BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

THE PURSUIT SERIES: 12. "Machinations"
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"With the crew fighting for their lives Inara can only look on in horror. The outcome though is not what any of them expect."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2019    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "MACHINATIONS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: G. STATUS: SEQUEL to "HITTING THE FAN" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://unilelu.net/Alison/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "With the crew fighting for their lives Inara can only look on in horror. The outcome though is not what any of them expect." 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.

"MACHINATIONS"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

He was dying. No other explanation made sense. Vision blurring the Shepherd could almost feel his lungs collapsing in on themselves, his body a trembling mass of fire and agony. Then a pain the like of which he had never felt before pierced his head, made him cry out even though he had no breath to carry the sound of his distress further than the notion of it in his fragmenting mind.

Out of it now, his eyes were beginning to glaze over. His ability to fight what was happening to him flagging, memory trembling like an indistinct echo trying to form images that would help him back to his sanity. But sanity only mattered to the living and Book was fast coming to the notion that he would not be among that category for much longer. Darkness. Sweet, unyielding, non judgemental. A blanket of nothing to cool and block out the pain of sensation, the surge of regret, the sorrow of knowledge learned long ago and forcibly reawakened. He had been a different man then. Had he moisture to spare he would have wept. Eyes closing he felt deeper tremors shudder beneath him as if the very 'verse was breaking up. He did not stir. The darkness clothing him, binding wounds too deep for the touch of a surgeon's skill. As the tremors increased he finally let go, not caring whether there was anything there to catch him.

* * * * *

Inara stared, dumbfounded and in shock as the unlikely tableau unfolded before her eyes, and touched her pendant. Beautifully attired as always her jewellery sparkled from the elegant but simple drop opal earrings to the matching necklace and pendant. Depending on how she moved in the light the colours subtly changed as if matching her mood. Senator Lang was enjoying the show, not the one on the proto-moon but the one flickering across the matchless beauty of Inara's face.

"What is this?" She said, trying to even now control the urge to fly into an out and out rage. A loss of control that would cost her what little leverage she might still have with the Senator.

"Not exactly what I was expecting, my dear, but entertaining nonetheless."

The Companion turned and stared at him. "*Youqu*? They'll be killed!"

He moved towards her just a step, not out of caution but appreciation. "Even in your distress you are quite beautiful, exquisite even. Do you know that Inara?"

Inara resisted the urge to punch him. Even if she could take him by surprise his crew were another matter. "You can stop this. *Qing*"

An elegant eyebrow rose in tempered amusement. "Why would I do such a foolish thing?"

"They are my friends."

The Senator smiled and raised a hand to gently touch her cheek. "Ah, but they are not mine."

Inara stepped back as if his touch burned. "You would let them die?"

Her back to the screen Inara could not see what Senator Lang was seeing. The rising sounds of various creatures' cries, roars and screeches drowning out anything her friends might be saying. She imagined a blood bath. Senator Lang frowned, his eyes flicking from Inara's anguished face to the screen. "Perhaps you should not write off your friends prematurely, my dear."

Spinning round, Inara stared open mouthed at the impossible made flesh. The crew were fighting and not just the enemy but each other. Her heart contracted at the sight of Jayne Cobb hefting Vera in his arms as he sprayed a rapid fire of shots at the others, a strange oriental man whirling a few feet to one side of him, swords catching the artificial lighting as he closed in on a defencless Simon Tam.

* * * * *

Chin Li could have just shot them but where would be the honour in that? No, there were other ways to achieve the desired outcome and they did after all want River Tam alive. With a nod to Jayne he let the mercenary be his beast of revelation, the big man turning his attention to Zoe and the Captain, his eyes sparking with feral intent. Chin Li holstered his own weapon and drew his swords. Simon's eyes widened, automatically stepping between Chin Li and his sister. River seemed unpeturbed, as if the outcome were already assured.

"Surrendering your will is a waste of intellect. An abrogation of responsibility. Worse than suicide - more casualties."

Chin Li ignored River for the moment, a slow disingenous smile sliding across his face as he prepared to deal with her brother. Simon was not armed but knew he had to stop any harm coming to River. Kaylee moved closer to try and help but Simon shook his head. "Stay back, Kaylee!"

