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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Inara has to face her demons sooner than she expected. Captain Foster makes his decision. Natalie and Paul get closer while Kaylee and Simon grow further apart. Then River calls them all together and drops a bombshell."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1150 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara.
STATUS: Sequel to "THE APPLE AND THE TREE".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net
SUMMARY: "Inara has to face her demons sooner than she
expected. Captain Foster makes his decision. Natalie and
Paul get closer while Kaylee and Simon grow further apart.
Then River calls them all together and drops a bombshell."
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
* * * * *
It was not often that Inara felt utterly isolated, so cut off from the human condition that every thought, every action, felt as if it was remote, pre-programmed. It wasn't but the illusion was born of a multitude of things, not least her own errors in judgement at times of vulnerability. Whenever the past became too heavy a burden to carry she absolved herself in the present and the careful, pre-planned steps she had taken to get here. Now she was reviewing that path, her almost messianic devotion to the Guild and her Companion status. Deep down she knew that did not make her better than anyone else just subject to different addictions. Not the sex, the money, nor even the prestige of her position but the ease with which she could enter any society and exit at a time of her choosing unscathed. Or so she had thought.
Inara eyed the folder with a sigh then made sure that her door was locked before addressing the heaviest burden of all. The pages of flimsy were all encoded to her DNA. Pressing her thumb to the top right hand corner of the first page the transparant sheet came to life, words and pictures detailing everything she would need to know to complete her assignment. Her mission. That was a joke and a bad one at that. This was nothing other than a poison chalice and Mistress Barbette had known that. The pages burned, the words like letters of fire scorched her down to the soul. The pictures left her breathless. Yet she could not look away. It was all there. Every last detail about River and Simon Tam, only Tam was not their original name. The parents who had raised them on Osiris had paid well for the right children with the smartest genes, the features that would match in with their own enough to give lie to the familial bond. That it had started at the embrionic stage mattered not at all. It was all legal of course. Fascimiles of the original documentation scrolled beneath her fingertips. Better than adoption for these offspring had been implanted then grown in the mother's womb. Inara did not see perfect children. She saw a ticking time bomb.
The House Mistress had not needed to tell Inara what to do with the information but something else irked her. Nagged at the back of her memory until she brought it painfully into focus. She had been fooled before. Inara rose and painstakingly soothed herself with the tea ceremony, not sitting again until the familiar scent touched her lips like a hot liquid balm. After a few sips she put the cup on its' saucer and recalled the footage Margueritte had sent her. The damning scenes unfolding on her cortex screen, convincing her of another well crafted lie. One she had acted on to her everlasting shame. Sendhil was safe. The damage, however, had been done and even after apologising to the Captain and crew it had shaken their trust in her. How then could she now divulge the information before her? Was it even true? Yes, it would be mostly true. That was the insidious nature of the worst of lies, they beguiled with truths until you no longer looked for the tiny tell tale signs of subterfuge. Her instinct was to destroy it but she couldn't and not out of fear for what Cyan would do. No. For somewhere among the skilful lies were truths that both Simon and River needed to know. What made Inara's heart bleed was the cost. River was so obviously the damaged one that people invariably overlooked Simon.
Carefully, Inara replaced the sheets of flimsy and closed the file. Touching the side of her dressing table a thin tray slid out between the drawers revealing a long narrow secret compartment. Placing the file inside she closed the compartment and was about to turn round when a voice stopped her in her tracks.
"Did you really think I wouldn't discover the truth?"
He was not sure where to start. How to go about an investigation so unofficial that should his actions be discovered there would be no escaping the febrile wrath of parliament. No matter what the sin, parliament always protected its' own. Behind closed doors the questions might start but to the rest of the 'verse they always showed a united front. One sealed in the blood of those that opposed them. Captain Foster hid a sigh and looked up, his eyes meeting those of Mrs Shair. The widow did not break eye contact nor did she show any sign of blaming him for the events that had robbed her of her husband. Being a basically truthsome man Foster decided to start from that point.
"I don't know how to go about this, Mrs Shair." He held his hands apart in a helpless gesture. She could tell he was barely aware of how much his body language gave away.
"That is where I think I can help."
Surprise was quickly overshadowed by concern. "I don't think you should accompany me..."
