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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The crew comes up with a plan
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2369 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
On to Chapter 10.
* * * * *
Prefect Trevor Marone led Inara into a dark saloon and flipped on a small glass lamp.
“Please, have a seat, Miss Serra,” he said with a gesture toward a richly upholstered wing back chair.
“Thank you.” Inara pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders as she sat down. “How... why do you think the Captain’s been taken by the Alliance?” she asked him.
He settled at one end of a settee and leaned back with one foot crossed comfortably over the other knee. “Captain Malcolm Reynolds,” he announced. “Or should I say Sergeant?” He paused to study her reaction.
Inara swallowed her alarm. “Captain will do.”
He watched her for a seocnd longer, then began again. “Captain Malcolm Reynolds. An Independent who probably holds a bit of a grudge. Now a small time brigand, with his very own Companion who visits with planetside dignitaries. Tell me, Miss Serra, what exactly was he bringing to Oeneus?”
“I explained to you already, it’s not my business. And I was told nothing about the Alliance taking him. Where did you hear such a thing?”
He uncrossed his legs and leaned toward her with a grave look. Suddenly he appeared to be much less the dandy than he had at dinner. “Let me explain to you that I have lived my entire life on this world, working to change it from a barely habitable desert to what it is today. I will not have my home turned into a battleground.” His voice turned threatening. “I am no lover of the Alliance, but I agree with them on this: profit hungry arms smugglers have no place here.”
Inara switched tactics; there was nothing to be gained by continuing to play stupid. “Prefect, it was food. The ship’s cargo was several crates of food.”
He gave her a disgusted look. “You can’t really believe that’s what your ship was carrying. Or why would they go after your captain?”
“He never has been a favorite of the Alliance.”
“And what else do you suppose they’d be interested in?”
Inara cursed to herself, this was not a good direction to take this conversation. “Prefect Marone, the crew of Serenity may not comprise the most law abiding citizens, but I assure you, they are not weapon smugglers, nor lovers of war. They have a strong sense of morality, as twisted as it may seem at times. They are good people, every one of them.”
“You’re very protective of them. Why is that?”
Inara met his stare. “They’re my crew.”
“Which brings me back to wondering: why would a registered Companion join such a group?”
“The fine food and witty banter. Now, if you would permit me to ask you a question: how do you know so much about Serenity and the Captain?”
The Prefect sighed. He pulled a thin cigar from his vest pocket and took his time about lighting it. He gave her a long look as he puffed on it. “Companions are, by training, fine actresses.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“Is she really a Novice?”
Inara could see the this was a test. Best to answer truthfully, he already knew. “No.”
“Who is she?”
“That is not important. But it’s true what I told you, that she has lost her home. She’s had a difficult life, and she looks on the Captain as a father. That’s why she’s so upset now. She knows he’s missing.”
“Does he treat her like a daughter?”
“He protects her with his life. As he protects all his crew.”
“You’re fond of him?”
Inara answered without hesitation. “Yes.”
He took another draw off his cheroot, then exhaled as he came to a decision. “The Alliance hasn’t been here long. They are understaffed and security measures haven’t been fully implemented. I have a number of people working inside the new base, and, until they get their protocols up and running, I have full run of their computer system. After I left you earlier, I looked up your ship, and your captain.”
Inara looked at him hopefully, then composed her face with an effort. “You know where he is?”
“He’s been transported to the planetside base for questioning.”
“Questioning about what?”
“That wasn’t stated in his file. I thought it might have something to do with your cargo, which I was hoping you could clarify for me.”
“I told you already. Seafood. Ready to rehydrate gorram seafood dinners!” Inara’s frustration found its way through a crack.
“Obviously there’s a bit more behind it than that. What’s your crew doing to find him?”
“I don’t know.”
“They won’t. Find him, that is.”
“But you know where he is?”
“And I’ll help you get him out.”
Inara couldn’t hide her surprise. “Why?”
He smiled and his charm returned in full force. “Your Captain’s situation provides me with an opportunity I simply cannot pass by.”
“Oh? How so?”
“I think it best I discuss that with your whole crew.”
She matched his charm with ease. “Don’t you think it would be unwise of me to bring my crew, my dear friends, into a situation of which I know so little?”