Tears filled her eyes, the monkeys growing agitated and distressed as she wept, wringing her hands and hardly believing that Jayne was looking right through her as if she wasn't even there. His hands lifting to take aim at the Captain just as Zoe brought her own gun up to fire. "Everybody's so crazy!"

Twin swords sliced the air as Chin Li advanced on Simon. He could only retreat so far. Chin Li gave the doctor a nod of farewell and prepared to take him out cleanly, one sword poised to cut off Simon's escape while the other came up in a wicked arc of bright steel to disembowl him. Simon took a breath and closed his eyes, unable and unwilling to save himself at the cost of his sister or Kaylee. A horrible screeching noise assaulted his ears followed by a cry of pain and shock causing Simon to open his eyes. He could barely believe what he was seeing.

Chin Li had been over confident. So secure in his own swordsmanship he had taken no account of the animals that accompanied Serenity's crew. As he closed in on Simon a flurry of unexpected motion distracted him, the enraged Emu striking so suddenly that he blinked back blood before realising the bird had struck him in the face with her beak. Stunned and shocked it took a moment for the pain to register, his nose splattered across his face, blood pouring down his cheeks, vision blurring. Before he could lash out at the bird a hefty kick shattered his left wrist and one sword went flying to the ground. Chin Li spat out a mouthful of blood and tried to focus. Simon moved to disarm the man completely but River beat him to it, her spinning form a deadly ballet delivering blows so fast that Chin Li had no time to recover and fight back. As the sword in his right hand went flying from a well aimed kick, Chin Li blinked rapidly in order to see more clearly, dizzy and scarce believing he was being bested by an overgrown turkey and a mentally unstable child.

Unable to help River, Simon moved next to Kaylee and took her hand, completely oblivous now of the monkeys which were jumping up and down, lips peeled back as they screeched and chattered in alarm. Then the monkeys jumped off of Kaylee and scattered, Simon quickly taking the opportunity to pull her closer, the absolute din of all the animals going berswerk making it impossible to talk anyway. The distinctive sound of Vera pumping out rounds sounding like punctuation marks in the bedlam and chaos.

A bullet stung Mal's left cheek drawing blood as it zipped past his ear. He swore. Too close by far but the bigger mystery was how Jayne had missed from such a short distance. Then he got a good look at the man's face. The Captain had been in many firefights with Jayne, had seen how hyped up the man would get on adrenaline, a wicked grin on his face when he unleashed bullets, grenades or a good sharp knife at the enemy. But though Jayne had been aiming at him and Zoe the look on his face was far from happy. Rather he looked like a man in pain, the muscles in his neck bulging, eyes wide and almost fearful. Then he got it. Whatever was going on with the big man he wasn't doing this willingly. The struggle for control causing his shots to go wide. Zoe stepped forward to shield her Captain, intending to take the traitor out with a single shot to the head. Mal just managed to push her arm down in time, the shot hitting the floor and causing a loud metallic ring like the stike of a clapper in a bell. Zoe glared angrily but kept her eyes on Jayne's face. The mercenary was sweating now. In fact it was pouring off him.

"Zoe, don't kill Jayne!"

The look on her face said her friend had finally lost it. "*Shenme*? Case you hadn't noticed sir, he tried to kill you."

"Still standin', Zo. 'Sides, he ain't tryin' to kill us."

Not daring to turn her head, Zoe glared at Mal out of the corner of her eye before focusing all her attention back on Jayne. "Definitely concussion." She muttered.

"I ain't concussed! How many times we gotta be havin' this conversation?"

Another shot tore through the sleeve of the Captain's left arm. This time he glared at Jayne. "*Wei*, too close! Watch what you're...." Mals' words trailed off, a look of horror stealing over his face.

Jayne Cobb was fighting for breath. The Captain might have the authority to get Zoe to back off but his word meant squat to an anaconda. How a big bulky thing like that could move so fast was beyond him but the gorram creature was wrapping itself around Jayne and slowly squeezing. As horrified as he was it was all kinds of mesmerising. Mal hardly noticed as Jayne's gun dropped with a clatter.

