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DUPLICITY Series: 15. "Mixed Fortunes"
Sunday, June 22, 2008

"The break in goes without a hitch. Badger finds himself short of a few assets and Inara has a rude awakening."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2195    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "MIXED FORTUNES" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: OC/OC. Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. RATING: Mild NC-17. STATUS: Sequel to "PLANS AND SCHEMES". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net

SUMMARY: "The break in goes without a hitch. Badger finds himself short of a few assets and Inara has a rude awakening." 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.

"MIXED FORTUNES"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

The night was so dark that even with the twinkle of distant stars above their heads they could barely see more than a hand in front of them. A fact Book thanked God for even though he was pretty sure He never intended night time to be used for crime. Lying on his stomach by the hole in the fence he could not help thinking either he or Jayne should have wriggled under the fence with Kaylee. Oddly enough the mercenary seemed to pick up on his unease.

"Would've had to make a bigger hole, 'sides Kaylee knows what she's doin'."

"*Wo zhidao* Jayne it's just I can't help worrying. What if she gets into trouble?"

Although Book couldn't see much detail in Jayne's face he could hear the smirk in the big man's voice. "The on'y trouble she's like to have is choosin' what to bring an' what to leave behind."

When the Shepherd did not reply, Jayne moved closer. Now Book could see the slight shine of his eyes in the starlight.

"Any trouble that comes callin' ain't gonna be comin' from in there, *dong ma*? They call these kind'a places a lock up for a reason. Ain't got no livin' accommodation overhead neither. Folks as work here close up for the night an' go home, some house aways from here with family."

"What makes you so sure no one lives on the premises?"

The mercenary gave a dark little chuckle. "You really think this is the first place I ever robbed?"

Book didn't want to think about that, he really didn't.

"Trust me, if folks lived above the shop they wouldn't have a ton of alarms an' cameras all over the place."

It made sense and it did comfort the Shepherd a little though he still worried. It was only when he heard the distinctive huff and grunt of Kaylee working her way back to them on her hands and knees that his spirits rose. Jayne was grinning fit to bust but still kept a sharp eye out. Kaylee shoved the now full back pack under the fence, her face dirty and flushed. Was it Book's imagination or was it a little lighter? He could clearly see Kaylee's face as she wriggled slowly after the back pack, remembering to cover up with soil behind her that Jayne was shoving from his side as she made it through then both of them turned to finish the job. All neat and dusted.

Book grabbed the bag then paused and looked at Kaylee. "What in the nine hells have you got in this bag?"

Her grin was infectious. "Got a real nice shiny stabliser an' just a few bits an' pieces Serenity might be needin'."

"Kaylee..."

She shrugged looking not one bit repentent. "You want I should go an' put 'em back?"

The Preacher shook his head and had to smile. They moved away from the fence into the bushes, it getting a little bit lighter and reminding them the clock was still ticking. Book looked at his watch and the other two did the same. "Okay, we have just over a minute before you have to reconnect the camera on the front. River is already in place. You ready?"

Kaylee nodded. "*Qu*."

Book and Jayne watched anxiously as Kaylee left them and neither man relaxed until they heard the little shuffle of the mechanic's feet as she hurried back to them a few minutes later, just behind her River was grinning from ear to ear, her face smudged with dirt but happy as a clam. Bringing up the rear Zoe cradled her mare's leg as if expecting to use it any moment. So far everything had gone without a hitch and it was making her nervous. No one wanted to let their guard down too soon, they had an awful lot riding on a successful mission.

"*Zhen kuai*." Said Jayne.

"You wanna job doin' properly," Kaylee started, her eyes meeting River's.

"Get a woman to do it." River finished. Jayne glanced at Book and rolled his eyes, trying to ignore the grin on Zoe's face. "Don't let it go to your gorram heads. Come on, *women dei zou le*."

River gave him a sweet smile. "We're ready, we were just waiting for you."

