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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
Badger has a job for Simon.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 801 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
When Simon felt strong hands grab him from behind and had a bag pulled down over his head, the following thoughts flashed through his mind: First he thought the Alliance had found him, but after further consideration he concluded that this wasn't really their typical method of arrest. His next thought was about backwater inbreds in need of a doctor, and then he remembered that he was on Persephone and not on some God-forsaken rock out on the Rim. In short, by the time his kidnappers had thrown him into some kind of vehicle and started driving, he'd already shuffled through all the worst-case scenarios in his head and discarded them all.
Not that he wasn't still worried. Whoever these people were, he very much doubted that they were throwing him surprise party. But he wasn't panicking and he managed to stay calm during the drive. At one point he tried asking where they were going, but it only earned him a fist to his solar plexus and after that he kept his mouth shut until the vehicle stopped and he was dragged out of it and into a building. He still couldn't see anything, but he sharpened the rest of his senses and realized that the room they eventually ended up in was quite small. It smelled of fish and old sweat. Several people were shuffling about around him and he heard the sound of a fan from the ceiling.
He wasn't really that surprised to see Badger when the bag was pulled off his head; the man had been a most plausible candidate on his list of possible offenders. He was sitting behind a desk, peeling an apple (it seemed he always had apples around; Simon had never seen him without one – but then again he'd only seen Badger twice before), with a big grin across his face that showed off all his bad teeth.
"You," Simon acknowledged him.
"Welcome," Badger replied. "Please, have a seat." He waved his hand towards a low chair in the middle of the room, in front of the desk.
Simon didn't move. "Why am I here?" he asked.
"Ah, you're not one for small talk, eh?" Badger kept smiling. "More of a straight-down-to-business kinda guy?"
Simon didn't answer, and Badger's smile suddenly disappeared and he leaned over the table, stabbing him with eyes. "Well, so am I. And I've brought you 'ere 'cause I've got a job for you."
"Then you're negotiating with the wrong person. I don't speak for the crew. Captain Reynolds does."
Badger's face hardened even more. "The captain can go to hell," he snarled, but then seemed to soften up again just as quick. "No, you misunderstand me," he smirked. "I said, I've got a job for you." He pointed a finger at Simon to underline the last word.
"For me?" Simon fought to stay calm, but for the very first time since he'd stepped into the room he was starting to feel more than a little worried. He'd always known it was just a matter of time before one of Mal's shady contacts would figure out who he really was, and he's money had been on Badger to be that man. "What can you possibly want from me?"
"Well, I 'appen to be in need of a doctor."
Simon just stared at him, feeling his neck and the palms of his hands moisten. He tried to think of River and find comfort by the fact that she was safe aboard Serenity. Or at least he thought she was…
"Wha'?" Badger raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. "You didn't know I knew you was a doctor? Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout the medic Cap'n Reynolds got workin' for 'im."
Well, so the crook knew his profession. That didn't necessarily mean that he knew his identity. Simon decided to play along. "Why?"
"Why do you need a doctor? Are you sick?"
Badger grinned again. "No, not me. One of my men."
"One of your men is sick?"
"More like dead."
Simon arched a brow, not really feigning the surprise anymore. "Well, then don't you think he's a little beyond my help?"
Badger chuckled. "Didn't bring you 'ere to cure 'im. I brought you 'ere to find out what killed 'im." His face turned grave again and Simon flinched a little. Except for the captain, he'd never seen anyone's mood swing so fast. "See, this mornin' he's goin' on and on about his tummy achin'," Badger continued. He whistled and snapped his fingers. "Next thing I know, he's a stiff on the floor."
For the first time Simon took his eyes off him and gazed around the room. Badger's men were lined up against the walls. They looked well relaxed, smoking cigars and exchanging a few whispered words with each other, but there was no doubt in Simon's mind that they were paying attention, ready to jump at the first sign of trouble.
He turned back to face their boss. "So you snatched me from the street, kidnapped me, to do an autopsy on your man?"
