BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

DUPLICITY Series: 30. "Fighting Back"
Friday, September 12, 2008

"Paul decides to finish what he and China began. The Alliance are determined to located the siblings and Zoe hears a plan too intriguing and tempting to pass up."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2141    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

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

SUMMARY: "Paul decides to finish what he and China began. The Alliance are determined to locate the siblings and Zoe hears a plan too intriguing and tempting to pass up." 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.

"FIGHTING BACK"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

He knew that he should wait for Gillion to get back but patience had never been his strong suit. China had always admonished him about his tendancy to rush in where angels feared to tread but with her presence in his life Paul had scaled down his impulsiveness. With his wife gone there was no such restraint any more. Leaving had been hard but he left no note, no explanation. Gillion was nothing if not skilled at reading the writing on the wall even if it was in invisible ink. It was one of the things that he admired about his brother in law almost as much as he was frustrated at the man's rigid faith in following the tenants of the Underground. For Paul, all he had left was a dangerous legacy. One he could not afford to allow to stagnate until, as Gillion would put it, 'the need outweighed the risk'. Damn the risk to *diyu* and back, what did he have to lose?

So he packed light and left locking the door behind him. Oddly enough, the moment his feet touched the open road it felt as if a gigantic weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He had no idea where he was going and no plan beyond some inner instinct driving him forward. China was the one who meticulously planned everything. Paul was so used to her brilliance eclipsing his own that he never reached for the stars he could touch let alone those he could only gaze at in the far distance of the heavens with envy. Now there was no one to guide him, no firm but loving hand to steer his course, no indomitable will demanding nothing short of excellence. Yet he could not just drop the baton. Give up. Walk away from everything his wife had stood for. The passion that had first drawn him to her and lit an answering flame within his own heart. It was up to him now and he could not, would not, fail.

Paul had not lied to Gillion when he said that China had kept tabs on all the children. He just hadn't told him that she wasn't the only one. Not wanting to draw anyone else into his descent into madness, Paul headed not for the centre of the city but the outskirts. He didn't have much money and would not touch what was left in his account. Accounts could be tracked and he had no intention of making it any easier for their enemies to find him. Not after China had given her life for the cause and given his own back to him. No. He had one last duty to perform. Something that was dear to both of their hearts. A last hurrah for those who could not speak up for themselves. A last chance to make a better world. Not for the Alliance. Not for Blue Sun. But for the hapless victims of a cruel, unfeeling conglomerate called Blue Sun.

* * * * *

In his surprise, the Commandant had obviously forgotten that Zoe had entered the infirmary with him but Shepherd Book had not. "A Shepherd goes where he is called, Commandant."

Shair blinked. What kind of *goushi* was that? Then he caught a glimpse of Zoe out of the corner of his eye and wanted to kick himself. How could he let down his defences so easily? Luckily his old friend and teacher had more sense than he did. Even now, after all these years, the man was still able to set an example to him. Straightening slightly he nodded. "This hardly seems the place for a man of God."

"You have become too used to seeing me in the Abbey." Book paused but kept eye contact with Shair, his voice mild and conversational. "I felt the need to walk a while in the world."

"And your feet brought you here?"

Zoe could understand the Commandant's disbelief. She had often wondered at the chance that had brought the Preacher to Serenity but Book had so quickly become a part of their crew and improvised family that it had been easy to forget how unusual it was and simply embrace the good fortune that had brought him to them. Many times Book had proved himself as ship and crew faced challenges and enemies a-plenty. Hearing the two men talk brought home to her how little they knew about their friend. It made her remember a thing or two that brought less than comforting thoughts to the fore. Silent, she simply stood and listened. Eyes watchful and feet rooted to the spot. Book did not dare look at her, keeping his attention on Commandant Shair and hoping the man would take his lead.

The Commandant walked briskly to the other side of the infirmary bed and cast his eyes over the prone Captain. "How did this man get injured?"

