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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Badger reunited with Serenity and her crew. Inara goes in search of sanctuary and Regan Tam tries to come to terms with Gabriel's betrayal. Meanwhile Minister Rosenbaum is happily tweaking things behind the scenes."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1521 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "THE DEVIL YOU KNOW"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara.
STATUS: Sequel to "POWER CORRUPTS".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net
SUMMARY: "Badger reunites with Serenity and her crew. Inara
goes in search of sanctuary and Regan Tam tries to come to terms
with Gabriel's betrayal. Meanwhile Minister Rosenbaum is happily
tweaking things behind the scenes."
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.
"THE DEVIL YOU KNOW"
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Captain Malcolm Reynolds stared. He really did. The ship up close and personal was even more impressive than it had appeared on sensors. Somehow it just didn't track with the grubby little king-pin posturing like some bad porn star on Serenity's moniter feed. He cut a disbelieving look at Wash.
"You sure this is Badger?"
On the screen Badger's smug face was smiling fit to burst. All paternal pride. The Captain ignored him. Wash's look was apologetic. "Yeah, Mal. I checked half a dozen times."
The Captain finally brought his gaze to the screen. "Where'd you boost the ship, Badger?"
"*Shenme*? Ain't done no such thing. I'm a man o' property now. Should show me some respect."
"If you didn't steal it where did it come from?"
Some of the shine faded on Badger's face. "Not right to talk over the open air, *dong ma*? Prefer face to face."
"An' I prefer about face."
A flash of alarm interrupted the little man's gloating. "*Deng*, listen to me! Need to speak to you. Confidential-like."
Now the Captain was more than suspicious. He was wary. Mal felt Zoe move in behind him and knew the rest of the crew were crowding in but didn't take his eyes off Badger. "Now what would a prosperous business man like yourself be needin' with those of us out on the raggedy rim?"
"That's what I need to talk to you about, Reynolds."
"Not like this."
Mal exchanged a dubious look with his second in command.
"Don't trust him, sir."
Badger wailed from the screen. "*Wei*, that ain't fair. You ain't even heard what I'm gonna say!"
"Zoe does have a point, Badger. Can you give me one compellin' reason why I should let you aboard my boat?"
Badger took a moment before replying, all the bluster and false bon homie dying down. "Didn't wanna tell you like this but my mother died, see?" Badger waved a hand to indicate his shiny new ship. "Left me some money. The Alliance dropped the warrant so I'm a free man. Been rebuildin' my gorram business."
"Cyan's dead? What happened?"
A sour look twisted the little king-pin's mouth. "Can I come aboard or not?"
Zoe leaned in close to the Captain. "*Wo bu xihuan*, sir."
"It's about Cyan." Badger cut in.
The Captain stared hard at him but Badger just stared back. For several moments neither man spoke then the Captain straightened and gave a stiff nod. "Okay, you can come aboard - but just you. None of your hired guns. I see anyone but you an' I'll let Jayne cut a tattoo on your face right before I put a bullet between your eyes."
Badger affected a mortified look. "What I ever done to upset you?"
Anger seethed just beneath the surface of the Captain's calm, his voice dropping into the dangerous hush that made violent men tip toe out of Malcolm Reynolds' path rather than see that fury blow up in their faces. Even over the monitor screen Badger could feel the hairs on the back of his neck prickle in warning.
"You want on this boat you better not be askin' that question. Could be the list would make me even more inclined to shoot first an' ask questions later, *dong ma*?"
The little man nodded, hands rising in a placating gesture. "*Wo dong*. Ain't out to trick you, just need to talk."
It was only a matter of time, Inara mused, before the inevitable question of choosing the next House Mistress arose. Yet it did not produce the excitement, hope or anticipation it would once have done. The death of Mistress Barbette leaving a pall over everything. Amid the expected sadness that enveloped House Madrassa the younger girls were a-buzz with speculation, meaningful glances cast in Inara Serra's direction but no one was actually insensitive enough to ask her outright if she would put herself forward. Thankfully, Annalise asked no questions but continued with Guild business without pressing Inara for details of how long she was staying or whether this return would be permanent.
