BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

MAL4PREZ

Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Sunday, March 16, 2014

Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”      “Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.      “Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2901    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Title: Back Stories III, Chapter 25 Author: mal4prez Summary: Zoë, Wash, and Inara wage war against the soft underbelly of the Alliance.

Back Stories Book 3 Chapter 25.

Disclaimer: It belongs to Joss and all those business people. I'm just playing.

Many thanks to desertgirl for the beta read. And many more thanks to the readers who have left reviews or sent me notes encouraging me to get going with the updates, even after years have passed. Yeah, sorry about that!

Really I owe 1000 sorry’s for the delay. I hope you know how it is. I’m not going to attempt any guess as to when the next chapter will be done. As always, I’ll try my best, which may not be very good… but I will try!

Links: The Fish Job, Easy Tickets, BS Book I, BS Book II, BS Book III, Chapter 1. Timing, pairings, and canon blurbs are in my FFF blog.

Previous chapter | Next chapter


For lack of better options, the remaining crew of Serenity—a mere three people—followed the advice of the Lieutenant who’d taken Mal. Armed with nothing but a sheaf of papers covered in incomprehensibly tiny fonts of legalese, the intrepid trio set out to do battle with the mighty bureaucratic forces of the Alliance.

They set the Firefly down at a landing pad far outside the Oenean capitol city, where fees were cheap and questions few. Business hours in the capitol city were already well under way, so little time was allowed for sleep or detailed planning. Wash flew a shuttle while Zoë and Inara paced behind him and debated their options. They didn’t have many; they’d just have to look for openings as the battle unfolded.

The first mind-numbing squirmish took place at a blocky administrative building near the city’s center. Several hours passed in a failed attempt to find someone who could read, understand, and explain the papers Lieutenant Brady had left in Inara’s hands. A series of clerks and aides paged through the packet, squinted at signatures, looked up legal codes, then scratched their heads and sent the three visitors on to some different official higher and deeper in the building.

Afternoon was fast becoming evening before something like an advance was made. Wash managed to catch the Second Assistant to the Special Counsel: Corporate Division with five free minutes. After the usual perusal and hand-waving, this man did something novel; he made a call. Whoever he spoke to didn’t provide concrete answers but did suggest that inquiry be directed to certain officials at the Alliance base on the far side of the city. Wash was given a note that might, the Second Assistant explained, get them through the first layer of base security and into the proper office on the base. But, the man added, they shouldn’t get their hopes up. Things were uncertain these days. He didn’t elaborate further.

Given the late hour, the Firefly crew had nothing to do but shuttle themselves back to their ship, cobble together a plan of sorts for the following day, then collapse in their bunks.

They hoped to improve their chances by splitting up and “attacking” the Alliance base on two separate fronts. Wash and Zoë would continue the approach of the first day: get in line to talk to whichever bureaucrat was available and hope for the best. Two hours before dawn, the Washburns took a shuttle directly to the Alliance base to get a favorable spot in the line of supplicants which (a chatty clerk had explained to Inara the previous day) had lately been forming every morning at the base’s main entrance.

Inara would attack along a higher road, so to speak. This required a shopping trip, as she didn’t have the necessary items for outfitting herself in the most intimidating Companion style. Visits to several local businesses were in order, and since shops weren’t likely to have lines forming in the pre-dawn gloom, she was allowed a few more hours of sleep.

She set out on her errands just after the sun rose, looking for toiletries, accessories, perhaps a new dress, and certainly a saloon. Instead, she found an exploding powder keg.

The capitol city of Oeneus had become a sort of incendiary device. The calm of the previous afternoon had been merely a temporary lull as a spark ate up the last few inches of a fuse, and now the city was going up in a hot orange flash. Inara saw it from above. The streets were flooding with people, windows were breaking, vehicles were overturning, and plumes of oily black smoke were billowing from freshly starting fires to spoil the fresh blue of the morning sky.

From her comfortably removed vantage point, Inara saw that this spark was not going to burn itself out quickly. She was gazing down at the initial flare of a match held to a gigantic pile of dry kindling. A response was coming together as bulky figures in uniforms and riot gear gathered at the outer edges of the mob, but the rioters did not back down. They surged in a new direction.

