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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"The Alliance begin to close in on Serenity. Thadius has a plan for finding out just what the *diyu* is going on with Simon, but will the crew sanction it?"
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1975 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "FRIEND OR FOE"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
RATING: No specific pairing.
STATUS: SEQUEL to "HOPES AND FEARS"
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "The Alliance begin to close in on Serenity.
Thadius has a plan for finding out just what the *diyu* is
going on with Simon, but will the crew sanction it?"
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.
"FRIEND OR FOE"
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
The IAV Rosencruz was top of the line. Commander Hugo Austin felt justly proud of her and every man and woman aboard his ship. He had not expected her maiden mission to be one of such high profile. His chest swelling with pride he tried not to smile too much as Councillor Tam turned to speak to him.
"Commander, you will change your heading to these co-ordinates."
Surprised and a little nonplussed, Austin remembered his orders and nodded. "At once, Councillor."
The note was stark in its' brevity. A set of co-ordinates and nothing else. Austin frowned slightly and resisted the urge to question the Councillor. More heads had rolled through voicing curiosity than ever died in battle. Or so Alliance rumours went. He passed the note to his navigator and watched him adjust their course, trying to fathom what their destination could be. He had thought they were doing a seek and find mission for Serenity. This bespoke information in advance but how could that be if the Alliance didn't know where the good gorram the Firefly was? Obviously the very small cadre of people who needed to know did not include him.
When the Captain woke it was in the middle of the ship's night. Most of the crew were in their bunks but Thadius and his companions had taken it upon themselves to make sure at least one of them stayed with Mal at all times. Simon had completed his last check before leaaving to get some rest, surprised when he passed Thadius, Helen, Carl and Michael walking towards the infirmary. "The Captain's still asleep."
Thadius nodded. Simon was used to Thadius speaking for the rest of them. "We know. Just want to let Ruben get some rest."
"And that takes four of you?"
They just looked at him. For some reason that made Simon uncomfortable. He sighed, wanting to clear the air even though he thought it was probably a forlorn hope. "Look, I'm not going to try to do anything. What happened before, I can't explain it. That's not who I am."
No one spoke. Simon shrugged and left them to it. By the time they got to the infirmary the Captain was just beginning to stir. Helen closed the door behind them. Ruben beamed at the Captain, glad to see him conscious at last. "*Ni hao ma*, Captain?"
Mal felt sluggish, as if his limbs weighed several tons and a gorram elephant was sitting on his chest. Helen chuckled softly drawing his eyes to her. "You heard that I'm thinkin'?"
She smiled. "What is an elephant?"
The Captain pictured Jayne in a swimsuit eating a pig's head. Helen laughed outright then remembered where she was and stopped.
"Ain't no sin to laugh, Helen."
Ruben got up and let Thadius take his seat. Somehow Mal just knew that meant there was going to be a serious part to this conversation. The Captain tried to remember what had happened. "Did Simon shoot me?"
Thadius nodded. "*Qu*."
"I seem to recall you shoving me outta the way after he hit me." The Captain pointed to the dressing on Thadius's head. "That how you got hit?"
He nodded. "Just a graze, Mal."
"You knew this was gonna happen, didn't you?"
"I couldn't warn you so I tried to protect you. Any one of us would have done the same."
Mal knew that but wanted more information. Wasn't gonna let the boy off that easy. "Speak plain."
"It's the programming." Offered Ruben.
"We were supposed to go elsewhere." Chipped in Michael.
"Prepared but unfinished." Said Helen in an effort to be helpful.
"All that was left..." Carl trailed off.
"Was the imprinting."
The Captain stared at Thadius. Something clicking in his mind. "But I opened the boxes, *dui*?"
Thadius nodded. "Which is why we imprinted on you."
It took a moment for Mal to say what he was thinking. Not sure he really wanted to know the answer but realising it would drive him crazy if he didn't ask. "Who was supposed to open them crates?"
"We don't know," Said Michael. "But we have our suspicions."
"Alliance? Blue Sun?"
"Same difference," Said Helen. "They hide behind each other when it suits their purpose but have the same paymaster."
"An' who might that be?"
For a moment no one spoke then Thadius responded for them all. "Parliament."
Simon was so gorram tired. That and confused. He was so not expecting to see Kaylee waiting for him when he slipped into the commons area to get a drink. Guards, yes. Kaylee, no. After what he had done he was more than a little surprised not to find Zoe or Jayne dogging his every step but then where was there to go? Apparently he had come in a ship of his own but he had no memory of that and Serenity was now detatched from the other ship so he could not sneak off without anyone knowing. That still did not explain why after just a day and a half he had been allowed free run of the ship. Or had Zoe set Kaylee to be his gaoler? If so that was especially cruel though it would beg the question who was really being punished, him or Kaylee?
"Simon, we have to talk."