Making a hushing motion with his hands Book led them swiftly back to Serenity. As soon as they were inside Jayne shut and locked the cargo bay door and Kaylee and River lapsed into fits of giggles. Zoe shook her head but couldn't hide her amusement. "You get it?"

Kaylee nodded, her face wall to wall happy. "Shiny, pretty much a brand new stabliser."

"Then best hurry an' get it fitted, *dong ma*? Jayne, you go give her a hand."

The Shepherd felt as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. "It's been a long time since we had a job go this smooth."

"Don't jinx it, we ain't off this rock yet."

He raised his eyebrows at her serious tone. "You expecting trouble?"

"I *always* expect trouble, is nice as *diyu* when it can be avoided though."

Book really couldn't argue with that.

* * * * *

Rinkman wasn't a bad man but he'd fallen in with untrustworthy folk. Had fallen for the angel's smile not realising she was leading him not to *tiantang* but *diyu*. By the time he recovered from the kiss he woke to find himself cuffed to a metal bedstead only there wasn't anything romantic or kinky about it. The man staring down at him made him shudder with fear and revulsion. His heartrate tripping when he saw the syringe in his hands and the look of the *guai* in his eyes as he leaned forward with a grin.

"What're you doin'?"

"Welcomin' you to a new world, *erzi*."

"I don't want a new world, let me go!"

"People have gone to a lot of trouble to give you this opportunity. We don't want to disappoint them, now do we?"

He found the man's voice slimey and creepifying. The words sickeningly honeyed as if to disarm his sense of danger before the needle slid into his arm. "*Tamen shi shui*?"

Paul Rinkman got no reply and before he could ask another question the contents of the syringe hit his bloodstream and carried his consciousness with it like flotsom on an outgoing tide. The man watched, face impassive. Slowly he opened an unzipped soft leather case and put the syringe in it. There were two rubber capped bottles inside, snuggly fitted into elasticated loops specially made to hold them in the padded case. One was now empty but the other was full.

He awoke confused and disorientated. No longer bound but still on the bed only this time he wasn't alone. In a chair next to the bed sat a woman. Perhaps in her mid-twenties but with the kind of stony face that hinted millenia had passed since she last smiled. Groggily he managed to sit upright, sliding back to let the headboard hold him up. "W...what in the nine hells in goin' on an' who are you?"

* * * * *

Inara was nervous and hated herself for it. What was so difficult about sending a wave to her friends? She caught her breath and resisted the urge to close her eyes as she relieved the last few days she had spent on Serenity. The things she had said, the stunned reactions of the crew. The anger and betrayal on the Captain's face, sadness on Book's, confusion from Jayne, pain and a low level anger surprisingly from Simon and a whole world of hurt on Kaylee's face. That her actions had somehow managed what months in the Black had been unable to accomplish in wiping the smile from that much loved face was almost worse than she could bear. Zoe looked pissed, annoyed enough to shoot both her and the Captain if either gave her the least provocation. River was distant, sad and troubled. Her few cryptic words had been unsettling but she had not tried to explain, her look saying it would be a futile effort. The only one who could put this right was Inara and she wasn't listening. Wash had been hurt and puzzled, full of questions but mercifully silent. No doubt Zoe had advised him not to say anything and for that Inara had been thankful.

Now she was facing up to how difficult it would be to go back and how impossible it would be to stay away. Would Mal forgive her? Would he give her the chance to explain? Or should she try a more oblique approach? What the Captain would call throwing his hat into the ring to see if he was welcome before stepping in himself. Inara's first instinct had been to wave the ship but now she hesitated. She would need to give this some thought because she might only get one chance to put things right. A lot of people had been hurt by her actions. Hot on the heels of that thought came another less pleasant realisation. This had been no accident. No mistake. Someone had artfully manipulated her to come to a false conclusion, why they would do so she had no idea but she knew where to start. The wave that had taken what was left of her shattered heart and broken it all over again with what had seemed incontrovertible evidence. Evidence that she now knew to be a lie and from a source that should have been beyond reproach.