He gave Inara a measuring look. “Touche,” he said. He paused to tap his cigar in an ashtray, then settled back again. “The fact that the Alliance is building a base here, now, is no accident. Seven years ago there weren’t many people on this world, but the few of us who were here solidly supported the Independents. We sent out what money and people we could. The fact that it amounted to almost nothing didn’t prevent the Alliance from coming down on us hard after the war ended.” The Prefect’s jaw tightened, then he seemed to remember himself and continued. “It left a lot of ill will. The past year the ill will has gotten focused, and it’s gotten armed.
“That, Miss Serra, is why Oeneus is the lucky world chosen as the site of the Alliance’s newest base. And it’s why they’re taking people, like your Captain, for questioning. They want to know who’s arming insurgents on an out of the way border world.”
When he didn’t continue, Inara asked him, “And where is the opportunity in this for you?”
“I too am curious about the source of these weapons. This is not the place nor the time for warfare.” He sighed and shook his head, then stabbed out his cigar in the ashtray. “It would only lead to loss on both sides, and destruction to Oeneus.”
“My ship is not a part of it, Prefect,” Inara said softly.
“Oddly, I find myself willing to believe you about that.” He raised his eyebrows as if surprised at his own attitude, then he looked at Inara and continued in a friendly tone, “Of course, if you’re lying and your crew is trying to make money by starting a war here, I will see to it that you all end up locked up somewhere very dark for a very long time.” He finished with a smile.
Inara ignored the threat, it didn’t apply. “If you believe we’re not involved, how do think we can help you?”
“I want to know what kind of questions they’re asking your Captain. And, if we get him out soon enough, he might prove helpful in another matter.”
“I want to know how they’re interrogating the people they take. It appears to be highly effective.” He folded his hands together and leaned toward her. “Now, I’ll be happy to go into more detail about that, but it would save time if I didn’t have to do it twice. Is it possible that you could trust me enough to call your crew down?”
Inara studied him and considered her options. “Is there anything else about Serenity that is of interest to you?”
He smiled. “Companions are said to be perceptive. I have a certain fondness for your non-Novice, whatever her name is.”
Inara straightened in her chair. “She’s seventeen, and she’s not available.”
“Not that kind of fondness.” His face softened more, and he looked almost like the fop she had initially taken him for. “My own daughter would be sixteen now, if her transport hadn’t been shot down after the war. By the Alliance.”
* * *
“Everyone wake up and get to the kitchen NOW,” Zoe’s voice barked over the comm. She’d already called Book back from his late night prowling on the station. Kaylee was the first to arrive, coming from the direction of the engine room with a worried face and a fresh smear of grease on her forehead. She obviously hadn’t been sleeping.
As soon as they were all gathered, Zoe announced, “I just got word from Inara. She’s got a lead on Mal.”
“Inara?” Jayne asked in confusion.
“What’d she say? Is he all right?” Kaylee asked.
“She thinks he’s been taken to the planetside base. We’re goin’ down to meet her and her contact.”
“Her contact?” Book asked.
“I don’t know who it is, she couldn’t say much over a public wave. She told me what she did very carefully. But it’s all we’ve got. Wash?”
“Warming her up now.” Wash jogged toward the bridge.
* * *
At Inara’s urging, Zoe had agreed to meet them at Chairmen Yeng’s house. The Chairman had government duties that day, which the Prefect encouraged him to attend. Marone was fond of his friend, but had long ago learned that the Chairman was at his best when faced with hand shakes and cocktails at official soirees rather than clandestine dealings such as this.
Simon and River changed back into costume before returning to the sitting room where River had found both amusement and boredom the day before. They settled at a corner table and Simon kept an eye on River, closing his hand over hers whenever she started mumbling. Inara and the Prefect appeared quite at ease, sipping tea, nibbling scones, and chatting like old friends.
Zoe and Jayne arrived just after sunrise. “Let’s get to business, time’s a-wastin’,” Zoe said after nodding a curt hello to Marone. Jayne stretched out on a sofa with his dirty boots up on the antique table, muttering about having to get up so early to visit a tea parlor with no guards that needed fightin’ and not even any decent grub. Zoe paced the room, throwing doubtful looks at the Prefect while he repeated what he had told Inara the night before.
“So you’re sayin’ that the Alliance has our Captain, and you mean to help us get him out?” she asked when he was finished.
“That’s what I’m sayin’,” he mimicked her drawl with an easy smile.
Zoe frowned at his attempted charm. “Because you wanna know what they’re doin’ to him.”
