaken our Captain for another. We are travellers from another place and have never been here before' he said 'We saw the carving on the stone which looks like Mal here but I assure you it is not him'

'Yup my name ain't Caleb and this is my first visit here. I guess I just look like someone else'

'In an infinite number of possible universes there would be many with people who would look like you' River said 'but the chances of dropping in on one would be infinitely small' she furrowed her brow 'I'd say someone is playing with chaos'

'We've been beating the odds all day so I guess we're still just doing so' Mal said 'In any case take my word on this I ain't this Lord Caleb guy'

'But you are him' the elder insisted.

'No I'm not'

'But today is the day of the sacrifice. Your servants were to come today to choose and that happens but once every five years'

'I ain't got no servants and I ain't taking sacrifices.' Mal stated then paused 'hang-on for a darn second are you telling me you let this Caleb liúmáng take your daughters?'

'It has been the way of our people for the whole of your reign. Each village gives up one girl every five years for your pleasure and this is our turn'

'For the last gorram time I ain't this Caleb and how many villages are there round here?'

'There are nearly thirty villages in the valley'

'Sounds like a hell of a harem' Simon said. He was walking around looking at the villagers. They certainly looked like typical homo-sapiens.

'Harem? I do not understand'

'The place where your Lord keeps his "sacrifices"' Inara said. She envisioned a local warlord with a suite of rooms filled with unwilling slave-girls. Sort of like a Companion House without the individual freedom to choose to leave or reject her lovers attentions.

'Oh you mean the graveyard. That is by the castle gates' The elder said.

Book nearly dropped his bible which he had bought with him to give to the natives 'He kills these girls?' he exclaimed.

'What kind of crappy planet is this?' Mal said in horror. He looked around at the menfolk holding their weeping daughters 'you let this sick bastard take your children away to kill them for fun?'

Mal looked at Kaylee and River. They weren't even his kin and he'd die before he'd let someone take them away. What was wrong with these people?

The village elder was confused could it be that this was really not the Dark Lord but his double. It was said in the old legends that everyone had a twin in another world who was the opposite of his character and that was what kept the world in balance.

'Have you come from another realm' the elder asked.

'That's as good an explanation as any and despite the gorram Alliance it looks like it's a darn sight better than this one' Mal replied earnestly.

'Have you come to defeat Caleb? If you do we will pay homage to you instead and hope you will be a better Lord. You could not be a worse one'

'I have no interest in running this little world' Mal replied 'but I am thinking about changing the local politics around here before I leave'

'You will need mighty weapons. The Dark Lord is powerful and his minions carry swords and axes while I only see knives on your belts and strangely shaped clubs in your hands'

Simon grinned 'They're pre-industrial. No gunpowder even'

River smiled at the elder 'I think you'll find our strangely shaped clubs are probably more of a threat to the other side than you'd think' she said.

- - - - - - - - - -

The dozen men in black robes and hoods arrived in the village. They had walked for several hours to get here and were displeased that the elder did not immediately appear to greet them.

They were even less pleased when a stranger in unusual dress appeared instead.

'Rules around here have changed' said the stranger 'you'd best be on your way'

The hooded men were shocked at the nature of the stranger. He looked and sounded exactly like their master but felt completely wrong. It was not their Lord, he had a different aura and he radiated an impression they had not felt since they came to this world.

Champion, he was a champion.

The hooded men considered the situation. There was only one course of action to take.

Swords and battle-axes emerged from within the folds of their robes.

Mal looked at them. How did they even see out of those things?

'Final warning' he said and pulled back his Independent Browncoat to reveal the pistol at his side.

No response.

'Your choice' Mal said drew his pistol and dropped the nearest one with a round straight in the chest. He hit the ground like a brick and writhed silently.

'Have I made myself clear now?' Mal asked.

Still no response, the figures appeared unmoved by the fate of their comrade. That was bizarre in itself. Any primitive agriculture people would surely be terrified at the first display of a firearm surely?

'What the hell…' Mal swore as they came at him. They had not said a word, there was not even a battle cry. They just ran to attack him.

