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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Inara makes a decision knowing the Guild will not raise a finger to help. Jayne prepares to meet a messy but glorious end."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1935 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "HANNIBAL COBB"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
STATUS: SEQUEL to "HIDE AND SEEK"
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Inara makes a decision knowing the Guild will
not raise a finger to help. Jayne prepares to meet a messy
but glorious end."
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.
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Being a Companion was like nothing else in the 'verse. Ever since she was fourteen Inara had been in training. Excited beyond coherent speech at all the elegance and finery surrounding her, the polite yet serious training exposing every one of her childhood dreams to the realm where anything seemed possible. The girls at the Training House imitating their elders in a parody of life to come. Then growing older, meeting more challenges than Inara could have imagined. Learning the dialect and mannerisms of a hundred worlds and bringing elegance to bear upon them all. At at early age she had been taught, as they all had, to *know thy enemy*. By being a friend to all they could be an enemy to all. It had been a lesson never so bitterly understood in all its' ramifications until now. Inara Serra had never expected after all this time to be revisiting the basic lessons of her youth.
"I did what I thought was right." Sheydra was saying, not a flicker of remorse on her beautiful face. Perfection had never seemed so flawed.
"You had no right!" Inara seethed over the comlink. Her control just barely kept in check though anyone could see she was furious.
Sheydra leant towards the screen. "I had *every* right, Inara. You were being groomed to be the next House Priestess. Your position had to be protected."
Inara stared. There it was, the unseen thorn in her flesh. The thing poised to drain her spirit away until it could only exist within the confines of House Madrassa. "And what of Inara?" She asked softly.
Her friend blinked at her. "*Shenme*?"
"You weren't protecting me, Sheydra." Said Inara quietly, the anger gone as quickly as it had come. Sheydra wasn't quite sure what had replaced it, the swirl of subtle emotions too numerous and fleeting. "You were protecting the position. Protecting House Madrassa."
Inara could see that Sheydra still did not perceive the human cost. Inara refused to give in to the emotions crushing her heart. This was not the time to show weakness. "I have one more question Sheydra, but it is one that demands a truthful answer, *dong ma*?"
For the first time since the heated exchange had started Sheydra looked wary, anxious even. "What question?"
Several seconds passed while the two just stared at each other. Inara waited until she judged the moment right, her voice pitched soft and almost whimsical. "Are you my friend, Sheydra?"
Shock. Pain. A flash of anger that Inara could even think such a thing. Then realisation bleeding through. Something almost like regret drifting over the porcelain features. "Inara, we have always been friends."
Inara allowed sadness to show. "Past tense."
The effect on Sheydra was immediate. "I didn't mean... Inara, you're my friend, will ALWAYS be my friend! I didn't mean it like that."
"Then how did you mean it? The truth now. If you lie here and now then this will be the last time we speak as friends."
Sheydra's face went pale. "Inara! *bu qu*, don't shut me out."
Inara Serra said nothing. She was waiting for the response to her question. When it did not come she began to close up, distancing herself from something she could no longer afford to give any attachment to. Burying her disappointment. "You've already done that, Sheydra. By choosing the House over our Friendship."
There were tears in Sheydra's eyes. Real ones. But every glistening drop fell too late. "What else could I do? I'm a Companion, Inara! There are rules. The Guild..."
"Are playing fast and loose with them! I will not be manipulated under the guise of my personal protection. These are my friends, Sheydra. I thought you understood how sacred a bond that was. How no distance would ever have separated me from coming to you had you need of me. Friendship, sister. The bond time does not fade. Yet here, now, that which lay between us has been severed."
"Inara, *qing*, don't do this."
Sheydra's panic and distress was real but now Inara could see it for what it was. The woman was close to panic. Her orders had been to get Inara away from Serenity, keep her safe at all costs, then let the Alliance do what they wished with the Firefly and her crew. It had seemed so clear at the time and a bonus to the House in that Inara would have no option but to return to House Madrassa where she belonged. After all, she couldn't go galivanting off on adventures outside the control of the Guild if the means to do so were eliminated.
Without another word Inara cut the connection. Out of sight of the screen Leylani sat twisting her fingers and crying. Inara felt worn out but knew there was no time to rest.
Zoe stared at River Tam. "What do you mean, all we need is the code?"
