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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - MYSTERY
Inara has been summoned to Sihnon where the Shepherds are visiting. She has brought with her a young woman to act as aide to the Abbott. Meantime some Trainee Companions are missing from a shuttle and the Guild have apparently sent Radha Brook to investigate. Phil Yip, an irritable detective for a private security firm is also on the case.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1204 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The Wages of Sihnon
Several Dances - pt 1
The Great wall of Sihnon was also a city in itself - broad and straight for the main then unexpectedly narrow and winding. Every section however was uniformly crowded and dusty - filled with traffic, pedestrian, vehicle and animal, thronging their way, this way and that, among the many market-stall kiosks, recessed offices, shops and never ending parades. Despite the choking dust that scoured everything, the wall seemed in eternal celebration of its own existence - from the tiny flags, lining the steps of buildings and fluttering from the roofs of the yellow and blue hover-taxis, to the ostentatious dress of the wall security force, to the faded festival posters slapped on every surface, to the raucous yammering of motor-horns and the clashing gongs and drums of the parades.
“You got any HeadEze?” Radha Brook inquired of the Irritable Detective, himself downing two large pills. He looked, for once, apologetic - the elaborate quiff of his blue-black hair drooping in sympathy and his wide mouth turned down. “Sorry,” he said, “just these. I don’t know from headaches but the wind’s just murder on my sinuses.”
The two of them were sat in a cramped projector room in the offices of the shuttle port, squashed uncomfortably close together in the mistaken belief that opening the shuttered square window would let in some air.
“Gorram air conditioning”, the man added unnecessarily, he had removed his quilted jacket revealing an electric blue shirt decorated on the back with a pair of golden dragons. He smelt heavily of aftershave. "You couldn't finagle a better viewing suite?"
"This is more discreet," Radha said "doesn't get used much but for watching training films and the occasional office party frolic."
"Huh," muttered Yip.
"We are strictly off the record."
The Irritable Detective wriggled around to face her. "But who would really give a hump?" he asked.
Radha answered the question with a question. “You spent much time on the Rim, Detective?”
The Irritable Detective sighed. “Oh the benefits of GIA training,” he muttered bringing a scowl to the already strained face of the woman. She looked away instead at the man’s associate who was sat in front and patiently ignoring them both. “Ok Tamora”, she said, “play the damn film already.”
Sprawled low and with his long legs stretching across the seat in front of him, Kris Tamora pressed the start button on the remote control of the security monitor. He was still feeling smug for grabbing it before Phil Yip the Irritable Detective had got the chance.
On screen readouts logged the date, time and duty-shift of the hangar bay on one side in lurid green numbers. The left margin of the screen showed the names of vehicles already landed - in a shade of blue no less luminous. The main picture was a typical grainy grey camera image of the bay, the few craft and occasional technicians that checked on them.
There was an alert signal and the boiler suited deck crew moved aside. A shuttle came in low and fast, swerving into the designated stable almost drunkenly. The faces of the technicians showed angry confusion. Skidding to a stop the shuttle side doors opened - but the interior was in darkness. Nothing could be seen. Two of the burly port workers rushed across to peer in - then turned and raced away. Tamora froze the feed.
"Again." Ordered Yip.
"You know," said the Southdown’s Abbott wryly, "it's been quite some time since I caught a floor show."
He was watching the dancing women in the great hall as he spoke.
Next to him, the House Priestess of the Sihnon Guild Temple smiled thinly. "I hope you don't disapprove," she said.
The Abbott shook his head. "Youth and Beauty, the vigour of God's creation - how could I disapprove?" He clapped politely as the dancing figures came to rest in a flutter and swirl of silks and streamers. "Besides," he added, "I have not come to Judge - or at least, not to argue... I would tell you that Buddha taught transcendence of the petty senses and the desires they create, you would throw the Song of Solomon back at me... and round and round we'd go. If somebody has to get dizzy... I think I'd prefer it to be the dancers."
The High Priestess laughed with real warmth. "I have to agree your Grace - and I for one am far too old to go back to the debate team."
The Priestess could not resist raising an eyebrow however and adding, "It is very beautiful though."
"The Song of Solomon."
The Abbott touched his fingers together in a gesture of mock admonishment, before smiling himself suddenly. "Actually it rather sets a precedent doesn't it," he chuckled, "the Spiritual King and his Companion."
The House Priestess nodded, "Jesus and Mary Magdalene?"
The Abbott gave a pretend groan. "Don't even..."