Inara didn’t have time to consider the effects of this volatile situation on her plans, because the shuttle’s comm suddenly lit up. An official voice demanded that she go right back where she’d come from. This forced her to make a split-second decision. Her somewhat crumpled clothes, those she’d used some time ago in an attempt to charm a small-time crime lord on Persephone, would have to do, as would her minimal makeup and sub-par arrangement of hair.

In her haughtiest tone, she informed the official on the comm that she was a Registered Companion. She started to improvise a demand that she be allowed to approach the base, but the traffic controller interrupted to order her to do exactly what she wanted: set down in an open landing bay just outside the secure section of the base. Apparently (she surmised from the instructions as well as the man’s slightly panicked tone) the situation on this world was so chaotic that a person of her importance needed to be sheltered as quickly as possible.

To Inara’s relief, her sub-standard appearance and claim to be an official Companion weren’t questioned by the man who met her outside the shuttle and guided her past a long line at the gate. A call to any Companion House in the Core would have led to an awkward conversation, since her status as an active Companion had been suspended when she left Sihnon in a hurry. But the check wasn’t deemed necessary. Her identity was instantly confirmed by her guide who, as he told her eagerly, had admired her from afar during her days as a rising Companion on Sihnon.

“Who’d have imagined!” said the short, red-faced, and somewhat rotund uniformed man. He was admiring an image on his uTex, a capture he’d just taken of himself standing arm and arm with Inara. “Who’d have thought that I’d have to come clear out here to the corner of Empty and Void to meet you! In the middle of all this madness? I can’t tell you how thrilled I am! What are you doing out here? Are you staying long? Have you got a full schedule? I bet you do. There must be a long a mile long to spend five minutes with you! Even with all this mess going on. Did I tell you how thrilled I am?”

.-.-.-.

“Where have you been, Trevor?” Doctor Ellen Rowlee said into her uTex in a scolding voice. Instead of letting her friend answer, she immediately continued. “I’ve been trying to reach you for two days! Ever since I got a lecture from a twenty-something year old body-building mercenary with a superhero complex. Oh, he’s a fine boy in his way, but he really believes he’s saving our world, no matter whether we agree it or not. It perplexes me how such a—”

She was cut off by a response, but the words were buried in an incomprehensible blur of noisy static. All she could make out of Trevor Marone’s voice was a frustrated tone.

“What was that?” she replied, belatedly realizing that she was nearly yelling. Fortunately, she was in an isolated corner of the doctor’s lounge. There was no one around to be disturbed by her.

The comm carried a long moment’s booming chaos as a response, then the random violent noises faded slightly and Trevor’s words could be somewhat understood.

… a med station set up near the…

… flushed from the campus…

…not sure where the Council members…

“Trevor!” she yelled into her uTex. “Trevor, what is happening out there? I can barely hear you! Are you all right?”

.-.-.-.

Inara’s enthusiastic fan led her into the sprawling building with few delays. She soon encountered Zoë and Wash sitting in a small waiting area just outside a security checkpoint, and she tried to bring her friends to the attention of her guide (whose name had escaped her, as it had been buried in a stream of gushing words when they met and he wasn’t allowing her a chance to ask). She attempted to explain that her two friends were pursuing the same matter that interested her, but the man would have none of it.

“I am sorry, Miss Serra—gol-ly, I can’t believe I’m really talking to you!—I’m so sorry, but you saw what’s happening out there. Your other business will have to wait. Colonel Davis needs to talk to you before we can get to anything else. I notified him as soon as I heard you were landing, and he’ll be waiting for us. He’s a busy man, and there’s not a moment to spare.”

“My other business? I don’t understand. There’s only one matter—”

“Here we go,” he interrupted, a hand cupping her elbow to guide her through the opening security gate. The clearance had taken only a few seconds, for her anyway. Inara glanced an apology over her shoulder toward the still-waiting Washburns, then she had to hustle to keep up as her guide led her down corridors that grew increasingly empty and quiet. The man urged her forward with an arm hovering just behind her waist. He directed the conversation as well, bluntly side-stepping her attempts to ask about her missing captain. Her guide seemed incapable of tolerating any voice but his own filling the air, even though he claimed to be eager for more of her company.

