BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

DUPLICITY Series: 27. "Outside Influences"
Monday, August 25, 2008

"Regan and Gabriel have an unexpected visitor. The Captain decides to let Inara contact them again against Zoe's objections. Just as it is looking as if they have made a clean get away the crew are accosted by an unknown ship."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2089    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

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

SUMMARY: "Regan and Gabriel have an unexpected visitor. The Captain decides to let Inara contact them again against Zoe's objections. Just as it is looking as if they have made a clean get away the crew are accosted by an unknown ship." 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.

"OUTSIDE INFLUENCES"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

James Henderson was a tall sparse man with a shock of wheat coloured unruly hair. His lean face was weathered but pleasant, laughter lines crowded into every inch of skin and sun ripened into a rich healthsome tan. Though tall he walked with a slight stoop as if his body was forever apologising for towering over people. Mrs Tam had been surprised to see him at her door and now was equally intrigued when he made his formal introduction as Brother James from the Monastery of Joseph of Aramathea.

"*Qing jin*, brother. To what do we owe the honour of this visit?"

His pleasant face took on a serious cast and Regan was relieved when her husband joined them. His look of surprise quickly hidden though his curiosity was not. "I have been asked to see if there is anything I can do for you."

The Tams exchanged a baffled look. "I'm not sure I follow." Said Gabriel. "Who did you say sent you?"

Brother James chuckled. A warm rich sound that tapered off too soon. "I didn't say, *duibuqi*. I believe you are acquainted with Shepherd Book?"

Now the Tams were wary. Gabriel nodded his head. "We are."

"*Hen hao*. I received a communication from him alerting me to the fact that certain people may be taking an unwholesome interest in your situation."

At their wary looks Brother James bit back a sigh and decided couching his words in polite terms would be too vague.

"The Alliance."

All the blood fled from Regan's face. "The children! Gabriel, something's happened to our children!"

Alarmed James hurried to reassure them. "*Fang xin*, your children are safe but you cannot stay here. As we speak there are those who would wish to silence you on their way, *ni dongle ma*?"

Gabriel took his wife's hand. "*Shei*? Perhaps we should call the authorities..."

"They *are* the authorities!" Brother James interrupted.

"*Shenme*? What do they want with us? We have done nothing wrong."

"Sadly Mr Tam you do not have to do anything wrong to incur the wrath of the Alliance. According to Shepherd Book because of your loyalty to your children the Alliance wants to remove you from the equation."

Gabriel Tam stared at him stupidly. "I'm retired."

Brother James nodded. "It is not your working status that concerns them."

"Then what is it?" Asked Regan.

This was the difficult bit. The part people in the Tams situation never wanted to accept. "You are in their way. *Qing*, we must go now. I have prepared a safe place for you but *women dei zou le, ni dongle ma*?"

Gabriel's eyes narrowed. "Why should we trust you?"

Instead of being offended Brother James smiled, his eyes glinting with approval at their caution. Understanding that trusting a stranger was a big step for them. "Because you didn't listen before and now you have a chance not to make the same mistake again."

He was about to argue, refuse, when they heard the distinct sound of a ship overhead.

"Come, we must leave *mashang*!"

Without any further hesitation Regan and Gabriel followed Brother James out of the house and into the fast falling night of Osiris. They moved swiftly into the shadows, the brother as sure footed as they were uncertain. The night a more effective cloak than any kind of subterfuge would have been. As they put more distance behind them and wove in and out of the darkening streets Regan shivered, the sound of military feet marching towards their estate sending unreasoning fear down her spine. Gabriel put his arm around her, drew her close, and quickened their steps. The need to get away and do for his wife what he had failed to do for his children uppermost in his mind.

* * * * *

There were not many things either in or out of the world that could shake Mistress Barbette but the death of Daniel James Hunt was one of them. It was cold. Not yet Winter but a cold late Autumn, the air stirring with winds from the North. The usually temperate clime of Sihnon seemed to be shifting or else it was the nature of what the House Mother knew was coming. Not so much a storm as a foretaste of Armageddon. While she wanted to believe that Daniel had been exaggerating, the things that had been done to that young man to force his compliance in a world almost too harsh to contemplate left her in no doubt as to how far some people would go to further their aims. The chill swept through her body as if she had no bones, no skin to cover shrinking musculature, no coat to aid warmth and keep out the wind. It was as if the pores of her skin had turned her into a sieve, one that kept nothing out.