"We were delivering agricultural equipment to Ita Moon. The equipment was heavy and mostly boxed but had been packed poorly inside. While the crew were loading the mule one of the heavier boxes shifted and fell. The Captain was crushed, the edge of the crate catching him across his legs. He lost so much blood we almost lost him."

Shair stared at the unconscious Captain and remembered glimpsing the state of his legs as the Shepherd redressed and wrapped them. He glanced at Book standing on the other side of the infirmary bed. He had a whole raft of questions for the man but could not ask a single one. He didn't believe the story of course but that hardly mattered. It was a plausible account even if it wasn't truthful. For an idle moment he wondered what the real story was and why, if the accident had happened on Ita Moon, they had come to Osiris. And why did they have Companions aboard? But all those questions were drowned out by the one that mattered most of all. The one that had brought him at best speed to intercept the mid bulk transporter in the first place.

"I am looking for two fugitives from Alliance justice. A brother and sister, Simon and River Tam."

Zoe was about to speak then caught a flicker of something in the Shepherd's eye and remained silent. "Commandant, I fear you have been sent on a wild goose chase."

The Commandant bristled and raised his eyebrows. "Are you saying the Tams have not been on this ship?"

"*Bushi*, but they are not here now."

Shair frowned. "Where are they?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*, I haven't seen them."

Anger flashed swift and harsh through the Commandant's composure where he was fast beginning to lose patience. He spun round to glare at Zoe. "Where are they?" He snapped. "You will produce them at once or face the consequences!"

Before Zoe could say anything the Shepherd smoothly interjected and drew the Commandant's attention back to himself. "We cannot produce what we do not have, Commandant. I am sure that your men have already searched this ship from top to bottom but they will not find them because they are not here."

"Are you saying the Tams have left this ship?"

"I don't know how to speak more plainly."

Shair took a breath, not at all pleased with what he was hearing or the way in which his old friend was couching his words. There was a story there but it was obvious that Book had no intention of saying more. He held his temper with difficulty. "When did you last see them?"

"When we arrived on Osiris."

That at least factored in with the information the Commandant had received. "How long have they been travelling with Serenity?"

"Commandant. Far be it for a simple Shepherd to suggest how you do your job but I would be more concerned with where they are now than where they have been. The longer you spend detaining us with questions that will lead you nowhere, the more they will exceed your grasp."

Book was speared with a sharp intent look. Zoe held her breath, dying to put her hand on her mare's leg but not daring to do anything to spark off what could be a life threatening storm for all of them. Shair stared hard at Book, longing to demand to know what was going on and why he was seemingly protecting this crew. Not that he had any interest in Serenity and her crew, only with the siblings. Locating them was a top priority. And friend or no friend, Shepherd Book was standing in his way.

* * * * *

The door had been simplicity itself to over ride having ripped the code from Gillion's mind as he lay dying. Child's play in fact. Natalie quickly shut the door behind her and began to search with a speed and calculation that missed nothing. As soon as she had stepped inside she knew the premises was empty. Had he been warned? No. That was not possible. She had been too careful and he would not know she was here. All any of them would know was that - like the others - she was free. Incorrectly they would discount her as a threat to them. Poor pathetic little fools. Natalie ignored the buzzing in her head, it was a constant low level irritation that never faded. Background noise she had learnt to live with.

Once she would have been tidy. Orderly in her destruction. But part of her wanted him to know his safe house had been found and violated. That someone had touched every inch of these rooms. By the time she had finished not a single thing remained whole or unbroken. Papers were shredded, china and glass shattered, furniture smashed against the walls, light fittings ripped out producing sparks from still connected systems. Frustrated, Natalie scowled as she paused to catch her breath. Not only was there no sign of Paul there was nothing, not a word or sign of anything he and his friends had done to connect them to the Underground. No names, addresses, meeting places, nothing. Which could only mean one thing. They kept the information locked inside their heads. With a howl Natalie tossed the remnants of a chair through the window, fury and frustration making a volatile mix of not happy. As her anger gradually subsided she berated herself over and over again for killing Gillion so quickly. She should have stripped every memory and every scrap of information from his mind first.