Her impatient wave made him sit back down and wait for an explanation. Mrs Shair smiled at him, her eyes sad but sharp with intelligence. "You will need an excuse to see my husband's body. I will give you a suit of his best clothes." Mrs Shair had to pause and swallow slowly, the better to bite back the rising tide of emotional bile. "I will give you a letter asking that you be permitted to dress Niyan in his finery for burial. The plot of land was purchased when we settled here so it will not seem odd to want his body brought back for the internment."
"What if they want cremation?"
It was a valid question but immaterial in the widow's eyes. "Did Minister Rosenbaum himself not instruct you to ask what my arrangements would be?" She waited for Foster to nod. "Then these are my arrangements and I will not have them changed, *dong ma*? Please give him my thanks for informing me and tell him that I naturally extend the invitation for him to attend the funeral if his duties should permit. Also make it clear that I will not be offended should he have to decline."
Captain Foster stared at her for a long minute. "You are a most remarkable woman."
"No, I am not. I am a woman searching for answers but astute enough to know that questions alone will not be sufficient."
As he began to rise to his feet Mrs Shair stepped forward and pressed a small object into his hand. Looking down he was surprised to find a tiny digital camera.
"Changing the clothes of the deceased is not an uncommon practice but that is not why I am asking you to do this, John. It is the only excuse I can think of for you to strip the body."
"*Wo dong* and the camera is to photograph the evidence of any signs of injury?"
She nodded. "It may not be much but short of being able to have Niyan fully examined by a doctor of our choosing I cannot see what else we can do. When you take the photographs you must be very discreet even if they permit you to attend to my husband alone."
Foster pocketed the camera and nodded. He had no doubt that whatever facility was used it would be well monitored. "It's a start. I'll tell the Minister that you were too distraught to make the journey."
"*Xie xie ni*. My husband was right to trust you."
"I just wish I could do more."
The widow stared at him for a minute without blinking. "Be careful what you wish for." She murmured.
Oddly enough, John Foster felt a shudder go through him even though it was not cold and he was not in a draught. They did not speak for much longer, Foster wanted to make use of the flyer the Minister had loaned him and could think of no better purpose to put Alliance taxes to. Taking the bundle of clothes from Mrs Shair he left her with his promise to do all he could then hurried out into the quickly cooling night. Martha stood at the window and watched until the flyer was no more than a speck in the distance. Only then did she let the tears fall, more affecting in her silent dignity than any amount of weeping and wailing in public would have been.
Inara sat at her dressing table and stared without seeing. Simon. How had he known? Her hands trembled as she went to move the cup away, the sound of it rocking in the saucer bringing her back to her senses but the shock lingered. The tea, now cold, slopping over the cup and into the saucer. Unwanted now and unheeded. She thought that the news would what? Destroy him? A dry humourlous chuckle escaped before she could stop it. It wasn't funny and something didn't feel right. Was it Cyan's devious actions that shook her so much or the fact that Simon knew a hell of a lot more than either the Captain or crew? And what Simon knew River had to be aware of as well. Which left them where? What part of this puzzle was she missing?
It had been hard to convince his wife that this was really necessary but at last Captain Foster could get on with this unseemly business without having to worry that his family was safe. Hugging and kissing his children and wife, it had been a hard parting. Now all he could think of was the rolling hills of New Melbourne and the same cityscape they affectionately called a Metropolis. It wasn't but it was more high tech than low with every amenity a thriving world yearned for and having that balance with nature, the nuturing of rich green belt land with the up and coming technologies of what the locals called 'the new age' seemed a good fit. Close to the Core but not a Core world as such. The citizens were law abiding and hard working and the planet's proximity to Osiris kept most of the travellers to New Melbourne at least outwardly honest. They had several churches of different denominations, four pretty good schools and a pretty efficient slice of law enforcement. It was a good choice. A 'safe' choice.
Mind put at ease, John Foster climbed into the little flyer and took a couple of deep breaths before lifting off. If he did this right he would obtain a measure of justice for Niyan and be able to pick up his life again but if not. If everything blew up in his face and he found himself no longer on the Alliance payroll? Well. New Melbourne looked like a mighty fine place to start again.