Inara was in the room assigned to her. Grateful that she had not been quizzed or forced to explain her sudden unannounced reappearance at House Madrassa. She needed time to sort through her thoughts. Review everything she had been told and shown. Yes, she wanted to return to Serenity but first she had something much more important to do and much as the idea surprised her, there was only one person she could turn to for help.

* * * * *

He had been sleeping. Slumped over the table when his energy had failed him. Didn't hear the chaotic sound of voices competing to be heard in the excitement of a job well done. Kaylee and Jayne had hurried off to fit the new stabliser and Simon had gone back to the infirmary to check on the cortex for likely places where they could get the medical equipment needed for the Captain. It was Zoe's voice yelling for him that had the doctor running, confused to find her bellow coming from the commons room not the cargo bay. As he rushed through the door he skidded to a stop, eyes wide with concern at the sight of the Captain unconscious and a little sea of anxious faces gathered around. Shepherd Book was checking Mal's pulse as Wash hovered anxiously beside him.

"I think the Captain just fell asleep, no cause to panic."

Zoe glared at Simon. "Thought you were gonna keep an eye on him?"

Even though he had only been gone minutes the doctor felt inordinately guilty. Before he could apologise River stepped between them. "Not his fault and no harm done. Wasn't Simon's idea anyway."

"That's not the point." Zoe snapped.

Wash helped Book ease the Captain back into a sitting postion, the side of his face imprinted with the gun stock he had been lying against. Simon eased close enough to check for himself, not willing to leave the care of any of the crew in hands other than his own. "*Duibuqi*, Zoe, I was only gone a couple of minutes. Just checking on the nearest hospital with the facilities we're going to need. The Captain was awake and happily cleaning guns when I left him."

Just then a low groan drew everyone's attention back to the Captain. Simon made sure that Book was bracing him from behind, the makeshift bench having no back for him to lean on. Thinking about it with the benefit of hindsight Simon realised the man would have been better sitting in a chair after all. "Easy Captain." Mal blinked slowly, turning his head sluggishly, his voice slurred. "*Shenme shi*? I become the latest exhibit in a gorram zoo?"

The first mate sighed with relief. Wash grinned. "Cap'n's alright, *bao bei*."

"There a reason I wouldn't be?"

The Shepherd smiled at the puzzled expression on the Captain's face. "No reason, Captain." He explained gently. "You just fell asleep at the table."

"I did?"

"*Qu* and almost gave everyone including the good doctor a heart attack."

The Captain tried to bat away Simon's hands but couldn't stop the doctor making sure he really was okay. "*Wei*, don't need no fuss doc."

Simon smiled at him. "Just checking and I'm glad to say no harm done but I think it's time to get you back to the infirmary for a rest."

"Thought I just woke up?"

Wash grinned at him. "Sleepin' Beauty needs his beauty sleep."

The Captain managed a weak glare. "Thought I hired you to fly my boat not be a gorram comedian?"

Wash rolled his eyes at Zoe. "Better already, see? Back to his old crotchety self."

"That any way to talk to your gorram Cap'n?"

"*Duibuqi* Mal. I meant back to his old crotchety Captain-y self."

Shepherd Book and Wash got either side of the Captain and ignoring his protests carefully lifted him and sat him in a chair then carried Captain and chair to the infirmary with Simon hurrying along in front of them. Zoe went over to the sink and leant on it, momentarily closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. River tilted her head as she looked at her. "Did more good than harm."

"How d'you figure that, little one?"

"Being flat on his back was driving him *shenjingbing*. Not enough to do and too much time to worry."

Zoe frowned, watching the girl as she seemed almost to float around the big table, her eyes cast down as if the grain of the wood held every secret in the 'verse. She trailed the fingers of one hand along the grain, reading its' stories but avoiding the guns. "What do you mean?"

The girl looked up and smiled slightly but it was as if her focus was elsewhere. "He worries about everyone and everything. All of us, Serenity, whether we have enough food, fuel, whether we can find a safe place away from the Alliance. Never stops worrying even when he should feel safe."