The House Priestess looked across from the Abbott to the magnificent mandala upon the wall of the chamber. It was also a sundial. "Well your Grace," she said, "I trust you have enjoyed these initial festivities."
"Indeed," he replied, "and I look forward to more. Tell me, will the High Priestess be in attendance later?"
"Why of course!" exclaimed the woman. "I am but a vassal for Her will - a mouthpiece. The Great Mother has requested private audience with your Grace - and she will be here to watch over the major ceremony."
The Abbott bowed formally. "Then, once more, I am honoured."
"In the meantime," The House Priestess continued, "I trust your brethren will be comfortable and entertained. I do so hope they like the gardens here."
"I am sure they shall."
"And I would be delighted to introduce your grace to the aide I spoke of before - she is a Companion in Training from one of our other houses. Her mistress is Inara Serra."
"Really?" The Abbott looked genuinely pleased. "Inara herself... Thank you House Priestess."
"The pleasure is all mine your Grace."
As the tiny Kino-screen jerked back into blurry motion, Radha took the opportunity to observe the men. Yip she decided was not how she would imagine a private detective - he looked like a doorman. Maybe that had been his in, his start in the Security business. That would also mean he was tough, he was not fronting. Physically, well the attention he gave his hair showed a personal vanity that clashed outright with his clothing and manner. His face was remarkably smooth save for the dark line of his brows, the same hair dark hair that sprouted, she noticed in an ugly fashion across the broad expanse of his knuckles. She didn’t believe him about the sinus trouble - the man was Sihnonian through and through - despite whatever time he had spent on the Rim. What had he been there? Radha asked herself. Security? Muscle maybe?
Either way - he was not like his colleague. Tamora was younger and fitter. He had a sporty look - from the northern district maybe, he had the tanned and airy face of a skier or jet boarder, the blonde of his hair was sun bleached across the sides and fringe, his combat pants looked lived in. Most likely got into the game of Security thinking it would be ‘extreme’. Most likely disappointed too.
Both men had deep circles under their eyes - they worked hard and slept little… or maybe they just shared the same insomnia… maybe that was how they got together - some insomniac chat room on the Uni-web. Was Tamora Yip’s Companion too? Radha wondered. She knew her mind was ploughing off field - but she allowed herself a few light-hearted seconds. She deserved that at least.
On screen, the unruly shuttle had come again to its rest.
"Subtle," Kris said sarcastically, "you were right about that Chief."
" Right? " Yip was equally sarcastic, "ain’t nuthin' right about any of this go-se."
"You've seen this already..." he murmured to Radha after a moment - but let his sentence trail off. He coughed. "Pilot was found inside?" he asked instead.
"As you know", said the woman.
"Ok..." The Irritable Detective sounded thoughtful now. "Can we get audio on the tower feed?"
"You mean station control?"
Radha stretched the cramp in her legs and spoke without looking up. "Already done - voice point, recognition codes - the works." Now she looked up. "But you know that already Mr Yip don't you."
The Detective smiled. "Well, let's just say I didn't waste the time I took from you. And yes - I also know there's no DNA - so either no-one was ever on the Gorram shuttle or..."
"Requested a de-con sweep as it entered Sihnon space." Radha nodded. "The number of passengers, the different backgrounds of them - the fact that the shuttle had picked them from varying locations - the sweep is a pretty standard procedure."
"Sounds kinda handy though..." Tamora said from in front.
Radha acknowledged the truth of that. Tamora turned from the screen. "Ok, ok," he said, "so we know the voice for instruction and the voice of the pilot are a match. Question is - was he flyin'... under the influence there?"
Radha shook her head. "Doctor Sard said the tranq would have knocked the man out almost instantly - we wouldn't have a slovenly landing, we'd have a fireball."
"That ain’t the question." Growled the Irritable Detective - glaring at his associate but directing his words at Radha.
"No, Detective," Radha said evenly. "How so?"
"Because," The Irritable spoke slowly - clamping down on his anger. "The real question is - really, why are you even tolerating us?” Yip’s round face did its best to help lift his eyebrows - but it was a futile effort, the scowl was stuck “Huh? You can tell us, Agent Radha, don’t be shy.”
Radha kept silent, appraising him. Eventually she said, “It’s amazing what people can learn to tolerate.”
“Tell me about it”, muttered Kris.
Yip was listening only to the woman. “Learn? Well that kinda hinges on what education you’ve had… and which teachers.”