'Open fire' Mal yelled and began firing his pistol into the onrushing mass. Zoe emerged from behind the Obelisk and fired her Lever-Action pistol into them as fast as she could. It was loaded with cut-down rifle-cartridges that were far more powerful that those fired by other pistols and any target she hit was sent flying backwards.

Jayne took a step out from behind a house carrying a pump action shotgun and began working the slide as fast as he could blasting round after round of cubic buckshot into the robed assailants at close range, it was about the most devastating weapon you could carry for this kind of work.

None of the hooded men got within ten yards of Mal. A few were writhing on the floor, again silently, but most must have been killed outright.

Jayne had emptied the shotgun and slung it on his back pulling his revolver 'Want me to finish 'em off Mal?' he asked.

'No need for that' the Captain told him reloading his own pistol.

One of the wounded attackers dragged himself to his feet and came at Mal again. Zoe fired a round which dropped him for good 'These guys don't quit' she said as another one began crawling towards her barely able to grip his axe it looked like.

Mal shot the crawling one with the axe then developed a puzzled expression 'They ain't made one gorram sound' he said 'not even the wounded ones'

'It ain't normal' Jayne said 'man with buckshot in him that don't die straight away always screams something'

Zoe kept a weary eye on the men 'I've known a few get shot and not feel it straight away but not like this'

'Simon' Mal called out 'you want to have a look at these guys?'

The Doctor appeared carrying his medical bag and ran towards the wounded.

'Watch it Doc. Make sure to kick the weapon away from any you treat' Mal ordered 'Zoe you watch out for him. Any of them move to attack kill 'em'

'Yes Sir' Zoe responded and moved to where she could cover the Simon.

'You can come out now. Fighting's over' Mal said loudly and villagers began to peak warily out of their homes. They had cowered whilst the thunder had raged outside and were almost as terrified of the strangers in their midst as they were of Lord Caleb and his minions.

The villagers gaped at the pile of bodies then realised none of the strangers were so much as scratched. They must have magical weapons, perhaps even powerful enough to defeat the Dark One.

Simon pulled the hood off one of the men and stared, he then did the same to two more nearby 'Tāmāde' he swore 'Mal get over here'

The Captain starting walking over to the Doctor 'What's up?' he asked on the move.

'I know why they didn't say anything' Simon announced.

'Yeah?'

'No tongue' the Doctor told him 'been cut out'

'Tiānna' Mal exclaimed 'all of 'em?'

'Yes but that's not the weird thing'

Mal arrived and knelt down next to Simon 'What is?'

Simon pointed downwards 'No eyes. They've been burned out'

'Bù kê néng'

- - - - - - - - - -

'Caleb calls them "Bringers" according to our story-singers they arrived on our world with him nearly twenty generations ago' the elder explained.

'Twenty generations! You're trying to tell me Caleb is like…' Mal calculated 'Five-Hundred years old'

'He is an immortal. He has never aged, are you not an immortal?'

'Not so much' Mal responded.

'But you have magical weapons. Surely you are as he is?'

'I'm just a man' Mal explained 'and I don't believe in magic, or immortals or such'

Simon returned 'I've done tests on the wounded' I don't know how but they seem to be able to see despite the lack of eyes. Maybe some kind of extra-sensory perception'

'Like your sister?'

'Maybe but I don't see surgery scars'

'What does River think'

'She's been reading them and says they're the warped spawn of hell and should be cleansed from the 'Verse'

Mal rolled his eyes 'Anything more constructive?'

'Like the local says they are not originally from here'

'Where they from?'

'Earth-That-Was' Simon answered 'But not ours another 'Verse entirely'

'You're yanking my chain?'

'Infinite Parallel Universes Captain. Why not?'

'Well how they get here?'

'She said they died'

'What?'

'They died. They were on their way to hell, or rather what she called a "Hell Dimension" and some force bought them here instead'

'Come off it Simon'

'I'm just repeating my Sister. She's still trying to read them'

Mal frowned 'Anything more about this Caleb guy?'

