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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Simon contemplates the mess he and the Captain find themselves in. Zoe reluctantly goes with the House Mistress's plan. River comes face to face with her successor."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1656 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "WRONG END OF THE GENE POOL"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara.
STATUS: Sequel to "WOLF IN LAMB'S CLOTHING".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net
SUMMARY: "Simon contemplates the mess he and the Captain
find themselves in. Zoe reluctantly goes with the House Mistress's
plan. River comes face to face with her successor."
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.
"WRONG END OF THE GENE POOL"
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
All of Simon's attempts to reason with their captors failed though the thugs were careful not to mark his face. Dragged and dumped in the old wooden chair he breathed carefully, not sure how many ribs had been cracked or even broken. "Why are you doing this?"
A face so ugly only a mother could love it lowered to bring them eye level. "Ya gotta learn to shut that pretty mouth."
"If this is about money..."
"*Bi zui*! What did I just say?" The man paused and glared at Simon until the doctor held his tongue. "You already been bought an' paid for, *dong ma*? This is just the delivery. Keep your mouth shut an' ya don't get no new bruises to add to the collection."
"And the Captain?"
Just when Simon thought the man could not possibly get any uglier he was proved wrong. The way his face split into such a happy and evil grin chilled him to the bone. "He thinks we're..." He paused as if searching for the word he wanted "molestin' ya." Throwing back his head and laughing the thug seemed mighty amused with himself. "Might have given him that impression, purposeful like. Don't hurt to have a little entertainment to pass the time."
Simon realised that they wanted Mal to think they intended to rape him. *Wode ma*, these men were sick. Hot on the heels of that thought was worrying about what would happen to the Captain once he had been delivered. In fact, he was the only one they were being paid to capture so why take Mal? His mind filled with a parade of possibilities, none of them pleasant. It would be just like their captors to want someone to tease and torment, maybe cut on just to draw a scream or two. Without a bounty on his head the Captain was as good as dead, no value to them at all. As Simon met the thug's eyes he got a serious nod in return as if the man had read his mind. He was not laughing now.
"Took him just to watch him die."
Simon opened his mouth to protest. To rant and rail. But the words got stuck in his throat. Heart sinking, knowing that it was not an idle threat. Remembering Mal's warning back at Burnt Cross and finding Alliance sympathisers among those taking refuge in the caverns. Men who had no love for anyone wearing the brown especially those like Mal who had fought in the War. Simon was left alone at last and in the oddly hollow silence he had a hard time working out which one of them was more screwed.
"I can't believe you're goin' along with this."
Zoe blinked. Of all the people she had expected to hear objections from, Kaylee was not one of them. "We have little choice, Kaylee. The House Mistress says the Minster can help us."
"An Alliance Minister."
That gave her pause. Caught in her throat actually, though she would not admit as much. Not here, not now. "River an' Simon aren't on Serenity. No need to fear the worst."
"We're not exactly on their welcome list."
Something in the first mate hardened. "Everyone agrees we need a plan, need to DO something. Not sayin' you have to agree with it."
"Cap'n wouldn't have..."
"*Gou le*! Cap'n ain't here an' if you have nothin' useful to say apart from criticisin' best you get back to the engine room an' do what you're supposed to do, *dong ma*? 'Cause this conversation is over."
Kaylee opened and shut her mouth. A world of regret coming too late to alter the fact that she had been meddling in a situation she didn't understand. Letting her fears rule her mouth without going through the brain first. "*Duibuqi* Zoe, I didn't mean..."
"You still here?"
Kaylee nodded dumbly then waved an ineffectual hand behind her. "Goin'."
Zoe narrowed her eyes and watched the mechanic scramble out of the door as fast as she could. In any other circumstances it might have been amusing but Zoe wasn't just mad at Kaylee for questioning her but because a tiny nagging piece of her believed she might be right. But what else could she do? Neither she nor Shepherd Book had a viable alternative and at least the House Mother was going to do someting. Correction. She was going to try. Plus, Inara was going to be at the Guild House on Helena to pass messages to and from. What could go wrong? Mouth tightening along with the sinking feeling in her heart, Zoe headed for the bridge. They would be landing on Helena within the next hour and maybe, just maybe, inspiration would strike before then.