"Couldn't you just have asked?"
"Would you 'ave come if I had?"
Simon bit his lip for a moment. "Probably not."
Badger threw his arms up. "Precisely."
Simon sighed. "Alright, where are you keeping the body?"
He was taken to another room at the other end of the building, if one could even call it that. Most of Badger's headquarters was made up of nothing but old cargo containers and tarp, a series of makeshift tents connected by narrow hallways. Badger was leading the way while a couple of his mean-looking gunslingers were flanking them. Simon could sense how they kept glaring at his neck and shivered a little.
The room they stepped into was dark and dusty; the only source of light was the natural daylight seeping in through an opening in the roof. The body was laid out on a table and Simon eyed it for a moment before glancing up at the ceiling. "I'll need more light."
"Why?" Badger asked.
"So I can see where I'm cutting." Simon was quickly losing his patience now, but at least that meant some of the fear had left him.
"Why, he's dead, in't he?"
"Look, you want me to this job thorough or not?"
"Hey, no need to get testy." Badger whistled and waved for a couple of his men. "You, get him a lamp or somethin'."
A glance thrown at a workbench situated against the wall told Simon that except for the obvious lack of light, Badger had made sure he was well equipped. Scalpels, retractors and bone saws were laid out, ready to be used, as well as a microscope and several vials of various chemicals.
Simon put on an apron and a pair of gloves before he stepped up the body for a closer look. It was a big, muscular and dark-skinned man with his black hair braided into cornrows. His eyes were still open, staring blankly upwards, and the first thing Simon did was covering his face with a towel. Dead bodies didn't bother him, but the idea of looking someone in the eye while cutting on them, dead or alive, was still a disturbing one.
Badger's men reappeared with a couple of portable lamps, and Simon – now feeling more in his element – ordered them to hold them in place for him while he worked. Picking up a scalpel, he threw one last look at Badger, unsure whether the man was planning to stay in the room during the procedure or not. It turned out to be neither, or a little of both, because he pushed his hat back and strolled out through the door, but swung by now and then to check on the progress later. And every time he left he reminded the guards that Simon was to be shot if he tried to 'do anything funny', as he put it.
Simon tried to ignore him and concentrated on his work. The dead guy had complained about stomachache so he started there, cutting it open and going through the contents of it. He didn't find much of interest.
He glanced up at the men holding the lamps. They seemed totally unaffected by the blood and the gore, and Simon felt another shiver down his back. Even Jayne would make a face when seeing someone's insides, but these guys didn't even flinch and they knew the man he was working on.
In the end it was a blood sample that provided him with the first clue. "Your man was poisoned," he calmly told Badger when the man came back for another update.
This peaked his interest and he stepped closer. "Yeah?"
Simon flipped the microscope's view screen towards him, even though he was quite sure that the pictures and diagrams wouldn't make much sense to the little criminal. "I found traces of Betarin B in his blood. It is lab-created and a quite popular choice among poisoners because of its many… benefits."
"What kind of benefits?"
"Well, depending on the amount, it will take up to twelve hours from the time of ingestion until it starts working. By the time the first symptoms start to appear – severe abdominal pain followed by respiratory problems – it will be too late. The poison's already been completely absorbed by your body and spread throughout your entire system. You'll be dead within ten minutes."
Badger just studied him for a moment, then another grin spread across his face. "Brilliant."
"Brilliant?" Simon repeated, a little confounded.
"Yeah. In twelve hours the killer will be long gone. Brilliant."
"Whoever did this murdered your employee!" Even though Simon knew that Badger's lack of sympathy shouldn't really shock him, it still did.
Badger's face turned grave once again and he glanced at the body. "Yeah, they did. Which probably mean they tried to kill me."
"Someone wants you dead? How shocking." Simon coated his voice heavily with sarcasm.
Badger's face snapped back at him. "I want you to find out who."
"I'm hardly a murder investigator!"