'He's evil' River said appearing 'The right hand of the First Evil itself. Defeated by a Champion and banished to a Hell-Dimension by the Powers-That-Be. Unfortunately his boss had other ideas and twisted reality enough to bring him here instead, planning to retrieve him at a later date'

'Guess the boss never called'

'Looks like' River said 'Well I suppose with nothing else to do and an eternity with which to do it Caleb decided to carve out his own little Empire seeing as how he had his own little army'

Zoe was sceptical 'Evil? You mean as in real evil. Lucifer and such?'

'In an infinite multiverse what we call Demons may just be other forms of life that occasionally shift between dimensions' River stated 'just because they match our perception of what the supernatural is doesn't mean it really is the paranormal it's just another version of reality'

'I don't buy it'

'I can read minds not so long ago you wouldn't have bought that either'

'That was science' Zoe responded 'not witchcraft'

'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic' River told her 'have an open mind'

'In any case what are we going to do with this Caleb character?' Simon asked.

'Don't much matter if he's genuine evil incarnate or just another Dictator with a cute cover-story. We kill him' Mal said.

'The correct word apparently is "Slay"' River told him.

- - - - - - - - - -

When his Bringers did not return with his new toy Caleb assumed that another Village had sought to defy him and this time had done so with enough skill to actually defeat one of his patrols.

This could not be tolerated. An example must be made.

Caleb still quoted the scripture. He had been a man of God and some of the Old Testament style wrath, fire and brimstone really got the blood pumping. He gave orders for his forces to form so he could send them against the "Philistines" and he decided to lead them himself. It had been many years since he had personally smote an enemy.

The First had hijacked him to this miserable world along with a veritable host of several hundred Bringers and with them he had conquered the land, or at least this part of it, as the rest wasn't worth having unless volcanoes were your thing.

The only bonus had been the humans already here. The First had told him whilst he travelled to this place in a redirected portal vortex that many years before it had bought people to this place to use as a source for food for a future Demon Army. They were now his to do with as he wished although he must not kill them all.

Caleb was, he considered, a restrained patient man. He would only take one girl from each village every five years and make each one last a long time before giving up on them. He had become very inventive over the centuries and one of his more recent innovations were the twin girls who he had trained to inflict torture for him while he watched. Eventually he would get one to kill the other but for now they were very stimulating to watch in action and they seemed to improve with each passing year.

The twins were curled up in a ball either side of him. Sometimes he would get them to fight each other until they bled but not often and the forthcoming massacre of the rebelling villagers would keep him satiated for some time.

When he left to lead his army he made sure to place his hands on each one and gave her a blessing. They were his absolute favourite toys.

- - - - - - - - - -

Caleb watched as his legions of black robed Bringers formed in ranks just outside the tiny village. He had bought over two hundred of them in order to make sure the message was reinforced that his rule was absolute and his troops too numerous to oppose.

He had decided to go with a classical approach and sow the local fields with Salt after he left to leave the land infertile and barren as another symbol of his power. It was little touches like that that leave the peasants properly in awe and ensure a good supply of playthings.

Caleb signalled for his first wave to attack. The next group were bearing flaming torches with which to raise the tiny hamlet to the ground.

He had given orders to spare all girls under eighteen. The twins could be so creative if given a group to work with.

The first fifty Bringers advanced bearing swords, axes and shields. It was always a delight to see one's forces in action.

Caleb smiled.

- - - - - - - - - -

Jayne grinned. This was going to be the most fun he'd had in ages.

The big mercenary watched the group of Bringers march towards the Village and went out to meet them on his own. The Shepherd had given him a blessing and told him that since today he was an instrument of good against evil he was probably helping to shift the balance of his life back towards redemption.

Jayne wasn't really convinced by the whole good versus evil gôu pì but those blind Bringer types with the missing tongues sure were sure creepifying and this Caleb guy that looked like Mal sounded like a real dòngwù. The mercenary wasn't all that bothered about which side he was on but by preference he did lean towards shooting at those that deserved it more. For one thing he got less aggravation from Book and Mal when he did that.

You wouldn't have thought it but the mercenary wasn't as shallow as some might suppose. In fact he was something of a thinking man and it occurred to him that one of the great philosophical debates of the time was about to be answered. What is more mighty, the hell-spawn minions of evil or a Callahan Full-Bore Autolock in the hands of someone that knows how to use it properly?