The sheer volume of callers, both in person and by cortex link and hand delivered messages, was a testament to a rich and full life lived alongside the corridors of power. Inara had no doubt that many would be breathing deep sighs of relief knowing that with Mistress Barbette's passing some of their more questionable secrets would die with her. A few may have even felt genuine sadness at her loss but the connections she had made were business ones first and foremost with the social whirl of engagements used as a means to an end not an end in themselves. Expensive flower arrangements arrived by the hour, silk cards and expressions of condolence. All were taken in and details taken of those who had left them. Annalise would no doubt answer every single one with a handwritten note of thanks.
Retiring to her room had become a habit as well as a convenience. She did not want to talk to the others. Did not want Annalise to become curious about her former life. Inara paused and felt a pang. She didn't know what to do. Leaving had seemed the only option and given the information on Simon she needed to confront Mistress Barbette about both the content and the source. To find out whatever she could to ameliorate any harm done. With Cyan dead and the flimsy now consigned to a few ashes her reason for coming evaporated but not her reason to stay. Or did it? Was she so sure that this was the path to follow? It would be so easy to sink into the familiarity of this place, absorb and relish each ritual, every reminder of who and what she was, where she had come from and what it had taken to get here. Now she was not so convinced that the view was worth the labour it had taken to achieve it. With her heart and mind at war inside, Inara decided a short sabatical would help her put everything into a clearer perspective. Funnily enough she did not think she could do that here. Too many hopes and expectations would be placed upon her. The weight of duty like a looming cloud robbing her of the clarity and peace she now sought. No. Not here.
After some minutes of brooding contemplation Inara raised her head. There was a solution. One place where she could find the peace she sought while deciding what to do.
It was too easy. There were the hunted and the hunters, the winners and the losers, and wherever you went in the 'verse prey were always prey - even when they ran in shiny new ships straight off some gorram production line. The smile was thin, more self satisfaction than amusement. Hard eyes glittered beneath brooding brows, the long sallow face devoid of all emotion. His companion had no expression at all, the eyes as cold and empty as death and yet both lived and breathed. Their too lean bodies dressed in sombre guise, the only thing animating the blood in their veins was the knowledge that when Badger had finally broken cover and run it had been to make a bee-line for something they had been trying to retrieve for too long now.
Around them the clean crisp lines of an Alliance pursuit ship purred. The polished metal and plexiglass interior adding a false brightness to a dark mission. This time they would not put their trust in Operatives. With the Blue Sun Headquarters in ruins and many of the Alliance hierachy running around like headless chickens it had taken the personal intervention of Minister Rosenbaum to bring coherence back into the equation of what to do next. His solution had been elegant in its' simplicity. With the news of Mistress Barbette's death Rosenbaum had seen an opportunity to flush her son out of hiding by removing the warrant for his arrest, knowing that with most of his friends and connections gone he would flee to the only ones remaining. Serenity and her crew. And aboard that unassuming little transport ship they would find their illusive prize. Rosenbaum had put no restrictions on the technicians from Blue Sun as to how they should proceed knowing they would ignore such guidelines anyway. It mattered not whether they slaughtered everyone in their path to get to River Tam. In fact, Jacob Rosenbaum was counting on just that. He did not like loose ends and they would leave none. By saying nothing the blood would be on their hands not his.
She felt sick. Everything spinning and heaving around her. Sight, sound, her insides and outsides a rollercoaster of feverish motion. Everything awash with turmoil and laced with the cacophony of voices and sounds merged into a mess of colliding noises that clashed inside her head breaking her thoughts into shards that shattered taking any meaning along with it.
"She is awake."
The words made no sense to her. Eyes squeezed tightly shut the 'verse was still moving wildly around her. She turned her head as her stomach rebelled violently not realising a bowl had been hastily thrust under her chin. Soothing voices tried to calm her, a cold wet cloth wiped her heated face. Breathing began to become something her lungs could accomplish in small ragged gasps, as if her diaphram had been in a vice that was only opening with great reluctance. Where was she? What the *diyu* had happened?