The girl shook her head once, slowly, eyeing Zoe through the lank strands of dark hair. "Not numbers."
Simon edged closer. "A password?"
Again River shook her head. "Not for us. Them."
The others exchanged blank looks. Kaylee was baffled, wondering who her friend was talking about. "Them who?"
Instead of answering, River looked back over her shoulder through the force field and stared at the panther. The great beast now lying alongside the Captain, using the side of its' flank to keep the prone man warm. Her mouth was open, lightly panting, eyes ever watchful. Even at seeming rest the creature was poised, ready to fight or defend in the blink of an eye.
Simon could not believe what his sister seemed to be implying. "No, you can't mean..."
River smiled at them. Kaylee glanced nervously at the big cat. "Ya don't mean the cat has the code?"
"Their world, not ours." The girl replied quietly. In the silence that followed the words might as well have been shouted.
It was the Shepherd who tried to make sense of what River was saying, his deep even voice settling the nervous ears of his reluctant flock while straining to understand every confusing word. "River, if that is true why doesn't the panther turn off the force field?"
That had everyone paying attention, all eyes focused on the slim pale girl who like as not held their futures in her hands. Her reply was not what they were expecting. "Thinking."
The doctor blinked. "That's not very helpful, *mei mei*. I need access to the Captain sooner rather than later."
River seemed to absorb this for a moment. When she spoke again her voice sounded sad, reflective, as if the solution were out of her hands. "She's deciding whether or not to trust us."
There was nothing Chin Li loved more than battle. The quickening of blood lust in his veins, the pounding rush of adrenaline, the feel of his soldiers minds in sych with his own. Every word, thought, movement obeyed without question. Absolute and utter authority. The kind of raw power so often denied in the weakness of human flesh. His. Now. An eternal reward for building a better world. Every great construction, every new world, demanded first the anihilation of what stood before it. The new plot needed to be cleared before the foundation could be put in place for what was to follow. So it was, had always been, would ever be. The human cost was no more than bricks and mortar crushed to rubble and dust to make way for a new tomorrow.
Jayne Cobb knelt not to pray but to provide a smaller target. At his feet he placed his girls. Vera obviously stayed in his hand ready to fire, but he always packed for trouble so a couple of his other favourites now lay ready before him, fully loaded and with ammo laid out ready to reload. He kept his knives on him. If this came down to hand to hand combat he was already a dead man but that didn't mean he'd die easy. The only consolation he could think of was that if those *tamade hundan* thought the rest of the crew were with him he could at least buy the others some time. Maybe even for them to get off this *lese* rock but with the ship in such bad shape he wouldn't hold his gorram breath.
Jayne braced his favourite gun, looking down Vera's sights intending to make every gorram bullet count. The thunder of booted feet was like the rumble of an avalanche starting. Lost in concentration, Jayne was aware of nothing but the need to wait to see the whites of their gorram eyes before unleashing a killing swathe of gunfire. The rutting cowards were wearing body armour which meant waiting that bit longer to fire to take the head shot. Anything below the face was like to bounce off and Jayne wasn't in the mood to be merciful.
Heat burnt into the palms of his hands but the mercenary didn't slow, delivering mechanised death to the oncoming elite Alliance scum. The Red Division. The name fitted, became a blur of madness in his mind. So pumped up now he hardly felt the bullet spin and burrow into his left shoulder. Jayne grunted and carried on firing, the line of enemy soliders mere yards away, hardly pausing as they poured over the mounting wall of their dead and injured. Jayne knew this was a battle he could not win but he didn't care. He was locked in that place where destiny seemed set and he gave himself up to whatever would be. He'd had a good life if somewhat shorter than he would have liked. Everyone died some time. A second bullet whistled past his left ear gouging a fiery trail as it grazed the side of his head. Instead of making him dizzy it made him mad. Vera clicked on empty and Jayne dropped the big gun to pick up two others, one in each hand, firing without pause, teeth gritted and a maniacal grin on his face and in his eyes.
Then, without warning, the mercenary was swept up and off his feet. The roar in his ears intensified. Voices, gunfire, then panic but somehow not his. He felt far removed from it. Jayne felt himself losing consciousness, trying to blink blood out of his eyes and oblivious of the sting. Eyes closing as his body slumped unaware that there was no longer any ground beneath his feet. Jayne's last coherent thought was that dying wasn't so bad.