“I hate to have to pass you off so soon. If you’d come yesterday the Colonel would have been out of town still, and I’d have you all to myself. Sad for me, but lucky for him that he just happened to be here this morning. He’s been out of the city on business, and just came back for a brief visit this morning to report to the Chancellor. Did you know that Chancellor Westfield is visiting Oeneus?”

“No, I—”

“So many important people here at once! It must be the trouble that draws the big moths, if you get my meaning. First Colonel Evan Davis and all his Tán Hé, then the Chancellor, and now Miss Inara Serra. I didn’t get to ask: are you staying long?”

Actually, I just didn’t get a chance to answer, Inara thought. “That depends,” she replied aloud. “I’m only here to find—”

“That’s a shame, but probably wise that you go on your way as fast as you can. It’s not a good time to visit Oeneus, as I’m sure you’ve seen. Ah! Here we are. Colonel Davis should be in his office, right through here… And there he is!”

The nameless guide, suddenly out of words, deposited Inara just inside a roomy but gloomy office, pivoted smartly, and pulled the door shut behind him. She found herself scrambling to shift her attention to a figure reclining, ankle on knee, behind a large, empty desk.

.-.-.-.

Ellen held the transmitter to her ear, trying to make sense of what she heard. The mess of garbled sounds cut off suddenly, as if a door had been slammed on a high-volume soundtrack.

“I’m sorry,” Trevor Marone said, his words finally discernable. He was short of breath. “Just give me another moment.” A sequence of strangely clear sounds followed, during which Ellen pictured her old friend ponderously crossing a room, hitching up the legs of his crinkled linen trousers, and, with a long exhale, settling onto whatever lounge, sofa, or concrete block he’d managed to find as a place of relative quiet.

“I should get to the point,” he finally said, breath settled and voice almost back to normal, “since we might lose this connection. They’ve been cutting out the signal.”

They?

“Just stay on the base, Ellen. Don’t come out here to the city. It’s not safe.”

.-.-.-.

Shades blocked out the window behind the man, leaving only a small, yellow desk lamp to push back the shadows. Inara blinked as her eyes adjusted, and was somewhat surprised to find that the Colonel wasn’t in uniform. He was outfitted in black trousers and a thick black top, both garments covered in gritty yellow dust. He had the build of a fit young man, but his advanced age showed in his graying hair and the hard lines around his eyes.

“Colonel Davis, I believe,” Inara said, stepping forward and extending a hand.

The Colonel half stood and reached across the wide desk for a brief, perfunctory handshake. “Retired,” he said shortly before moving on to the point. “Please, have a seat. We have a lot to talk about.”

Inara took the hard wooden chair he indicated, and folded her hands neatly in her lap. “This is rather unexpected,” she said, “but maybe fortuitous. I came to the base in search of…”

“I’m sorry,” Davis interrupted, “but this is no time for pleasantries. I’m sure you saw that there’s a lot happening in the city this morning.” His eyes were fixed on her intently and his words, though distinctly pronounced, were rushed. This man was in a hurry.

“I did notice,” Inara replied. “But that isn’t what I—”

“I hope you understand that our situation is volatile, and calls for unusual measures.”

Right, she thought to herself, here’s another who wants to do all the talking. “Such as?” she prompted.

“We were not aware of the presence of a Registered Companion on Oeneus. We were wondering what brought you here, and what you’ve been doing.”

Inara felt her spine stiffen. This was not a discussion she wanted to have with an Alliance military man, retired or not. She was also quite curious as to who exactly he meant by “we.”

She smiled warmly. “Business. You must know that it isn’t unusual for a Companion to have clients on several worlds, even remote ones, and we visit—”

“Yes, but what I need to know is: where exactly have you been? What have you been doing?”

Where to start? she didn’t say. How do I tell it without incriminating myself and my friends? And will I be able to speak to anyone on this base without being interrupted?

“I have never found it necessary to report my activities to anyone but my superiors in the Guild,” she replied aloud.

“As I said, this is an unusual situation.”

“You must understand that we make it a policy to protect the privacy of our clients. I keep no log of my doings.”

The Colonel’s displeasure showed as a tightness around his mouth. He leaned forward and rested his forearms on the desk, his hands nearly fisted. Inara became uncomfortably aware of the muscularity of his arms. She wasn’t sure if this was just his regular mannerism, or if he was being intentionally threatening.