"Sssh, rest. A doctor is on the way."
Doctor? What doctor? Did they mean Gabriel? But no, Gabriel had done this to her, hadn't he? With that thought her memories rushed back in a swift overwhelming tide. Emotion followed like breaking waves hanging on the coat tails of her living nightmare, dragging a pained cry from her trembling lips. Hands fluttered round her, anxious to calm and ease her distress but they were pale flags waving in a distance she could not cross, her mind so at sea she was unaware who was friend or foe. Regan Tam only knew that she had been betrayed, abandoned, and slowly a sense of urgency seeped through the dischord of tattered emotions rocking her world. Sense tried to establish order through the chaos but she wasn't listening, unable to join up the dots through the fragmented 'verse left to her befuddled mind. The drug still in her system too slow to evacuate a body that could not fight back. Her strength flagging, Regan Tam slipped into the welcome darkness, the sense of urgency slipping away along with her consciousness like some bad dream.
Jayne Cobb couldn't believe his ears. As the cortex link ended he turned to glare furiously at the Captain. "You're a *shenjingbing tamade hundan* lettin' that ruttin' piece of *goushi* on board! He tried to kill you, put all of us in danger an' now you're lettin' him do it all over again!"
"*Bi zui*! My call to make, Jayne, not yours."
"Like I said," the big man grumbed "*Shenjingbing*."
"But still the Cap'n, *dong ma*? Not sayin' I lke this any more than you but Cyan's dead an' I for one wanna know what happened."
"Probably stabbed her in the back."
Glaring back, the big man muttered something obscene under his breath before stomping off the bridge. Zoe looked the Captain in the eye. "He's not wrong, sir."
The Captain sighed. "*Wo zhidao*." He looked around and realised none of the others had moved. Waving a hand he began to usher them off the bridge. "Best we go see what Badger has to say. Sooner we hear him out, the sooner we can scrub his stench off my boat."
The Abbott blinked at the shrouded figure. "*Duibuqi*, I thought you would not be returning until Winter Fair?"
Inara did not throw back the hood of her dark cloak. This was a time for anonymity, at least until she was safely within the walls of the monastery. "I need to see him, Father."
He took in the distress thinly veiled by years of practised composure. The aura of pain still clinging to those beautiful dark eyes, the skin paler than normal as if the Companion was recovering from shock. The Abbott's heart could not refuse her even though the rules of their order were quite specific about the times and circumstances when they could mix with those outside the monastery walls. If he brought her in such difficulty could be averted though the spirit of their sanctum would be breached. It was a small concession to compassion but one he would not deny her.
Inara felt something ease the moment the door opened wide to allow her entrance. She had not been sure it would be allowed but the Abbott was a good man and her brother was the one human being in the 'verse who would never judge her. Would love her unconditionally until the breath in his body was gone. That she felt the same for Sendhil was a moot point but it was not just his presence she craved. Inara needed the crystal clear clarity of a mind devoid of turmoil. A sharp intelligent mind that could pierce through the confusion that was making her second guess every thought in her head. Inara could still project outward calm but the stillness within was out of reach and she needed that sense of peace and equanimity to restore the balance of her soul. Only then would the answers have true meaning. Only then would Inara Serra be whole again.
The commons area was packed. Everyone but Wash was there, all of Serenity's crew hastily armed. Some discreetly like River, Simon, Natalie, Paul and Kaylee but the others making no attempt to hide their distrust of the little king pin. Badger ignored them all, his attention fixed unswervingly on Malcolm Reynolds. Badger raised his eyebrows in surprise, pushing back the brim of his new bowler hat with one finger as if to see more clearly.
"Didn't expect you up an' about."
Zoe stiffened but the Captain didn't lose his temper. He wasn't pleased to see Badger but he needed to know what had happened to Cyan Barbette. "You didn't come to check on my health, Badger. What happened to Cyan?"
