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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
River needs help and fast. The BDHs form a plan, but no one likes the final decision. Mal/Inara, Simon/Kaylee
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1848 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
The tension in the room was almost suffocating. Regan had finished explaining the diagram to Gabriel a few minutes ago and her husband had not spoken a word the entire time. He had dropped her hands and she had again risen to stand back behind his chair, steadying herself on the tall back. She waited, her heart in her throat, for his reaction. The time dragged.
“How do you know this is true?” They were the first words he’d spoken and when he said them his voice was barely above a whisper.
“Because Simon told me it’s true. And I believe him.” Regan would not waver on that point ever again.
“He could have falsified this scan you know?” The accusation came as more of an afterthought than a conviction. Gabriel sank slowly back in his chair and rubbed a hand over his face.
“He didn’t. He told me that if you wanted to check the authenticity there are some scans you can run the data through. Some of the security sweeps you use at the office. He said that would verify the data.” Regan still waited on pins and needles, unable to tell which side of this her husband would ultimately fall on.
“And Simon is sure of this?”
Nodding, although he couldn’t see the gesture, Regan explained. “He is.”
When silence again fell between them, Regan waited as long as she could before pushing the issue. “Gabriel, River doesn’t have a lot of time. I need know if you’re going to help us.”
He swiveled slowly in the chair to examine his wife. She was still determined, showing more energy than he’d seen from her in quite some time. She had never shown a sign of weakness, all through the explanation of their daughter’s crippled brain scan. She truly believed what Simon had told her.
“I have to process this, Regan,” he said, his voice holding none of the fire he’d exhibited over the past few days. “Please leave me be.”
If Regan was offended by the brush off, she didn’t show it. She had been raised too properly for that. Instead, she strode out of the room, shutting the heavy doors behind her. Once she felt the latch click into place, she leaned against the cool wood and breathed out a huge sigh of relief. Now, all she could do, all Simon could do, all River could do, was wait.
Gabriel watched his wife exit and turned back to examine the image left on his console. Gabriel had never been as smart as either of his children; had actually worked his whole life in computers and waves, but he had tried to understand some of the things Simon had been learning. And he had been present for many a lecture by “Doctor” River Tam when she had been teaching her dolls about quantum physics or the theory of cognitive dissonance. Gabriel had enough intelligence to connect the dots on quite a few issues.
And he was not an idiot. He had known, the minute he saw River on Ariel, dancing giddily in the ship’s hold, that something was wrong. She’d been scattered and unfocused while he’d been there, unable to put more than one or two sentences together at a time and virtually impossible to control. That was not the River Gabriel had sent to the Academy with a kiss on the head.
Once she’d gotten back to the house, things had only gotten worse. Gabriel knew enough about trauma to recognize it in his own child. She had never shied away from contact before, had never turned down a good meal, had never refused to let him hold her. But as she had sat in the corner of her room and rocked back and forth, crying uncontrollably, Gabriel had refused to accept what was right in front of him. His little girl was sick.
The fact that he could have contributed to it filled him with dread and self-loathing. How could he have been that stupid? How could he have been that naïve? How could have been that bad a father?
Glancing back to the screen, he pushed a few buttons and quickly ran it through a few of the security checks Simon had known he would. He did it with little energy, but with the small glimmer of hope that maybe something odd would show up and he could continue to deny that anything was wrong with River. When both tests came back negative, he was filled with such contempt he wanted to vomit.
Swallowing down the acid in his throat, Gabriel switched off the screen and flipped on another, sending out a wave. When the recipient answered, Gabriel fixed him with his normal, courteous smile. “How are things?”
“Very well, Mr. Tam.” The Academy’s headmaster looked surprised at the impromptu call. “And you?”
“Can’t complain,” Gabriel forced out, trying to keep his civil tone intact. “I wondered if I might speak with my daughter? She had to leave so suddenly, I’m afraid we’re missing her around here.”
The headmaster smiled a polite, sympathetic smile. “Well, Gabriel, it’s the middle of the night, but I can have her wave you in the morning. Will you be up at eight?”
“I can’t speak with her now?” Gabriel was hoping the desperation he felt didn’t show. He worried that if he didn’t see his daughter in the next few seconds, he might reach through the screen and beat the man to death. “Regan especially is having a hard time adjusting and I thought –"
“I’m sorry, Mr. Tam,” the headmaster told him, a steeliness replacing the geniality in his tone. “We don’t interrupt the children’s sleep cycles. Being well-rested is one of the keys to learning.” Replacing the fake smile to his expression, he asked, “Would you like me to have her wave you in the morning?”