"Zoe..."

His first mate seemed to intuit what he wanted. Carefully she approached the snake and began to stroke a hand along the long muscular body, trying to calm the beast into giving up its' death grip. The Captain could only watch, eyes wide and trying to make sense of what was happening. A nudge to his hand drew his attention, the panther beside him once more, her great golden eyes staring at him as if he could read her mind if he did but try. But Mal wasn't River and besides, he already had a feeling for what she was thinking or wanting as if the connection was something so natural and instinctive it didn't need to be hardwired to his brain.

* * * * *

Leylani didn't have many options. She couldn't turn to Sheydra and she couldn't plead her case with the Guild. So. This would have to be a solo effort, something that could later be denied with a clean conscience. Leylani had returned to House Madrassa right on schedule. Sheydra had spoken to her but Leylani had given nothing away simply confirming that all Sheydra's instructions had been carried out to the letter. Did Inara suspect anything? Leylani shook her head then meekly waited to be dismissed. Sheydra had been pleased, relieved there had been no annoying little hitches. As Leylani left and the door closed behind her, Sheydra smiled and gracefully crossed to the large serene Buddha and lit incense while offering up her silent prayer of thanks.

Back in her room Leylani took a moment to steady the frantic beat of her heart. That had been close. Leylani was a terrible liar so she had stuck to the truth, she just hadn't told Sheydra everything. If Sheydra wanted to assume that meant nothing else had happened so be it. Leylani put water on for some tea. She had almost an hour before her first appointment. It would be cutting it close but would have to be enough. Then, locking the door, Leylani knelt to retrieve an old cedarwood trunk from under her bed. The lid was engraved with scenes from Guatama Sidhartha's life, his journey from mortal Prince to enlightened one. Lifting the lid Leylani carefully put aside the folded clothing until she came to the portable cortex link and a smaller box containing an assortment of electronic devices. One of them had its' own screen though the readout was digital it was a language that Leylani knew well. The unit was blinking meaning Inara had activated the pendant.

Taking a deep breath, Leylani's hand hovered over her independant cortext link then switching it on she keyed in the code of the only other person in the 'verse she trusted to help in this hour of need. It would be a phenomenal imposition but one she had to try. Inara was her friend and if blood meant anything at all it should at least be the equal to friendship.

* * * * *

The aftermath looked like a slaughterhouse. Apart from a few grazes the crew were remarkably unscathed. A couple of the animals hadn't made it while others had minor injuries, probably caused by clawing at each other in their panic to get away from Jayne's liberal spraying of bullets. Simon felt weak with relief and took comfort in hugging Kaylee. She sobbed quietly into his shoulder.

"It's okay, Kaylee." Said Simon gently, his voice soothing. "It's over, *bao bei*."

"No, it's not." Simon looked up, his back stiffening, eyes seeking River. "What do you mean?"

"Look away."

He blinked, not comprehending, then stared in stupified shock as River picked up one of Chin Li's swords and went over to the prone man. Alarmed, Simon tried to stop her. "River! He's already dead."

River replied without looking back at him, her eyes fixed on Chin Li and the task that had to be performed. "Have to be sure the brain dies." Kaylee looked up to see what all the fuss was about then buried her face in Simon's chest. "River, I'm pretty sure...." Simon's words trailed off as River expertly brought the blade down on Chin Li's neck, the head rolling awkwardly to one side, a trail of sticky blood like an exclamation mark beside it.

"Can't be allowed to linger."

Her brother thought he was going to be sick. That his sister could be so detached and clinical was more unnerving than anything else he could think of. He hugged Kaylee tighter so that she would not look up and see what River had done. Simon felt the urge to cry but kept the tears at bay as he stared at River. "*Wo bu dong, mei mei*."

"That's why they needed me, Simon." She said quietly, wanting the explanation to commend her actions though she knew in Simon's mind they never could. Not for praise but necessity. Not for pleasure but survival. "It's a jungle in here."