“I’ll be specific,” he said. “How and when did you arrive on Oeneus?”

“I took a ferry from New Melbourne.”

“A ferry? Doesn’t a Companion have private means of travel?”

“The ferry was a pleasure trip, and was quite lovely, actually.” Other than the near-death-at-the-hands-of-an-Alliance-employed-madman experience. “My own ship and crew travelled separately.”

“They met you here in the city?”

Her mouth fell open, but words failed her. No, they helped me escape the ferry in deep space after we killed said Alliance agent and hijacked the vessel, but thank you for asking.

The Colonel’s eyes bored into her until she concocted an acceptable response. “Well… they picked me up from the ferry, and I’ve been with them since.”

“In this city?”

Again, her reply was delayed by unwelcome memories. She hadn’t had time to think about the members of her crew that she’d abandoned on the far side of this world, and she couldn’t allow herself to ponder them now. “For the most part,” she eventually said, somehow maintaining a weak smile.

“Exactly where did you go?”

The Colonel leaned further forward, studying her closely, and suddenly Inara felt like a bug pinned down. This man seemed to see right through her, to note her every hesitation and misdirection. A flat–out lie would never pass his inspection, but she had to answer him.

.-.-.-.

Ellen raised a hand to her forehead and gazed out the window of the doctor’s lounge, though it allowed her no view of the streets outside the base, just a glimpse of a small enclosed garden. “Oh, Trevor. Is it that bad?”

Despite the circumstances, her friend’s voice maintained a note of ironic humor. “Let’s just say… it’s bad.”

“I’m… I don’t…”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”

“I can give you some good news,” she started before doubt took her. “Oh my, it seems so minor, compared to….”

“Good news is always welcome.”

“Well, then: the last subject came in.”

“The captain?”

“Yes. It’s been touch and go. I was on my way to check on him when you waved.”

When Marone spoke, his voice was soft. “Use care, Ellen. This one’s important.”

She nodded into the phone. “I know what needs to be done, Trevor. I will do my best.”

She heard a smile in his tone. “You always do.”

.-.-.-.

Inara straightened her skirt and took a moment to tuck her hair behind her ear while she thought. She had to give Colonel Davis an explanation for her discomfort, and also very much wanted to distract his attention from the topic on hand.

She took in a deep breath and dropped her eyes. “Colonel Davis, I must admit, I am not accustomed to being interrogated about my activities. As I said, I value the privacy of my clients and must insist on complete confidentiality about their… tastes… as far as entertainment.” She paused and shifted her body slightly in her seat, giving the Colonel a moment to ponder the entertainments that a Companion might provide to men of wealth and taste. “What happens between myself and my clients… well, I hope you understand that I must keep such things private.”

She raised her gaze, glancing through her lashes to see if her seductiveness was having the desired effect. The Colonel sat frozen, studying her, for so long that she was tempted to sink back into her chair, all pretense of sex-kitten abandoned.

When he finally spoke, his words caught her completely by surprise.

“I remember you,” he said. At her sharp look, he continued, “No, we’ve never met, but I remember what happened to you. As the headlines on Sihnon told it, anyway.”

With some effort, Inara held her smile in place. “I’d prefer not to dwell on the matter, if you don’t mind.”

“You must have been bitter. Apparently, it was enough to convince you to leave the Core, to come out here. It appears that you joined up with people who are not exactly fans of the Alliance. All this can make one wonder.”

He was still studying her closely. If he meant to trip her up with his insights, the effect of this sudden change of subject was rather the opposite. She was beginning to see how to approach him.

“You need have no suspicion of me, Colonel Davis, “ she said evenly. “The Guild supported my decisions, no matter which path I needed to follow as I recovered. I have nothing but gratitude and love for my sisters, and for the government of the worlds that maintain and support our organization.”

“You remain a patriot.” He said it like a statement, but it was a question.

Inara held his gaze and didn’t hesitate. “Always.”

His jaw clenched and voice hardened. “In that case, Miss Serra, please be aware that I am acting in the interests of the Alliance as well as this world. It’s on the edge of a war. You have to choose a side: will you stand with order and right, or with chaos and destruction?”

Inara understood him completely now, and knew what to do. She softened her posture and sat back, trying to picture herself as a reed bending in the gale force wind of his scrutiny. There was only one way to please such a man as this: she had to give in, and she had to do it in a way that appealed to his dogmatic brand of patriotism.

