BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

The DUPLICITY Series: 37. "Faith, Hope and Greed"
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"The crew discuss what to do next and Simon has a surprise for the Captain. Behind the scenes the Operative continues to pull strings. Meanwhile Gabriel Tam faces up to some home truths."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1908    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

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

SUMMARY: "The crew discuss what to do next and Simon has a surprise for the Captain. Behind the scenes the Operative continues to pull strings. Meanwhile Gabriel Tam faces up to some home truths." 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.

"FAITH, HOPE AND GREED"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

"*Wo bu dong*, if the other half has been destroyed what good is it?"

Mistress Barbette gave Zoe a level look. Still squirming, Badger would have slunk away but one look at Jayne's impressive bulk casually blocking the exit caused him to ditch that plan. After all, it wasn't as if they were on a planet and he could go to ground. Plus his mother would no doubt have far too much to say on the subject if he tried anything.

"This," she held the device carefully in one hand "is the control section." The House Mother looked at River and waited for the girl's nod. "Beyond that, I don't know what it does."

River sidled closer but made no attempt to touch it. "Also a repository."

Wash blinked. "Repository?"

"All the things they don't want you to know."

Even though Badger was trying to make himself as small as possible he couldn't help perking up. After all, information was power and that made it valuable, *dui*? "So 'ow much is it worth?"

Every eye turned to Badger. "*Shenme*? It's mine, on'y right I know what it's worth."

"It's not yours." Said Zoe firmly.

"He gave to me, *dong ma*?" Shepherd Book was watched Badger closely. "*Shei*?"

The little man shrugged, going from indignant to defensive in a heartbeat. "Ow'd I know? Never saw him, see? Was delivered in a gorram box along wiv stuff I was expectin'."

"What kind of 'stuff'?"

He glared at Zoe. "Nothin' to do with this."

Kaylee looked thoughtful. "Did you keep the packagin'?"

"What do I look like? The poster boy for re-gorram-cyclin'? I don't keep *goushi* like that."

"Yet here you are."

Startled at the sound of Malcolm Reynolds' voice Badger looked over his shoulder and stared. In the doorway stood Simon with a propped up Captain hanging on his shoulder. Immediately the crew forgot about quizzing Badger and crowded round the injured man. Simon waved his free hand briefly before getting a firmer grip on the swaying Captain. "*Qing*, give us some room."

Space was immediately made around them, the crew watchful and hovering as if expecting the Captain to pitch face first into the deck if they took their eyes off him. Shepherd Book took the other side of the Captain and accepted a grateful nod from Simon. Between them they half helped, half guided the Captain to the head of the table. Kaylee pulled his chair out, her smile so big it threatened to split her face in two. Only when Mal had been eased into his seat did Simon raise a hand to still the babble of excited voices demanding to know how this was even possible.

"Need to be firmer, *dong ma*?"

Simon turned a disbelieving look in the Captain's direction. "Even now you're giving orders?"

A little smug smile tugged at the Captain's lips. The crew felt heartened to see it. "Just doin' my Captain-y duties."

Jayne snorted. Badger opened his mouth to say something derogatory but his mother glared at him and he stayed silent, his mood turning sullen and sulky. Zoe moved to stand next to the Captain's chair and gave him a nod. "Good to see you up an' about, sir."

"Good to be outta that gorram bed. Not that I don't appreciate the necessity." He added quickly for Simon's sake. It wasn't that he was not grateful it was just hard having to lie there while his crew did all the work and truth to tell he missed the hustle and bustle of life aboard his boat. Didn't see too much of it lying flat on his gorram back.

Shepherd Book dipped his head and peered down at Mal's legs. The Captain noticed his interest.

"Please tell me you ain't gonna take this moment to tell us you're sly, Shepherd?"

Book chuckled, the deep sound resonating warmly up through his chest. "I can assure you Captain I have no such leanings. I was simply curious how Simon had managed to get you on your feet."

"I got the idea at our last stop."

Now everyone was pressing closer to take a look. Kaylee nodded with satisfaction. "This is good work. Never thought of leg braces."

"I had to adapt them somewhat, the man they were made for was quite a bit shorter than the Captain and being made of surgical steel they needed to be properly padded." Simon explained.

Jayne squinted. "What? You had to cut 'em off him?"

The crew stared at Jayne. Mistress Barbette shook her head and Badger wondered whether he could make it to the door before anyone noticed when River popped up beside his chair and stared at him. "The snake crawls on his belly because he has no feet." River glanced down at Badger's feet then back at his face, her eyes boring holes into his own as she leaned in even closer. "Why do you crawl?"

