BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

THE RETRIBUTION SERIES: 5. "Options"
Sunday, February 25, 2007

"Zoe recovers from the sedative and Simon contemplates what will likely happen next. As the Captain gathers his remaining crew together there comes another bombshell."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1921    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "OPTIONS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: S/K. M/I. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: SEQUEL to "RAISING THE STAKES". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://unilelu.net/Alison/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "Zoe recovers from the sedative and Simon contemplates what will likely happen next. As the Captain gathers his remaining crew together there comes another bombshell." 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.

"OPTIONS"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

"Ain't the Cap'n's fault."

The doctor stared at Zoe as if she had just had a lobotomy. "Of course it is. His half baked plans are always putting us in mortal peril."

Zoe's eyes narrowed. Even sitting on the infirmary bed she was a formidable woman to cross. "You seemed pretty happy an' relieved when the Cap'n took the medicine back."

Carefully Simon began putting his instruments away, the blood pressure cuff going back in its' case as he talked. "I was but my point is, he should never have taken the medicine in the first place."

"My my." Came the last voice Simon wanted to hear. "Must be mighty satisfyin' to look down your nose with that 20:20 vision."

Simon flushed but wouldn't back down. "Just speaking the truth, Captain."

"As you see it."

"Well, yes."

The Captain stepped into the infirmary his eyes not leaving Simon's face. "Might consider them as don't have such options. We take what jobs as we can find. Keep flyin'."

"And we can all see how well that turned out."

For a moment Simon felt a prick of shame, the Captain's face going pale. He owed the man so much yet couldn't help resenting it. Hurt and worry flickered briefly in the Captain's eyes then shifted into a blank deep well of unfathomable darkness. The shutters were down and Mal looked at Zoe. "How you doin'?"

"Fine, sir."

No more words were exchanged than that, the Captain taking a moment before turning away from Zoe and giving Simon a questioning glance. The doctor was more subdued when he spoke this time. "I've checked and double checked, Captain. It really was just a sedative."

"An' you're sure it's outta her system, *dui*?"

"*Qu*. I don't anticipate any side effects."

The Captain nodded, a swift last look in Zoe's direction as if to confirm that she was in fact okay. "Good, that's good."

Simon watched the Captain go, Zoe slipping off the infirmary bed and following in the man's wake as if she were his shadow. The doctor continued to pack the last of his instruments away. He was actually impressed with Zoe. Most other people would be blaming the Captain for what had happened to Wash but not Zoe. It was human nature to want someone to blame but Serenity's first mate was much more even handed in her judgement than he would have been. Malcolm Reynolds wasn't his best friend and the doctor hadn't walked through the Shadow of the Valley of Death with him either. Even so, there were times when Simon had to admit that he secretly envied that level of trust and commitment. Knowing someone so well it was like being joined at the hip. Whole worlds of meaning exhanged in a glance. He adored his sister, was closer to River than any other living being yet Simon didn't understand her half as well as he would have liked. She was a puzzle to him, an enigma. Something beautiful that had been broken and rearranged into a configuration he did not recognise and could barely comprehend, though he was trying. Her patience with him kept his frustration in check.

Now here they all were, teetering on the brink of another crazy crusade that would put all of their lives in jeopardy once again. Not that he for one minute didn't want to help rescue Wash and Jayne. If, there was anything left to rescue.

The Captain's voice on the com roused Simon out of his reverie calling all the crew to the commons area. Simon gave a last glance around the infirmary making sure everything was as it should be ready for the next emergency to unfold. He tried not to worry, wondering what marvellously inventive plan Mal had come up with this time and whether any of them would survive it. Oh, what fun. Another bone jarringly terrifying roller coaster ride into the mouth of madness. He knew he wasn't being fair but stress tended to do that to him and the Captain made an easy target.