Breathing heavily she tried to think locigally. Where had he gone? Would he be coming back or had he moved on? Anger spent she sighed as she looked at what she had done, wishing that for once she could learn to control her temper. But then, once she tracked down Paul that would be the last of them. There were others but they had been on the inside. Trapped behind walls over a foot thick and made of steel. They had been victims too though in her muddled brain she could not differentiate between good and bad. The only way for her torment to end was to destroy it all. Every face, every memory, everything that connected her back to THAT place. It was like an exorcism of sorts only her clensing would take the innocent and guilty along with it.

* * * * *

Regan was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming sense of peace that touched her as she walked across the courtyard. The high thick walls enclosed a space that was as secure as an ancient castle from Earth-that-was. Trees grew in well tended though scattered abandon as if, even in paradise, there was order of sorts. The profusion of flowers had surprised her. Once passed the fragrant patch of herbs she was by turns delighted and enraptured by what she found. Each coloured display of God's perfection carried to her on a unique fragrance that made her heart expand with joy. Not so Gabriel. He saw the quiet strength of the monastery, the well laid out and cared for gardens, the many arched cloisters and the flag stoned flooring beneath his feet. The carved stone roof reminded him of a cathedral yet all had an austere beauty where form gave the grace that oppulence immitated in the houses of the rich but so vainly failed to achieve.

"How long must we stay here?"

Brother James was not affronted by Mr Tam's abrupt tone. He knew it was worry not a lack of gratitude that drove the man. "Until it is safe for you to leave."

"When will that be?"

The monk did not answer immediately but kept on walking sedately along the cloister forcing Gabriel to follow. As they progressed, Gabriel found his eye drawn time and time again to the sight of his wife smiling as she bent to inhale the perfume of the flowers, her hands gently reaching out to touch in wonder and simple pleasure. Seeing her so relaxed helped to ease his anxiety. "Forgive my rudeness, I mean no disrespect."

Brother James smiled. "*Mei shi*. We are all one before God."

Gabriel didn't comment. He and God were not currently on speaking terms but the good monk didn't need to know that right now. Not when the monastery was opening its' arms to them and providing a safe haven but he couldn't help worrying about his children. Part of him disgusted that he was being kept safe while they were fleeing the many faces of a cruel and corrupt government. A government he had supported and believed in. A government who experimented on little children to turn them into weapons of war. It made his blood boil and hurt him more than anything he could imagine. His family. Fragmented by circumstances beyond his control. Circumstances he had added to in his ignorance. Why hadn't he listened to Simon? Why had the word of strangers come to mean so much more than that of his precious children?

It had been good to see them again. To at least help with the medical aid they were able to give to Serenity's Captain but it all seemed so little. And then the rush afterwards, the pain of knowing a trusted friend and colleague was reporting back to the government. How Shepherd Book had managed to determine what was going on and get aid to himself and his wife he did not know but he was grateful. Brother James said nothing to disturb his reverie, their footsteps echoing in an oddly calming cadence on the flagstones as they entered the main part of the building. Within the cool walls Gabriel briefly envied his wife the sunshine and the flowers, albeit both were brief respites from the vagaries of Autumn. Protected by the high thick walls from the worst of changing weather conditions, Summer clung that bit longer within the monastery grounds than they did outside.

With a jolt, Gabriel realised he could hear distant voices. They merged into a slowly rising swell as they approached and he realised the monks were celebrating mass. Gabriel stopped and turned to Brother James. "I will wait in the courtyard..."

Brother James gave him a gentle knowing smile. "Within God's House all are welcome."

"But you are in the middle of mass."

"One more soul will enrich us all."

Gabriel blinked. Wondered if he should confess now his own crisis in faith but then he caught the gentle compassionate look in those deep brown eyes and realised he didn't have to. Taking a slow steadying breath he nodded. "*Duibuqi*, I think I'd like that."