"You killed them."
Jordan's reply was emotionless but something in the depth of his eyes hinted at more going on behind the mask. "They wanted a better world."
He held up the control device so she could see it more clearly. Now a softly glowing orb, its' beauty hiding a deadly intelligence gleaned from the sharpest minds in the 'verse. Imbued by its' makers until it was more than the sum of its' parts. As River watched, the colours slowly morphed and Jordan's words teased her ears with nuances of meaning. Soft, almost gentle, like a lover's kiss. Who knew they could hide such murderous rage? Contained in a whimper, the faintest of sighs, not a bang? Catching the fashion of her thoughts he smiled. A thin disingenuous arc bending his lips to his subtle will. "I simply gave it to them."
For a long moment they stood there, the only living beings speeding across the stars in a ship faster than the speed of light. It should have been impossible but it wasn't. New rules, new boundaries of what was and was not within their grasp. The only thing that had changed was their understanding and even that was incomplete.
"They will hunt you down."
Jordan shifted the orb to one hand and gently touched her cheek with the other. His fingers feather light as they dusted the outline of her lips, seeing and acknowledging the worry in her eyes. "*Bu qu*. They will try."
The kick wasn't hard but it was enough to jerk him out of a fitful sleep. Where was he? Head muzzy with sleep Paul sat up and sneezed. The light of day was cutting sharp rays through splinters where the wood had warped and left thin angular gaps between the panels. A barn. It was the best shelter they could find. Shaking his head he stumbled to his feet and began picking bits out of his hair and out of his clothing when he froze. Natalie was standing not three feet away, her look impatient, her stance one that threatened him bodily harm if he didn't get moving. His mouth dropped open but no sound came out. She was... beautiful. His mind stuttered, trying to fit together the pieces of what he knew with the evidence before his eyes. Confusion reigned.
"What're ya starin' at? Gotta get dressed, changed. Can't go lookin' like a scarecrow."
Paul resisted the urge to rub his eyes and pinch himself. Cast a critical eye over the girl whose sanity gave him nightmares even when he was awake. Yet now, here she stood, as right in her mind - or seemingly so - as anyone he had ever met. Her clothes no longer the rags they had been running in but fine cloth, the best weave. Her face all cleaned up and no signs now of the cuts and scars that ravaged it. Even the ugly cut that ran from the corner of her mouth all along her jawbone was gone. How the *guai* was that even possible? Must be dreaming.
"You're not dreamin'."
A bundle of neatly folded clothes was thrust into his hands. He couldn't stop staring. "How...?"
She knew he was referring to the scars. "Ain't it near miraculous what well applied make up'll do?"
Her switch to Rim talk was disconcerting. Did he even know who this person was?
"I'll explain as we go, no time to stop - *dong ma*?"
He nodded and found she was already helping him take off his jacket. Oddly enough he wasn't embarrassed to find her helping him undress. Stripping off the old soiled clothing and putting on the new. Part of him marvelled at the fit, every item could have been custom made. And the cloth. Paul could not stop touching the fabric, running his hand over the fine cloth, his eyes appreciating that what he was wearing was worth more than he was.
"*Ni cuode*." She chided, a hand dropping down to clasp around his right wrist, pulling him out of the dimness of the stable towards the main door. More light shone like a garish neon sign through the missing panels where a door had been. Outside was bright and sunny and perfect. His mind stumbled over the flight of fancy. What was wrong with him? He should be worried, heart racing, a second from full out panic. Natalie smiled at him, the twist of her lips just wrong enough to remind him of the scars she hid. "Come on." Her voice gentler, modulated to cajole not threaten. New enough to entice him to enter the fantasy and follow her.
"Where are we goin'?"
"Two to save, one who is an' one who isn't."
He paused causing her to stop as well. Natalie let go of his hand and huffed.
"We don't have time for this."
"What do you mean? One who is an' one who isn't? What kind of sense does that make?"
"Paul. You asked me to trust you. Now you have to trust me. I know things, *dong ma*?" She took a step towards him and suddenly he wasn't so sure that even with the clothes and the make up she had changed at all. "I could peel back your mind layer by layer if there was somethin' in it I wanted."