When Simon got to the commons room he was the last to arrive. Mal was standing grim and tense at the head of the table, Zoe beside him with a look that boded nothing but bad for Niska if she ever got her hands on him. Kaylee was quiet but fretful, her eyes wide and shiny with worry. Only Inara's comforting presence standing just behind her chair kept the girl from falling apart. Simon eased into the seat next to Kaylee's and caught her hand in his, her watery smile making him wish he could wave a magic wand and make everything all right. River sat on the other side of Kaylee, her expression showing she was deep in thought, brow furrowed. Aware of her brother but not looking in his direction. Shepherd Book was standing on the other side of the table, the strange man who had accompanied him and Zoe back to the ship next to him, watching and listening with grave intent. Simon frowned, taking in the traditional samurai clothing, the man's *daisho* worn as if it was a part of him not simply for ornamentation. Then the Captain was speaking and Simon's speculative thoughts fled in the wake of words that burned into his mind and soul.

* * * * *

It was an odd contraption. A tilting frame of iron that was easily strong enough to support his bulky frame. Monty would have struggled but he had been injected with something that was making him all manner of lethargic. Sight and sound were blurs that left him dizzy, disorientated and unable to concentrate. Fleeting thoughts left no echo in their wake, no trace of memory to cling to and no horizon. Stripped to his pants even his shoes and socks had been removed. The cold frame beneath him made no impression. Hands and feet shackled to the frame he did not even have the luxury of being able to stretch. Monty's head lolled to one side, unresponsive to anything Niska did or said. Vacant eyes staring, his feelings as detached as his thoughts: faint wispy clouds blown and scattered before someone's else's wind.

"You wake now, yes?"

Monty tried to blink but it was like the blinds shutting over his eyes were working without the aid of gravity, completely ignoring any impulses from the brain. Everything was impossibly slow, words drawn out and stretched into sounds that had no impact on his consciousness. Whatever Niska was saying meant nothing to him. As if realising Monty was beyond feeling anything including pain, Adelei Niska looked at Hans Richter with a look of displeasure on his wrinkled and lined face. "I think perhaps you gave him too much."

He sounded irritated, disappointed. Richter did not wince, was used to his *laoban's* moods. Niska paced around Monty for a moment or two then looked at the big man thoughtfully before tilting his head towards Richter. "Wake him. He needs to know what it is to be on the wrong side of Niska."

Richter nodded and let a grin of anticipation slide across his face as he reached for a pair of pliers.

* * * * *

Inara could not believe what she was hearing. "You can't do that, you'll be playing right into his hands!"

The Captain hated this. She always had to be defying him in front of his gorram crew, undermining him as if her opinion was the only one that mattered. He was the Captain, gorramit, not some lapdog hanging on her every core-bred word. Before he could snap at her Zoe spoke up, her cool even voice taking the heat out the tension mounting in the room. If anyone had a right to an opinion about what to do it was Serenity's first mate.

"Not helpin', Inara. In case you haven't noticed we don't have many options an' I'm not about to leave my husband in that twisted *liumang's* hands a minute longer than can be avoided whether you approve or not."

"*Wo zhidao*, Zoe, I didn't mean to upset you but this is a stupid plan."

Something in Zoe's eyes darkened. "It's the plan I took to the Cap'n."

For a moment the Companion looked stunned. This was Zoe's plan? Her eyes widened in surprise before she could mask her reaction.

"Of course," said Zoe in a calm reasonable voice, only the steel in her eyes indicating that she was feeling far from either, "if you've got a better plan... one more likely to work without any kind of risk, I'm sure we're all dyin' to hear it."

Flustered, Inara opened her mouth then closed it again. The truth was, she had nothing and now everybody knew it. Her silence confirmed what Zoe suspected. Inara's opposition to the plan was more about riling the Captain than being a reasoned critique and she was sick of it. At times Inara's antics had been amusing to watch but not now. And not when the woman's actions had the potential to split the crew. Plus, if Inara Serra ever really hurt Malcolm Reynolds she would discover that having Zoe as an enemy would make Niska look like an amateur. Inara might be a friend but Mal was family. As the two women's eyes met a spark passed between them: Zoe's message had been received and understood. Whatever else Inara was she was not stupid. Time now to concentrate on the real enemy.