“Colonel, I can’t claim to understand what is happening here, but the danger of the situation is obvious. As a contributing and grateful citizen of the Allied planets, I want to support you in any way I can.” She leaned toward him, reaching a hand halfway across the desk as a display of her willingness and sincerity. “I feel certain that the mundane pleasures of my clients can’t be part of the…. the insanity taking place in the streets. After all, the clients of a Companion live in their own sphere, one far separated from the commoners on a world such as this. But if there seems to be any tie between my activities and these troubles, certainly the Alliance comes first. Please just be direct about your concerns and I’ll do everything I can to help you. Everything.”

She took it as a good sign that he’d let her string so many words together.

“That is refreshing to hear,” he said after a moment. He tipped his head to the side and sighed. “You’ll have to forgive me, Miss Serra. I’ve been out here so long, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to deal with a proper citizen of the Alliance.”

She felt her smile warm again. “Please, give me the opportunity to remind you. What can I do to help?”

He looked aside, silent while he collected his words. This allowed Inara a moment of relief, free of his blistering stare.

“Miss Serra, as you protect your clients, I protect mine. You clearly understand the need to control the flow of information when it is in your clients’ interests. The client I am serving at the moment is the government of the Allied Planets, and nothing less than the security of the Alliance is at stake. My client is under attack by unprincipled rebels, and certain events have occurred on this world that our enemies will try to exploit. I must keep a tight rein on the information that reaches the Core planets, so that support for our cause is not undermined. A Companion, especially one who achieved a certain amount of fame at one time, could easily capture the attention of the media in the Core. It is my job to know and be prepared for the story you will tell.”

Inara considered this for a moment before she responded, “Colonel, my time in the limelight was short and unpleasant, hardly worth calling ‘fame.’ I have no desire to return to that, and I have no interest in telling tales about my journeys.”

“Still, I have to know exactly what you have witnessed during your time here.”

She cleared her throat. Let’s see: aside from the afore not-mentioned murder of an Alliance agent and hijack of a ferry, there was the bloody destruction of an entire town by a band of inhuman cannibals and the disappearance of several of my friends, who may right now be dead or buried alive in a mine or possibly captured and tortured to the point of becoming cannibals themselves. Then there was the forcible seizure of the man I love, who is insane, and is most likely imprisoned on this very base, in the place and with the people who are the root of his insanity.

Clearly, only a lie would serve. She had to throw herself into it whole-heartedly and hope for the best.

She leveled her gaze at him. “I ‘witnessed’ very little, Colonel. I have somehow stayed oblivious to the events that you say are the beginnings of a war. I was rather…” She tipped her head to the side and twisted her hips and ribs just slightly against each other, subtly turning her body into a metaphor for a stretching cat. “…busy.”

“With Companion business?” he asked with a dismissive flick of his eyes. He was insultingly unimpressed by her sultriness, but—more importantly—he seemed unaware of her lies.

“Indeed,” she purred.

“You’ve heard nothing about attacks outside the city?”

“I have not been paying attention to the media. Is more happening than what I saw this morning?”

His gaze settled on her again, and though she had actually told him nothing, his manner shifted. His stare was neither dismissive nor intense; in fact, it hardly seemed to land on her. He was distracted, the main burn of his focus turned inward.

“I’m sorry that I have to share this with a woman of your status and delicate nature,” he said, “but it is necessary.” He took in a deep breath and spoke with an impersonal, military-official tone of voice. “In any case, it can’t be long before it’s publicly known, at least to anyone on this world. There was a terrible attack on a small town on the far side of the planet, something of a tourist attraction. Though we have few visitors from the Core these days, it’s possible that some Core citizens were there. It’s a great concern to us.”

Inara couldn’t reply. She immediately knew what he meant, since she’d been in the center of this very attack. The memories of it were fresh, no matter how she tried to keep them out of her mind’s view.

“In fact,” he went on, “I believe the attack happened for that specific reason—to do damage beyond the loss of a remote Border world town of a few hundred settlers. The attackers are desperate to bring attention to themselves. They destroyed that town, killed every single person in it, just hoping to perpetuate a headline-grabbing myth.”