“Yes,” Gabriel answered methodically, his thoughts drifting into a murderous realm. “Eight would be fine.”
“Very well, then. Good night, Mr. Tam.” The screen winked off in a second.
Sighing heavily, Gabriel stared at the blank screen for what seemed hours. Finally, he let his head drop into his hands and he sobbed, for the daughter and son he’d lost
“So what is the plan?”
They had assembled back on Serenity. Mal had to admit he liked having the crew, his crew, all in one place. It made him feel better, more settled.
Turning to address Wash, Mal said, “The doc wants us to wait and see if his ma’ll come through. I told him we’d give her ‘till first light. If she waves us, we’ll work a plan with them in it. If she don’t, then, we’ll work our own plan.”
Of course, not all of his crew was here. He took in each face around the dining table, a place that had seen many late night card games, many holiday feasts, many everyday dinners. Wash and Zoe sat close to each other, barely a hands-breadth away, but not touching. Mal always thought they did it out of deference to him, knowing how he felt about shipboard relations. But Mal knew better. Zoe didn’t do nothing, say nothing or think nothing she didn’t want to. Mal had no delusions about that.
Jayne seemed pretty tweaked they were on Osiris at all. He didn’t like the idea of River being tortured of course, but whether or not the doc lived or died was of no consequence to the mercenary. Plus, he didn’t like the fact they were sitting on a core world with a heavy overabundance of Alliance. It made his skin crawl, and not in a good way.
Inara had rejoined them and she stared intently at the mug of tea in her hands. She had barely met Mal’s gaze since their little exchange outside and Mal felt all kinds of embarrassed for that. He should have handled himself better, not been so emotional. But call it a weak moment, a truthful moment or just damn foolish, it was what it was.
Simon and Kaylee were his two wayward babes. Inara had insisted they stay on the shuttle. Simon was still sleeping and Kaylee needed rest as well. Bringing them back on board would only get them both worked up and they would need to be sharp when the rescue attempt was launched. Of course Mal was sure there were ulterior motives to Inara’s insistence, mostly relating to the budding romance between the doctor and the mechanic, but he kept silent about that. No use alerting everyone else to the personal goings-on of those two young people. Fact was, Kaylee deserved a little happiness and she liked the doc somethin’ fierce. While Mal didn’t see what all the fuss was about, he did want Kaylee to be happy, so he’d let it go – for now.
“Do we really think it’s smart to be waiting that long, sir?”
Zoe’s question pulled Mal back to the situation at hand. Glancing to her, he said, “I honestly don’t know. The doc seems content to wait it out, so I think we need to follow his lead on this one.” Mal ignored the snort that came from Jayne’s general direction as he said, “In the meantime, there’s just a few more hours of nighttime left and we could all use some shuteye.”
The crew recognized the dismissal and Mal watched Jayne, Zoe and Wash shuffle off towards their bunks. When the room had cleared only he and Inara were left. She still would not raise her eyes to look at him.
Clearing his throat, Mal asked, “’Nara, is there something troubling you?”
Pulling her gaze back from a far away place, Inara glanced up at him, blinking quickly to focus. “What? Oh, no, Mal, no. Of course – I’m fine,” she said hurriedly, rising and taking her cup to the sink. She was drying the clean porcelain when Mal joined her.
“I don’t know who you think you’re foolin’, but it ain’t me,” he told her quietly.
She finished wiping the dish with no further comment and Mal thought she might actually leave the room without an explanation. But finally, as she refolded the dishrag for the fourth time, she said, “I can’t help thinking about River, in that place.” She brought her eyes to look at him and he saw big tears pooling at the bottom of them. “I think it’s a good thing Simon’s gotten hit over the head the past few days. At least he can sleep.” Her tears started to fall then, her eyes having gotten too full to hold them in.
“Oh, hey,” Mal said, pulling her to him. He wrapped his arms around her for the second time that night, as Inara buried her face in his shirt, crying silent tears. “Look, the girl survived before and she can do it again,” he told her gently, stroking her silky hair. It felt so soothing, just to be holding her.
“Mal, when I heard Simon explain those images to his mother,” Inara said, her voice coming in hiccups as she pulled back to look at him. “I just – everything just came together then. I started putting all of River’s strange behavior and crazy rants into perspective and I realized what it all meant.” Inara stopped, biting her lip to keep more sobs at bay. Mal kept his gaze locked on her face, waiting for her to continue. “They didn’t just torture her, Mal. They wanted to destroy her, if for no other reason than to see what would happen. What kind of people would do something like that to someone like her?”