* * * * *

Wash was alarmed but also confused. Where the *diyu* was Jayne and what in the nine hells was Monty doing in this stinking *jianyu*? And Zoe, did that twisted *liumang* Niska have his wife as well? Stomach clenching with panic, it took the pilot all his strength and will power not to rant and rail, to beg and offer anything just to keep the light of his life safe. Wash hurt all over in a way that was oddly remote yet the pain underlined the fact that he was not okay. He found it impossible to pinpoint a single area of physical damage. It was wierd and starting to creep him out. No bruises, no broken bones. Skin intact. So why did he feel like Reavers had crawled inside his mouth and urinated in it? And why did he feel as if his body had been through a meat grinder? Another wave of nausea hit him and he rolled on to his side. Minutes later he wiped his mouth on his sleeve and came to the conclusion that he had been drugged.

Easing himself on to his back, Wash closed his eyes and tried to think. Why the good gorram would Niska drug him? Fragments of memory flashed behind his retinas until he remembered the bathing house. A sudden realisation made him sit too quickly, the pain flaring behind sore eyelids like a flash grenade, his stomach protesting, while every muscle in his body went through a spasm like a baptism of fire. Gasping as he fought to gain control Wash tried for calm but failed miserably. In its' absence he reached for anger and clung on tight. Gritting his teeth the pilot willed himself to remember, to methodically go back to the last thing he could recall. They were in bed when the girl had come to them. Insisted there was something they must see and it had been beautiful. Unexpected and impressive. The bottle of champagne had surprised and flattered them. The champagne! What hotel woke its' guests in the dead of night to show them a ceiling then plied them with champagne?

With a groan Wash tried to sit up but his body was not obeying him. Putting his right forearm over his eyes he could not help but call himself a hundred times the fool. Every instinct urged him to move, to do something to get out of this incarceration. He had to find Zoe then get out of here. In the meantime he fought back another wave of nausea more violent than the last and waited for the 'verse to stop spinning long enough for him to get to his feet.

* * * * *

Shepherd Book listened carefully, his calm sombre voice rolling out a question or two here and there. He could see Zoe's reasoning though the Captain's expression was somewhat pinched. As Zoe finished speaking she left a final word hanging. "Clever."

Disgruntled the Captain frowned. "That all you gotta say?"

"Just sayin' this wasn't random, sir. Niska took our best tracker first."

They were all in the commons room, each pair of ears stretched to catch every word. Mal fixed Zoe with an intent look. "Meanin' what exactly?"

"Only one thing it can mean, sir. They're on this planet somewhere."

"You hit your head without me knowin'? How'd'you figure that? They could be any-gorram-where."

Book shook his head. "Actually they couldn't."

Before the Captain could query his assertion Zoe continued, her voice flat with not an inch of give in it. "I think that's why he had to take Jayne out first. Make sure we couldn't find his bolt hole."

Kaylee paled. "You mean... Jayne is... dead?"

Zoe shook her head. "Not sayin' that."

"But he could be?"

"If he was dead there'd be a body."

Zoe hadn't meant to be so blunt about it but sometimes you just had to cut through the sentimental crap. The mechanic's eyes went round. She did not ask if that went for Wash too. Simon knew everyone was tense, like powderkegs needing naught but a spark to set them off. If one blew they would all follow suit and he was determined not to do Niska's job for him. The Captain straightened. "We'll find 'em."

"Alive, sir."

"That's the plan."

"We need to move fast sir, every second we lose gives Niska the advantage."

A bleak look flatlined in the Captain's eyes. "Everyone always has the advantage over us, Zoe, that's what makes us mighty."

"Yes, sir."

It was at that moment that Simon realised River was no longer in the room. Seeing his distraction, Kaylee touched his arm. "What's up?"

"River. She was here a minute ago..."

"I'm sure River is fine." The Shepherd assured him.

Just then the girl's voice came over the com. "Captain, you'd better come up here."

"*Shenme shi*?"

