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DUPLICITY Series: 19. "Connections"
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Simon finds out what happened tohis parents after he left to go to River's rescue. Paul Rinkman is released to a world he does not recognise and cannot understand."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2485    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "CONNECTIONS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "MOTIVATIONS". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net

SUMMARY: "Simon finds out what happened to his parents after he left to go to River's rescue. Paul Rinkman is released to a world he does not recognise and cannot understand." 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.

"CONNECTIONS"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

It had been so good to see them. To hear his sister's laughter and joy, his mother's tears, his father's brush with a humility he had never before seen upon his face or in his manner. But something was itching at the back of his mind. The makeshift meal had been surprisingly good and Simon realised it was because the food was fresh not protein and because for once they were not waited upon but helping themselves. He hoped his parents found the change as freeing as he did. His father noticed his distraction as River helped her mother clear the table.

"*Shenme shi*, Simon?"

"Where are the servants, father?"

The man's mood darkened slightly. "We thought it best to give them time off. Normally we rotate their holiday periods so there is always someone at the house to cover the duties that are left wanting but you left us little time to make suitable arrangements."

It was on Simon's tongue to apologise but Gabriel held up a hand to stop him, a little smile on his lips as if knowing exactly what was going through his son's head.

"I wasn't critising you, at least - not this time." Simon saw the comment for the truce it was and simply nodded. Finding it a little strange adapting to a more thoughtful and amenable father. In the past the Tam children were always distractions to be brushed aside while the real work of living went on, only to be indulged when it suited their parents or they wanted to show them off. At least one good thing had come of their estrangement. "Once you opened our reluctant eyes I began to notice things in a way I had never done before. I looked more closely at the people around me, watching, listening and evaluating every piece of information as it came to me without discussion. I needed more information but suspecting that the forum in which it might be found had a different agenda to my own who could I trust?"

Simon felt a twinge of sorrow. Up until his actions in leaving home to search for and rescue his sister, his parents had lived a life cocooned from the harsh reality of what lay at the Alliance power base. It hurt him to think that they now felt they had to guard every word and every action but even as it sorrowed him it also made his heart soar, proud that they had finally shaken off the blinkers and were seeing things clearly for the first time. "What did you tell the servants?" He asked quietly.

Their eyes met in complete understanding. "I told them we needed a break and had heard about a radical 'new idea' where we would go away for a week or two and cater for ourselves. Naturally, the servants were shocked."

Simon laughed, it was so improbable hearing his father make a joke out of it yet it relieved him too. He watched the amusement in his father's eyes fade. Serious again, Gabriel Tam needed his son to know the deep sea change his actions had caused.

"We were watched, of course. After you left there were the polite enquiries which initially seemed to be genuine. We were touched and embarrassed that you had just run off on so flimsy an excuse. I am ashamed to admit we tried to cover up but then when you still had not reappeared after the days and weeks turned into months the enquiries became 'less benign'."

"What happened?"

"I was approached at the hospital. You remember Ladland, the hospital administrator?" Simon nodded. "He said he was concerned that the loss of my son was affecting my work."

"But you are the foremost heart surgeon in all of Osiris!"

Gabriel gave his son a flat smile. "Was."

Stunned, Simon could not say anything. Whatever he had expected as a result of his actions it was not this. His mother and father had moved in the most elite circles, attended all the premier events and top tier functions. "They... they... terminated your contract?" He could not quite bring himself to ask if his father had been sacked.

His father laughed, a quiet brittle sound that came out more half cough and half bark and no humour. "*Bu qu*. They couldn't do that without finding something wrong and the sins of the son had yet to become the sins of the father." Simon blinked while his father moved to the liquor cabinet and poured them both a stiff drink. He put the bottle away and handed a glass to Simon before taking a sip from his own. His eyes watching his son over the rim of the expensive lead crystal glass. "I was offered early retirement with full benefits." Another brief laugh, this time tinged with pain. His father's work had been his life. Simon knew. The father's passion for medicine had become the son's holy grail. "It was a 'reward' for all my hard work."

Simon had to sit down, his legs no longer able to hold him up. His father moved to join him, the plush plum coloured sofa sinking beneath their weight yet neither man noticed the casual luxury. Simon looked at his father, apalled. "I did this." He said in a small choked voice.