Badger nodded slowly, noticed the Captain looked tired though stubborn man that he was he wouldn't sit. Probably thought it meant showing weakness. Badger resisted the urge to snort at the ludicrousness of proving who was the alpha male plus this was something that needed to be done. To clear the way between them so to speak. "It was her heart, see? Didn't know she 'ad a problem, was always so strong, full o' energy an' such. We was in this hostel, hired room, when she stumbled. I turned round as she fell, one hand outstretched like she was reachin' for somethin'. As I got to her I heard somethin' rollin' across the floor an' saw the bottle. She couldn't speak, lips already goin' bluish, couldn't seem to breathe proper neither. I got the bottle, took the cap off, tried to get her take a tablet but it was already too late. Eyes glazed over an' that was it, the life just snuffed out like a gorram candle."
Shocked, the Captain put a hand on the back of a chair to steady himself. Simon moved closer to the Captain but Mal didn't notice. He was staring at Badger, shock and pain being held in check by grim determination. Simon touched a hand lightly to the Captain's shoulder and as he straightened the doctor pulled out the chair and eased him unprotesting into it.
"I was in a panic, didn't know what to ruttin' do. Called for a doctor, ran all through that gorram place until someone got help. Doc said it was a massive heart attack, that she wouldn't have felt a thing. Shook me up bad I can tell you."
"You seem to have done alright." Said Jayne.
The Captain took a moment, taking in everything Badger had said then slowly rising to his feet. Simon would have preferred him to remain seated as the Captain had been on his feet too long already and he still needed to take regular rest breaks. "You've passed your message Badger, you can go now."
A fleeting look of panic crossed the little man's face. Mal's eyes narrowed suspiciously. Zoe rested a hand on the butt of her mare's leg, ready to draw at the slightest provocation.
"*Ni bu dong*, that's on'y part of it."
Kaylee looked confused. "What else could there be?"
Badger ignored everyone but the Captain. "Need to talk to you."
Badger cast a look around the crew, obviously not keen to speak in front of them.
"No one's goin' anywhere, Badger."
"It's kind'a private."
"An' this is my boat. You got somethin' else to say, say it, otherwise leave."
"That ain't very friendly, Mal."
The Captain's eyes hardened at Badger's attempt at familiarity. The little man swallowed hard and nodded.
"She left a will, see? All legal an' such. Wanted me to find you, make sure you got your share."
Behind the Captain, Jayne's eyes glittered. His frown turning to greedy speculation. "She left you money?"
Shepherd Book sidled up close to Jayne and whispered in a deep solemn rumble. "Jayne, let the man speak."
"Ain't money." Badger said quickly. "Somethin' better than though why she thought you needed it beats me."
Everyone turned to look at River. Her long dark hair hung unbrushed, her pale face making her eyes seem wider and darker than normal. She was staring at Badger then looked at the Captain.
"Never meant to hurt you, thought the words were only words but others used them. Destroyed everything."
The Captain went pale. Simon frowned. "River, what are you talkin' about?"
"Shadow." Said Natalie, trying not to shudder as glimpses from River's mind touched her own leaving shaky aftershocks in her brain pan. "She was a spy but she really thought she was doin' the right thing. Didn't see the people of Shadow as a threat but others didn't agree. The people had no loyalty to the Alliance, too independent. Wanted to make an example of your world. Used her words to seal their fate."
Kaylee put a hand over her mouth in shock, tears brimming in her eyes. Jayne looked angry, Book sad. There was no expression on Zoe's face but her hand had whitened on the butt of her gun, tension in every line of her body. Paul took Natalie's hand and gave a gentle squeeze.
"You said Cyan left the Captain somethin'. Not money." Zoe prompted, her voice so devoid of emotion that it made Badger go cold. The Captain said nothing.
"Yeah. Papers an' such. Not flimsies but the real thing."
Jayne frowned. "You sayin' flimsies ain't real?"
Badger ignored him. "Real, honest to *diyu* paper from trees. Do you know how gorram rare that is?"
Zoe glanced at the Captain but he hadn't moved, not even a twitch, He was just staring at Badger. Irritated with Badger for dragging this out, Zoe snapped at him. "Get to the point, Badger."