"He's the Cap'n." Said Zoe quietly, her voice soft as if trying to reassure River.

"God made him strong not broken."

Zoe stared and wondered what she was talking about. River waved a hand at the weapons all laid out clean and shiny on the table. "Not meant to be idle."

"Don't disagree with you River but Cap'n got hurt bad, has to heal before he can go runnin' around again." Zoe's voice caught on the last words, fear touching her heart a glancing blow. "Will he walk again, little one?" She whispered.

The girl's eyes were luminous and large as saucers. They were the only ones still in the commons area. Time seemed to stand still, the 'verse holding its' breath waiting for her answer. "Will take more than us."

"You sayin' we need help to pull this off?"

"Everybody needs help."

Zoe frowned. "River, that isn't exactly makin' things clearer."

"Trust Simon."

"I do."

River shook her head, the look on her face adamant. "*Bu qu*. TRUST Simon."

"River?"

But River had said all she was going to say and left leaving Zoe staring after her. After a moment Zoe decided to go to the infirmary, check on the Captain then ask Simon where they needed to go from here.

* * * * *

The Blue Ridge complex on Dyton Colony looked like a massive refugee camp from the air. Didn't look any more sophisticated from the ground. Captain Elias Afram looked on in obvious distaste but his orders were clear and this was where that grubby little worm Badger originated from. At least, according to the records the Alliance had on him. As far as the eye could see the tented village sprawled like an ill disciplined child. Afram liked order, craved it like a drug fired directly into his veins. The dusty smoky air clogged his lungs even as he turned his nose up at the dozens of intermingled smells conveying everything from outdoor cooking to poorly treated sewage to incense and a mix of body odours. It offended him in every way possible yet he straightened his spine and cleared the scowl from his face.

At his side Lt Portman Jones stood waiting for orders. They were in an Alliance medium transport. Afram would have preferred something meatier but did not want to alert anyone on the ground to the doom closing in on their murky little colony. Out to both East and West other ships were taking up position, using the low lying smog and uneven terrain as cover. Afram looked at his second and gave a firm curt nod. "You know what to look for then destroy everything."

Jones did not question, just snapped off a salute and passed the order through his headset. Soldiers hurrying from the bowels of the transport with their weapons concealed but at the ready. First they would scour the place for information then once they had gleaned what they could the men would return to their vessels, take off then release the bilogical agent into the lower atmosphere. It would fall as precipitation. Not like acid rain, nothing so obviously foul or wrong. Just an odourless colourless mist mixing with the water in the rain clouds. But unlike water the agent would be absorbed through the fabric of tents and clothing and skin alike. Within 24 hours not a soul would be left alive in the Blue Ridge complex. Dyton Colony itself would remain an unlikely headstone to the largest uncovered mass grave in the 'verse. And with nothing left behind to indicate how it had happened or what had killed them. Clean. Surgical. To Captain Afram it was more than this grubby little community deserved,

* * * * *

It took a couple of hours but at last the stabliser was fitted and tested. Grinning through a grease smeared face Kaylee was fairly bouncing on her toes as she activated the com to the bridge. "Wash? Boat's fixed you can take off now."

"Everythin' shiny?"

She grinned at Jayne. "*Dui*."

"*Zhen kuai*."

"*Mei wenti*. Was easy once we had the parts."

Wash smiled at Zoe who dropped a kiss on his cheek. "You did good, *zhangfu*, now get us out of here *mashang*."

"Where we goin', *bao bei*?"

"Just get us into the Black then we need to have a meetin' with Simon about where best we lay in a course."

The happy on Wash's face dimmed a might as he lifted off. "It's gonna be *weixian*."

Zoe patted his shoulder. "Ain't it always?"

Then she was gone and Wash concentrated on gaining altitude. Sooner they hit atmo the better.