“What they’re doing to him, and what questions they’re asking him,” he replied with a nod.
“Doin’ to him as in torture?”
“That would be illegal,” the Prefect said with a hint of irony. “The Alliance is too principled for that.”
“They usin’ drugs?”
The man sighed and settled back into his chair. “This is how it goes,” he began. “I’m sure you’ve heard that the Alliance has been taking people, yes?” Zoe nodded. “I’ve been trying to find out what I can about this, by meeting with the people who are released. Some recall being questioned, but they never say they’ve been hurt, threatened, or even strongly pressured. A few aren’t even aware of being taken; they wake up afterwards with a bit of a headache, but that’s all.
“I’ve had drug tests run on a few; I’ve found nothing but sedatives. But any secrets they might once have had are no longer secret. For instance, one of Chairmen Yeng’s top aides was taken during the first week the Alliance was here. Shortly afterward he was formally charged with embezzling money from a company he had worked for in the Core more than a decade ago.”
“There any point to this?” Jayne asked as he sniffed a scone and made a face.
Marone continued without missing a beat. “All he remembers is waking up in a cell shortly before an Alliance attorney showed him records of his crime. Records that he claims they could not have found unless he told them exactly where to look.”
“He told you all this?” Zoe asked.
“We go way back,” the Prefect said with a polished smile. “Played golf.” He turned to Jayne. “My point is, they have a highly effective interrogation method.”
Zoe looked at him skeptically. “An interrogation method they’re usin’ to cut down on corporate crime?”
“Not a bad use for it,” Jayne said with a snicker. “Go after the suits for a change.”
Marone ignored Jayne. “That was just an unhappy chance for my friend. But you see how effective it is: they got information from him which they weren’t even after.” He was swirling the last of his tea and didn’t notice that Zoe and Inara both glanced at River.
“You think you know what they’re after?” Zoe asked.
“As I told you already, there’s some kind of a resistance group forming here, which has recently begun aquiring some very high tech weapons. The kind of weapons that make the Alliance very unhappy.”
“And they think Mal is part of it?” Zoe asked.
“He does fit the profile. Enough to be worth checking out. After all, they haven’t been real selective. They’ve been questioning quite a few people.”
“We didn’t ask to be part of this,” Zoe said in frustration. “All we brought here was food.”
“As Miss Serra assured me. In that case, you have nothing to worry about.” He watched Zoe’s reaction. “Or do you?”
Zoe finally sat down next to Jayne. “Could be there’s a few things the Captain shouldn’t be talkin’ about.” she told the Prefect.
He glanced at Inara. “I was lead to believe you were something more than common criminals.”
“It’s about me,” River jumped into the fray, pulling her arm out of Simon’s hand and turning to Zoe. “It’s okay Zoe, he wouldn’t turn me in.” River turned back to the Prefect. “The Captain’s protecting me. They’ll hurt him because of me. Lock him up forever, or kill him.”
“If it’s as bad as that, maybe you should be getting as far from this system as you can.”
“We’re not goin’ anywhere without the Captain,” Zoe said in a voice that allowed no argument.
Marone took in Zoe’s determination, then he turned to study River. “You don’t look like much of a criminal,” he said.
“You ain’t never lived on the same ship as her,” Jayne commented. “She’s fengle. Crazy as a gorram loon.”
“Jayne!” Zoe gave him a threatening look.
Inara answered the Prefect, “She’s not a criminal. She’s a victim. Whatever else Mal may do with his life, he has protected her, at great risk to himself.”
“They were hurting me,” River said. “The way they’ll hurt him.”
He considered River for a moment. “You must have an interesting story,” he said softly to her.
“That’s one word for it,” Zoe said. “You said you got all kinds of connections at the base. That mean you have some idea of how as to how to get the Captain out?”
“I believe so,” he looked around the room with a smirk. “All I need is the help of a few daring miscreants.”
“Well then, ain’t you lucky we came along,” Jayne said.
“Indeed. Here’s what I have in mind…”
The Prefect had the good beginnings of a plan, but there were gaps to be filled. Before they began working those out, Zoe suggested that the Companion’s servant had some helpful technical knowledge. Marone plainly wasn’t buying into Simon’s assumed role, but he didn’t pursue the matter. Simon was given a cortex terminal and connected to the Alliance’s network.