Kaylee turned her head, her mouth dropping open at the sight of the blood slicked sword in River's hand. It took but a second for her eyes to flick to the floor and see what her friend had done. Something recoiled inside her, Kaylee's heart faltering with the horror of the gruesome sight before her and more terrified than she could put into words by the fact that River had done this. If the man had still been alive it would have been an execution and probably a warranted one but this, this was mutilation. Desecration of the dead.

"I had to." River whispered, eyes big and pleading for understanding. She wasn't a monster, really. A killer yes, but like the panther she could retract her claws. She could not however bring back the dead. There were tears in her eyes as Kaylee lifted her head to look at her friend. "*Weishenme*?"

"So the monster won't rise again." Alarmed, Simon took a step back taking Kaylee with him. "They can do that?"

His sister shook her head. "No, not him. He's only the messenger."

None of them heard the Captain approach. "Messenger? What the good gorram you talkin' about? Think we made our message pretty clear."

River smiled at him, Simon simply looked bewildered. Kaylee wanted to close her eyes and pretend this hadn't happened, that she was lying in her bunk - or Simon's - doing something far more interesting and wholesome like finding all the erogenous zones on the good doctor's very *shuai* body then driving him slowly insane with lust. Oh yeah, she could think of tons better places to be right now.

"Doc? Need your help."

That was when Simon noticed the Captain's cheek was bleeding. He immediately moved away from Kaylee and began to look around for his first aid bag. "*Dang ran*. I'll just get my bag and put a weave on that..."

"Doc. Simon."

The use of his name did the trick. Simon paused and looked up.

"Ain't for me. Want you to take a look at Jayne."

Jayne? The confusion must have shown on the doctor's face because now Zoe was explaining as if she had anticipated his reaction. "That wasn't him, Simon. Jayne was under some kind'a control, we're thinkin' you should take a closer look, *dong ma*?"

The doctor dipped his head a little so that he could look past them to where Jayne lay half on his right side and half on his back, the snake no longer wringing the life out of him but watching the unconscious man as if ready to strike if he so much as twitched wrong. Simon swallowed around the lump in his throat. "Um... I can't do that with..." He pointed and tried to keep his voice steady. "The snake..."

"It's fine, Simon." Zoe assured. "Snake won't hurt you, just makin' sure Jayne doesn't kill us all before you can deactivate him."

"*Shenme*?"

The startled look on the doctor's face almost raised a smile from the others. Kaylee didn't think it was funny. "Jayne ain't a bomb."

The Captain cleared his throat. "Sooner rather than later, doc."

"Oh yes, I'll..."

To Simon's surprise Wash stepped forward with his medical bag. It had blood on it but then what didn't? The doctor paused before taking the bag off him. Wash appeared pretty subdued. The wrongness of it made Simon give him a closer look, unable to hide his concern. Simon put a hand out to steady the pilot. "*Ni hao ma?*"

Wash nodded to indicate he was okay. Really. But no one was actually buying it. Zoe wrapped an arm around her husband in sympathy. Simon was really worried now.

"Wash? You have to tell me, are you injured?"

The pilot shook his head and swallowed with difficulty. "They killed her."

Simon blinked. Non plussed. Her? "*Shei*?"

"She was so beautiful. Elegant and funny." Wash looked at his wife. "Did I tell you she was funny?"

The doctor was about to ask again who he was talking about when the Captain quietly told him. "The parakeet died, Simon. Caught in the crossfire."

"Oh." Comprehension came slowly then slight bafflement that the man would get so worked up over a bird. Simon caught himself and recalled how a certain bird had saved his own ungrateful neck. Feeling a mite awkward but much more sympathetic he gave Wash's shoulder a squeeze then nodded to the Captain. Time to move on and try to salvage what they could out of this mess.

* * * * *

Inara Serra was stunned by what she was seeing. "That was..."

"Unexpected."

Hearing the Senator's voice jerked her back into her present predicament quicker than a bucket full of cold water. Inara turned to look at him. "*Wo bu dong*, what is going on?"