He wanted to close his eyes, click his heels, and be anywhere but here right now. Only it wouldn't work. This was real life and his had always sucked. So. Not his gaoler then. Worse, his jilted ex-friend come lover. Simon opened his eyes. "I don't think now's a good time."
But Kaylee was not in the mood to take no for an answer. "Now is all we have an' ya owe me. Ya owe us all."
Tears began to well in the mechanic's eyes and Simon felt like the lowest form of life. "Ya didn't even love me, not even the tiniest bit?"
"Kaylee..." He trailed off. Uncertain how to continue, what to say that would explain without hurting her even more. "I do care for you..."
"Not enough apparently to be honest with me."
"It's not like that, Kaylee. I have to be there for River."
A bitter laugh came out of Kaylee's mouth surprising Simon with the wrongness of it. The laughter broken like pieces of glass. Almost he expected blood to pour from her mouth. That would be his fault too. Kaylee shook her head and took a step towards him. "Don't lie to me Simon. Ya told me the one thing ya regretted was never havin' a relationship with me but we fixed that after Miranda. On'y for you it was just about the sex, wasn't it? Are you so incapable of lovin' anyone but your sister that the rest of us don't count?"
Simon opened and closed his mouth but nothing came out. Kaylee took another step.
"Is that why ya found it so easy to turn your back on us? That why ya come back to shoot the Cap'n? That why ya don't give a good gorram about anyone?"
"I... I don't know what to say. I don't know why I did what I did, can't remember properly, just the gun in my hand and blood everywhere..." He trailed off, his eyes wide and staring as if not seeing Kaylee at all.
Kaylee could see that Simon was getting upset but was it genuine? If he could fake love he could fake any gorram thing. Before she could say anything else Michael stepped into the room. "Captain's awake. He wants to see you."
Distracted from her original purpose by the shiny news, Kaylee's face lit up. "I have to go tell the others." Then she was gone in a clatter of happy excitement, the exact opposite of how Simon was feeling at that moment. He looked at Michael but the man said nothing else, just waited. With a sigh Simon followed him back to the infirmary. The Captain tilted his head to watch him as he approached the bed, Thadius and the others moving round to give him access but none of them showing any sign of leaving.
"*Wei*, if it isn't the *hundan* who shot me." Said the Captain in a calm mocking voice.
"About that Captain, *duibuqi*..."
"Don't want no apologies, just wanna know why."
Again Simon was at a loss. It was a feeling he was coming to hate with unseemly passion. "I... I don't know."
A clatter behind him announced the arrival of the rest of Serenity's crew. Simon did not look round, could not bear to see the disappointment and anger on their faces. River's voice cut through his reverie.
"I can help."
Simon turned and stared at her. "*Mei mei*, you don't understand."
"Not a child any more Simon and I'm not the one in hiding."
Zoe's attention tweaked at that but she kept her mouth shut, a warning look Jayne's way making sure the mercenary did the same.
"I'm not in hiding." Simon retorted.
"Your outfit says otherwise, son." Observed the Captain.
"I.. I had to leave in a hurry."
"Who volunteered the clothes or ya been robbin' the poor?"
Simon did not answer Jayne, knowing his answer would damn him even more. River wove through the others until she was standing inches from her brother. "You have to tell them, Simon. Can't heal if you don't admit you're broken."
"I'm not broken I'm..."
"Confused. Disorientated. Experiencing blank vision, missing portions of time, headaches and nausea."
The shock on Simon's face was almost comical. He stared open mouthed at Thadius Clay. "How did you...?"
"Top Three Per Cent an' he ain't very bright." Murmured the Captain softly. It was not said with any kind of spite. From Malcolm Reynolds it sounded sad, almost affectionate.
"You can't possibly know what I'm going through." Simon spat at Thadius.
"Wrong again." Said Thadius calmly. "*Wo zhidao, wo dong* and your sister's right. You will be stuck unless you let us help you."
"What makes you think I need your help even if I trusted you which I don't?"
River touched his hand drawing Simon's attention to her. Anger turning to frustration as he looked into her eyes. "Do you trust me, Simon?"
He wanted to cry. "You know I do, *mei mei*."
"I said how much, Simon. I need to know."
He considered not answering or changing the subject but this was River. His sister. The most precious thing in the 'verse. If he could not trust her he might as well turn himself in to his enemies and have done with it. Heroism was such an over rated thing anyway. Plus there was the whole 'how come the crew haven't killed me for shooting the Captain' thing. "With my life, River."
"Then trust them."
River could see the hesitation in his eyes. The pull between wanting to do whatever she asked of him and placing his trust in people he barely knew as well as the man he had wronged and the people he had walked out on. It was quite a leap of faith. "I'm not sure I can."
"All I'm asking Simon is that you try."