Jayne moved the rifle across his chest, pulled back the receiver chambering a round and then raised the best gorram firearm of the 26th Century to his shoulder dropping to one knee for stability. Kinda strange not having to use cover but those swords didn't exactly have the reach of his jet-propelled ammunition.

Jayne looked across to Zoe who was lying prone for accuracy with the Sniper Rifle he had picked up on Whitefall. She gave a thumbs up still looking through the scope.

'Give the word Mal' Jayne said into his headset microphone.

'Take 'em'

Vera began singing a sweet tune.

- - - - - - - - - -

'What in the name of….' Caleb cried out as a man carrying what appeared to be a goddamn machine-gun appeared two hundred yards in front of his troops and started mowing them down with great efficiency.

Caleb was suddenly splattered with blood and gore as someone blew the brains out of the nearest Bringer then others began to fall randomly along the line. There must be another enemy out there with a firearm too. Had they fallen through a portal to this world? However they got here the weapons of industrial humanity were more than a match for his fanatical followers and he knew it.

Caleb was just about to order a retreat back to the castle when something huge and deafeningly noisy appeared overhead from behind. He gaped.

A voice boomed out from the aircraft, or rather spaceship that thundered overhead on what looked like swivelling rocket engines. It must have had a loudspeaker.

'I'm guessing this is not your best day ever' roared an extremely familiar voice.

Grenades began to fall from the ship.

After around a dozen Grenades fell amongst the massed Bringers the ship set down and Caleb had watched a man with his face disembark holding a pistol with which he began to gun down Bringers with a clinical efficiency that Caleb could not help but admire.

You had to give it to the Bringers though. They didn't know when to quit and as Caleb watched from behind a pile of corpses the remainder charged the man. He fired as fast as he could but couldn't fire fast enough to stop them all.

A girl appeared on the Ramp. Caleb smiled, she'd be a fun plaything he thought.

The girl was walking down the ramp with her hands nonchalantly behind her back.

The man with Caleb's face yelled to her 'River get back' he said slowly retreating towards the ship obviously having either overestimated the shock effect of the bombing run or having underestimating the fanaticism of his foe.

The girl "River" looked at the thirty or so Bringers who were charging towards them.

'I can win this' she announced and raised her hands revealing an automatic pistol in each one.

The girl began running and firing. He moves were too perfect to be merely human, her accuracy too precise.

'A slayer?' wondered Caleb as her pistols cut a swath through the onrushing Bringers.

A high-velocity rifle round hit Caleb in the chest. He spun around and fell to the ground just as the last of his Bringers were being ruthlessly cut to pieces.

- - - - - - - - - -

Jayne and Zoe walked up to meet the ship putting additional rounds into Bringers who were still trying to lash out. The entire area was absolutely littered with corpses.

'You okay Mal?' Zoe called out to her Captain.

'I'm fine thanks to River here' Mal called back turning to smile at the young girl 'Good work' he told her.

'Couldn't let anyone hurt my Captain' she said. Then suddenly span around with a look of fright on her face 'he's still here'

'Damn right I'm still here' Caleb said standing up from the pile of Bringer Corpses surrounding him 'And you're all going to pay for what you've done. Vengeance is mine'

Mal loaded his pistol 'You're pretty I'll give you that but you're one dumb son-of-a-bitch is you think you're going to come out ahead today'

'Yeah ain't you keeping count. We're winning on points' Jayne said grinning sweeping Vera around to indicate all the bodies 'want me to put this one down too Captain?'

'Seems like it should be me that does it' Mal said 'I ain't a sadistic tāmāde húndàn like yourself so I'll make it quick' he continued raising his pistol.

'Try it' Caleb told him smirking.

The pistol bucked in Mals hand and Caleb staggered back but straightened up unharmed 'You'll have to do better than that' he said.

Mal fired three more times to no avail 'Okay this is unexpected' he said.

Caleb drew his knife 'I'm going to cut on your little girl there for a good long while' he said and began advancing on River.

'Jayne take him' Mal ordered.

The Callahan in the mercenaries grip fired a single Jet-Propelled Slug that punched a hole right through Caleb. The black clad man pulled open his shirt and you could see the wound closing back up before your eyes.