As she stood by the graveside she let the words of the Preacher drift over her head, a polite cadence of meaningless platitudes meant to give comfort and reassurance. But Daniel had died among strangers, none of the women of House Madrassa knew of his background or parentage only herself and that knowledge now weighed heavily on her. Even as the service began to come to a close, Mistress Barbette knew that if Daniel could see her standing by his grave he would be livid. The thought almost brought a cold smile to her lips. All his efforts to warn her and here she was out in the open for anyone to take a pot shot at. It was funny but only in the grimmest sense of the word, yet she could not deny the boy this last courtesy. He had given his life to warn her and she did intend to take all adequate precautions once she had seen him safely buried in sacred ground.

Annalise was crying openly though she made no sound. Lily Tu put her arm around the stout but homely woman, offering comfort and support. No family members were present and even though the attending doctor who had pronounced Daniel's demise had requested the details, Cyan had played dumb. She stated her belief that the boy was an orphan but promised to make enquiries through channels later. Though unhappy the doctor had accepted her word, written the certificate and given a copy into her hand. She barely noticed him leave. Now they were walking back towards the House, icy little leaves of brown floating down in descending arcs like rusty pieces of old confetti. As they piled beneath the passing feet they crunched, crushed and pummeled into the hard ground like brittle ashes.

Hours later she sat in her study, staring without seeing at her cortex screen. Badger had been patient, really he had. Shut in that gorram bedroom. Didn't matter a good gorram that it was more luxury than he had ever seen in his life, it was still a gorram cage and he hated it. He stared at his mother, wondering what in the nine hells had happened. She didn't look well, shocked if he was any judge. And what the *diyu* was so fasincating on that screen that she didn't hear him come in or notice him standing there for five rutting minutes? His patience ran out just as she looked up, her expression stilling his tongue.

"Stephen, I didn't hear you come in."

Her voice was different. Softer, less sure. A stranger's voice. He didn't like it, made him all manner of uncomfortable. "*Shenme shi*? You been starin' at that screen for hours."

By the look she gave him he knew she had no clue how much time had passed. That thought chilled him, frightened him too if he was a mind to admit it. He took a step towards her.

"You gonna tell me or I gotta call one of them girls?"

She blinked, life slowly trickling back into the shell she had been a moment before. It was as if she had been away on a long and distant trip. It was all kinds of creepifying but what did it mean? "Do you remember the stranger we had staying with us, Stephen?"

Badger frowned. "Yeah, what about 'im?"

"He died."

Well, so what? Wasn't like he was kith or kin was it? Only his mother seemed to be expecting some kind of response from him. "You did say he was hurt bad."

"*Qu*. The doctor said every bone in his body had been broken at least once."

Badger winced. "So it was a mercy, *dui*?"

Her look sharpened on his face, barely contained anger flashing in her eyes. Badger took a hurried step back.

"*Wei*, didn't mean no offense, see? How could I, me not knowin' 'im?"

Then as quickly as her hackles had been raised her anger deflated and suddenly she looked like a wizzened old lady. A woman worn out by something he could barely comprehend. It worried him, more than he was wont to admit. Badger moved to the desk, daring to step within a foot of her and hoping she would not lash out.

"You ain't said but two words to me, *fuqin*. Why you so upset?"

"Does it mean nothing to you that a man has died?" Badger shrugged. "To tell the truth - no - didn't know 'im. That don't explain why you're takin' on so."

For a moment he thought she was going to clam up on him but to Badger's surprise she indicated for him to sit and turned the screen she had been looking at so her son could see it. The image of Daniel James Hunt was obviously taken a few years ago but even then he did not look well. Youthful eyes stared out of a face aged before its' time, eyes that were world weary and too knowing in such a young face. He had heard it said that the eyes were the gorram windows to the soul. If that was true then Badger was looking at a man who knew the inside of every Hell personally. It made him shudder notwithstanding that the man was dead. As he stared he realised words were slowly scrolling across the screen, telling what little was known of Daniel's short but pain filled life. As he read, even a hardened embittered little man like Badger felt something crush against the walls of his heart, an unnamed grief that felt sympathy with a stranger. It was also the only time in Badger's life he had ever seen his mother with tears in her eyes.

* * * * *

Serenity was hushed. No thrumming under the deck plates as she moved through the Black, no noisy conversations floating up from the commons room or the rattle of weights being changed or pots and pans being moved around the kitchen. Mayhap it was because she was in the infirmary but Zoe didn't think so. Her instinct told her the others were about, just silent. Ears stretched to hear the Captain's decision. Her lips were pressed into a thin line, her expression as emotionless as it got which was saying something. Even though the Captain made his own decisions he always allowed her a startling amount of lattitude on voicing her opinion.