"Well, you are now." Badger's eyes narrowed and he stuck his face closer to Simon's. "In case you 'aven't noticed, you're at my mercy 'ere, so you'll be what I want you to be, dong ma?"
Simon felt a strange mix of anger, frustration and fear grip his body, but he managed to quell it and straightened his back. "And then you'll let me go?"
Badger just glared at him. "You solve this case and prove yourself useful, I'll consider keeping you alive. How's that?"
Simon knew he had no other choice than to agree to those terms and sighed heavily, glancing back at the body. "Okay. Judging by the contents of the stomach," he pointed to the brownish liquid floating in a basin, "your man hasn't eaten since sometime yesterday evening. So I would guess he was poisoned during that last meal. Any idea what that could have consisted of?"
"No, I've been away on business. Just came back this mornin'."
Simon looked to the other men in the room. "What about you?"
One of them, the one still holding the lamp, shrugged. "He ate with us. Nobody else is dead, though."
Simon sighed. "Must have been something else then. What was his last job?"
Badger put his hands in his pockets and stood back on his heels. "I guess he was haulin' crates with the others. That's wha' I paid 'im for. All brawn but no brains, you know the type."
Did he ever. "Man-ape," he mumbled.
"Nothing. What crates?"
"Well, I had a shipment leavin' for Greenleaf yesterday."
"A shipment of what?"
"Protein bars. Good quali'y, at a good price." Badger grinned.
"A good price for you, I'm sure," Simon mumbled.
Badger's smile disappeared. "You think I shipped out poisoned protein bars?"
It was Simon's turn to shrug. "Why don't you show me where you had those crates stored."
Five minutes later they were standing in the now empty storage room. Like most other rooms in Badger's 'building' there were no artificial lights there; the only thing piercing the dark was the rays of sunlight seeping through the cracks in the walls. Simon walked around in silence, his attention directed at the floor, while Badger followed in his footsteps, sometimes getting up on his toes to try and peer over his shoulder. "Whatchu lookin' for?" he asked.
"Anything out of the ordinary."
Just then Simon caught sight of what he'd half expected to find. "Like dead rodents," he said and poked the dead rat on the floor with his foot. He gestured for one of Badger's men, who had stayed by the door, to come and pick it up. "Take this back to the lab."
Badger eyed it. "You think it was poisoned too?"
"Wouldn't surprise me. I think your man helped himself to some of your cargo."
Badger grimaced. "It's hard to find honest help these days."
It didn't take long to confirm Simon's theory. "Yes," he said as he, a short while later back inside the makeshift lab, was peering at a blood sample taken from the rat through the microscope, "the protein bars are most likely the source."
"That's…. unfortunate," Badger muttered.
Simon didn't even look up. "You should warn your people on Greenleaf."
"Of course," Badger replied, but he didn't sound convincing.
Simon straightened, his face contracted in a frown of concentration. "But why is it poisoned?" he thought out loud. "If it was headed for Greenleaf it can't have been meant for you." He turned to face the smaller man. "Who are you shipping it for?"
Badger smiled that unpleasant smile of his. "My clients trust me to be discreet, Doctor. Breaking that oath of confidence is bad for business."
"Customers dropping dead is also bad for business," Simon retorted.
Badger snorted. "Good point." He relented. "It's a gentleman by the name of Hanson. Lives on Avalon. He wants to sell his protein bars off-world, but he's not too keen on payin' the export taxes that comes with it. That's where I step in." He grinned. "Mutual beneficial for the both o' us."
"On Avalon, you say?" Simon bit his lip and thought hard for a moment before looking Badger straight in the eye. "You must give me access to the Cortex. I need to send a wave."
Badger chuckled. "To your cap'n, perhaps? To tell 'im where you are? I don't think so."
Simon didn't take his eyes off him. How stupid did the man really think he was? "No," he said. "But all the clues we've found so far are leading us straight to Avalon. We could use a contact there."
Sunday, January 1, 2012 4:09 AM
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