* * * * *

Athens hadn't been Badger's first choice of bolt hole but it seemed every time he settled on a place his enemies got there first. It was more than a little terrifying and downright creepifying how they always seemed one step ahead of him. Hands trembling he actually contemplated doing the unthinkable: contacting his gorram mother for help. Oh, how she would like that. He could just imagine her looking down on him with that 'I told you so' expression. Yet, she had warned him hadn't she? It was a measure of just how shaken he was that he gave the notion a second then a third thought before jettisoning the idea. Maybe on his rutting death bed but he wasn't corpsified yet.

Moving through the half deserted streets of Athens main town was all manner of unsettling. Didn't know too many folk here which was why it was a good place to come, but on the other side of the coin there weren't no one he could tap up for a favour. Nor any favours to call in neither. A lot of his murkier contacts like Big Red and Dodger had ended with their brains plastered across the walls of their abodes. Wasn't like the kind of message that would garner him any sympathy let alone folks wanting to offer him shelter. A little judicious digging via a scrambled cortex link informed him he had a price on his head. Badger swore. *Wode ma*, for that much cashy money he was tempted to turn his ownself in. 100,000 credits!

The boarding house was a flea ridden dump at the end of a back alley. Badger would have turned his nose up at it but beggars couldn't be gorram choosers. After seeing his mugshot on the cortex he quickly stuffed his bowler hat in his bag, ruffed his short hair and did his jacket up. A man had a certain look it marked him. One moment a fine upstanding businessman the next a fella with a gorram bullseye on his back. Once in his room, Badger locked the door then shoved a chair up against it, the wooden back jammed under the handle. He didn't dare call any of his contacts. Mind, the way they were being wiped off the face of the 'verse that wouldn't be an option soon.

"What the *tamade diyu* is goin' on?"

He wasn't ashamed to admit to being scared. Feeling too shaky to stand a moment longer he slumped down on the ratty bed and stared at the mildew stained walls without really seeing them. This was bad. Leaning back he let his head connect with the wall behind him, barely feeling it. Numb. That's what he was. But why were people after him? And not just anyone but the gorram Alliance? Wasn't like he didn't know to tread carefully round those *wangba bans*. So either someone had set him up or they thought he knew something or had something they wanted. But what? Worried as he was the running and hiding was beginning to sap the energy out of him until sheer exhaustion dragged him into a fitful sleep.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wo zhidao* = I know *dong ma* = understand? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *zhen kuai* = that was quick *women dei zou le* = we've got to leave *diyu* = hell *guai* = devil/ghost *tiantang* = heaven *erzi* = son *duibuqi* = sorry *tamen shi shui* = who are they? *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wei* = hey! *bao bei* = precious/treasure *shenjingbing* = crazy *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dui* = correct *mei wenti* = no problem *zhangfu* = husband *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *weixian* = dangerous *wode ma* = mother of God *tamade diyu* = fucking hell *wangba dan* fucking bastard

COMMENTS

Sunday, June 22, 2008 3:15 PM

CBSTEVE


Nice continuing story. Glad to see Inara about to crawl on her hands and knees to apologize to Mal and company. She should do it face to face, not on a Cortex screen. Don't know if I'd be so willing to forgive her after all that has happened to them. Badger, all alone in the verse, and with a price on his head. That's a change. Maybe Mal can collect the bounty on him! Looking for the next part as always.

Sunday, June 22, 2008 3:38 PM

WYTCHCROFT


gotta agree with Cb here - it's nice to see Badger being really USED as a character not just a plot device.

Sunday, June 22, 2008 4:42 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


Loved this. 'Don't jinx it.' That was quite cute. Sounds like something the BDHs would say. Great work, my friend. Please keep it coming.

Monday, June 23, 2008 2:10 AM

JANE0904


I love the fact that Kaylee couldn't resist taking a few 'extra' bits, just in case Serenity needs them! And I can understand Inara's reticence to contact the crew ... she has a lot of grovelling to do.

Monday, June 23, 2008 3:05 PM

SLUMMING


Intriguing, as always. And I love cryptic River! :D


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