More tears came and Mal could feel the pain in Inara’s heart as she again buried her face against his shoulder. She reached her arms around him now, and held him tightly as her body continued to shake with sobs. Mal held her back, trying to think of words that would bring her comfort, knowing there weren’t any. Inara felt things more deeply than just about anyone he knew, except maybe Kaylee. But unlike the younger girl, Inara had to keep everything buried, deep within herself. It was an occupational hazard in Inara’s line of work and Mal guessed it would eventually be the reason she gave up the life of a companion for something else. Mal knew someone with as big a heart as Inara couldn’t keep it locked away forever, no matter how hard she tried.
The voice was soothing and gentle and vaguely familiar. River blinked rapidly to bring the voice into focus, looking around the stark white and gray room for the person who had spoken her name. Her heart fluttered as she thought she recognized him. “Simon?”
“Yes, mei mei,” he told her, coming forward and gently pushing her hair back behind her ear. River took in more of her surroundings now and saw that she was still at the Academy, strapped to a cold metal chair in one of their interrogation rooms. The lights overhead burned her sensitive eyes and she blinked back watery tears. They were alone.
“Simon, please,” she whispered, her voice breaking as tears came. Her mind was foggy and full of voices and thoughts that were not her own. Her body hurt everywhere, cuts and bruises lining her arms from the needles and probes they had inserted. Her head felt a hundred pounds heavier, the throbbing in her skull from the newly minted scars on her head causing black dots to blur her vision. “Simon, please, please, get me out of here.”
Simon’s expression never changed from one of concern. She was so tired, so beaten that she didn’t even feel the change in his sense as he said resignedly, “I can’t, River. You have to stay here.”
With those words the room was immediately filled with doctors and soldiers and surgeons all coming to perform more tests, coming to try and break her apart. She screamed long and hard and lost sight of Simon in the crowd of strange faces that surrounded her. He couldn’t leave her here, he just couldn’t. He always protected her and she needed him again.
The doctors in the room studied with great intensity the jumping needle that marked off River Tam’s brain waves. The psychotropic drugs they had injected her with over three hours ago had taken a while to work through her blood stream, but they were now able to record the results and it was fascinating. The girl writhed on the metal table, her wrists and ankles quickly bruising and swelling as they pulled against the hard restraints. She was screaming again as well, but they supposed it couldn’t be helped. Judging by her brain activity she was experiencing a vivid nightmare and her outward reactions were as of much interest to them as her inward ones. She was crying again as well, large tears that rained down her face and soaked her already sweat stained hair.
Shrugging the doctors, went back to studying their equipment, knowing that the girl would be fine once the drugs wore off – whenever that happened to be.
Simon was trying to find her, trying to see her over the large crowd of Alliance that separated them. He had glimpsed her for a moment, scared and trapped, her eyes unfocused and her body beaten. Simon pushed his way through the never ending crowd, unable to reach her, his arms tiring as he pushed back one man after another.
“River!” It was a scream now, an outraged cry that tore through him. He had to get to her. He had to keep her safe.
Kaylee awoke abruptly as Simon’s thrashing and yelling became more pronounced. They had stayed on Inara’s shuttle while the rest of the crew had gone back to the ship and Kaylee had secretly been relieved. She didn’t want to wake Simon, not now, when he was finally getting some undisturbed rest and she wanted to keep him all to herself for just a little while longer.
While she had been content to stay awake and watch over him all night, her body had other plans, and it wasn’t long before her eyelids had been drooping, her head lolling forward as she dozed off. After about the third time, she had resigned herself to getting a little rest. Keeping a hold of his hand, Kaylee had snuggled herself beside him, placing a light arm over his chest, her head resting against his shoulder. In minutes she’d been asleep.
And now, with startling suddenness, she was awake. Blinking rapidly, she looked up to see Simon thrashing about. He had pulled away from her as he clawed angrily at the air over the bed, trying to snatch something invisible into his grasp. He was crying as well, tears falling down his cheeks and he was yelling River’s name. Yelling with such pain and fear in his voice that tears immediately sprung to Kaylee’s eyes.
Knowing she needed to wake him, Kaylee tried to grab him by the shoulders, calling his name. “Simon, honey, wake up. You’re just dreamin’.”
He thrashed for a few more moments against Kaylee’s tight grip on his arms and then just as quickly his eyes snapped open, his breath coming in rapid, short pants as he tried to clear the sleep-induced confusion from his mind.
Turning fear-filled eyes on her, he whispered, “Where am I?”
“We’re on ‘Nara’s shuttle,” Kaylee explained slowly, resuming her seat next to him. “You were having a nightmare, ‘bout River.”