"Just think it's a mistake is all, sir."

He was sitting up. Propped by pillows and with a small table placed close by with a glass of water and some of the few wafers that they had left that still had some crisp in them. The Captain resisted the urge to sigh, he knew this was going to be difficult. "Can't hurt to hear what she has to say, Zoe."

Her expression pinched as if she had swallowed neat vinegar. "Heard it the first time round sir, can't say I was rightly impressed."

"Don't need you to fight me on this, *dong ma*?"

"Ain't gonna do that, sir, just don't ask me to be happy about it."

The Captain nodded. "Fair enough. Understand Inara waved you twice?" Zoe nodded. "That mean you got a wave address?"

Zoe shook her head. "*Bu qu* but I can tell you it was somewhere on Sihnon but not the Guild House."

He frowned. "Well then, if she's so all fired anxious to send a wave reckon we'll be gettin' another."

"Reckon so, sir."

He nodded. Subject closed. Without another word Zoe turned and left the infirmary, giving Simon a short nod. The doctor moved back to the Captain's bedside. He could feel Mal watching him but didn't call him on it, busying himself instead with checking on his patient's progress. No way in the 'verse did he intend to pass any comment on the prickly subject of Inara Serra. The doctor was finally learning that some things were just not up for discussion.

* * * * *

As Zoe made her way to the commons room she passed Kaylee coming out of the engine room. The first mate barely looked at her and did not speak. Kaylee stood stock still and watched her until Zoe was out of sight, her bottom lip trembling knowing that she had stepped over a line she should not have crossed. She hadn't meant to go behind Zoe's back but she'd been worried about Inara. Now she couldn't help but wonder whether she would ever be able to close the rift that had opened up between them.

* * * * *

By the time the clean up crew arrived at the now roped off ladies restroom, there was little to see. A greasy gooey mass had oozed over the floor tiles where the body of China Rose had been. The men were in full containment gear, not knowing what biohazards they might be facing. Behind them only one figure did not bow to that convention. Taut and stern, he stared without emotion and stayed only until they began to carefully and efficiently secure the remains in leakproof and radiation safe containers. Once they had done so, another crew came in behind them to remove all trace that anyone had been in the room let alone died there. It would be completely sanitised. A bland sterile place. Like a body without a heartbeat.

Along the corridor in the offices staff glanced nervously at each other but did not dare to voice their concerns. Heads bowed over their work whenever anyone looked their way. Working in the Parliament building had always been seen as the ultimate perk, validation for hard work and excellence both academically and in the political arena where the Alliance was King. The remuneration was a hefty pay packet, fully paid health benefits and access to the kind of sports facilities that only the best athletes could dream of. All they had to do was obey without question and never speak a word about what passed between its' walls. Even though speculation was rife, self preservation kept lips sealed. No one wanted to be the next China Rose.

* * * * *

When the third wave came everybody was ready. Expectant. Kaylee could fairly feel the excitement thrumming through her body, so much so that she had moved past the guilt that wracked her whenever she saw the disapproval on Zoe's face. Simon wouldn't let the Captain leave the infirmary so Kaylee rigged up a way for him to receive the wave there instead. As she tested the connection and pronounced it would work she hovered, reluctant to leave even though she knew the wave was private. She so badly wanted to see her friend, talk to her, be reassured that it had all been a terrible mistake. Simon got the Captain comfortable then turned to the mechanic,

"Kaylee, you should leave now."

She fidgetted. Didn't want to go upsetting anyone but what could it hurt if she stayed? Then she caught the Captain's eye and cleared her throat awkwardly, her feet already stepping back. She waved a hand behind her. "I'll just, I'll go, be right outside if ya need me."

The Captain nodded and waited for her to leave then looked at Simon. The doctor went to the door and locked it, seeing the look in Kaylee's eyes as he darkened the windows so no one could see inside. He paused by the door and looked back at his patient. "If you want me to leave, Captain..."

Mal shook his head. "*Bu qu*. May be needin' a smoother after this call." Although it was meant as a joke, an ice breaker, it seemed to have the oppositie effect. Simon nodded and moved to the other side of the infirmary. Might as well count their supplies and begin to list what they would be needing the next time they were able to resuppy.

The wave connected and the Captain activated it, waiting until Inara's face resolved into focus before him. He saw the brief startled look on her face before she could mask it. Obviously she had not been expecting to see the Captain in the infirmary. Mal spoke first. "Understand you're wantin' to talk to me?"