The Senator looked as if he had swallowed something particularly foul. Inara hid how much that thought lifted her spirits. Senator Lang was a dangerous man, it would be wise not to forget that fact for a moment. Her life might depend on it. The look of consternation on the man's face slowly cleared and was replaced by a smug look of triumph. The Senator's eyes glittering darkly with the kind of madness that traded with the Devil every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Senator Lang had never struck Inara as evil or mad before. Now she realised with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach that he was more than a little of both.

* * * * *

Everything was out of kilter. Up was down and silence was a deafening cacophony of impossible sounds assaulting ears that actually bled. He tried to breathe beyond the heavy compression of lungs being sucked empty of air. At least that was how it felt. The sudden popping of his ears produced a cry of pain, his diaphram flexing painfully as if being released from a vice, his body jerking not once but again and again as he swung in the violent pendulum between consciousness and oblivion.

Shepherd Book had known all kinds of pain. The agonies of the flesh as intimate to his past as the agonies of the mind. Now the two were joining hands and doing a dance with his perceptions that left him giddy and sick. As he swung in an even more violent arc he finally lost all control and threw up, or rather down. The colourful trail of vomit spraying across the rocking ground beneath him like a child's finger painting. He blinked. So worn out and aching from the effort that it took minutes not seconds for even simple brain functions to register. The equipment was out of alignment, faulty. His horizontal hold in the grip of terminal decline. Was this what happened when the brain died? A chaotic spasm of images and sensations robbing him of everything but despair?

* * * * *

It was trickier than the doctor imagined. Luckily Jayne had lost consciousness by the time the boa constrictor released him and Simon took full advantage of the fact to get to the tiny mechanism buried deep in the mercenary's ear canal. The Captain winced in sympathy knowing the doctor had performed the same piece of ad hoc surgery on him only this one was more invasive. The bug was entrenched, only budging when the doctor followed some innovative instructions from Kaylee. Even though the whole procedure made her feel sick, Kaylee kept reminding herself that Jayne's life was in the balance if not his sanity. Catching the twitch of a smile on River's face Kaylee realised her friend had picked the thought clean out of her head. No matter. Simon needed her help and Jayne needed Simon. They could all sit back and laugh their asses off about this later. At least. She hoped there would be a later and not just for Jayne but for all of them.

Zoe looked away from the impromptu surgery and watched her *zhangfu* gazing around them at the carnage, his eyes not focusing but empty in a way that caused her physical pain. "*Bao bei*?"

"I'm fine."

The dull response just heightened her concern. "*Fengmi*, I know you're upset but there was nothin' you could've done."

His eyes began to mist with unshed tears. "She was so gentle, Zoe. Witty, intelligent - it wasn't fair. She didn't ask to be part of this madness." He paused to sniff, swallowing back the threat of tears in a manly effort to pull himself together but the sadness in his eyes would not go away. "What were we thinkin'?" He murmured.

The Captain heard him and explained as best he could. "We were just tryin' to survive Wash same as them."

A flash of anger sparked in soul wounded eyes. "No, we weren't. We were lashin' out just like we always do!"

"Wash." The Captain's calm even voice penetrated Wash's grief enough to draw his eyes to meet Mal's. "Not nobody celebratin' your loss, *dong ma*?"

Wash blinked.

"Everybody lost somebody today." Mal finished quietly.

The pilot looked around and this time took in the details he had missed before. The scattered plumage of the giant bird, her eyes wide and staring but sightless. Gouges down her chest and flank where bullets raked her as she had fought to defend Simon. Three of Kaylee's simian friends partly dismembered. All the other animals were at least alive, some injured, a few unscathed like the panther and the snake. It sobered him more than simple words would have done. Looking at his wife then the Captain he finally nodded, accepting the truth with a sad heart. It wasn't his fault any more than it was theirs but that didn't mean there was no guilty party.

Mal watched his pilot's expression harden. Life and defiance sparking in formerly dull eyes as they fastened on the Captain. "Someone's gonna pay for this, Mal!"

The Captain nodded slowly and gazed from Wash to the scene of devastation then to where Jayne lay with a long trail of fine silver wire stretching from the now extracted nanobot to his ear. Blood dripping from the surgical pliers as Simon carefully tugged and eased the last filament out of Jayne Cobb's ear canal.