* * * * *

General Armitage had the grounds surrounded before ordering his troops to close in. His orders were simple and unequivocal. To secure the Tams and take anyone else present into custody. The facility, house and grounds would then be secured. One of the nurses heard the commotion before she saw the purplebellies pouring out from the house across the grounds towards the hospital. Alarmed she could only stare through the glass door. They did not bother to knock or request entry to the facility but turned their weapons on it. With panic leaping into her chest, the nurse ran screaming through the facility telling everyone that they were under attack.

The thunder of weapons fire was short but deafening, the crash and splinter of reinforced glass shattering the stunned silence that followed. Men poured through the now non existent door and peeled off as they marched into the medical centre. Teams of two checking out every room, every store cupboard and every nook and cranny. Nothing was missed or overlooked. By the time they got to the centre of the facility all the nurses, doctors, cooks and cleaners had been rounded up. Captain Ezra Walters stood solid and grim faced but silent, waiting for the General's orders. Nurse Grey had opened her mouth and demanded to know what they thought they were doing only to be knocked to the ground by the butt of a soldier's rifle. The Captain did not berate him. If the woman wanted answers she could wait for the General to give them when he was good and ready and not a moment before.

Silence fell so utterly that it was almost painful after all the racket of forcing entry and subduing the occupants. General Marcus Armitage knew with a glance that the Tams were not among those assembled. His eyes narrowed. "Who is in charge here?"

Dr Crawford tried to locate Dr Foss or Mr and Mrs Tam but could not see them. "I am Dr Crawford, *wo neng wei ni zuo dianr shenme shi ma?"

The General waved a hand and two of his soldiers stepped forward and manhandled the doctor until he was standing in front of him. Unlike his colleagues he was not intimidated but angry at their behaviour. However, the way in which Nurse Grey had been treated stilled his tongue from launching into a stinging condemnation. He had no desire to be treated as harshly or worse still be shot or arrested. "Where are Mr and Mrs Tam?"

Genuine confusion flickered over his face. "They left for the house about a half hour ago."

"The house is empty."

The General's clipped assertion chilled him. Oh God, they had searched the Tams' house? What was going on?

"Where is Simon Tam?"

The nurses and staff looked nervous now. They didn't know and feared for the Tams and their children if the Alliance was sending troops after them. What did it mean? The General stepped close to Dr Crawford. "It was not a rhetorical question, *dong ma*?"

Although only a junior doctor, John Crawford lifted his chin and stared him in the eye. If they were going to be arrested then he wasn't going to have it done while he was on his knees begging for mercy by little more than a uniformed thug. He would not beg for anything even if he had no idea why the Alliance was acting so brutishly towards the people who had openly supported them all their lives. It gave lie to much of the government propaganda but that thought he did not dare voice. "We don't know, *shifu*." "What *do* you know? And be quick about it. The Alliance has no patience with those who harbours its' enemies."

Dr Crawford's eyes widened in alarm at his words. Enemies? As calmly as he could, Dr Crawford told them what he knew. Watching the man's face he could tell it was not what the General wanted to hear but the truth was the truth. For once he was glad he did not know more.

"Captain!"

Captain Walters came to attention in front of the General. "Yes, sir?"

"Take some men and escort these good people to the carrier. They are guests of the Alliance until this matter is sorted out."

Dr Crawford wanted to protest, they all did. But one look at the faces of the military cautioned them to do as they were told. Dead people could not protest. Neither could corpses return to their families. For now they had no option but to allow themselves to be herded out of the facility and towards the waiting Alliance vessel. The General walked slowly through the facility, his men silent and watchful. After completing a circuit of the medical facility he called the Sergeant to him. Sgt Grimes came smartly to attention. "Sir?"

"Have the computers and all footage from the cameras removed then destroy everything, *dong ma*? When you have finished with this facility move on to the house. By the time we are ready to leave I do not expect to see a single brick still standing."

The Sergeant hid his shock well. This was no border family. No Independent stronghold but the home of a respected member of Alliance society. With a nod he saluted, turned and snapped out orders, the General watching for a moment before turning and walking briskly from the facility. They would need more troops. Before this day was through the grounds in and around the Tam estate would be scoured with a fine toothcomb then he would have it raised to the ground. The orders had been clear. Wherever the Tams were hiding now, they would not be able to return. Soon, the full weight of government displeasure would fall upon them. No matter where they went they would be found and those who harboured them would be punished.