She scanned his face. Noticed it looked thinner, drawn even. Had he been ill? Shot again? She shouldn't care but somehow her ties to Serenity and her crew were stronger than she thought. Even extending to the man she had been intending to destroy. It made what she had to say even harder. "*Qu*, I want, no - need - to apologise Mal. I also need to explain my actions."

"Think you did that just fine before you left."

Inara ignored the trace of bitterness. Was that hurt underneath? Without realising she was doing it Inara found herself stiffening her stance. "I didn't realise it at the time, Captain, but I was being manipulated." She waited for a response that did not come. So far Inara had said nothing to convince the Captain that speaking to her was a good idea. Inara resisted the urge to fidget and straightened her back. "I was sent a wave from someone I thought a dear friend. It included footage taken immediately after the War."

She paused, the Captain frowned. What the good gorram did that have to do with anything?

Inara whet her lips, her eyes looking suspiciously moist. The Captain found he could not look away. Never had he seen the Companion look so disturbed. "The footage showed images of my brother, Sendhil. You may not be surprised to hear that he fought for the Alliance but towards the end of the War he was captured by the Independent forces. When the Independents surrendered it was thought all their prisoners were either released or handed back to the Alliance forces." She broke off, turned her head to hide the tears that had begun to roll down her face. Once composed again she faced him and continued. "The footage showed my brother being brought before an Independent soldier, a Sergeant. While I watched in horror he drew his sword and beheaded him."

Malcolm Reynolds gasped. Shocked and horrified in equal measure. What? How had that happened? To his knowledge they had not executed any prisoners after the ceasefire. Come to think of it they hadn't done so during the war neither. Once a man was taken prisoner he was out of the gorram fight, neutralised, end of story. What was this *fei hua*? Inara had fresh tears in her eyes, cheeks wet, eyes glittering with emotion. She nodded spilling the tears but oblivious to how she looked.

"The executioner turned his head, Mal. I recognised the face. It was you."

The Captain was already shaking his head, too shocked to speak. His heart hammering in his chest like a gorram freight train going too fast down a steep incline and with no brakes to slow down. One of the monitors began to beep, he ignored it but Simon didn't. His anxious face coming into view to cut Inara off but the Captain waved him away. His breath uneven, face flushed. Inara felt a pang of guilt for being the cause. The Captain was injured, how badly she didn't know, but Simon's concern was palpable. She rushed to reassure them both.

"*Duibuqi*, I was trying to explain not upset you. I believed what I saw Mal, and the anger and hatred burned in me so strongly I couldn't and wouldn't see sense. That's why I lashed out at you, that's why I said so many horrible hateful things - and meant them at the time. I didn't know, couldn't know, that it was all a lie."

But the Captain hardly heard her. Quickly Simon got the oxygen mask over his face and turned to the screen. He was about to switch it off when Inara's urgent voice stayed his hand. "*Deng*, what's happening, Simon?"

"You said you wouldn't upset him."

"I.. I didn't mean to but he deserved to know the truth. What's going on?"

Simon's voice was clipped, not placated by her words. This little episode had probably set the Captain's recovery back several weeks. "I think you should go now."

"Simon, *qing*, I understand if you don't want to tell me but the proof is in my shuttle. Tell Zoe to check my messages and watch the last one carefully. In fact, you should all see it."

"Inara, this isn't the time." "I'll go," she was almost begging now "and I'm sorry if I have somehow made things worse, it wasn't my intention. I'll be returning to House Madrassa shortly, you can wave me there is anyone wants to speak to me. And Simon?" The doctor paused, a look of impatience on his face. "Thank you for looking after the Captain."

As the screen went blank he stared at it for a moment then ran to unlock the door and call for Zoe. By the time the first mate ran into the room the rest of the crew were right behind her. Anxious looks on their faces turning quickly to horror as the heart monitor changed to a long even tone. Kaylee's hands shot to her mouth, tears in her eyes. Her feet rooted to the floor, unable to move forward or back, the only thought going through her mind was that they were losing the Captain and it was all her fault.

* * * * *

"This is a bad idea." When his mother didn't answer, Badger paused in his pacing to stare at her. Frustrated beyond belief he was struggling to find a way to make her see reason. "*Wo bu dong*, if it ain't safe for me how's it safe for you? Way I heard it you was the one whose life was in danger!"

Mistress Barbette seemed remote to him now, hardly any colour in her face. "I won't leave Sihnon, Stephen."

"*Weishenme bu*? Ain't like anyone'd stop you. What you so afraid of?"

"I am the Mistress of House Madrassa. It may mean nothing to you but it means everything to me. I have worked for years to reach this position."