Unshed tears glazed his father's eyes before he could control the emotion. "No, son. The Alliance did this."

He blinked at the sudden hardness in his father's voice. Gabriel Tam locked eyes with his son and nodded slowly.

"You were right, Simon. My brilliant 'top three percent' son. I should have listened to you."

"*Bu qu, fuqin*. You had to find out for yourself, I know that now."

For a moment neither spoke, both digesting their discourse and absorbing how much the other had changed. Gabriel finished his drink and put the glass on a side table. Simon had yet to touch his own. "For what it's worth, Simon, I'm immensely proud of you."

The longed for vindication was almost too much. Simon couldn't see. Tears filled his eyes and his ears were underwater. Then strong arms drew him in and he was cradled, held safe and treasured as his father hugged him. Gabriel Tam was not a man for spontaneous shows of affection but Simon had always assumed his parents loved both himself and River without reservation. It was why his father's assertion that he would not come for him had hurt so much. He had taken those words to heart and it had blinded him to the fact that his parents did love him but had been blinded by their comfortable life and complete faith in a government that only pretended to care for its' people. In the balance sheet of life under the Alliance everything was measured in terms of profit and loss. The human dimension had been glazed over with a veneer of respectability. Now the blinkers were off, there was nothing to cushion painful truths or the ramifications that came with clearer sight. A lesson it seemed the whole family had learnt to their cost.

"*Wode duibuqi*, father."

His father gave him an honest smile. "Do you mind if I make a confession, Simon?"

Simon was non plussed. Confession? His father? Oh God, what had he done? Gabriel Tam laughed at the procession of expressions on his son's face.

"*Fang xin*, Simon, I have not robbed a train."

Simon couldn't speak. Did not think telling his father that he had would make the conversation any smoother. Well - Mal, Zoe and Jayne had done the actual heist but he had been a party to it, a member of the crew, so was guilty by association if not fact.

"After the initial terror and shock I was alarmed to discover that this is the first time in my life I have ever felt completely free."

"*Shenme*? Free?"

"*Qu*. I admit being forced to retire from the hospital was hard, especially on my ego, but the retirement package was more than generous and there was a very high profile and well attended party to celebrate. My colleagues were confused and more than a little baffled but I knew better than to enlighten them about my fall from grace. It was easier to put a gloss on things and I took Regan on a cruise. We'd always meant to do it but never seemed to have the time."

A shrewd look came into Simon's eyes. "There are no more servants father, are there?"

Gabriel Tam smiled, pleased to see that very little escaped the notice of his sharp eyed son. "No, Simon. Just your mother and I and a house that had become far too big without the rest of our family to fill it."

"I can't imagine how it must feel to..."

His father stopped him. "Simon, *gou le*! Your mother and I are happier now than we have ever been."

That surprised the guilt out of him. "You are?"

"We are. And that is not all."

Simon stared as his father stood up and indicated for him to do likewise. "Come, Simon. It's time to show you what your old man has been doing with his retirement."

* * * * *

Wash tried to reassure his wife but it was a near impossible task given the feelings of dread he was trying to hide with false cheer.

"They've been gone too long!"

Now that was something he could put right. "*Bu qu, bao bei*. Only a few hours actually."

"Four hours!" Zoe ground out, her eyes hard little pebbles boring into his head.

They were out on the catwalk, the bridge being too confining with nothing to do while Serenity was on the ground. Wash had re-set the sensors and had Kaylee making sure the new stabliser was still holding while she did a thorough check of the engine. Knowing how their luck normally ran he didn't want to have to leave in a hurry only to find the hurry part of the equation impossible to do. Looking in on the Captain every five minutes hadn't helped Zoe's mood which had been tense to start with.

"*Fengmi*, give them time. They haven't seen their parents in..." Wash trailed off before continuing. "A very long time."

"What if they went to the Alliance?"

Wash looked shocked. "An' turned in their own children? They wouldn't do that."

"How do you know? How do any of us know what they would do? Remember, these are the same parents who refused to help Simon get River back."