While Simon sorted through all the maps, schedules and supply lists he could find, Zoe and the Prefect returned to polishing up the details and Jayne made peace with the idea of scones as food.
After a while, Zoe called to Jayne, “Are you payin’ attention to any a’this?”
“Fangxin,” Jayne said coolly around a mouthful of scone. “I’m all over it.”
“Are you even listenin’?” Zoe asked him. “It’s a tricky part, and you’re the only one to do it. You need to set down those fancy biscuits and start studyin’ up on these maps and this timetable, cause there’s a lot ridin’ on you.”
Jayne shrugged. “Can’t be that hard.”
“You mess it up, Jayne, your face may find itself havin’ a talk with a few of my fists.”
“A man can’t get a bit a’ respect around here,” Jayne mumbled as he washed his scone down with tea from a delicate china cup.
“We’ll get you some respect, young man,” the Prefect said. He rang for the house mistress, who led Jayne away to visit a barber and Chairmen Yeng’s personal tailor.
Zoe continued with the planning. “You’re sure you can arrange to have an Alliance NCO meet Jayne on the inside? Someone with a uniform who won’t be askin’ too many questions?”
“I’ll find a man and send offical orders over the cortex,” he assured her.
Zoe studied her notes. “Wash and I can get the transport. The only problem left is how we’re gonna get patched into the surveillance system. And we’ll need to be able to do more than just watch the feed.”
“I think I may be able to help with that,” Simon said, looking up from a map on the cortex screen. “Well, not me personally, but have a look at this.” Simon motioned Zoe over to the screen and showed her what he meant. “Book should be able to take care of it, with a little help,” Simon explained.
“Jingcai,” Zoe said with a smile.
Jayne returned a while later sporting a cleanly shaven face and neatly trimmed hair. He complained loudly about how looking so clean-cut was unhealthy, and less loudly about the places a tape measure shouldn’t be allowed to go. The Prefect promised to have Jayne’s fancy new outfit sent over to Serenity as soon as it was ready.
Before they left, Zoe pulled the Prefect aside. “There’s one more thing I need,” she said quietly. She explained in a low voice; she didn’t want anyone on the crew arguing over this. Some of them might not think it was necessary, but it needed to be done, added risk be damned.
“You’re going to risk going on to the base for that?” the Prefect asked her.
“Yes,” she said firmly. “It’s important.”
Marone shrugged. “I’ll bring what you need over with Mr. Cobb’s suit,” he said without further comment.
It was well past noon when Inara, Zoe, Jayne, and the Tams returned to Serenity. The crew gathered around the dining room table to have a late lunch while Zoe caught Kaylee, Book, and Wash up with recent events, then explained the plan. Simon finished by sharing some of his findings.
“We know the base is new and understaffed,” Simon began, “but there’s one area that’s been fully staffed and heavily used the whole time. It’s a medium security detention center directly connected to the new medical facility. The hospital is still partly under construction, but one thing is done already. In fact, it’s the first thing they finished, and, coincidentally, it’s located right next to the detention center. It’s also been used nearly nonstop for the past two and a half weeks.” Simon paused to make sure everyone was following him.
“Well, don’t keep us waiting,” Wash prompted.
“It’s a 3D holo-imager, the kind they had at the hospital on Ariel. It’s an unusual and very expensive thing to include in such a small hospital on a border world, and I can’t imagine they have enough patients to need to have it running for more than two weeks nonstop.”
“Do you know what they’re doing with it?” Book asked.
“I’m not sure. But I also found a supply list for the imager prep room. They’re using a lot of a few particular drugs.”
“What, like truth serums?” Zoe asked.
“No. Sedatives, stimulants, nothing exotic. But they’re going through so much of it… I’ll keep looking around, see if there’s something I’m missing – ”
“So what you’re sayin’ is, you don’t know a gorram thing,” Jayne said.
“No, what I’m saying is that I don’t know any particular details. But, given the quantity of drugs they are going through, the holo-imager, and what the Prefect told us, I think it’s highly likely that they’ve found some way to get into people’s minds. Explore or even control their subconscious.”
“We all know that’s something the Alliance is willing and able to do,” Book said with a look at River.
“No matter,” Zoe said, “what we need to worry about is gettin’ Mal out. Jayne knows his part, don’t you Jayne?” She gave the merc a hard look.