Leylani looked at Inara as she paced to and fro. "What are you going to do?"
There was no point in trying to hide her worry. Inara turned and walked over to where Leylani was sitting. "I have to help them."
"Inara you can't." At Inara's sharp look, Leylani hurried on. "Your shuttle is short range."
Something clicked in Inara's head. "You know where they are."
It was a statement not a question. Leylani did not even try to deny it. "*Qu*, but what good does that do us?"
Inara felt a trickle of warmth. Leylani had said *us* as if they were in this together. Perhaps not all had been lost. "Where are they? How far is it from here?"
Leylani told her, even though she had no idea why they would be on a deserted moon in the middle of No and Where. What mattered was that ship and crew could not leave and the Alliance were either already there or so close as made no difference. Leylani felt it was the former not the latter and told Inara so.
"I've never heard of this *moon*. You say it's called Savanna?"
Leylani nodded and watched as her friend moved to the cortex screen and switched it on. After increasingly frustrating attempts to find any reference to Savanna, Inara turned and looked at Leylani.
"It isn't in the database."
"It won't be."
Inara's eyes began to narrow. "When were you going to tell me?"
"*Ni bu dong*. You won't find it on any charted maps either."
"It's not a natural moon."
Inara could not understand the woman's reticence. "Terraformed?"
When Leylani did not continue Inara went back to her and sat beside her. "Leylani, listen. I need you tell me everything you know about that moon and where it is. Every second wasted is a second my friends no longer have."
"I only know what I overheard Sheydra being told."
Inara did not mention eavesdropping but knew that anything this sensitive would not have been imparted willingly to her friend. She was at once grateful for that fact. If Sheydra thought Leylani did not know about it then she would not send any warning. This could work in their favour. "What did you hear?"
"It only looks like a moon."
"It's one of the Alliance Black Projects. A proto-moon, entirely artificial."
"That doesn't make sense, Leylani. There are thousands, billions of natural moons that for one reason or another are void of life. Perfect for terraforming."
"Apparently they wanted more than a natural moon. They wanted one they could put anywhere in the 'verse it needed to be."
Inara had no clue where this was going. "Did you hear why?"
Leylani shook her head. "All I know is that they were experimenting with it. Seeing if they could create different habits on the same moon."
"It was more expensive than even the Alliance was happy with."
"Why didn't they scrap it or start again?"
"Inara, I didn't understand everything that was said and I may have listened to more coversations I shouldn't have but I know this. There is something on that moon. Something the Alliance is anxious to keep hidden."
Inara blinked but for the life of her could not make sense of it. "Where is it?"
"Somewhere deep in the Black."
"Leylani," Said Inara trying to hold back her frustration. "That isn't helping."
For a minute Leylani just stared at Inara, as if weighing up a hard decision. "There is one way we may be able to find out what we need to know."
Leylani put a hand through her blouse and brought out a small device that had been taped to her body. Inara's eyes widened and sparked with anger.
"You were wearing a wire?"
The apology in Leylani's eyes didn't quite wipe the bitter taste of betrayal in Inara's heart and mind. "I had no choice."
"Is it transmitting?"
Leylani shook her head. "*Bu qu*, when I realised what was happening I switched it to another frequency."
"I didn't know you could do that."
For the first time since the whole terrible mess had started to unravel, Leylani smiled. "You forget, *bao bei*, what I used to do before I came to the Training House."
Then Inara found herself smiling back. Of course. While engines and ship's innards were Kaylee's passion, electronics had been Leylani's. Inara felt a small spark of hope ignite inside. "How does this help us?"
Leylani lay the small blocky object on a side table and turned it over gently with her thumb nail. "I can reprogramme it to receive instead of transmit." The woman's smile became a grin. "How would you like to eavesdrop on Sheydra for a change?"
* * * * *
Wash was worried. The Captain seemed to be getting worse and they were no closer to solving the puzzle of how to get to him. Simon was pacing, his expression anxious and pinched. Kaylee kept blinking back tears and Shepherd Book was trying to reassure the girl. Zoe looked ready to shoot River at point blank range if she didn't start making sense. As much as Wash loved his *qizi* he didn't want to see that happen. "River, can't you talk to the cat? Reassure it that we mean no harm, that we only want to help?"
She shook her head. "It's not me she has to trust." River turned her head and stared at Simon. "You have to do it."