"I just..." He swallowed with difficulty.
"*Wo zhidao*. You have questions. Want answers. But it wouldn't stop there, would it?"
He blinked. Not sure what she meant. Not wanting to say the wrong thing. Silence seemed the only alternative, the only safe choice. Her smile turned wry, maybe disappointed, but he was no expert.
"Then you would want explanations. Reasons an' so on. It would never stop an' we really don't have the time." Her pause was abrupt, a change of pace, direction, as if a new thought had pushed through her consciousness. A voice demanding to be heard. "Rather, we have time but they don't."
It was then that Paul wondered how she had got the clothes. How she had cleaned all the blood off her hands as well as managed to get the stains out yet still have the clothes look as good as new.
"They are new."
Her voice was low. Hushed. A confession. He found he could breathe a bit easier. "You stole them?"
Laughter. Light but with sharp edges, just like her. "*Qu*. Did you think I took them off the dead?"
He couldn't answer because that was exactly what he had thought. "Where are we goin'?"
"Well now, rescue soon after."
She was really getting irritated with him now, a hand shooting out to grab him and steer him in the right direction. "You need to wash your face, hands too."
Paul flushed, realised how filthy he must be. "Maybe I should have washed first then changed?"
"No time. Can't leave the old clothes outside, might be found. Make people suspicious. I'll help."
He didn't ask how but lengthened his stride into a brisk walk just short of running. At the well he took his jacket off and handed it to her. She nodded at the shirt and that came off too. Then dowsing his head in the cold clear water Paul washed and scrubbed his face, neck and hands until he got down to the next layer of skin. When he was finally satisfied he was clean Natalie looked him over then nodded. She threw him an extra piece of cloth which turned out not to be a towel but some kind of vest. It was new as well but at least it was clean, the material soft and absorbent and just what he needed to dry off.
"Now, no more delays."
Just fastening the last button on his jacket Paul broke into a run. Natalie covering the ground as if her feet had no contact with it which was just bizzare. But Paul was rapidly learning that bizzare was Natalie's default setting and the adventure was just beginning.
Minister Howard Tirrell tented his fingers before him, his hands forming a triangle mocking the devote. His thin lips twisted but he did not speak, letting the silence fall heavy and weighty with disappointment around him.
"Explain how you have managed to lose an Operative of the Parliament, our most gifted protogee and the first of the new stealth pursuit vessels all in one incredibly flawed operation?"
Behind the Minister, Mr Morgan stood as still and silent as a waxwork dummy. His counterpart moved only his eyes. Their dark pressed suits, white shirts and pale blank expressions oddly chilling in the Minister's study. Parliament was not sitting right now but Tirrell had a great deal of sway with the Oversight Committee and he did not need a decree from Parliament to endorse his actiions. The Alliance General resisted the urge to fidget. He was simply the messenger, this was not his mess. Inwardly he was swearing and allowing himself to sweat buckets, wishing that this conversation was one that could have been made via a secure com with him far, far away from the seat of ministerial wrath.
"We have a team trying to track where the vessel is, Minister."
Tirrel's voice dropped several degrees and General Armand Cortez felt the temperature in the room drop just above artic. "Trying, General?"
He swallowed carefully. He was not going to show weakness or fear. Even if it killed him. "*Qu, shifu*."
"When did you lose contact?"
Now came the hard part. "Five hours ago."
Anger flashed and sparked in the Minister's eyes. "And you only sought to inform me NOW? Is your tardiness the complete mirror of your utter incompetence?"
"We... we tried to regain contact, *shifu*."
The Minster rose slowly to his feet and walked around the large heavy desk. Mr Morgan and Mr Brown remained where they had been standing. So still and silent that the General almost forgot they were present. All his attention was on Minister Tirrel and what he saw as his rapidly vanishing career. "As I understand it," he said softly "our stealth vessels are all equipped with tracking devices."
"I don't know how to explain what happened, sir."
A dark elegant eyebrow rose, the voice remaining mild, almost conversational. It was creeping the General out more than had the Minister shouted. "I also understand that before you lost contact, the target had been aquired?"