* * * * *

She didn't like this. Didn't want any part of it but it was what she did. How she survived from day to day, year to year. Being a Companion gave her access to people and places she would not otherwise have been able to get close to. It gave her position and security. The protection of the Guild and the chance to become a Player. Margueritte Santana didn't want to be a Player. Had no allusions to the dizzy heights of power but she needed this and there was only one source who could make it happen. Now she waited. Silent. Patient. Her eyes fixed on him as she watched the calm even pace of his steps across the polished marble floor. When he stopped in front of her she did not flinch like others had before her but raised her head, her eyes shining with hope and faith. Although he did not smile she could hear the rumour of it in his voice.

"It is not your fault that events ruined what was set in motion."

Margueritte said nothing. No matter how much her heart was crying out to beg him to reassure her that her loyalty had done enough to protect those she loved it would have shown weakness. And one thing she had learnt about Parliamentary Operatives was that they abhored weakness, it undermined respect and she had gone to such great efforts to earn his that losing it now was unthinkable. Her family needed her to be strong even if her friends had now disowned her. It didn't matter. They did not know the truth and she would never tell them. They were building a better world.

The Operative looked at her thoughtfully. "Does she know who made the footage?"

"*Bu qu*. I was very careful, *shifu*."

He nodded, as if satisfied and walked slowly round her. Margueritte resisted the urge to turn her head to watch him. "*Mei shi*. Do you know where the brother went to ground?"

A shake of the head. She did not know. It was unfortunate that Inara Serra would never trust Margueritte again. A resource wasted. The Operative did not let any of his irritation show.

"I was surprised when Mistress Barbette left House Madrassa so suddenly. No one seems to know where she went."

If there was a carefully couched accusation Margueritte chose not to hear it. "I have little contact with Sihnon, *shifu*."

"And yet you have sisters there, *qu*?"

She tried not to shudder. "I do."

"Then," said the Operative slowly as he allowed a smile to settle on his face turning his bland features benign "perhaps it is time you visited them."

Not trusting her voice Margueritte dipped her head in submission. She did not want to go, to do this, but to refuse was not an option. The Operative stepped away and returned to his desk.

"You will use your time on Sihnon to find out whatever you can about Mistress Barbette. Who she has been seen with, what she has been doing and where she has gone, *dong ma*? I want to know her movements for the last three months."

Margueritte gave him a worried look. "They will be suspicious. To ask so many questions..."

He raised a brow and she stopped talking immediately. His smile had vanished. "You are a Companion, I am sure you are more than capable of finding answers in other more subtle ways."

She swallowed but nodded slowly, her hands tightening on the folds of her dress. "You will be provided with funds and transportation. Do not contact me until you have that information. If you do well we will not meet again."

Only when the door had closed fast behind her did another door open behind the Operative. A sallow faced man stepped through, his skin yellowed and partly transparent like a waxwork figure. The eyes though cold were animated enough to give the illusion of life. "This is taking too long."

"Patience."

For a moment their eyes met and held. A spark of perfect understanding cooled the air between them. The Operative had effectively been put on hold by the Oversight Committee but that did not mean that other pieces could not be brought into play. Parliament and Blue Sun appearing to work hand in glove while behind the scenes both sides were in a race to get their hands on the information first. It was about Power. First, last and always. And if people got crushed along the way it was nothing more than collatoral damage. Acceptable losses.

* * * * *

He should be dead. Dying or even comatose. But no. The Nightmare that was his life dragged on. Pain a long exanguinated exhalation of his life force seeping out of the pores of his skin in thin ribbons of red. The mad woman continued to grin at him, a dark amusement flickering in eyes that held his in a death grip.

"If you're gonna kill me do it now!"

Her feral smile actually widened reminding him of the rictus of death. Paul closed his eyes, startled when hands slick with blood tapped his cheek. It was the unexpected gentleness that confused him. Why wasn't she ripping his throat out? Hadn't she threatened as much?

"What are you waitin' for?"

"Recognise you."

"*Wo zhidao*, you said that before. Photographic memory, *jide*?"

She nodded, lips covering those crimon edged teeth, a brief respite for the senses. "Said you tried to help?"

He could not nod, movement too pain filled and difficile. "*Qu*."

"You one of them?"

"One of who?"

"Them. The ones who hide an' work in secret, you know?"

The dime dropped. She was talking about the Underground. "Was."

"An' now?"

He almost flinched as her hands reached like claws only to touch his face gently, the curved nails raking down his face and making him shudder even though she did not hurt him. He thought it prudent not to ask whose blood was on her hands. "Don't count dead men."

At his words her hands left his face, her head cocked to one side. She poked him and he groaned. "Not dead yet."

A dry cough sent a raft of pain jagging through his body making him tremble and shake. When he could speak again, his voice was lower, weaker. "Your job."