“River,” it was a whisper with barely any strength behind it as the images from his dream came rushing back to the surface. He placed both hands over his face, unable to hold back his tears. She was in pain and she was in trouble and he needed to get to her. How could he have let this happen?
“Oh sweetie, it’s okay,” Kaylee whispered, reaching up to push damp hair off his forehead.
“No, it’s not,” he said, his muffled voice coming through his hands. Wiping his face fiercely in an effort to stop the tears, they were still falling steadily, as looked at her. “She’s hurting, more than I thought possible. I can feel it. And it’s all my fault.”
“No,” Kaylee told him, with a conviction in her voice that startled him. “No, Simon, it’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault except the gorram Alliance. You didn’t do this to her.”
“I might as well have,” Simon sighed, unable to meet her gaze. Kaylee believed in him so fiercely, it pained him to know he had let her down too. “I let them take her. Twice.”
Unable to hold it in any longer, Simon cried giant sobs that shook his entire body. Kaylee’s eyes immediately filled with tears knowing she couldn’t take away the pain he felt. Without his sister, Simon didn’t know who he was or where he fit, and the thought that he could never see her again, filled him with such dread he could barely admit it to himself, but Kaylee knew. She had witnessed their bond on board Serenity all those months and she knew. There was no shame in loving someone with your whole heart, whether it was your mother, sister, wife or girlfriend. Or a young doctor who hadn’t quite figured out you were alive.
Simon rolled away from her, ashamed for her to see him cry so unabashedly. Determined to help him, Kaylee lay down beside him, and wrapped her arms around him, placing one under his head and the other just over his chest. She brought her knees up parallel with his own, and rested her head against the crook in his neck. She felt him grab her arm with his and hold it tight to his chest as he continued to cry for his sister. Kaylee just held him, knowing that at this point, it was all she could do.
As morning rose on Osiris, Mal was awakened by an insistent beeping. “Someone better be dead,” he grumbled, staggering across the room to turn on the comm. “It’s ruttin’ early for calls.”
The face that met him on the monitor immediately sobered him. “Captain Reynolds, I presume?”
“You can,” Mal answered awkwardly, wishing he had thought to pull on a shirt before answering the wave. “And who may I presume are you?”
“I am Gabriel Tam,” the older gentleman said. “I’d like to talk with you about my daughter. And how you plan to get her back.”
Mal had not wanted either Tam on his boat. He had fought Inara long and hard on the idea of inviting them, to his ship, to discuss their next move. But insisting that any other gesture would be considered rude, Inara’s persistence, and deep brown eyes, had won out. Now, Mal was intensely uncomfortable, realizing that two people, who did not have a very high opinion of anyone in his line of work, were on board his ship.
Simon and Kaylee were back too. Kaylee had brought the doctor into the dining room, supporting his still shaky form. Mal could see that something in their relationship had changed over the past few days. Lingering touches and meaning-filled glances swarmed in the space between them and Mal would have been annoyed if not for the extra light in his mechanic’s eyes. When that girl was happy, oh, it was a sight to see.
Drawing his attention back to the immediate problem, Mal stared down Gabriel Tam as he said, “All right, you’re on my boat. Against my better judgment,” he added, throwing a significant glance to Inara who ignored him. “What do you got?”
Gabriel looked to his wife confused, uncertain exactly what Mal was asking. After Regan gave him a reassuring nod, Gabriel looked back to the captain and said, “I would offer to pay to get River out of that facility, but I don’t think that’ll work. So, instead, I propose something – well, a little riskier.”
Perking up, Jayne and Zoe leaned forward to get a better look at the holo-imager the man had brought aboard. Pressing a sequence of buttons, the imager lit up and displayed the interior corridors of some kind of facility, Mal guessed the Academy. Marked on the image in various places were red and blue sticks, along with yellow exes and hash marks.
Looking to the older man, Mal inclined his head toward the image and asked, “You expect me to understand that?”
Smiling slightly, Gabriel started to point. “These red and blue lines are the different forms of security in the Academy. The red indicate guards, mostly stationed at entry points, here, here and here,” he reported, pointing to each area in turn. Mal leaned forward slightly to get a better look. “The blue lines are internal, plain clothes security – orderlies and such. They are not as well trained as the ones in uniform, the red, but they know how to hold and sedate anyone making the slightest bit of trouble. Their disbursement is a bit more random, but typically averages to one about every fifteen feet.” Again Gabriel motioned to the schematic, making sure to point out as many details as often as he could. Everyone on this ship would need a very clear understanding of the facility’s workings if his plan was going to work.