A lump formed in Inara’s throat, and she could barely choke out her words. “Every single person? You know that?”

“It stuns me, that people will resort to such a thing. But these rebels are outlaws with no morals, no beliefs, no rules. All they have is hate for the order that the Alliance brings, and there is no limit to how far they will take their fight. They have no real strength, so they use lies and terror to try to win control of this world.”

The full meaning of the Colonel’s words slowly worked their way into her mind, making disbelief overcame grief.

“You’re telling me that regular people… that rebels carried out this attack? Do you mean the same rebels who are demonstrating in this city?”

The Colonel was so embroiled in constructing his fable that he misinterpreted her response to it. “Yes, the same ones, but you don’t need to be afraid. They won’t be slaughtering defenseless citizens here. They’ll meet an entirely different response in this city. You’ll be protected.” His jaw clenched. “But here’s where I need your help, Miss Serra. I believe that these terrorists will try to pass that bloody attack off as something else.”

The boldness of this man’s lie overwhelmed her. I was there! She wanted to shout. They were no rebels! They were madman, monsters, and they hunted blood, not political revolution!

“Why would they do that?” she managed to ask.

“As I explained: they are weak. Their only hope is to win backing from traitorous elements of the Core, the dregs of the Independents. To do this, they need attention. They need Oeneus in as many headlines as possible, and they need those headlines to paint the native population of Oeneus, both rebels and non-rebels, as victims in need of support. This would bring this pathetic world into the view of every eye in the Core. If the Oenean terrorists can accomplish this, if they can have their lies accepted by enough weak minds, they may start a second war of Independence. I believe that is what they are hoping to do.”

“Bù găn xiāng xìn,” Inara whispered, and added silently, What a story you’ve invented.

“Dí què, ” he replied, then he glanced at his watch. “I don’t have any more time. I was just about to leave the base when I heard you were here. I delayed my departure so I could talk to you.” He suddenly stood up and stepped around the desk to lean over her, his intense gaze again boring into her eyes. “Miss Serra, I hope you realize what an important role you now play. You must make sure that the truth is told, not some fairy tale about boogie men.”

“Boogie men?”

“The lie they’ll invent. You have to counter it; you have to tell the truth. I’m sure you will come through, out of love for the Alliance and the way of life that has been made possible for you and countless others. You owe your government no less.”

He held out a hand. Numbly, Inara shook it, but she called after him before he could get to the office door and open it. “Colonel, just one more thing, please.”

He paused with his hand on the door.

“Are you absolutely certain that there were no survivors?” she asked.

He looked back, and for a moment Inara saw a shadow of horror in this cold man’s eyes, a feeling that was all too familiar to her. “I was there. I saw it myself,” he said. “I saw what they did. They left no one in that town alive.”

Colonel Evan Davis open the door and Inara’s cheerful guide, fully loquacious again, stepped in to gather her up and lead her away.

.-.-.-.

“So, if you didn’t hear anything about Mal,” Wash asked in a stealthy voice, “what in the hell were you talking to this Colonel about all this time?”

“I’d rather not discuss it,” Inara replied just as softly. “Not yet. Not here.”

“You’ve got me all kinds of curious,” Zoë said.

“But not in a fun way,” Wash added. “It can’t have been good. You don’t look so hot.”

Inara was aware that the couple had been studying her since she joined them, and she could easily guess why. She was barely able to keep her emotions in check as she tried to sort out her encounter with the retired Colonel. Her cheeks felt icy, and she had to clench her hands together to hide their weakness.

But Inara had had enough of close scrutiny for the day. “Could we please just focus on finding Mal?” she asked pointedly.

“Of course,” Zoë replied, and to Inara’s relief the stares went elsewhere. The three sat quietly for a few long, painful minutes, and Inara was finally able to collect herself enough to take in her surroundings. She wasn’t even sure how she’d come here; she’d not taken in a single word her guide had said while he lead her through the maze-like halls. Now she saw that the office they were waiting to enter must belong to a minor official, judging by the low quality of the décor. She’d come several steps down the bureaucratic ladder.

“At least they ain’t shutting us down completely,” Zoë eventually said.

“Aren’t they?” Inara asked.

“The outer doors would have slammed shut on our back-ends long ago if they really had nothing to say to us,” Zoë replied. “I think they’re just stalling. Planning, maybe.”