The confusion on her face might have been comical but he didn't have the strength to be frightened of her any more. Rather he felt pity, a deep well of sorrow opening up inside him. Seeing the compassion on his face undid her more than anything he could have said. Natalie glanced swiftly over her shoulder, mind made up. "Have to get you outta here."

"Sorry to disappoint you. Too busy dyin'."

She shook her head. The knife disappearing in a sheath after she cut his bonds. Her touch a drift of tenderness he almost missed as his vision danced before his eyes. "Not dead yet." She murmured.

Oddly enough the repeated mantra was like a slippery life line. He felt himself disappear, swallowed by the dark and dragged by bloody hands into a Netherworld from which he did not expect to wake. Natalie was wiry but strong. He was so slim, a feather in her arms. Hauling him up and over her shoulder she staggered slightly under the length of him rather than his weight then hurried as best she could. It would do neither of them any good if anyone returned to find them. Although Paul had been given to her she knew how fickle such promises could be and planned to be far away before the gift could be snatched away from her. For mad as she was Natalie knew her life would be forfeit if they found out she had not killed him. Someone had been telling her lies and she intended to find out the truth for once and for all.

* * * * *

Gabriel Tam was not usually a patient man but circumstances had conspired to turn his world upside down and inside out. Everything he thought he had known about the Alliance had been shown to be an elaborate and brightly coloured tissue of lies. It hurt. But not as much as his shame at abandoning his son when Simon had needed him most. That River had been rescued was a bitter-sweet cause for celebration. She was obviously damaged but still enough in her own mind to know what she wanted and it seemed River did not want to go home. Not that home was safe any more but he was her father and it burned him deep.

"*Fang xin*, Gabriel. We knew this was never going to be easy. At least our children are alive!"

He glanced across the pews to where his still beautiful wife knelt three rows back from the altar where she had been praying. The Monastery of Joseph of Aramathea while austere lavished great skill upon the sculptured figures adorning the stone alcoves of the church. When he made no move to join her, Regan rose gracefully to her feet then genuflected and sketched the sign of the cross in the direction of the altar before turning and making her way to just inside the entrance where he was standing. She noticed he looked distracted, weary, and a rush of affection swept over her. Threading her arm though his she turned him round and walked out into the well tended grounds. Monks quietly tended the gardens and no one disturbed them.

"How can they ever forgive me for what I've done?"

She stared at him and he corrected himself with a wince.

"What I *didn't* do."

"Gabriel."

He paused and looked at her, really looked, his eyes searching hers for answers to questions he had not yet asked. As if understanding, she patted his hand and smiled softly, her eyes tinged with sadness but also a quiet determination.

"Simon and River came to us, Gabriel. To ask for our help and we provided it. That has to count for something, *dui*?"

"It means they were desperate."

Regan nodded and ignored the bitterness of his words. "Would you rather they had felt they could not turn to us in their time of need?"

His eyes widened and he was about to give an angry retort when he realised what she was doing and suddenly the anger was swept away. A wry smile twisted his lips and for the first time in too long his eyes twinkled. "How would I ever manage without you, *xin gan*?"

"You wouldn't."

Laughter spilled out of his mouth unbidden startling them both. Their eyes locked and smiles wiped the last of the tension away. Gabriel Tam sighed softly and leaned his forehead against hers. "I feel so guilty. Here we are, hiding in safety while our children run from those we once trusted to protect us. How could I have been so wrong?"

"Because you are a good man. You believed everything you were told and so did I. The alternative was too awful to even countenance but now we know the truth."

He swallowed hard. "And what will that buy us but sorrow and ashes?"

Her eyes were steady calm pools swallowing up his fear and washing over him. "Far more than we had before."

For a long time he just stared at her, trying to understand, to grasp how this amazing woman could find anything positive in the terrifying mess they found themselves in. When he did not say anything Regan quietly sought to give his wayward compass a bearing that was more true.

"What would you give to have them back, Gabriel?"

He did not hesitate. "Anything."

Her voice softened, so quiet now that had they not been standing so close he would not have heard her. "Money? Position?"

Gabriel nodded.

"Your life?"

The glimmer of unshed tears reflected in the candle light. "Yes."

A slow smile spread across her face in quiet satisfaction. Regan squeezed his hand and let her weight rest against him. "Then be grateful, my love, because the first steps have already been taken. While we live and breathe there is hope and - God willing - when this nightmare is over we will have our family back again. Safe and whole."

"I wish I had your faith." He whispered, hoping his voice would not crack.

Her chuckle surprised him almost as much as the gentle kiss warming his cold lips. "I have enough for both of us."