* * * * *

Badger hated this. Especially the not talking but one look at his mother reminded him why he was complying. As for his mother she acted as if the intrusion of Alliance bully boys was of no concern to her. Only the occasional shadowed flicker in her eyes betrayed her true feelings and even then it was not enough to show the full picture. Barely a glimpse. Inara seemed to take her cue from the House Mistress though she could tell they were the only ones projecting anything like an air of calm. Jayne was so tensed up it was almost painful to look at him. It made Inara sympathise even more with River than she did normally. The poor girl not only picked up on their thoughts but felt their emotions too. Such volatile ones could not be easy for her to control.

Kaylee wanted to check on River and Simon but didn't dare. They were being watched like hawks, the search of the ship now complete but their unwelcome guests not happy. It would not take much to turn a bad situation into a disaster so she bit her bottom lip and tried not to let her worry and panic show. The sharp clip of military boots drew every eye as the Commandant rejoined them in the cargo bay. He did not look pleased but there was a contained energy about him that had them all on the alert. A pace or two behind him came Shepherd Book and Zoe. Inara had no way of interpreting the look on their faces.

The Commandant cast a disparaging eye over the crew of Serenity. "You will contact me immediately should any of you be contacted by the siblings in the future. Failure to alert the Alliance of their whereabouts will make you complicit in their actions. *Ni dongle ma*?"

Zoe looked him in the eye and gave a nod. No expression on her face. "*Qu*."

The Commandant appeared to expect her to say more but when it was obvious that the first mate had said all she intended he gave a curt nod back and barked out orders to his men. Within minutes the Alliance boarding party had departed leaving a stunned but relieved crew behind them. In silence they heard the Alliance vessel disengage from Serenity. Still no one moved or said anything for several minutes. It was Kaylee who broke the silence.

"Better tell Simon an' River it's safe to come out."

Before Zoe could reply they heard a clatter and looked up to see their two fugitives coming into the cargo bay. River was dancing just ahead of her frustrated brother. "River! We should wait until we have confirmation they're really gone!"

River shook her head and threw a grin over her shoulder at him. "They're in a hurry, Simon. Looking forward not back."

"Which is what you should be doin' if'n ya don't wanna fall over your gorram feet." Grumbled Jayne as she looked back just in time to dance around the big man.

She was laughing now, bright and merry but then came to a stop in front of Badger. All the laughter and joy from her face gone like a snuffed out candle flame. She stared into his face, her expression stony and sad. "You betrayed him. Mean, spiteful little man wanting to be King. You'll never be King."

Badger hated the way everyone was looking at him, the way River had made him the focus of so many unfriendly eyes. He straightened and started to reply but River turned her back on him and started to walk away. "*Ni bu dong*, see? Weren't my fault. Thought I was bein' cheated."

The girl spun so quickly that Badger took an involuntary step back. River's face was dark with rage and something so feral that it chilled the blood. For a moment everyone froze. "You believed because you wanted to not because it was so. Could have made sure but you didn't."

He was swallowing awkwardly now. Jayne ran his left hand down his hip and fingered his knife. Wash looked from face to face, his concern evident. Zoe caught his eye and gave a tiny shake of the head. Poised to intervene, Simon was also curious as to what his sister might know that the rest of them didn't. Kaylee moved close enough to grab his hand. Shepherd Book quietly left them to it. Someone needed to be with the Captain and he needed time to think. Alone. Without being observed by the others.