Shepherd Book smiled at the expression of bliss on the Captain's face. The man lay back with his eyes closed, just letting the Shepherd work his magic on muscles that had gotten all knotted up and way too tight. The massaging was helping, he could feel the big knots slowly uncoil beneath his fingers and thumbs, breaking into little knots which he soothed away. A long low moan seeped out of the Captain's mouth.
"Now that ain't right!"
Book paused and looked over his shoulder as Jayne screwed his face up. Slowly, the Captain opened his eyes and frowned. Annoyed at the interruption in his little glimpse of paradise. Book explained before the Captain could tear Jayne off a strip. "It's called massage, Jayne."
"Huh, don't care what ya call it, it sounded..."
"Like just the thing the Captain needs to ease those muscles."
Jayne's eyes narrowed a fraction, not aware of Simon joining them. In fact the doctor hadn't been in the infirmary when the rest of the crew had crowded in to hear what his nutty sister had to say. "*Wei*, where've you been?"
"I needed to have a word with Inara."
Simon ignored the hopeful look that flickered on Kaylee's face and the young mechanic deflated. Zoe wasn't sure what the undercurrent between those two was and right now she didn't care. "River? You wanted us in here so the Captain could hear what you had to say."
The little reader mentally shook herself, pushing the troubling sense that something else was going on to her back brain. Time enough to puzzle on that after bringing the Captain and crew up to date on Jordan. After all, she had promised and Jordan didn't deserve to have the crew think ill of him. Zoe glanced at Wash and wondered whether her husband's faith in Mr Universe would prove to have been misplaced but the pilot gave her a confident smile back and wrapped an arm around her waist.
"Jordan has gone to retrieve the control device."
"If the fall didn't kill 'im."
"Jayne!" Zoe warned.
Shepherd Book wiped his hands clean on a cloth then with Simon's help eased the Captain into a sitting position, Kaylee hurrying to plump up a couple of pillows so they could get him settled. The Captain gave her a smile of thanks and Kaylee felt her heart lift again. "*Duibuqi, mei mei*."
"Ain't nothin'. Just you get well Cap'n, ya hear?"
He nodded then turned his attention back to River. Kaylee wanted to go and stand next to Simon on the other side of the Captain's bed but he wasn't looking at her. As always, once River started speaking the rest of them ceased to exist. Sometimes that used to make her so frustrated but now it only made her sad. Belatedly she tuned in to what River was saying.
"If Jordan succeeds the Alliance plan will go up with him."
The Captain looked shocked. "You sayin' he's gonna blow hisself up?"
River nodded, her pale face lit only with sadness. "He's like Pinnochio. Wants to be a real boy but can't. They took that away from him, left only the bits that didn't belong. Thought that made him their creation. A tool."
Horrified, Kaylee put a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide as saucers. Shepherd Book frowned, turning the words over in his head. "I thought you said Jordan was an Artificial Intelligence?"
"Yes, but they needed a template for a human being."
"That's *exin*!" Wash exclaimed. "They took a flesh an' blood man an'..." He couldn't finish. It was just too horrible to wrap his head around, his throat filling up with bile at the very idea.
"*Qu*. He was only a boy. Younger than I was when I went to the academy." She sounded so sad that Simon wanted to go to her but at that moment River looked straight at him and he knew she needed to say this. To finish the story for someone who would not be able to. "He was *congming*. Intuitive. Top of his class. His parents loved him so much, could deny him nothing. So when the offer came..." The story sounded all too familiar.
"*Wode ma*." Murmured Book.
"...for accelerated learning they leapt at the chance. He was taken away. Six years old but bright enough to know that he wouldn't be coming back."
"Then why'd he go with 'em?" Kaylee asked, confused that if the boy knew that he would still go with strangers.
"He knew too much." River paused to let that sink in.
The Captain picked up on what she wasn't saying. "He was a Reader?"
River nodded. "Like me but without the confusion. He could separate voices, had been doing it almost from the womb."
Her brother wanted to say that was impossible but didn't. Since rescuing his sister he had discovered that impossible was a word being daily excised from their vocabulary.
"Jordan could tell just by picking up their thoughts that if he refused they would take him anyway, only his resistence would be a death sentence for the rest of his family."
"They didn't wanna leave any witnesses." Said the Captain quietly. His heart aching not only for Jordan and River but for all the poor children treated as canon fodder before the altar of Alliance ambition. It sickened him heart and soul. In the suddenly silent room his words were heard by everyone.