Even as he asked the question the Captain was hurrying in the direction of the bridge, Zoe and Book just a step or two behind him. Simon's hand tightened gently on Kaylee's wrist as she made to follow. Pausing she looked up at him and felt her heart turn to mush at the look in his eyes. Despite how dire things seemed, Kaylee was convinced she could endure anything if Simon was with her. The smile on her face vanished though when she and Simon got to the bridge just in time to catch the images flickering on the live cortex feed. Shepherd Book was standing next to Zoe, his eyes fixed on the screen, ears trying to block out the almost inhuman sounds while quiet outrage swept through him. "*Wode ma*!"

Kaylee's mouth dropped open in shock, her hand coming up to cover her mouth as tears pricked her eyes. The Captain stood stiff and tense in front of the screen, as pale as parchment, unable to look away from what he was seeing.

"You took something from me, Captain Reynolds." The soft unctious voice oozed its' smug malice off screen. "Now I take something from you, yes? Something *you* value."

"You want me Niska you come after me, *dong ma*? No call for you to do this."

"Ah!" The wizzened face from Mal's darkest nightmares came into view, momentarily blocking out the image of Monty Reynolds hanging like a great slab of meat with blood running down his face and chest. His face was too close to the camera, distorted but impossible to make more hideous that it was in actuality. "But someone needs to pay for Crow, yes? I think you forget him and this is not good."

Inwardly the Captain cursed even as he railed against his enemy. He should have known that the brief flare of frustration that had resulted in him kicking Niska's henchman into Serenity's engine would have consequences. Just had not figured Monty would be the one to pay the price.

"Let him go, he ain't the one you're mad at an' while we're on the subject what the good gorram you do to Wash an' Jayne?"

There was a pleased look in Niska's eyes as he tilted his head back slightly, the light glinting off his glasses as he appeared to savour every word. "I have already met the real you, Mr Reynolds, and you are an extraordinary man but you remember what I told you, yes?"

The Captain said nothing, the only thing holding him together was tension.

"This is not the time for extraordinary men. I want to hurt you but always you resist me." The man tut-tutted mildly as if he were a favoured grandfather reluctantly correcting a wayward child. "You destroy my skyplex and now business is not so good. My reputation not so solid. I am forced to be... less direct, yes?"

The Captain leaned in close to the screen, his nose almost touching it. "Now you listen to me you *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo*.."

"No!"

The sudden loud crack of the word startled the Captain into silence.

"You broke this, you fix this, yes?" Niska's cold expression folded into the creases of a sudden smug smile. It sickened the Captain but not as much as the man's next words. Niska waved a hand in the direction of his latest victim. "You want that I should let him go?"

"I want you to let them *all* go!" Mal roared, aware as he always was of Zoe standing right beside him.

"For this I need a price."

When Zoe opened her mouth to say something Niska shook his head at her and looked at the Captain. Niska nodded slowly as he saw the look in the Captain's eyes. "You know what I want, what Niska always wants, yes?" He said softly.

Kaylee realised what the man was alluding to and shock freed her tongue. "Cap'n, you can't do that! Don't listen to him!"

"Hush now, Kaylee."

"Sir!"

"Zoe, need you an' the others to leave the bridge, *dong ma*?"

Her look solidified into something harder than granite and he knew with a sinking feeling that she was not going anywhere. He could rant and rave all he liked, all it would get him was a sore throat. The Captain turned to Shepherd Book, hoping the Preacher would be more reasonable, but the man's look hardened before he could ask. "Not gonna happen."

To his dispair Mal noticed that all his remaining crew were crammed on the bridge, not one of them fixing to leave. He wasn't sure when Inara had joined them but her pale face was indication enough that she had seen what Niska had done to Monty. For once she wasn't speaking, her eyes reflecting a myriad of emotions normally hidden behind that serene Companion mask. This time she was hiding nothing. She was upset, angry and terrified he was about to do something monumentally stupid. Akira Hanimoto stood just behind her and too far away to have a view of the cortex screen but something told Mal that the man didn't need to see what the others had to know they were in *shen goushi*.