The little man licked his lips and put his hand inside his jacket pocket. Immediately there was the sound of various weapons being drawn and the safety's flicked off. Badger's eyes widened in alarm. "*Wei, deng!* Just gettin' the papers, see?"
Slowly Badger took the papers from an inside pocket. Zoe leaned close enough to snatch them from his fingers and put them on the table in front of the Captain. Badger looked annoyed but with her mare's leg and every other gun pointed at his head he wasn't in a position to do anything about it. Mal took a moment then stared down at the papers, slowly scanning them page by page. His expression changed as he read, more animation coming into his features as the import of what he was looking at seeped in. In a daze he looked up and stared at Badger.
"What kind'a joke is this?"
Badger grinned, slow and smug. "It's *zhende*. *Zhenzheng*. Couldn't do nothin' 'bout Shadow but after, when the gorram dust an' such had settled she got that. Don't ask me 'ow, weren't like the will had a confession in it, just this weird codicil as they call it. Lawyer said it had been added."
The Captain's eyes sharpened. "*Shenme shihou*?"
Looking irritated Badger hadn't expected Malcolm Reynolds to fall over himself with gratitude but he hadn't expected this. After all he didn't have to come all the way out into the Black to find the *wang en fuyi tamade hundan*. "What's this, twenty gorram questions?"
Cold steel slid effortlessly into Zoe's voice not an inch from Badger's ear. When the good gorram had she moved? "Just answer the question, Badger."
"Okay, no need to get tetchy. *Wo bu zhidao*. Didn't know there was a gorram will until she died, see?"
Kaylee was curious. "So how did you find out?"
He shrugged, suddenly feeling a mite uncomfortable and trying to hide it. "Didn't know where to go. 'Ad no coin to speak of so I called the Guild. Seein' as how Cyan's was workin' for them, thought they'd know what to do. They did everythin', took the body an' arranged the funeral an' such. Even made me welcome." Badger tugged at the lapels of his jacket. "New clothes, hot meal an' so on..."
Shepherd Book was watching Badger closely. "That was very Christian of you to come and find Captain Reynolds."
Badger could feel sweat seeping through his collar. Was it hot in here? "Yeah well, I owed 'im. Didn't mean to get 'im injured, thought he had betrayed me, see?"
"So this is your way of gettin' back in the Captain's good graces?" Said Simon.
"*Shenme*? He ain't got no good graces, just doin' me duty. If I'd known it would be so much bloody trouble I wouldn't have bothered."
"Why did you?"
Badger glared at Simon, he was really growing to dislike the man something powerful. "Me an' Cyan might never 'ave been close but she was my mother. In her own way she tried to protect me an' I appreciate that. Now she's gone an' wants to make amends, what's wrong with that?"
River and Natalie stared at Badger from opposite sides of the room but neither spoke. Badger wanted off of Serenity but the will was not the reason he had come looking for Malcolm Reynolds, it was his way back into face to face dialogue with him. Badger knew he had messed up and now Serenity was the only ship still operating that he could call on to help get his business back on track, not that he intended to tell the Captain that. Cyan had left him a goodly pile but most of it was in property and bonds, the cashy money splashed out on his shiny new ship and a little stashed away - just in case.
Lifting his eyes from the documents before him, the Captain was about to ask Badger a question when the proximity alarm sounded. Wash's voice sounded strained over the com.
"Mal, better get up here! There's an Alliance ship headin' straight for us."
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*shenme* = what *dong ma* = understand? *deng* = wait *diyu* = hell
*wei* = hey! *wo bu xihuan* = I don't like it *wo dong* = I understand
*shenjingbing* = crazy *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *goushi* = crap
*bi zui* = be quiet/shut up *wo zhidao* = I know *duibuqi* = sorry
*ni bu dong* = you don't understand *zhende* = true *zhenzheng* = genuine
*shenme shihou* = when *wang en fuyi* = ungrateful *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know
Wednesday, June 3, 2009 6:44 AM
Wednesday, June 3, 2009 2:01 PM
Friday, June 5, 2009 4:17 AM
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