"That don't explain why he's gotta kill hisself." Jayne scowled. He might not have liked Jordan but he didn't hold with what those *tamade hundan* had done to him either.
"*Ni bu dong*. They won't let him out of their sight. Armed guards, secure facility. No chance for him to destroy it all and get away. One or the other. Can't do both." She paused as if what she had to say next hurt even more. "Knows he can't find a place afterwards. People will always want to use him, treat him as a weapon not a person. They'll see the technology not the flesh and blood it's fused to."
Wash felt sick. Zoe wanted to go and kill every one of those sick *wangba dans*. River turned from the Captain and shook her head. "Let him. He wants to do it."
"River, if what you say is true Jordan won't survive."
Tears rolled down her face but she stood firm and proud albeit so sad that it felt as if her own heart was breaking. "It's his choice, the only one he can make. He doesn't want to live like this."
Kaylee wove her way around the others until she could put her arm around River. "Why you cryin'? Ain't like any of this is your fault."
"But it is, don't you see? Jordan's doing this for me."
They stared at her, stunned. Zoe recovered first. "What do you mean, little one?"
"He didn't want anyone else to go through what he had gone through. To be torn away from their families and used."
Heads turned as Natalie spoke. It was easy to overlook the girl. Like Paul she was a quiet one and the two tended to go off and spend a lot of time in the passenger bunk Mal had given them but when River had started telling the crew about Jordan, Natalie had been drawn like a moth to a flame. River's insistence in her mind that this was something she needed to hear all the encouragement she needed. Naturally Paul went with her, his curiosity tempered by caution and the need to keep her safe. River nodded.
"You, me, everyone at the academy."
"Are there any other folk like Jordan?" The Captain asked.
River shook her head. "He was a prototype. That's why he wants it to begin and end with him."
"Surely they have blueprints and would now have the expertise to simply find another subject and start all over again?"
It was Natalie who answered Book's question. "That's why Jordan's gone to them."
Zoe looked a little confused. "*Wo bu dong*."
"He's goin' back to the source." Natalie explained. "When he has aligned everythin' through the device it will detonate takin' all their research with it."
"An' him too?" Whispered Kaylee.
River couldn't speak, too full of emotion and sadness. Natalie spoke for her, Paul clutching her hand tightly as if to give her strength. "It was the only way."
Minister Rosenbaum was irritated to find two Blue Sun technicians waiting for him when he reached the holding cells. Long inured to their cold silent gazes, the thin blue surgical gloves they invariably wore, their lean pale bodies almost emaciated like cadavers awaiting the mortician's knife. Their skin stretched over long gaunt faces, nearly translucent and almost waxy. Yet they lived and breathed, moved about with impunity where and whenever they pleased. As creepy and mysterious as anything he had ever seen in the 'verse. It was almost as unsettling as it was reassuring that they were on his side. Or rather. The side of the Alliance. Rosenbaum did not flatter himself that they had any loyalty to him.
"Where is he?"
Sgt Rouse stepped out of the shadows with a set of oversized keys. "We put him in the end cell, *shifu*."
Rosenbaum raised an eyebrow but didn't ask why. Obviously the gaolers were doing what they could to make sure that Jordan didn't escape not that he could see how a boy, even one as gifted as Jordan, could fight his way through walls over a foot thick and hardened steel. Plus the guards were armed and Jordan was not. Rosenbaum's thoughts hitched on a disturbing notion. Maybe the boy wasn't armed but what about the device? *Tian Yesu*. One of the first things they needed to do was make sure it wasn't armed.
The guard unlocked the last cell, peered darkly through the spy hole and only swung the door open when the boy inside backed himself up to the far wall. Rosenbaum indicated for the guard to keep his weapon ready, the guard turning to signal back down the corridor for a few more men to take up positions to back his own. The two Blue Sun men barely gave Rosenbaum a glance nor seemed concerned with what the guards were doing. Their only interest was in retrieving their property. Rosenbaum was equally determined to make sure the Alliance got the lion's share of the bargain.