* * * * *

He didn't know where he was going only where he came from but that was alright. There was an ancient saying that before you could renew your soul's purpose it had to be empty of the old. Well. You couldn't get emptier than this. He paused and stared at the harsh unrelenting vista of desert. Nothing for miles in any direction. Not a soul in this man made wasteland but himself or so it seemed. A slow little crack lined the mirror of his burning lips. His eyes squinting to avoid the glare. Unbearably hot he knew it would cool to the opposite extreme in a few hours. Paul didn't care for this was no arbitrary choice. No running away from his responsibilities or the knowledge that had once ruled every second of every hour of his days and nights. China Rose was dead but he wasn't. The dream lived even though the dreamer would have to make the ulitimate sacrifice for it to be so. There was a kind of poetry to knowing what his course was. To giving everything up to the cause. It was the kind of freedom that made men, for one tiny impossible moment in time, invincible. And that moment was enough to change everything.

* * * * *

"You're mad! *Tamade shenjingbing*!"

The slap when it came was so loud that several of the crew winced though not in sympathy. River's smile of satisfaction only added insult to injury as Badger turned on his mother.

"What the *guai* did you do that for?"

"You will not speak to her like that." Snapped his mother.

Badger stared in disbelief. Wash wanted to laugh at the expression on the seedy little man's face. Simon shook his head and excused himself. He needed to check on the Captain. Inara would have followed but one look from Zoe stilled her. Would she never be forgiven? Kaylee wanted to say something, do something to break the tension, to remind everyone that they were free of the Alliance for now and that was a good thing. A cause for celebration even. "Why's everyone so mad? We all gotta work together, *dui*?"

A harsh breath hissed between Zoe's teeth as she took in a sharp breath. Wash looked at his wife. Hating the tension in every line of her body but knowing that until their 'passengers' were gone she would not let down her guard for a minute. "I should get back to the bridge."

Her eyes held his for a long moment. "I'll be there shortly, *zhangfu*."

He nodded then hurried up the metal staircase. He wanted to be far, far away when the Alliance realised that River and Simon weren't on Osiris. Zoe turned her head and found Inara looking at her. Ignoring the Companion, she glanced at Badger. Mistress Barbette had stepped between her son and River which to Zoe's mind was a mite hilarious. If there was anyone less needing physical protection it was River Tam and yet wasn't that what they had all been doing from the Captain down? Pretty much since Day One. River looked at Zoe and a small quirky smile twisted up the corners of her mouth in amusement. Of course the mind reading genius would have to pluck that thought from her head. River laughed and just like that, the tension broke.

"We need to be movin'."

Mistress Barbette walked towards Zoe. "*Duijile* and I know just the place to go."

For several minutes the two women just stared at each other. Then slowly, like ice melting, Zoe spoke. Her voice deceptively mild but no warmer than permafrost. "Where? An' don't think of just passin' on co-ordinates, *dong ma*? Before I even think of changin' course I wanna know everythin' about the place we'll be headed an' why I should let the three of you stay aboard this ship an' not just dump you into the atmo."

It was the longest sentence Mistress Barbette heard Zoe say but the truth of it raised her level of respect. Ignoring the way her son's face had paled at the thought of being vented from the airlock he could only listen in stunned silence while his scary yet devious mother explained her plan. It was all manner of disturbing how Zoe's eyes glittered with something close to eager anticipation. That was when he knew for sure that they were humped.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *goushi* = crap/dog shit *bushi* = not so *duibuqi* = thanks *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *mei shi* = it doesn't matter *dong ma* = understand? *wo neng wei ni zuo dianr shenme shi ma* = can I do anything for you? *shifu* = sir *ni dongle ma* = do you understand? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *guai* = devil/ghost *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *tamade shenjingbing* = fucking crazy *dui* = correct *zhangfu* = husband *duijili* = exactly

COMMENTS

Friday, September 12, 2008 1:38 PM

KATESFRIEND


You've certainly got alot of threads in this story!

Friday, September 12, 2008 2:23 PM

SLUMMING


Wow! I can scarcely keep up, but I am sooo intrigued! Good work!

Friday, September 12, 2008 6:15 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


Keeps getting better. I really like all your threads. Though, it will take real talent to tie them all together and I KNOW you have it. LOL!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008 9:36 PM

JANE0904


Hey, good stuff! I find myself all kinds of nervous, though, that this is happening while our beloved captain is still out of things. But Mistress Barbette telling Badger off for swearing at River ... priceless!


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