Brief Encounter
Thursday, September 28, 2006

Another one shot inspired by being up late. A little back story to Mr. Universe and his brief encounter with the Operative. As always: these characters don't belong to me. I just borrow them for fun. Ratings are shiny, comments are shinier!



He knew they were coming before they arrived. Clapping his hands together and rubbing them back and forth excitedly, his eyes grew wide with anticipation as they soaked up the scene on the screens before him. Sighing, almost rapturously he breathed "Bring it on, bring it on!"


He never thought of himself as hiding, though it was exactly what he did - and he did it well. Behind the ion cloud that covered his home, he exposed himself to every facet of transmitted life he could collect. And he collected many facets. Exposing himself thus he forget that he hid. It's why he did it, to forget. Racing through the corridors of electrical conduits he could work himself through a maze of technical security in a matter of seconds finding himself scenes of lust, of violence, of manipulation, of sacrifice. Scenes unknown to most, and seemingly impervious to access to virtually everyone in the 'verse. But gaining access was his speciality, his forte and he gained access to some of the most sensitive images in the 'verse. Gaining access was almost, almost as much as a rush as getting these glimpses of the hierarchy tumbling down the chutes of their own depravity.


The ship began its decent on the landing pad, the other four shuttles taking up position in the sky. Hovering like insects in the wind. For a moment he was shocked as he recognized the symbol on the side of the ships. Alliance! He never let himself hope that high! To stir the nest that was The Alliance seemed even more than he hoped. Taking note of the tactical steps they were taking at entering his home he smiled. Definitely a military operation! He glanced at Lenore and then grinned. "Gotta give 'em credit for not trying to hide their meaning." Turning back to his screens, he flipped the switch to record their arrival at his doors. Looking to another com-panel to ensure the interior surveillance was recording, he turned his chair to the door and smiled.


"River Tam." His voice was soft and controlled as he spoke her name. He stood comfortably in front, arms crossed over his chest as he looked down on this little man sitting before him. "She is on her way and I wish to meet her."

"Well my friend, I've never been one to stand between a man and the woman he wants. I'm not gonna interfere with the tryst you have in mind. As you can see, I've got my own romantic involvement." He nodded once to Lenore.

The Operative followed his glance and sighed. "I am not your friend. But stand between us you will... if it means access to information that would shake the foundations of this verse." He paused, letting the words take effect not noticing a subtle shift in the man he was speaking to. "And information like this is what they claim to have. It is the key by which you are manipulated, and manipulate you they will. Or they'll try to. But it is not information they carry, but a girl. A dangerous, violent girl."

Mr. Universe grinned. "Oh to be sure! I saw her dance a number once that blew men off their feet."

"And then you can see the necessity of me bringing her back home?" The Operative asked.

His voice was energetic and laced with sarcasm as he responded. "Well, anything that would bring down a man of your obvious stature and power to my humble little planet has to be awe-inspiring." He paused as the muscles on his face shifted from delighted to dangerous. "But Malcolm Reynolds isn't likely to be tricked."


Time stopped for the Operative as an unexpected pattern clicked into place. True, this man could be manipulated by the value of information. But the Operative never suspected that he had deeper convictions. He underestimated the man before him. This little hacker's words hinted to a sense of protection felt for Captain Reynolds and his crew. These paltry toys around him and the secrets they wrest came secondary to that. He felt momentarily chagrined. He then shifted tactics.

"You will not let them know, not by word or by expression or by coded phrases that we are here. That we are waiting." The Operative made eye contact as he spoke. Indeed his eyes tried to bore holes into him. It only accomplished an amused disdain. As if this man standing in front of him, who thought he could move the universe with his little sword, had half an idea of what happened in the verse. Like this man could see the things he had seen people do for pain, for money, for power or just for fun. 'I've seen men do twice as much for half as less,' he thought to himself.


Alliance solider's stood behind him, in front of him and scattered throughout the room. With the armor and weaponry none of them seemed so intimidating as this man in front of him.

"Maybe you could ask your henchmen to step back from breathing down my neck." Taking a deep breath and a meaningful look at the solider's around him he gestured to the close proximity."Don't want me seeming nervous." He flashed the Operative a smile, his best smile crafted for charming and warming others. "Of course, that's on the assumption that Captain Reynolds will even contact me."