For a long moment Simon just stared at her then his expression softened. Maybe surrender wouldn't be so bitter after all? "Okay, I'll try." Simon paused, gathering the remnants of his courage in both hands. "What do you want me to do?"
Zoe stepped up to the doctor, an unreadable look in her eyes. "First we need to examine you."
Stunned, he stared at her as if she had taken leave of her senses. River clasped Simon's hand to reassure him and used the physical contact as a subtle reminder that he had agree to trust her and that this was part of that trust. His eyes met Inara's for a brief moment and he thought he saw understanding and acceptance there. For some reason that helped to calm him. Zoe and River guided him to the next infirmary bed and urged him to undress. Even though he was a doctor, Simon was quite the prude. "*Shenme*? What about privacy?"
"Simon, you're a doctor." Reasoned Zoe. They didn't have time for this. Behind her Simon could see the sneer of pleasure on Jayne Cobb's face. He didn't even want to see how Thadius and the others were reacting.
"I'm a doctor, you're not. At least draw the curtain round me."
"River, this isn't... I can't..."
"Trust, Simon. You said the word now you have to prove it's true."
He stared at his sister. Such undiluted love for her that in that moment no one else existed for him. Had they ever? Perhaps everything else was an illusion and only this was real? Without taking his eyes off her Simon began to disrobe. All in all it was kind of eerie. Kaylee wasn't sure it was natural for a brother and sister to be so close that it prevented a person making proper relationships out of that familial bond. But then River did not seem to have that problem, only Simon. Why? Once his shirt was off Simon shivered in the cool ship's air but no one noticed. River walked slowly round him, Zoe checking Simons arms and hands, turning them and looking intently for breaks in the skin. Simon hated the feeling of being on display even though he still had his pants on. He had never felt so naked before.
*It's about to get even worse* River thought. The flicker in Simon's eyes confirmed her suspicion.
In silence they examined him closely, Zoe wordlessly looking at the healing wound on Simon's forearm. Simon swallowed hard. How in the nine hells was he going to explain this?
"The truth, Simon." Said River.
Of course, she had read his thought. Zoe tapped his arm. "What is this?"
Thadius walked over to take a look. "You had a tracking device?"
The game was up and Simon knew it. He sagged against the infirmary bed, surprised when the Captain came over. Zoe frowned, wanted to yell at him and strap him back in his bed but Mal wouldn't budge. All his focus on Simon and the revelations he was anticipating would soon unfold. Not going anywhere. Knowing that stubborn look too well, Zoe slid a chair towards the Captain. "If you won't lie down at least sit. Ain't got time to keep haulin' your sorry ass up off the floor."
He gave her a lop sided smile. "Love you too, Zoe."
Although it was a light hearted throw away come back Zoe blinked. It was the first time ever that Malcolm Reynolds had put into words what they both knew soul deep. Then the Captain was all business again, the little moment lost in the drama. "If that's a wound where a tracking device was, where in the nine hells is it now? 'Less my eyesight got banged up too it looks recent."
"You're right Captain." Simon took a deep breath and everyone found places to sit, lean or stand while they paid rapt attention. Thadius resting a hand on the back of the Captain's chair while Ruben and Helen sat at his feet. Michael stood next to Jayne and Carl next to River. Inara and Kaylee stood either side of Zoe.
"I ain't Top Three Per Cent nor nothin', Simon, but I reckon it would be easiest to start from the beginnin'."
The beginning? Was the Captain mad? The beginning was the last place he could start because that would unleash the kind of nightmares that were best left sleeping. Even in broad daylight they could chill the soul. Besides, they didn't have time for the whole rutting mess to be unravelled in one telling. When Simon hesitated, the Captain decided to cut him a little slack.
"Or not. Maybe you should start with what the hell you were doin' with a trackin' device inside you along with who put it there an' so on."
Simon nodded. He owed the man that much at least yet it was still hard to force the words out. Felt too much like a confessional without the benefits of absolution. "You won't like what I have to say, Captain."
"Ain't likin' what you're not sayin'."
With a sigh Simon shook his head. "*Ni bu dong*."
"Then best you EXPLAIN it to me. You're the genius here, Top Three Per Cent. You must know words other than 'you wouldn't understand' so use 'em,*dong ma*?"
Commandant Hugo Austin stared at the painted blip on the screen. "Are you sure?"
His navigator nodded. "Yes, sir."
"And it's one of ours?"
"*Qu*. Latest series of stealth interceptors."
"When will it come on the regular screen?"
"Not for three, maybe four hours. We're only picking it up on the advance display because it's in transmission mode. Cut the signal and we'd never know it was there."
"Until we got closer you mean."
"No sir, I mean we wouldn't be able to see it."
The Commandant was beyond baffled. He looked at the co-ordinates again. They matched those on the slip of paper. Councillor Tam showed no reaction whatsoever. In fact she seemed to be ignoring him. Austin retook his seat and tried to work out what it meant.