Jordan watched the Minister and the two men in blue gloves enter the cell. The guard did not accompany them but shut and locked the door behind them. The glimpse of the guard's automatic rifle almost brought a smile to Jordan's lips. Resisting the urge to show any amusement he kept his features as emotionless as possible. He was supposed to be an AI. Showing human attributes, even one as minor as humour, would be seen as a weakness. A flaw in his design and for this he needed to be perfect. To those craving the ultimate power, perception was everything.
"You can hand over the device now." Rosenbaum ordered. His voice pitched for reassuring while keeping an authoritive edge.
"*Duibuqi, shifu*, I can't do that."
Rosenbaum glanced at his companions but neither man so much as blinked. So. It was up to him. "*Weishenme*?"
"I am keyed to this device, to separate us would activate it."
Alarmed, the Minister took an involuntary step back. Neither of the Blue Sun men moved or seemed surprised at the news. Rosenbaum shot them a dirty look. "Is that true?"
The one nearest to the Minister gave him the barest glance, his attention going back to the boy. "They are compatible units."
When the man did not elaborate Jason did it for him. "He means we were created so that we could be used in isolation or together. Functionality has to be flexible to achieve the widest objectives."
Rosenbaum frowned. He did not like being out of the loop and this sounded like a huge sin of omission on Blue Sun's part. "What objectives?"
One of the Blue Sun technicians turned to him. "You do not need to know."
Reddening with fury, Rosenbaum was about to launch into an angry diatribe when the second man intervened. "We are simply retrieving our property, Minister."
"It's Alliance property."
The two men stared at him without blinking. Rosenbaum could feel his palms begin to sweat.
"Okay," he amended reluctanty "I should have said 'our' property."
"You do not have the facilities to keep it safe."
Waving a hand around him at the thick underground cell, Rosenbaum almost sneered back. "What do you call this?"
To his surprise Jordan answered. "They are right, *shifu*. I was created at Blue Sun. Their facilities have the highest security. Once there I can be separated from the device."
"*Wo bu dong*. Why can't you do that now? Just hand it over."
Jordan shook his head. "When I retrieved the device it locked onto my matrix."
Rosenbaum looked at the two men from Blue Sun, neither of whom had given him their names. "*Ni neng jie shi yixia ma*?"
"It means," said the one nearest to him "that if anyone attempts to remove the device before we get to our facility it will detonate taking your very deep, reinforced, secure internment facility with it."
Opening his mouth, Rosenbaum could only stare. The import of their words printing a pattern of failure on the inside of his skull. Realising this was one argument he would never win, the Minister closed his mouth and gave them a tight unhappy nod. "*Hai hao*. You will keep me aprised of developments?"
He got two empty stares back for his efforts. Resisting the urge to shudder, Rosenbaum turned his attention back to Jordan. "Why did you give yourself up?"
"I didn't. I was made, created to be able to interact with this unit. My masters needed to retrieve it so I did that. Now it is time to go back."
Rosenbaum wasn't sure what to make of Jordan. The boy looked human but acted like an automaton, his voice a single modulation that could have been programmed by a gorram computer. Come to think of it, as an Artificial Intelligence that was exactly what Blue Sun had done. All of sudden Rosenbaum didn't want anything more to do with this mess. Jordan gave him the creeps and the two men from Blue Sun were not far behind. No. Better to let them clean up after their own mistakes.
"Very well, gentlemen. Do you need us to prepare a prison transport for you?"
"That will not be necessary."
"What if he tries to escape?"
Three pairs of eyes stared at Rosenbaum as if the man were quite mad. Rosenbaum hated the way it made him feel and rushed to finish the handover. If anything went wrong his hands would be clean and wasn't that a novel thought? As Rosenbaum left the cell area he missed the small smirk of satisfaction that slid across Jordan's face then vanished as the Hands of Blue escorted him out of the cell.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*wo dong* = I understand *xie xie ni* = thank you *wei* = hey! *duibuqi* = sorry
*mei mei* = little sister *exin* = disgusting *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shifu* = sir
*wode ma* = mother of God *congming* = clever *ni bu dong* = you don't understand
*tamade hundan*/*wangba dan* = fucking bastard *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus
*weishenme* = why *shenme* = what *wo bu dong* = I don't understand
*ni neng jie shi yixia ma*? = can you explain that? *hai hao* = all right
Sunday, April 5, 2009 1:06 PM
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