Her husband hated playing Devil's Advocate especially when what she said might be true but neither did he think they would gain anything by jumping to conclusions. "I had Kaylee reconfigure one of the sensors. No one has sent a wave to the Alliance."

"They haven't?"

Wash wrapped his arms around her, felt the tension in her body and tried to thaw out the icy look she had been giving him. "*Bu qu*. Whatever's happening in that house it's just talking."

Relaxing, Zoe took a deep breath to steady herself. "I've been over reacting haven't I?"

Wash smiled, such a happy and loving look in his eyes that it made her go weak with love for him. "*Qu*, not that I would say that, bein' the lovin' sensible non-suicidal husband that I am."

"Wash?"

He paused and looked at her, half afraid she was going to tell him off. The brilliance of her smile almost stopped his heartbeat in its' tracks. "You talk too much." Then her lips were on his and suddenly talking was the last gorram thing on his mind.

Below them in the cargo bay Jayne was wiping off his weights for Book to take his turn, a sour look upon his face. "They do know we can hear them, *dui*?"

Book seemed amused by Jayne's reaction. "I don't think they are thinking about us at all."

"Hnuh." Jayne grunted, then watched as the Shepherd moved effortlessly into place, his back on the bench, hands taking up position on the bar. Jayne was frowning. "Should'a heard somethin' by now."

"Haven't you heard of the phrase 'no news is good news', Jayne?"

The big man huffed. "No."

"Then don't borrow trouble before it comes calling."

"Huh, don't remember that from no bible."

Book lifted the bar and locked his arms above his head. "It's a quote from the Book of Life."

Jayne stared at him but didn't say anything. Not sure if the Preacher was teasing him or being serious.

* * * * *

He was cold. So cold that his extremities could have been chopped off and he wouldn't know it. Body trembling and shaking he could not control or co-ordinate his movements. It was dark, the streets were wet from rain and the sky was still a dark brooding promise of more to come. The thin clothes on his back were already wet through and for now the numbness deadened the pain while consciousness fled down a path he could not follow.

For a long time she watched from the shadows of the alley across the street. Taking note of how the monied folk walked around the fallen man or simply stepped over him, neither breaking stride nor looking down. He could have been a pile of trash for all the notice anyone took of him. She knew she had to be patient. Daylight was not her friend and darkness was still another hour or two away. The half light that was falling helped to ease her impatience, concern heightening at the obvious signs of the man's deterioration. But she knew they could do nothing yet. Not until full dark descended and their specialised transport arrived. Until then she could only watch from her hiding place until it was time to act.

* * * * *

The Tam Estate was not as large as some but it was impressive. The medium sized grounds were massive by most standards, modest by those of the high flyers of the Alliance elite. It was a testament to the former position his parents had held in that society, the money his parents had earnt being invested in bricks and mortar, stocks and shares and the education of their two very gifted children. Now Simon saw something that had not been there before. The building was built in the same style and manner as the house but he knew with a certainty that it had not been there last time he was home.

"Father? What is this place?"

His father was grinning now, a sight that caused Simon to stop in his tracks and just stare at him. How many times in recent years had he seen such pleasure on his father's face? Gabriel Tam opened the door and an explosion of light assaulted Simon's eyes followed by the distinct and unforgettable smells and sounds of a fully working hospital. Gabriel knew he would long savour the look on his son's shell shocked face.

"As I said," his father reiterated, unable to hide a hint of smugness "it was a VERY generous retirement package."

* * * * *

He had stopped calling out. Refused to cry or show just how badly shaken he was. What the *diyu* did these people want with him? Badger tried to review every one of the last deals he had made, looking for any indication that he had upset the rich and powerful more than usual. Normally they never troubled him. He was below them, beneath their dignity to acknowledge let alone pursue in any form of petty vengeance until the time when they wanted something done. Then intermediaries would make the wave, the deal would be set up and he would look through his store of patsies to set up the end of the job.

So lost in his own thoughts was he that Badger did not realise for a few minutes that he was no longer alone. When he did the shock brought him stumbling to his feet.

"You are probably wondering why you are here?"

Badger just stared. The words trapped in his throat where they could not betray just how terrified he was. That his body was shaking was immaterial. Maybe they would just think he was cold.