River nodded. "You're the only one who can save him and you have to reassure her you won't hurt him or she won't let you through."
The doctor did not like the sound of that but what could he do? Watching his patient die before his eyes was not an option. Taking a deep breath he stepped closer to the invisible barried, stopping when River told him to. The cat closed its' mouth and stared straight at him. Simon licked his lips nervously. "Um, I need you to help me. I mean, the Captain's hurt. I can help but I can't get through the force field." Simon waved a hand at the invisible barrier between them. The cat got to its' feet but did not move closer. Simon tapped his first aid kit as if it was a visual aid that would make his meaning instantly clear. "Please, if you don't let me through the Captain will die."
The beast growled low and deep in the back of her throat, pacing slowly back and forth in front of the inivisible barrier as Simon pleaded, hoping his voice would reassure the cat even if his words made no sense. Something must have made an impression because the beast at last paused, then gave Simon a long hard look before making a low coughing and huffing sound that echoed in their ears. Moving to one side the cat rubbed against a wall and the force field crackled then switched off. Simon could not believe it. Zoe was about to hurry through to the Captain with Simon but Wash stopped her, a hand on her arm, his voice quiet and cautioning. "Let Simon look at him first, *bao bei*."
River interrupted. "Wash's right. Simon asked and she said yes. You'll only make her nervous."
Reluctantly Zoe held back, all of them watching as Simon stepped up to the prone man, his fear of the beast pushed aside as he got a first good look at the Captain's injuries. "*Wode ma*."
Kaylee looked like she was going to cry. "Ya can fix him, can't ya Simon?"
The doctor did not want to promise something he might not be able to deliver. "I'll do my best, Kaylee."
The cat moved, a study in sinuous grace, almost forgotten until Simon saw something sleek and black in the periphery of his vision. It took all his control not to jump. The beast lowered her head and gently nudged the non-responsive Captain then cut a look up at Simon. Simon swallowed slowly, every movement he made intending to show he was not a threat. Feeling like he was on probation and curious how an unconscious and wounded Captain had managed to bond with a wild animal.
"Keep talkin' to her, son." Said Book in a low calming voice. "I think it would reassure her an' keep the beast calm."
Simon was not very good with people. Everything always went well until he opened his mouth, now Book was suggesting he try his bedside manner on a panther. He wondered for the billionth time how he managed to end up in these situations then looked more closely at the man lying at his feet. The doctor knelt beside Mal and carefully peeled aside the tattered remains of the Captain's shirt. The crazy honourable fool needed Simon every bit as much as they needed him. If Malcolm Reynolds were to die it would break this crew, Simon knew that now. His sister had trusted the Captain from the beginning but it had taken Simon longer. Now he did not think he could give that level of trust to anyone else. The Captain was not the only stubborn person on Serenity. The appearance of a quiet but stoic Zoe at Simon's shoulder helped. The big cat allowed it, moving to the other side of the Captain and laying down, her warm side resting against Mal's. Zoe looked from the cat to Simon and raised her eyebrows.
Simon tried to lighten the mood. "I'm thinking of extending my practice to animals. After all, I've had plenty of practice with Jayne and they don't complain."
The little smirk on Zoe's face did not stay, worry too much of a constant for humour to find a foothold. Simon began to work, all the while telling Zoe what he was doing even though the woman could clearly see for herself. Having nothing to talk to the panther about he decided the narration would be sufficient. Book seemed to agree and gave an encouraging nod. Wordlessly, Zoe handed him his instruments. As the tension eased the crew found themselves not knowing what to do. Book glanced around at the underground structure. No rough hewn walls this far in. The sides, ceiling and floor all being a kind of brushed aluminium but without the cold metallic shine to it. The Shepherd crouched down and touched the surface, surprised to find it smooth, vaguely padded and warm. "What *is* this place?" He murmured.
"*Wo bu zhidao* but what do you say we take a look around?" Said Wash.
Book nodded, sounded like a good idea. Perhaps they would find a way out. Zoe looked over at Wash, a different kind of concern now shadowing her features. "*Xiaoxin, fengmi*. We don't know what other little surprises may be down here."
Wash almost changed his mind then caught the look on the Preacher's face. Book tried to give Zoe a reassuring look. "We'll be careful."
"I'm comin' with ya." Said Kaylee.