'Little present from the boss' Caleb said 'Invulnerability' he turned to River 'Come here sweetheart and I'll give you some candy. Dirty Girls love candy'

Jayne switched Vera over to full-auto and depressed the trigger blowing thirty holes through Caleb in a couple of seconds. The impacts threw him to the floor and Mal put a bullet right between his eyes.

The holes began to close up almost immediately.

Zoe took a different tack and blew a hole through his right kneecap when he stood up again. When he fell she worked the lever action and put another hole in his left kneecap before he could get back up again.

'Can't keep this up forever' she said 'anybody got a grenade?'

'Used them all up' Mal told her.

'No creative thinkers around here?' Jayne asked and picked up a sword off a dead Bringer 'Let's decapitate him' he was more than a little shaken by the situation but whenever he was scared his violent tendencies moved into overdrive.

Zoe stared at Jayne 'If I ever call you dumb again remind me of this moment' she said.

'Hold still' Jayne said swinging the sword. He was more than a little surprised when Caleb caught it by the blade and pulled both it and Jayne towards him. The blade pierced Caleb's chest just before Calebs free hand formed into a fist and punched Jayne in the face hard enough not only to break his jaw but sending him spiralling away unconscious.

Zoe bought her Lever-Action up again just as Caleb threw the sword at her hilt first at huge speed. It hit her hard enough to break three of her ribs and left her on her back gasping for breath.

'I've got an idea Captain' River yelled out running back to the ship 'keep him busy'

Caleb dragged himself to his feet now to all intents and purposes alone with his double 'I've got to ask what your story is?' he said.

Mal looked at his mirror image 'Name's Malcolm Reynolds. I Captain this boat and I look after my crew. I ain't gonna let you harm them'

'Already harmed two of them' Caleb replied smirking 'Planning to have lots of fun with that girl. Got any others?'

'None of your concern' Mal told him empting his pistol into Caleb once more dropping him again. This was proving fearsome expensive in ammunition.

'I think I'll keep you alive' Caleb said 'course I'll have to cut your face up a bit because otherwise it'll just be confusing'

'Reckon it might but you're still assuming you'll win. Hell I can just keep you down long enough to pick up my crew and leave'

'You're not the type. You've got "Champion" written all over you. And you're using my face too that's nothing short of sickening'

'My turn for a question. What the hell are you?'

'Five centuries ago I was a man of the cloth before those girls started testing my faith and because of my righteous punishment of them I ended up the good right arm of the First. For now though I'm the Lord of all I survey and those that deserve my wrath receive it'

'Not for much longer' River said reappearing.

She threw something to her Captain who looked at it and grinned 'You're a genius girl' he said.

Caleb rose to his feet once again. 'What's that?'

'This?' Mal said 'this is the thing I've been trying to get rid of for ages but never rutting managed to. Never been glad of it until now' he continued 'also glad that Kaylee reenergised the battery core'

'I'll ask again. What the hell is that'

'What's the matter? Didn't they have Laser weapons where you came from?' Mal asked pointing and firing the Lassiter.

A beam of coherent light lanced out and burned a hole right through Caleb starting near his groin and then rising as Mal raised his aim to cut Caleb neatly in half from his crotch to the top of his head.

For some reason inexplicable to Mal Caleb's last words were 'Not again' before his vocal chords got themselves incinerated.

The two halves fell to the ground as Mal lowered the pistol.

'Doesn't pay to mess with superior technology' he said.

- - - - - - - - - -

The Powers-That-Be smiled. Another loose end had been tied up and the continuum was running a little more smoothly.

'They will soon be back at the tear in reality' shall we let them return to their own Universe?'

'There is still one more mission for them to accomplish. We will tilt chaos in our favour and direct them there.

'Agreed'

- - - - - - - - - -

Another day, another Universe

Wash looked up at the huge statue that seemed to fill half the sky. It was monumental architecture that put the pyramids of Earth-That-Was to shame.

'I have only three things to say at this juncture' Wash said 'Who the hell is Jasmine? Why does she look like my wife and when do I get to go to the crappy town where I'm the evil overlord?'