“The yellow, is the trickiest part and our greatest challenge,” Gabriel explained, resuming his seat and fixing the captain with a stare. “It’s the automated security system and it has many layers.”
Using a remote, Gabriel flipped through another sequence of numbers and focused the diagram onto one of the yellow exes. Immediately outlined in accurate detail was a drawing of one of the many security terminals. Judging by all the bells, whistles and buttons, it was indeed complicated.
“First, there’s the thumbprint scan. An obstacle for sure, but not insurmountable,” Gabriel stated, leaning forward to again point out each element. “Then there’s the ident swipe. Again, easily falsified. Next a series of key sequences, changed every hour on the hour to insure the tightest of security. Finally, a retinal scan. Nearly impossible to fake, but we might have an advantage.” Glancing up to the captain, Gabriel let his gaze travel around the room until it finally settled on his son across the table. “There’s only one person I’ve ever known to do it successfully and he’s sitting in this room.”
All other pairs of eyes turned to regard Simon, who for his part was returning his father’s gaze with an unwavering one of his own. After what seemed an eternity, Simon cleared his throat and said to no one in particular, “Yes, I did it, once. When I got River out the first time. But there’s not guarantee we’ll be able to access the kind of technology we’ll need to do it again.”
“Be that as it may, doc, I’m still fuzzy on one part,” Mal said, stopping Gabriel from asking his next question. Leaning forward with both fists resting on the tabletop, Mal asked, “What is it exactly you expect us to do, Mr. Tam?”
A look of confusion clouded the other man’s features. Regan instinctively took her husband’s hand as her heart sunk to the floor. Maybe they weren’t going to help them. Maybe they didn’t want to, maybe they wanted River to suffer – Stop it, she ordered herself. These were good people; she had to believe that, otherwise nothing made any sense.
“We want you to rescue River,” Gabriel explained slowly, as if the concept might be more than Mal could grasp. “I was able to get these diagrams from my office. I thought they would be beneficial.”
“Oh, they are,” Mal said, standing upright and pacing a short path at the head of the table. “And iff’n we was planning to take our lives into our hands, I’d say trying to break into a highly secure government facility full of crazy kids would be the way to go.” Mal ignored the chuckle from Jayne’s corner of the room, as he said, “But how’s about you leave the criminal mastermind stuff to us?”
Gabriel looked to his wife, then to his son and back to the captain. Uncertain he had any other choice, Gabriel sat back in the chair and nodded once, encouraging the captain to continue. “All righty then,” Mal said, clapping his hands and rubbing them together fiendishly. “Wash, what kind of diabolical escapade you got planned?”
Looking from his own wife and back to the captain, Wash sat up with a start. “Me, diabolical? Capt’n, I’m afraid you’ve confused me with someone, well, not me.”
Disappointment etched into his face, Mal scanned the table, calling each of his crew. “Zoe? Jayne? Inara? Kaylee?” As each shook their head in turn, Mal sighed heavily and said, “Well that’s discouraging.”
“It has to be me.”
The voice and the statement startled them all. Quickly, Kaylee reached to take Simon’s hand, fear lighting her eyes as he continued. “I have to go.”
“Doc, I know you’ve been hit pretty hard the past few days. I don’t think you’re thinking clearly,” Mal warned.
“No, Captain, I’m thinking more clearly than I have in a while. It’s my fault River’s back there, so it’s my responsibility to get her back.” There was no fear in Simon’s face, no anger or malice, just resignation. The young man had resigned himself to the fact that he was the only person who could get River back and in one piece. Whether he would survive the attempt or not was of little consequence.
“Simon, no. You can’t –" Kaylee’s words were cut off as Simon turned to cup her face in his hands. Bringing their foreheads together, Simon whispered to her, “I have to, bao bei. She’s my sister and I told her I would keep her safe.” Wiping tears away with his thumbs, Simon placed a gentle kiss on her forehead as he reached up to wrap his arms around her. If anyone was surprised by the overt show of affection no one said anything. Mal averted his gaze, feeling he was intruding on a private moment, and was glad when Zoe broke the silence.
“How’re you going to do it? You said before it took you almost two years to get to her.”
Simon released Kaylee, who still held his hand intently, as he turned to face the first mate. “It did. And unfortunately, we can’t wait that long, not again.” Taking a deep breath, Simon switched his gaze to his parents. “I’m going to need your help, actually.”
Both Regan and Gabriel exchanged the same look, full of fear, apprehension and the smallest glimmer of hope. Answering for them both, Gabriel said, “Of course, son. Whatever we can do.”
“Then we’re going to need cash,” Simon said grimly. “Lots of it.”
Tuesday, March 14, 2006 7:42 PM
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