“The last woman we talked to definitely knew something,” Wash added. “She recognized those papers, even if she wouldn’t explain what they meant. We’ve found the right people, but they don’t know how to deal with us.”

Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.

The two woman stared at him.

“What? Am I the only one thinking this? You do realize where we are, right?”

“Yes, an Alliance base,” Inara answered. “They have rules, protocols…”

“Didn’t do Mal much good when he was here last time. Hey, I’ve been trying to hope for the best, but the longer they keep us waiting, the more I worry.”

“Honey, let’s keep a level head,” Zoë suggested pointedly, but Wash was just getting started.

“Take a look at where things stand,” he continued. “These people have no reason to help us, and plenty of reason to be as un-helpful as possible. The last time we were here we took Mal without asking. The Alliance doesn’t take kindly to that kind of thing. Not to mention everything else that’s been happening. You know, the ferry ride. Mal’s friend Will. The… the little mountain town…”

Zoë turned to Inara. “Did the Colonel ask you about any of that?”

“He was quite interested in where I’ve been, though in the end I think he was more interested in getting me to tell lies for him.”

“What kind of lies?”

“Zoë, please. Not here. Let’s just say that the Colonel has bigger things to worry about today than the crew of one small Firefly.”

“Such as?” Zoë asked.

Inara realized that, since the Washburns had come to the base so early, they had no idea of what was happening on the streets of the city. She started to explain, but was interrupted by a young brunette woman wearing a smart gray suit and a pleasant smile.

“Mrs. Washburn?” she asked. “We’re ready to see you.”

The woman waited patiently as the three visitors rose to their feet. Inara leaned close to her friends and whispered: “Let me handle this; I have a card to play. The Colonel will want to play nice with me to ensure my full cooperation.”

Unfortunately, the brunette would have none of it. She allowed only Zoë to follow her through the office door. “I’m sorry, but management needs to speak with Mrs. Washburn only. They will explain to her.”

“So much for playing your card,” Wash muttered as he watched the door close behind his wife.

.-.-.-.

Translations Bù găn xiāng xìn; Unbelievable Dí què; Indeed

Previous chapter | Next chapter

COMMENTS

Sunday, March 16, 2014 11:09 PM

EBFIDDLER


Wow! I just got home from a tough, long weekend at work, and look what I find! A new chapter of Backstories! :D (Hold your ears while I run around squeeing with excitement.) I'll have to comment again when I'm not so completely bone tired and stand a chance of making sense. But here are some quick observations:

There's a bit of "and then there were three...and then there were two" about this. Who will be the last one left? (I have a guess.)

I'm glad you had a bit more of Trevor Marone and Ellen Rowlee. You're beginning to connect the dots of that plot thread together. Are we going to see a Rowlee and Mal scene?

Inara had a frustrating time of it. I'm wondering if her guide was guilelessly voluble, or if he had a mission to prevent her from getting any of her questions answered.

The Colonel has put her in a tight spot, but I would like to see her be able to turn things around somehow. The conversation was somewhat enlightening, but you still have kept much hidden.

I am concerned about the arrival of Chancellor Westfield on Oeneus. (cue Star Wars Imperial March theme music)

I am much concerned about the crew members you have left in the cave for...heh...a couple years now. ;-^) Not to mention you've left Mal strapped to an examination table for nearly as long, eh? (Excuse me. What I mean is, oh please oh please oh please will you include a scene set in the cave soon, and another scene with Mal? *sad puppy eyes*)

Monday, March 17, 2014 12:57 AM

KATESFRIEND


What a wonderful surprise! So glad to see more of this story and the rest of the storyline came back as you wrote in the hints as a refresher. Hope to see Mal soon, but understand all too well the brevity of free and creative time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 10:19 AM

AMDOBELL


Things don't look too good for Mal and Colonel Davis seems like quite the slimey piece of *goushi*. So good to see a new chapter from you, just hope our friends watch their backs. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, April 19, 2014 12:44 AM

NUTLUCK


Wow it has been so long since you last updated this story I will eventually need to go back and reread things to remember whats going on. :)


POST YOUR COMMENTS

You must log in to post comments.

YOUR OPTIONS

OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.


Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
Zoë tells of her soiree with terrorists on Oeneus.