Turning back to the screen the Captain noticed Niska waiting patiently for him and wished with every atom of his being that he could just reach in through the screen and wring the man's scrawny little neck until his eyes popped. But his luck being what it was he couldn't do that, in fact had no notion of where the man was or the state of Wash and Jayne. Seeing Monty like that cut him deep. Most of his family were dead and gone, either lost to war or lost to the peace that followed. Even in victory the Alliance revelled in petty vengeance, visiting their wrath upon those that had opposed them as equally as them as had sheltered their enemies. Mal and Zoe had survived, lived to fight another day only it was a different kind of war and again they were on the losing side. Driven to eek out a living taking whatever jobs they could find beneath the radar of the mighty gorram Alliance. His boat, his crew, were all the family Malcolm Reynolds had left now - them and Monty - and if he didn't act fast he was like to lose every last one of them.

Before he could sort his thoughts properly into words Niska took the iniative from him. "One hour, Mr Reynolds."

"*Deng*!"

Too late, the screen went dark. For a moment the bridge was silent then everybody starting talking at once. The Captain stared at the screen, never had he felt so helpless and impotent before. The cacaphony of competing voices became a distant distraction, the need to find his missing people and keep his crew safe uppermost in his numb thoughts. Niska had the whip hand and both men knew it. His crew could argue all they liked but the die was cast. When he looked up the others fell silent, their voices trailing off, eyes anxious and clinging to his for answers, a way out of their dilemna. He had the answer right enough but not one they would want to be hearing. He was the Captain, decision was his. Niska had been right about one thing. This was his mess and he was the only one who could fix it.

* * * * *

Wash turned on his side, relieved when the fiercesome throwing up had run its' course. Couldn't remember the last time he had felt this bad. A loud stomping and clanking caught his attention. A careful movement of his head was enough to give a view of his cell door. Lights came on in the long dank hallway leading to his fetid prison. Dim sulphur rich bulbs that hardly illuminated anything at all. As he eased himself into a sitting position two muscled hulks came down the corridor to his cell half dragging and half carrying a figure slumped between them. At first he thought it was Monty, but as the cell door was slung open and they threw their unconscious charge on the floor at his feet Wash's heart lurched. It was Jayne.

Without speaking a word to him, the men locked the door and left, the dim lights extinguished as they exited to go up to the higher levels. Wash had no idea where they were, how deep beneath the surface of whatever world they had been incarcerated on. Slipping off the stone shelf that served as bed and bench, Wash sank to his knees and slowly turned the big man on to his back. Wash squinted in the dimness of the cell, making out an impression of details while lacking the light to do more. Jayne never stirred. With a hand that shook, the pilot reached out and felt for a pulse, his fingers slippery from the greasy viscosity of congealing blood. *Oh god, oh god, I can't do this* he thought. But even as the denial hit him he knew he could because he had to, there was nobody else and besides - Jayne might know what had happened to Zoe.

* * * * *

The Captain was pacing, the minutes ticking off like a bomb in his head. Heart in his mouth and worry eating him up from the inside out. It was good news that Zoe was going to be alright. Simon was nothing if not thorough and the best gorram doctor he had ever seen and he had seen plenty. No, he wasn't worried about his first mate's physical condition it was her mental state that was hanging on by a wire. Concern over Wash's whereabouts and how they were going to implement the crazy plan was her only focus, only the Captain didn't intend to go with Plan A. Naturally, Zoe would kill him if she found out. That almost made him smile. The way his luck was running he would praying for death by the time she knew the full of it but if Niska kept his word at least the others would be safe.

He didn't hear the quiet soft tread of bare feet. Was mostly unaware that his retreat to the second shuttle had been breached. By the time he realised he was no longer alone, River Tam had stepped right up to him, her long dark hair hanging uncombed and lank adding to the lacklustre look on her sad face. The brief painful thought that his wounded little bird should be the last one to know such sorrow faded like mist with the first words out of her mouth.

"Don't go alone."

Mal shook his head, about to deny what they were both thinking then stopped himself. Who the good gorram did he think he was kidding? His voice cracked as he spoke. "No choice."

She shook her head. He wondered how someone so fragile could be so strong. "Not fragile and you do have a choice. You won't ask and he won't take no for an answer but you need him."