Jayne rolled his eyes. “I do, and when I pull it off smooth I expect y’all to quit treatin’ me like some fengle shagua.”
“You pull this off Jayne,” Kaylee said, “I’ll lay a big juicy kiss on ya. Right after I’m done kissin’ the Captain.”
“You know I don’t kiss on the mouth, so you’ll have to pick out someplace else.” Jayne grinned at her. “I can make a few suggestions.”
“Ew! How about you bring him back and I won’t go messin’ with the circuitry in your bunk.” Kaylee countered. Jayne curled his upper lip at her, but Zoe cut off their bickering.
“Shepherd Book, have you looked over that map Simon found?”
“I did. The layout is quite convenient.”
“Yes it is. Are you okay with doin’ this? It don’t break any rules?”
“I can bend a few rules,” Book replied with a benevolent smile “Actually, I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t had a chance for peaceful contemplation in a house of worship for some time.”
“Thank you, Shepherd. Kaylee, you think you can deal with the surveillance system?”
“No problem,” Kaylee answered with a confident smile. “Simon got me all the diagrams.”
“Good. You go grab any tools you need, then you and Book head to town and get you outfitted. The sooner you two get into the base, the sooner we can get the whole thing rollin’. Inara?”
“After we move the ship away from the city, I’ll need you to give me and Wash a lift. Then can you stay on Serenity to keep an eye on River while Simon does his research?”
“My pleasure,” Inara replied with a smile at River.
“The plan is a’flight, people. Let’s move.”
* * *
Kaylee continued studying the diagrams Simon had given her as Book piloted Shuttle 2 into the center of the city. The Prefect had recommended a costume shop rather than taking more time to custom tailor something for her. Her role didn’t require as much authenticity as Jayne’s; in fact, it was unlikely that anyone she encountered would have seen her like before, not in person anyhow.
Kaylee found the costume shop easily. She picked what she needed out of their electronic catalog system and sent the shopkeeper to get it, then she let her eyes wonder over the colorful gowns and headpieces on display. The one she was getting was just so frumpy, she thought mournfully.
“But it’s for the Cap’n,” she told herself firmly. She paid her credits and headed back to the shuttle. Book flew to a small landing pad on the edge of the city as she changed.
The Prefect arrived in person to drop off Jayne’s new attire and a last bit of information. Zoe met him in the cargo bay. “I’ve found a man on the base who fits the requirements perfectly,” he told her. “He’ll be waiting in the central office to be called upon by your Mr. Cobb.”
“How ‘bout the other thing?”
He handed her an official looking form. “This should do it. They’ll find the request in their computer system as well.”
“I ‘preciate it Prefect. If it all goes smooth, we’ll be seein’ you in a few days on New Melbourne.”
“Zhufu ni,” he replied, then turned and made a sweeping exit through the airlock. Zoe sealed the hatch and called up to the bridge, telling Wash that it was time to go.
Jayne was busy at the weight bench. Zoe was tempted to scold him for wasting time, but she noticed the stack of maps sitting next to the bench. The man was just working off nerves the best way he knew how. She set his bag of new clothes next to the maps with a terse nod and left him alone.
River and Inara were sitting quietly in the common room. Zoe walked past them and stepped into the infirmary. “Anything new?” she asked Simon.
“Maybe. I’ve been reading up on this drug medrazepan. It’s the one they’ve been using most heavily.”
“What about it?”
“It’s primarily a sleep aid, with some minor theurapeutic effects. It’s sometimes used as a smoother for trauma victims. But, used in high doses and in combination with certain stimulants, like this one here,” he pointed to a supply list on the cortex screen, “which they’ve also been using a fair amount of, medrazepan is known to produce a remarkably vivid dream state.”
“What exactly does that mean?”
“I’m not sure, but – ” Simon was interrupted by a loud gasp from River. Simon and Zoe went out to the common room to find River sitting up with wide eyes.
“He’s awake,” she said. “Spider’s awake too. It’s starting.”
fangxin: don’t worry
fengle shagua: loopy-in-the-head idiot
zhufu ni: blessing on you
On to Chapter 12.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 7:42 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 7:46 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 7:55 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 8:14 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 8:50 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 9:03 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 11:12 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 1:34 PM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 4:05 PM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 7:23 PM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 9:26 PM
Wednesday, January 25, 2006 1:42 AM
Wednesday, July 12, 2006 7:12 AM
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