* * * * *

Zoe didn't like dropping the Captain and Simon off but Shepherd Book assured them that they would be safe at Burnt Cross. He would have offered to stay behind with them but was concerned that the House Mother's plan could easily backfire on them all. Might be that another set of eyes and a little more firepower might prevent that happening. Wash hadn't said much all through the planning stage but now that the time had come to lift off and complete their little mission he couldn't help the feeling of unease creeping up through his veins like a poison.

"Not fatal. More fear than fact."

Wash jumped. "What did I say about bein' creepifyin' an' givin' folk heart attacks?"

Her grin was upside down, her hair hanging down like too many strings on a pale balloon. "That it was clever and funny." Her grin vanished and a little frown took its' place as she observed him. "You shouldn't worry. Need a clear head."

Zoe was saying goodbye to the Captain and advising Simon not to let Mal bully him into not taking his medication. She turned her head in their direction as Jayne slammed a hand on the button to close the cargo bay door, just catching the end of the conversation. "Clear head?"

Wash flashed a grin at her. "Whacky fun!"

She was about to ask what River had said but the girl darted past, caught Kaylee's hand and began tugging at her. "The engine needs you."

"Somethin' wrong with Serenity?"

The girl shook her head and tugged harder, laughter bubbling out of her and making Kaylee laugh thinking it was a game. "Okay, okay, I'm comin'. Can't go nowhere 'til Serenity takes off."

Wash hung back until the others had gone and it was just him and Zoe at the bottom of the metal stairs in the cargo bay. Zoe frowned. "*Zhangfu*, we need to be takin' off."

"*Wo zhidao*, it's just... what do we really know about this House Mother? An' why's Inara actin' so strange?"

"Cap'n vouches for her, you heard him *bao bei*. As for Inara," she shrugged "I think she's still feelin' guilty."

The pilot nodded and started up the stairs two at a time. "What about Badger?"

His wife's dark look needed no interpretation. "First sign that he's double crossin' us I'll let Jayne skin him alive."

They fell silent until they were on the bridge and Wash slipped into his chair, running through a quick preflight then easing Serenity off the ground. "There's one thing that worries me, *bao bei*."

Zoe tried to make light of it. "Only one?"

"That first device was accidentally armed an' exploded, *dui*? Takin' out that pirate ship an' killin' the crew?"

"*Qu*."

Wash brought them up into the atmo and began to lay in their course. "What if the same thing happens to this half?"

"Ain't gonna happen, *zhangfu*. It's the Control half, remember?"

"Yeah, but controllin' what? Not that I don't think it's shiny that it's so important an' all an' maybe'll end up makin' us fat an' rich but..." His voice trailed off.

"But what? You got somethin' on your mind best say it, Wash."

"River said it was a repository."

Zoe frowned, not quite seeing where he was going with this. "And?"

"If people are willin' to kill for it then what's to say it doesn't have some kind of self destruct? You know, an anti-tamper device?"

Immediately he saw the look on her face Wash regretted his words. He hadn't meant to give her even more to worry about but there were already too many unknowns aboard Serenity and the thought of sitting on some kind of high tech time bomb was making him all manner of nervous. Zoe swore and started towards the door.

"Where are you goin'?"

"Think we should put it in the airlock. Just to be on the safe side."

"*Bao bei*, I don't think that'll make any difference."

She blinked. "*Shenme*?"

"That pirate ship? The other half of the device completely destroyed it. River said there wasn't a piece left bigger than my thumbnail."

Zoe stared at him, a look of horror in her eyes.

"What're we gonna do, baby?"

Zoe's expression cleared, a look of steely calm settling on her face. Her voice was flat, emotionless. "*Yiwusuoyou, zhangfu*. Can't do nothin' 'til we find out more an' sayin' anythin' will just scare the crew."

On the catwalk outside Badger stood frozen just outside the door to the bridge. His mind racing to make sense of what he had heard and wondering how he could turn it to his advantage.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wo bu dong* = I don't understand *dui* = correct *shenme* = what *dong ma* = understand? *shei* = who *goushi* = crap/dog shit *qing* = please *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *shifu* = sir *qu* = yes (lit. go) *mei shi* = it doesn't matter *wo zhidao* = I know *jide* = remember *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *xin gan* = sweetheart *zhangfu* = husband *bao bei* = precious/treasure *yiwusuoyou* = nothing

COMMENTS

Wednesday, November 26, 2008 5:04 PM

KATESFRIEND


Poor Paul. That guy needs a break.

Thursday, November 27, 2008 3:31 AM

JANE0904


So glad to see Mal on his feet, even if it's only just. But Badger's heading for a fall, I can tell - he just won't act honourably, will he?

Thursday, November 27, 2008 5:27 PM

SLUMMING


Really enjoyed the tender moment between the elder Tams. Beautifully written.

Saturday, November 29, 2008 3:15 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


I am glad you posted a new chapter. This is good as always. I like how you write the elder Tams.


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