“We both know,” he continued, “three shuttles - three wagonloads of girl flesh spirited away. Two prior… so why now? We had bupkiss on the previous - didn’t even get to start a case let alone get bounced off one. So, again - why now?”
“And why you?” asked Yip. “The GIA obviously did a good job sealing down before - and here you are, all over the scene and in my face. Maybe I got no right to be so nosy but - someone in my face? Just keeps my curiosity… aroused.”
If the man intended a reaction to his deliberately offensive tone Radha did not provide one.
Yip waved a placating hand. “Ok, ok - straight question. Did you investigate the other cases?”
Radha said nothing.
Yip sighed. “Of course not. So this must be different. It calls attention to itself - but more than that - does it open a can of worms, Agent?”
Still no reply.
“We’re here in this peachy little Kino where the seats don’t even cover my ass because… why? You scared they’re gonna bounce you for picking at a scab the Guild doesn't want seen? One they already covered? Well someone at the Agency is gonna be pissed at you. If they didn't send you to examine - if they sent you here to shut it down... why are you intent on doing the opposite?”
The Irritable Detective expected a question in reply - and he got one.
"And you?" Radha asked. "You knew about the other cases... how?"
"I get around," Yip was cagey, "and I got... contacts."
That was the point, thought Radha. "But no cases... why tip you to something that goes nowhere?"
"Well, y'never know..."
"Detective Yip," and now the woman was becoming irritable, "I don't think you were tipped to investigate, I don't think you were supposed to act on the information you were given. I don't think you're wanted here either - and I don't think you ever were. I think you're picking a scab too."
"Lady, I ain’t that hopeful."
"And you 'ain’t that moneyed'", she parodied his accent. "I think you were hoping for money off employers who were never gonna pay... because they never sent you."
"We got contacts, like I said."
"But I don't think they're one and the same. I don't think we're dealing with a mutual agenda here - or at least we weren't... till now."
Yip rubbed at his eye. "You don't like it - I don't like it," he said "guess we're married now huh?"
Despite herself Radha almost smiled at that. She leant back to stretch herself once more then said. "Still it's square one... I got sources - you got contacts... neither one of us is wanted here and yet here we are."
Yip closed his eyes.
Proving how ignored he felt, Kris Tamora piped up. "Y'know I always liked an Ice with a movie. You know a place where we can get any?"
"I think...” Radha said slowly, "that may be a very good idea."
Moving briskly now through the halls of the Inner Temple, the House Priestess was fielding questions from a gaggle of photojournalists, in-house of course, and linked to the outside world only through the Tourist board. But it was still an intrusion.
"Yes, yes!" she snapped, "everything is going very smoothly - the Abbott is a delightful man and I'm proud of the welcome we've been able to bestow. The young Trainees have acquitted themselves beautifully. Now we're looking forward to further festivities and a chance for the Priory to tour the temple properly."
Flashbulbs and questions were popping chaotically.
"What? No - I haven't spoken about a reciprocal visit - but that's a charming idea. There will be a press conference later - and you can put the question to the Abbott himself."
One journalist fought to the front of the pack, her question direct and unexpected. "Is there any truth to reports that the Shepherds are now armed?"
"What?" The House Priestess stopped in her tracks, her irritation plain. "Certainly not! - Of course, every man has the right to bear arms... You're talking private ownership of - I really don't - who let this person in?"
The offending journalist was already being hustled away. The House Priestess ducked gratefully through a doorway, slamming it behind her.
"Feeling the pressure?" asked Inara.
The House Priestess was busy drawing breath. Inara was stood before a rack of ceremonial dresses, was on the point of choosing one for the forthcoming occasion. She was looking however at the House Priestess her expression concerned.
"Nonsense child," said the older woman at last, "but I was never fond of the press - they are so uncivilised."
Inara touched the House Priestess's arm in consolation. "Well, it's not an easy day for anyone."
The House Priestess nodded, her poise recovered. "Yes indeed - in fact I'm surprised you agreed to come here."
Inara laughed brightly, gesturing to the wracks in front of her. "Please. Dresses this fabulous? I’d give my right arm!”
The House Priestess looked wan, but she said gamely. “That’s marvelous my dear – and the trainee from your House? She is prepared?”
“You know she is.”
“Well, then I think it is high time the Abbott and her were introduced.”
Outside the shuttle port hangar Radha, Yip and Tamora were trudging towards an Ices kiosk – lost in their separate thoughts. Yip came to a sudden halt. “Kris?” he said, “forget the damn Ice – get over to the office and check on the pilot again… I wanna know where else they or the shuttle may have got themselves.”