The two men stood calm and relaxed, a little apart but otherwise as alike as two peas in a pod. The one closest to him gazed with emotionless eyes that had a hollowness behind them that was chilling. Pale gaunt cheeks, sunken eyes, a long apology of a face topped with short dark hair bordering on the greasy. The suit was nondescript, plain black or dark charcoal in colour, a white stiff shirt with a narrow black tie. He was lanky more than thin, limbs seeming too long for his body. The other man could have been a clone. Both men worse thin surgical blue gloves on their hands. Badger could feel his heart trip hammering in his chest. If the cell had been bigger he would have taken a step back.

The second man was watching his reaction like a hawk and now spoke. Voice flat and without any inflection at all. "Where is River Tam?"

Badger blinked. What? Before he could stop himself his irritation got the better of him. "Do I look like a bloody directory?"

He didn't see what hit him but the next thing he knew Badger was on his knees, dizzy and with a high pitched buzzing in his head as if a big rutting bee had flown in through his ear and was taking up residence in his brain. Disorientated and weak he leant forward on his hands, dimly aware of the plop, plop, plop of crimson drops spreading on the floor beneath him. It took forever for him to realise it was blood. His. With a shaky hand he touched his face. He was bleeding from the nose, ears and eyes. What *goushi* was this?

* * * * *

He woke slowly, every sense sluggish. Huh. Not what he was wanting but as consciousness returned his grasp on things solidified into something much closer to normal. Malcolm Reynolds blinked up at the ceiling. A slight scuffing sound alerted him to the fact that someone else was in the room. Lying on his back gave him very little leeway to see what was going on - or not. Fortunately his visitor was polite and stepped up to the head of the bed and into his line of sight. Book smiled down at him benignly.

"How are you feeling, Captain?"

"As if I've been pinned to this gorram bed."

Book chuckled, a deep rich sound that reverberated right through the Captain like a tuning fork. It was warm and all kinds of reassuring. "I came to see if you could manage to eat something."

The Captain raised his eyebrows. "Who did the cookin'?"

"Now Captain, I hope you aren't having any uncharitable thoughts?"

"Not unless Jayne was doin' the needful."

A loud huff told him he had more than one guest. Jayne moved into view, a scowl on his face that didn't match the twinkle of devilment in his eyes. "All ya gotta say's no."

"Good to see you too, Jayne."

That took the wind out of the mercenary's sails, not that he was really angry or annoyed at the Captain but a man had to keep up appearances. Couldn't have folk thinking he was going soft. "So ya wanna eat or not?"

"What did you make?"

Book got busy helping the Captain sit up while Jayne puffed up pillows and stuffed them behind Mal, his actions belying the truculence in his voice. "Stew."

Mal looked surprised. "As in meat an' potato an' somesuch?"

"Yeah, but not so much of the meat."

"Is there *any* meat in it, Jayne?"

Jayne pretended to think about it. "No-ooo."

"How about potato?"

The big man shook his head slowly. "Not so much."

Frustrated, the Captain huffed out his cheeks. "What the good gorram you put in it?"

It was funny to watch the big man go on the defensive. "Weren't my fault, Mal! Ain't got no fresh supplies. Had to use what we got."

"Which was?"

"Protein cubes."

For a moment Mal just stared at him. "I'm takin' it there was somethin' else in with 'em, Jayne, you callin' it a stew an' all."

"I added some spices." The Shepherd put in helpfully.

Jayne flashed a sudden grin. "Found a tin with beans in it."

"Salt water beans or what?"

He frowned. "Ya gonna complain about every gorram thing?"

"*Bu qu*, Jayne. *Duibuqi*, just a mite frustrated bein' stuck in here."

That seemed to placate the man. "Oh, okay. Well the beans were in a kind'a sauce. All tomatoey an' the like."

The Captain could feel his stomach begin to growl. Gorram traitor! But still. Maybe he could manage a spoonful or two of almost-stew.

* * * * *

She blessed the dark and the tiny tracking device inside Paul Rinkman's gut. Even the Alliance wouldn't look to find anything there and in the fullness of time it would be flushed out through the digestive tract like any other bodily waste. Perfect. Efficient and camoflaged just like the man himself had been.