The Operative looked around, admiring the hardware, the links and elaborate setup of technology and creature comforts. "Oh, he will contact you. Make no mistake. It is only a matter of time." His right hand lifted up, palm open and pushed the air in front of it. The solider's directly behind him retreated to the shadows, still too close for comfort.


And they waited. He knew that someday, eventually, a time like this would come. A showdown of sorts. He never suspected it would come about because of someone else. Always thought it'd be some rich and moneyed individual, someone would could afford a techie as brilliant and crafty as he. Someone who would actually be able to track him. Always thought it'd be because of something he did. Not because he was some bystander with useful toys and the connection to a party more guilty than he.

He fantasized in the past about how a showdown would play out. How the fantasy ended differed depending on his mood. Sometimes it was merely the transfer of money and of energy. Sometimes it was more than a pay-off. Sometimes it ended with him resolute on his principles and dying for them. That particular fantasy didn't happen often. He knew his principles wouldn't be the end of him.


Not a single one of his fantasies included this period of waiting. It wasn't enough that the seconds ticked by with a painful slowness. It was the silence. The inability to reach out and touch the console, to adjust settings and seek out new information. It was the breach of habit. He was no longer connected and so the signal, it seemed, was jammed.

He looked to Lenore and imagined some shared moment of expectation and support. He tried to convey strength and trust with his eyes. He would see them both through this. Maybe that moment of sharing had really existed outside his head and maybe that meant it really was real. But this silent and threatening man in front of him brought a level of reality he had never known to exist. It gave that moment value to him and that was all that mattered. He chuckled, bringing a glance from the Operative to his face. The Operatives eyes followed his gaze to the robot on the settee.


Discipline kept him from sighing and rolling his eyes. It seemed so painfully obvious, this man sitting with his screens dipping into the lives of others. Everything was fabricated: from the console to the screens illuminating the room, to the expensive love toy on the couch. That which was not real became real in his world. His sin was obvious: it was gluttony. No matter that he was slim and appeared healthy! He fed himself voraciously on images and information of perceived value, just as he no doubt fed himself on that piece of plastic and silicon wearing the image of 'woman' across the room. But it was obvious now.


Finally the wave came. He felt electric. He felt alive. He felt like he just landed the video of a daughter of a Parliament dignitary loosing her virginity (of which he had collected no less than twenty-four video's and sixteen other video's of various sons loosing theirs). Mal's face was in front of him on the screen and now it was show time.

He imagined his own face on the screen. How he would rerun this conversation over and over, gleeful at his accomplishment. Exhilerated to not just watch history as it was made, but to actually be history. This was his best performance.


He lay their, first slumped over his knees, then being shoved brutally from the chair to the floor as Alliance soliders destroyed his equipment. It was only a few minutes, but it felt like a lifetime, lying there listening to their destructive mission, feigning death. Finally they left. He could hear the sounds of their boots fading, the sparks of broken data boards and shredded electrical wires popped in the air. He could feel the hum of the generator below him vibrate through the floor board. Funny how he never felt it before through the soles of his feet.


He took an unsteady breath, feeling the sharp ache as his diaphram pushed down on his injured organs. Exhaling her pulled himself onto all fours and crawled his way to his LoveBot, to his Lenore.

"Lenore. It... hurts." He lay there, curled up, his arm snaking behind the robot's body, pulling tight to it. He could feel its arm move, the palm resting on his head, mimicking tenderness.

"Command: vocal record." He heard the click, felt it through his ear, pressed up against its body. "Mal. Guy killed me Mal. Killed me with a sword. How weird is that?..."


Thursday, September 28, 2006 8:10 PM


Wowza! This is really brilliant. There aren't many fics out there that deal with the Operatives and Mr. Universe's encounter.

You characterised both really well, so kudos to you ECAmber.

Thursday, September 28, 2006 11:54 PM


Absolutely brilliant insight into the exchange between the Operative and Mr Universe before Mal and the crew got there. So sad as well. You have done a stunning job. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, September 29, 2006 7:29 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER this was some mighty amazing writing, ECAmber! Definitely loved the tit-for-tat dialogue between Mr. Universe and The Operative...but the internal monologues? Sheer chrome-plated shininess:D



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