"River, this ain't somethin' that can be solved with numbers, *dong ma*?"

A sad smile of affection gifted him with a shadow of the happy joy he had seen at times upon her pale face. Times too few for someone of such tender years. "Not a child and this isn't your fault."

Her absolution almost choked him as he responded. "Is too."

"*Bu qu*. Only one person to blame and he's waiting."

The Captain's look sharpened. The girl nodded.

"Niska wants to speak to you." River watched as the Captain swallowed slowly, willing himself to get a grip before pushing his limbs into moving. "I sent the feed to this shuttle."

Mal blinked at her. Stunned. "The others know you did that?"

"Not yet but they will."

In that moment he knew that as much as she hated the idea River was giving her tacit agreement to his revised plan. "They're gonna be pretty mad with you for doin' that."

Her smile was sunshine on trouble waters. "*Fang xin*, they'll be so mad at you they won't think about being mad at me."

"Huh, not so crazy as you seem."

Then he moving, switching on the cortex link in shuttle two once River had moved out of sight of the screen. The last thing he needed was for Niska to see River and move the goalposts. As the wizzened face appeared on his screen Malcolm Reynolds saw that the view behind the *liumang* had changed. Instead of Monty or Jayne strung up behind him, another familiar shape caused his heart to constrict. Wash was mercifully looking much better than either of the others had done and Mal was determined to get him out before Niska got bored into becoming more creative. Man had been tortured once, the Captain had no intention of letting it happen a second time.

"You have decided, yes?"

The Captain nodded. "*Qu*. Just tell me the where an' when but I want your promise, you gotta let the others go."

Niska smiled slightly, as if amused that the Captain would dare to bargain at a time like this. "You are not in a position to demand promises, Mr Reynolds."

"Maybehaps not but I still want your word. I do this an' our score is settled, *dong ma*? Do what you gorram want with me just let them go. You do that an' your reputation is solid with me."

The man actually laughed then nodded as the amusement trailed off. There was a look of satisfaction in his eyes. "You do as you say, come alone an' they will be released."

"You promise?"

"Niska keeps his promises."

The Captain nodded. Good enough. "Now, the time an' place."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dui* = correct *qu* = yes (lit. go) *laoban* = boss *wo zhidao* = I know *liumang* = asshole/bastard/criminal/gangster *diyu* = hell *jianyu* = prison *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wode ma* = mother of God *deng* = wait *dong ma* = understand? *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* = animal fucking bastard *shen goushi* = deep crap *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart)

JAPANESE GLOSSARY:

*daisho* = the katana and wakizashi sword combination worn by the samurai

COMMENTS

Sunday, February 25, 2007 8:49 AM

AMDOBELL


Sorry for the delay in getting this next part posted up. Real life has been more complicated than usual. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, February 25, 2007 11:02 AM

TAMSIBLING


Interesting. I really loved Simon's introspection regarding River and how she's been put back together, but he can't recognize her. I agree with River - the captain should not go alone or they will never see him again. And I can only imagine what Inara will do to him once she finds out he's agreed to turn himself in.

Sunday, February 25, 2007 3:25 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Ah...ever noble, ever foolish...it describes the post-War Mal to a T:(

Still...this was definitely some brilliant work here, AMDOBELL. Especially liked the moment where Inara got verbally bitch-slapped for assuming the less-than-stellar plan was another Malcolm Reynolds Special, and when Inara was thinking on the other woman's past behaviour concerning her best friend;D

BEB

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 3:01 AM

JETFLAIR


:gasps: Mal turning himself in? Eeek! He better come up with a darn clever double-cross, 'cause I'm feeling all kinds of scared for him.

I really felt for poor scared, sick Wash, having to face his worst fears. And Monty in an interesting addition.

Consider me hooked and very worried about our beloved crew.....

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 5:54 AM

LEIASKY


Nice build-up of tension and now Mal is turning himself in? Ohhh, do we get to see some torture?

*clasps hands gleefully*

Yes, I'm twisted.


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