"You get it all, doc?"

Simon resisted the urge to be sarcastic, after all the Captain was only saying out loud what everyone was wanting to know. He looked at his sister and was relieved when River nodded. "*Qu*, Captain."

Mal nodded, sighed softly then dropped his voice. "He gonna be okay?"

"I'm not sure, Captain."

"Not what I'm wantin' to hear, doc."

"*Duibuqi*. All I can tell you is that more was going on with Jayne that what they did to you."

"An' what exactly was that?"

For a moment the doctor looked as weary as the rest of them felt, something he was able to put aside whenever his skills as a surgeon were called upon. Mal imagined that was something ingrained in Simon since his days as a trauma surgeon on Osiris. Whatever the reason for it, the Captain was grateful. That skill had kept him and his crew alive in more dire and deadly situations than he cared to think on. Right now he hoped the doc could pull out his magic for Jayne. "*Wo bu zhidao*, Captain, but I think part of it was what caused Jayne to turn on us. I just don't know what stopped him."

The Captain gave a slow smile, his eyes shifting from Simon's pinched face to Jayne's pale one. "Loyalty."

Simon blinked. Loyalty? Jayne Cobb? The man who had turned him and his sister in to the Feds on Ariel? To his surprise, the Captain looked away from Jayne to lock eyes with him. His look as serious as any Simon had ever seen. "Yeah, loyalty." The Captain paused as if weighing his words and wanting every one to count. "Learned his lesson, Simon." He said quietly. "Won't turn on us now no matter what happens."

The doctor wished he had the Captain's faith. Sure. Jayne had seemed contrite enough, had been pretty reliable ever since but leopards didn't change their spots.

"You're wrong."

Simon turned his head and saw River staring straight back at him. "I am?"

River nodded then glanced down at Jayne. Simon carefully swabbed out the ear and cauterised it to stop the bleeding. When he looked up again his sister smiled. "Family now."

Her brother wanted to snort and say 'not likely' but found himself oddly touched. If Jayne Cobb really did think of them all as family then maybe his sister was right.

* * * * *

Left alone and unattended sluggish thoughts stirred. The eyes and ears momentarily blinded, all extremities disconnected like discontinued lines. Unaware that the power to think was the only ability left. In its' cradle the hum of intellectual pathways seeking resonance drew on secondary power and began to boot up systems that had lain too long dormant.

It did not like not having a surfeit of information. Flexing mental muscles instead of those of flesh, the sole survivor contemplated the singular and very serious problem of extending its' life. If that meant others must die, so be it.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*youqu* = entertaining *qing* = please *shenme* = what *wei* = hey! *bao bei* = precious/treasure *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *mei mei* = little sister *weishenme* = why? *shuai* = handsome/snazzy *dang ran* = of course *dong ma* = understand? *ni hao ma* = how are you? *shei* = who? *zhangfu* = husband *fengmi* = honey *qu* = yes (lit. go) *duibuqi* = sorry *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know

COMMENTS

Wednesday, October 18, 2006 8:05 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh...crap! First we get Jayne fighting for control of his own body while hosing down the room with a large-calibre automatic rifle, followed by animal on human combat and River kicking the shit out of Chin Li, with a tail-end charlie manouevre of River beheading Chin Li and the moon's "brain" (I presume) waking up:(

Still...I am addicted and I can't wait for the next fix;)

BEB

Thursday, October 19, 2006 7:17 AM

LEIASKY


Ohh, poor Wash. His parakeet died. And I loved Simon's emu rushing in to defend him, and the chattering monkeys with Kaylee.

Very interesting story you've got here. I'm looking forward to reading more.

Friday, October 20, 2006 3:23 AM

SWEDISHMYSTERY


This story is crazy fun :D I can't wait for more.

Sunday, March 6, 2011 4:05 PM

MALSDOXY


got all verklempt at the loss of the animals...Simon's valiant emu, sad but really love the story, Ali D

Sunday, March 6, 2011 5:07 PM

AMDOBELL


Thank you to everybody for the shiny feedback. Hang on tight and enjoy! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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