Badger resumed his pacing. He didn't like this idea. Splitting up felt like a massive error in judgement and right now he did not think his mother was thinking straight. No matter how much they might quarrel or fail to see eye to eye Badger knew he could count on his mother to watch his back and odd as it would once have seemed he would do the same for her. But he couldn't do that if they didn't stick together. How could he protect her if she wouldn't let him?

There had to be an alternative. Something they could both live with. Live, being the oeprative word.

* * * * *

They entered the monastery through a secret entrance. It was well hidden and camoflaged. The Tams could have been standing next to it and never have noticed it was there. Brother James touched a small keypad he removed from his robe and what looked like a section of earthen bank covered in weeds and wild flowers lifted up to reveal a set of stone stairs beneath the outer wall of the compound. Gabriel stared at the monk. "Why would a monastery have a secret entrance?"

A look of sadness crossed the brother's face. "In different times we were persecuted for our faith and even now, in these so-called enlightened times, not all who come in friendship are friends."

Gabriel blinked then felt Regan squeeze his arm. He looked down at her and gave a solemn nod. Move now, question later. She did not like the idea of being outside any longer than they had to be. Brother James silently commended her common sense and ushered them inside, shutting the heavy door with just a hiss of hydraulics. The opening behind them sealing shut and leaving no sign that a door had ever been there.

"Come, you must be tired. Hungry."

"*Bu qu*, we just want answers."

Brother James nodded at Gabriel Tam. "And you shall have them. First let me take you to Father John."

* * * * *

Everyone was wired, too pumped up with nervous tension to sit still or carry on normal conversations. Jayne kept snapping until the Shepherd took him to one side, the calm cadence of that deep voice the only thing holding their fragmenting psyches together. Wash hated it. Wished he were in there with Zoe but the doctor had been right. With the Captain's condition too critical to call it was beyond unnerving. He had to do something and he was not helping hanging around on the catwalk while the crew sniped at each other.

With a shake of his head and a last look towards the infirmary Wash headed for the one island of calm in this emotional minefield. Stepping on to the bridge was like coming home. Despite all the anxiety running through him it brought a smile to his lips, his eyes fondly scanning the dinosaurs on the console. Keeping watch while the rest of them fell apart. No. Not going to think like that. Zoe would tan his hide for a week of Sundays if she caught him thinking like that. The Captain wasn't going to die. Simon would save him if only because his wife wouldn't let him do anything else.

Wash settled in his seat with a sigh and checked their heading. He automatically looked to see how much fuel they had, happy to see that at least they weren't likely to run short any time soon. It was one of the high spots especially as they were running low on pretty much everything else. Happy days! What was a life of crime and dubious jobs from shifty characters who would sell you out as soon as look at you against the dull monotony of living in some quiet backwater world where the most excitement to be had was what to cook for dinner? As he chuckled at his own mental rambling something caught his eye, a light flashing on the console. His heart missed a beat. It was a warning light. Bringing up the long range sensors Wash stared as a blip that was obviously a craft of some kind began to grow in size. At first he thought it was going to pass them by but noticed that as it drew nearer it not only increased in speed but altered course. Just before the proximity alert blared into life Wash knew with a certainty that the ship was heading straight for Serenity.

"*Wode ma*, this is *yige emeng*!"

It couldn't be happening but as the clatter of many feet hurrying to the bridge drowned out his words of disbelief, not only was the ship not altering course it was also much faster than Serenity. Much as he didn't want to admit it, Wash knew they were screwed.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*qing jin* = come in *duibuqi* = sorry *hen hao* = very good *qing* = please *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *ni dongle ma* = do you understand? *shei* = who? *shenme* = what *women dei zou le* = we've got to leave *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *diyu* = hell *wei* = hey! *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *dui* = correct *fuqin* = mother *qu* = yes (lit. go) *dong ma* = understand? *fei hua* = garbage talk/nonsense *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *weishenme bu* = why not? *wode ma* = mother of God *yige emeng* = a nightmare *deng* = wait *wo bu dong* = I don't understand

COMMENTS

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 2:29 AM

JANE0904


Now, you're not to kill our beloved captain, y'hear? No, I know you wouldn't, but it hurt to see the possibility. And as much as I want to see Inara forgiven, it was all her own fault. Still, now with this unknown vessel on their heels, will there be time enough to talk?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 5:36 AM

SLUMMING


Poor, poor Mal. Can't a man recuperate in peace? Great work!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 2:07 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


What?! No killing Mal. Can he not get any peace?! Inara needs a good kick in the but for bringing this down on Serenity. Keep it coming, my friend.


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