Wash was about to ask her if she was sure but Kaylee gave him a determined look, mind all made up.
"If I stay here I'll go crazy. I can't help, that's up to Simon now. May as well explore see if we can't find somethin' useful."
Wash looked at his wife. Zoe nodded. That settled it. "Okay, but no wanderin' off, *dong ma*? When we finally get out of this fun house we still have to find Jayne."
The mechanic looked worried. "Ya think he's alright?"
"Jayne can look after himself." Said Book confidently. Funny, but as Kaylee looked back at the doctor working on their injured Captain it wasn't that reassuring.
Chin Li could feel victory in his grasp. The final surge forward would eliminate this pathetic man but not right away. No. That was why his men had only wounded the mercenary. It did not matter how many of his own men Jayne cut down, Chin Li had many more where they came from. No, what he needed was information and he was quite prepared to extract it from the gasping remains of Jayne Cobb a layer of skin at a time.
He should have been dead, right? This should be Heaven or more like one of the Preacher's Special Hells only Jayne couldn't remember a single afterlife filled with elephants. He blinked, vision a bit fuzzy but gradually coming back into focus. He ignored the pain. Pain was good, made you pay attention when your body was ready to walk out on you. Pain helped keep a man alive if'n he was smart enough to know how to use it. Jayne had those kind of smarts and right now he was trying to decide if he hadn't perhaps been brain damaged. Yeah, that was it, concussion. He had a gorram concussion. Where was that prissy doc when he needed him?
The impossible image raised its' trunk then shook him. Jayne swore, gorramit would have to be his wounded shoulder. "*Wei*, don't do that! I'm awake, gorramit."
The creature flapped huge thin ears at him, bigger than dinner plates. The cool waft of air was welcome but too brief. The elephant trumpeted at him but it was a muted sound this time, as if it was asking him a question not railing at him. But Jayne didn't speak Pachyderm and the elephant didn't speak Jayne Cobb. They stared at each other then other faces crowded round startling the big man. Either he was seeing double, no treble, no quadruple, no... good gorram, the whole rutting place was filled with them! Everywhere he looked, elephants stared back at him!
"What in the nine hells is this an' where am I?"
The first elephant gently wrapped her trunk around his middle and lifted him up off his feet. Jayne wanted to protest but he was a mite weakened from blood loss and the part of his brain trapped forever in childhood was as thrilled as he had been when he got his first gun. Even remembered her name. Sara. Yep, good gun. That was how the elephant got her new name. Whether she understood or not she seemed to intuit that when he said 'Sara' Jayne was talking to her. The huge beast nodded and another elephant helped settle him until he was sitting straddling Sara's back, his legs behind those huge ears. Jayne gripped the tops of those ears and grinned.
The mercenary realised all the blocky grey buildings he had seen were actually shelters for the elephants. While that made sense it didn't answer what they were doing out in the gorram Black. This area of the 'verse was not on any trade route, wasn't even a short cut to civilisation. Nope, this was as deep into the big empty as you could get. So if it wasn't *yige dongwuyuan* what the good gorram was it? Before Jayne could think any more on the puzzle, Sara lifted her trunk and trumpeted loud enough to make his ears ring. As if that wasn't bad enough all the other elephants took up the call, the entire herd turning and lumbering out of the compound towards the concrete flats. Jayne's mouth dropped open in shock as the angry red tide of Alliance bloodsuckers came rushing at them. Gunfire seeming to have no effect on the moving giants now breaking into a stampede. With a sudden rush of joyful exhileration Jayne yelled at the top of his lungs. "Let's send these *goushi buru* to *diyu*!"
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*shenme* = what *dong ma* = understand? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go)
*qing* = please *mei mei* = little sister *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard
*lese* = crappy *qu* = yes (lit. go) *ni bu dong* = you don't understand
*weishenme* = why? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *qizi* = wife
*wode ma* = mother of God *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *xiaoxin* = careful
*fengmi* = honey *wei* = hey! *yige dongwuyuan* = a zoo *diyu* = hell
*goushi buru* = lower than dogshit/lowest of the low
Tuesday, August 29, 2006 5:10 AM
Tuesday, August 29, 2006 5:37 AM
Tuesday, August 29, 2006 1:06 PM
Tuesday, August 29, 2006 2:59 PM
Monday, September 4, 2006 8:59 AM
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