The retrieval was smooth. The van looked nondescript, old and battered like many other vehicles that were beyond their prime but jury-rigged to press into service by those without the coin to buy something shiny and new. But once inside the van that all changed. The walls, floor and ceiling were lined with six inches of lead. A special filtrated oxygen system created a breathable self contained atmosphere. Carefully Rinkman was carried and placed on a bed inside and the doors closed after them. The woman smiled at her companions then turned eyes soft with worry on the figure lying too quietly on the bed. *Wode ma*, he was too still. Only the fact that she knew he was breathing reassured her that they had not left it too late.

"Get us out of this rat-trap, Gillion."

The man next to her nodded, let himself out of the back door and closed then locked it behind him. Quickly climbing into the cab he drove off down the street taking what looked like random turns until he was on the road out of town. Heading towards the agricultural district he still did not put his foot down. The van looked so old and dilapidated no one would give it a second look, not unless it suddenly zoomed out of sight in a cloud of dust or showed itself to be anything other than the wreck it looked to be. Appearances could be deceiving and that was the whole point. That and getting out of this pile of *goushi* alive.

* * * * *

Badger had passed out and didn't come around until the third blow had him raising his hands in a defensive posture even before his rattled brain kicked into gear to tell him he was in trouble. What really shook him though was what he saw when he opened his eyes. Instead of Alliance bully boys or even the creepy nightmare twins, this was a face he recognised and hoped never to see again.

It was painful to swallow, his throat so dry there was nothing to lubricate it for the formation of words but still he managed to push them out between dry cracked lips. Voice hoarse with shock. "Mother! What the *guai* are you doin' here?"

* * * * *

The Operative was pacing, beyond furious. His hands curled into fists as he tried to contain the fury that had gone well past boiling point. When he spoke his voice was measured and calm but the anger was there, half hidden but crouching behind the lids of his eyes, the words on his tongue and every cell in his body.

"What do you mean you lost the signal?"

Before the Operative left the room the monitoring staff lay dead at his feet. Wiping his sword clean on the jacket of the man nearest his feet, he resheathed the weapon and felt his equilibrium settle back into place. His anger excised for the moment. A clean up crew was activated and hurried in to dispose of the mess. Within the hour a new team would be manning the equipment though the Operative knew it was too late for it to do any good. No. This would need to be handled the old fashioned way. It seemed incongruous to him that the Alliance, with all its' wealth and technology, still managed an apalling level of incompetence. Fortunately for them, Operatives of the Parliament were beyond the machinations of petty internal power struggles. They fought for a higher cause, a long term objective of such profound importance that once an Operative had been activated nothing could stop the completion of the mission.

After all, sacrifices must be made to pave the way for a Better World. Even if he would not live to see it.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme shi* = what's the matter? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *fuqin* = father *wode duibuqi* = I'm sorry *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *qu* = yes (lit. go) *gou le* = enough! *bao bei* = precious/treasure *fengmi* = honey *dui* = correct *diyu* = hell *wode ma* = mother of God *goushi* = crap/dog shit *duibuqi* = sorry *guai* = devil/ghost

COMMENTS

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 5:12 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Very cool. I am very interested in seeing what exactly Mr. Tam is talking ab out with his retirement package. :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 6:21 AM

SLUMMING


Fascinating! I love your take on the elder Tams. And Badger's mother is quite intriguing! More soon, please!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 1:10 PM

WYTCHCROFT


i can only agree with all the other somments! you're on a roll:)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 1:11 PM

WYTCHCROFT


somments - ai ya! i spek gud and spel to

Friday, July 11, 2008 2:27 AM

JANE0904


I love the convo between Mal and Jayne about the stew. So very them. And hopefully Simon and his father can get Mal back on the road to recovery, how ever long that takes. But there's more angst around the corner, I can feel it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 12:57 PM

MALSDOXY


"*Fang xin*, Simon, I have not robbed a train."

Simon couldn't speak. Did not think telling his father that he had would make the conversation any smoother.
LMAO! forgot how completely entertaining this series was, re-reading it and still superb, xie xie, AliD


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