"Yes, sir. Both River Tam and the control device had been recovered."
It was not a question, more a statement of how badly they had messed up. The unspoken 'recovered and lost' ringing like a silent accusation in his head. General Cortez knew that however he responded nothing would placate the powerful man standing inches from his face. He tried not to flinch, to move a muscle other than those necessary for speech. Not only his career hung in the balance now. His life was hanging by a thread too.
"You will furnish us with the exact co-ordinates of the vessel's last location, *ni dongle ma*?"
"Then you will tender your full and comprehensive resignation."
The General blinked. Resignation? He was going to get out of this room alive? Just as his heart started to find a healthier rhythm he caught the look in the Minister's eyes and realised what he was really saying. A full and comprehensive resignation. A wonderfully understated euphemism for suicide. The Minister watched him like a hawk, then, when sure his meaning had fully sunk in he nodded and walked back around to the other side of his desk. Seating himself slowly he waved a hand towards his cortext screen, turning it a hundred and eighty degrees so that it was now facing the General.
"You may use my screen, General."
It was not an offer. Hiding the panic rising in his chest the General did the only thing he could do. Tapping in his security code he called up the information the Minister requested then logged off. As he straightened up he noticed another man had entered the room to the right of the Minister's desk. It was an Operative. Of course. All the formalities for his resignation would be adhered to. The thought was a bitter one. The Minister did not glance at the Operative yet it was as if some silent signal nevertheless passed between them. Moving with unhurried grace the man stepped forward and withdrew the katana that hung in a sheath across his back. His calm ebony face bore no expression. An odd tranquility seemed to exude from the man as he turned the sword around and offered the hilt to the General.
His hands were sweating so much now that he feared they would slip when he took hold of it. He looked into the Operative's eyes. "Could you...?"
The Operative nodded, divining the General's problem. Turning the sword in a graceful sweeping arc he cut off the last words General Cortez had wanted to say. The wish for his family to be taken care of dying on lips that could no longer speak. As the body fell to the floor the Operative removed a cloth from his pocket and wiped the blade clean. The Minister pressed a button on his desk to call a clean up crew and looked at the Operative, waiting until he had re-sheathed his sword.
"You know what you have to do?"
The Operative nodded. As he turned and went back through the door Mr Morgan and Mr Brown followed him out. As the door whispered shut, leaving the Minister once more alone, he sat back in his leather armchair and tapped his fingers together. A light blinked on the console in front of him. It was voice activated. "Yes?"
"You have a call, Minister."
The Minister indicated for the caller to be kept on hold as the clean up crew arrived. Within minutes the body was gone and a new piece of carpet laid in place of the one stained in blood. He waited for a moment to collect his thoughts then spoke. "You may put the call through."
As the link connected, his cortex screen came to life and an image resolved that he had not seen in twenty years.
"Howard. *Ni hao ma*?"
The Minister hid his shock well, a disingenuous smile lending a softness to his lips that hid a dangerous appetite. "I confess to being surprised to hear from you, my dear. But then, you always did like to shroud yourself in a little mystery. To what do I therefore owe the honour of this call?"
Cyan Barbette's smile was smaller, frostier but with a veneer upon it that equalled the lie upon his own lips. Two minds sharpened upon each other's wit for more years that either wanted to recall. Even at the height of their disagreements there had always been an underlying connection albeit one built on something less transient and more addictive than lust. As the passage of years revealed themselves in well managed age, that alternate passion stirred slowly in the Minister's veins. Hating himself for the weakness even as he craved it's return in his life he was yet intrigued. The combination, while sharpening his senses, made him wary. The predatory pool in which he fed growing smaller by the second.
"I ask again, Cyan. What do you want?"
CHINESE GLOSSARY (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*bi zui* = shut up/ be quiet *dong ma* = understand? *wode ma* = mother of God
*gou le* = enough *duibuqi* = sorry *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *qu* = yes (lit. go)
*guai* = devil/ghost *ni cuode* = you're wrong *wo zhidao* = I know
*shifu* = sir *ni dongle ma* = do you understand? *ni hao ma*? = how are you?
Thursday, January 15, 2009 9:44 AM
Thursday, January 15, 2009 10:59 PM
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