"What happened to the other guy?" Asked Jayne.
"I... I honestly don't know."
Kaylee was trying to follow this cloak and dagger side of Simon and had difficulty equating him with the fumbling but brilliant doctor in front of her. "You just left him there?"
The Captain was frowning, his mind racing ahead. Plotting conclusions and not liking what he was thinking. "That means whoever was trackin' you's now trackin' him, *dui*?"
Simon nodded. Zoe handed him his shirt and the doctor was both relieved and surprised he did not have to strip out of the rest of his clothes. Or rather, Robert Paxton's clothing. "*Dui*. It gave me enough time to get off planet."
"What if you were followed?"
He stared at Zoe for a moment, tempted to ask her if she had been listening at all. Zoe's eyes narrowed. "Not everyone tracks by usin' a device, Simon. If someone was watchin' they could've simply followed you."
"That's why I swapped clothes."
The Captain nodded, it made sense. He closed his eyes as if they pained him. Simon noticed and could not help slipping back into doctor mode. "Are you in pain, Captain?"
Mal opened his eyes. He looked sad and weary. "*Bu qu*, just wonderin' how many gorram corpses you're gonna leave in your wake before this whole dance is over."
"I never killed him, Captain."
"Don't matter, you good as. When whoever's trackin' you finds him what d'you suppose they'll do? Don't reckon they're gonna be pleased. An' bearin' in mind who you're talkin' about his life expectancy ain't shiny."
The doctor closed his eyes. He hadn't thought of that, his only concern had been to escape the surveillance and find his sister.
"That explains how you got away," Said Zoe, her voice tight. "It don't explain why you came lookin' for Serenity an' shot the Cap'n."
"*Wo zhidao*. Ever since it happened I've been tryin' to figure it out but the answer's just not comin'."
Thadius was watching Simon Tam intently. "We might be able to help with that."
All eyes turned to Thadius Clay. Simon felt his mouth go dry. He just knew he was not going to like this.
"We are readers as you know. Alone we are pretty powerful but together we are unstoppable."
Simon tried to swallow. Wished he could run, hide, anything other than face what he was sure was coming next. "I won't let you invade my mind!"
"Not an invasion if you let us in."
Eyes wide, Simon looked for a way to get passed them but he was closed in on all sides. River's calm voice sounded eerie and did nothing at all to slow the racing of his frantic heart. "Trust, Simon."
"*Mei mei*, you can't let them do this. It's wrong."
The Captain could empathise with Simon's fear but he wanted to push passed that. Get the boy to see that not every cloud had a gorram thunderstorm waiting on the other side. "Is it wrong if it'll help you? Or don't you wanna know what they did to you, Simon?"
For seconds that seemed to stretch into infinity and beyond Simon stared at the Captain. His fear forming such a tight constriction around the walls of his heart he was vaguely amazed that he hadn't passed out. "You can't force me to do this."
The resistance was weak at best, his voice muted, the shock evident on his face as well as the way his body was betraying his fear. River slipped a hand in his, found Simon's palm unusually clammy. "Simon, you can let down your shield."
If he had been frightened before at the thought of strangers raping his mind it was nothing to the terror that now siezed him. *Tianna*, River knew! In that moment he let his shield collapse, tears blinding him at the knowledge that if he failed to agree it would happen anyway and any sway he would have over his sister would vanish. Only by giving his consent could he hope to salvage something. Crying openly now, Simon let River hold him. Inara looked anguished and shot the Captain a stern look of disapproval.
"You can't do this, Mal. It isn't right."
The Captain met her look with one of sympathy but determination. "Ain't my choice, Inara, an' 'less I'm mistaken decision's already been made."
Inara widened her eyes then turned back to look at Simon. Simon sat on the infirmary bed, River next to him, her hands in his, their eyes locked on each other. Thadius, Carl, Michael, Ruben and Helen formed a loose circle round them. None of them were physically touching but Inara could sense the electricity in the air and was in no doubt that they were invading Simon's mind, with River wittingly or not holding open the door to her brother's psyche. Gritting her teeth, Inara reacted to the quiet sob from Kaylee and wrapped the shaking girl in her arms. Zoe's face was grave and impassive. Jayne looked puzzled as if not comprehending why everyone was making such a fuss. But all Inara could focus on were the tears streaming down Simon Tam's face.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*ni hao ma* = how are you? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *dui* = correct *shenme* = what
*wei* = hey! *hundan* = bastard *duibuqi* = sorry *mei mei* = little sister
*wo zhidao* = I know *wo dong* = I understand *ni bu dong* = you don't understand
*dong ma* = understand *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) tianna = oh God! *diyu* = hell
Saturday, March 11, 2006 2:18 AM
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