Tamora knew better than to argue – but he showed his annoyance by cursing in galactic Chinese as he crossed into the traffic to flag down a taxi.
Radha was looking at Yip curiously. “What was that about – I can tell you everything you need to know about that pilot.”
“I have trust issues,” growled Yip. “Come with me.”
Against every single one of her instincts – Radha Brook let the big man hustle her off in a new direction.
In one of the many small rooms of the Sihnon Guild temple, the Southdown’s Abbott was being introduced to his temporary new aide and her mistress Inara.
"Your Grace, a pleasure." Inara had made sure she was wearing a simple russet gown, her hair tied back neatly, but not too formally.
"Miss Serra, a pleasure for myself also."
The omnipresent House Priestess was smiling in a way that betrayed her nerves. Inara found this insulting, relished the ace up her sleeve that she was about to reveal. Turning away for a moment she faced the Abbott once more but this time with a small box in her hands. She offered the box to the Abbott saying, "Your Grace, when Shepherd Book first came aboard Serenity he brought with him a gift from the Abbey."
Inara nodded. "I would very much like to return the compliment." She passed the box to him and smiling the Abbott opened it. His eyes twinkled as he beheld the fragrant ripe strawberry nestled therein.
"It is from the Training House where I'm based," Inara said, "home grown." She gave yet another dazzling smile.
"I'm touched," said the Abbott still gazing at the fruit, "really. It's most considerate. I fear it shall be consumed with unseemly haste!" He chuckled warmly.
"I'm very glad," said Inara.
The smile on the House Priestess had not slipped and the look in her eyes had barely altered - but Inara could read her expression well enough... the woman was no longer nervous, she was relieved... But there was more - the inspired diplomacy of Inara's gift had both surprised and piqued her.
She nodded almost brusquely to the diminutive form of the waiting neophyte. "Your Grace, may I be permitted to introduce...?"
The Abbott assumed a polite expression and Inara nodded, gesturing the young woman forward. "Your Grace, this is Sidhi - I call her Sid," Inara said and her informality brought forth another twinkle in the Abbott's eye. He looked at the kneeling woman with interest. She was clad in a sober Chinese style silk suit of high-buttoned blouse and dark trousers cut at the calves. Her feet, as much of them as the Abbott could see, wore black slippers. Two long plaits of red hair framed her pale face. "She's a most promising trainee", continued Inara, "and I hope, may serve as a useful aid and guide during your stay."
The Abbott held out a hand to the girl. "I don't doubt," he said smoothly, " The hand that hath made you fair hath made you good. "
The young woman seemed awed by the Abbott, clutching at the purple of his sleeve. “Forgive me your Lordship, I am overwhelmed. I - I - I wanted to be a nun for the longest time. My folks raised me right - in the ways of the Father. But… they died. Alliance Social Services - they passed me into Guild care… and I was so young - I was too young - I - I…” Her sorrowful voice cracked and trailed off.
The Abbot leant forward, extending a hand to touch her lowered head with gloved fingertips. “Rise, my child. I understand.”
“Thank you - Oh, thank you!” She stammered - even as she did so, she could feel Inara’s glare boring into her back. However, the Abbot looked pleased and nodded at the House Priestess. "I have some private prayers to attend to", he said, "but in a half hour - perhaps we could...?"
"She will attend at your leisure, your Grace," said the House Priestess. The Abbott swept from the room and with a last glaring look and with a sigh of fabric the Priestess left as well.
The door closed.
“Exhibitionist!” Spat Inara. “You couldn’t resist.”
The newly appointed aide laughed throatily. “He was too easy. Just bugging him is all.”
Inara made a noise deep in her throat. “Well you bug me Saffron!”
The woman, known to the Abbott as Sidhi - but to Inara as Saffron, rolled her eyes. “No you dumb pe-gu! BUGGING him!” Her long fingers deftly pulled a device from out of a voluminous sleeve. “You wanna listen?”
“Oh God yes.”
Inara danced forward and gleefully took a proffered ear-piece. Saffron took the other.
hope this is keeping it's interest! thanks to all who have commented so far:)
next chapter 'Several dances pt 2': Enter the High Priestess. More lies and a few possible motives.
Monday, March 3, 2008 4:08 AM
Monday, March 3, 2008 7:04 AM
Monday, March 3, 2008 12:20 PM
Wednesday, March 5, 2008 7:59 AM
Friday, March 21, 2008 10:43 AM
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