BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

The DUPLICITY Series: 62. "Power Corrupts"
Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Simon faces up to a past he would rather forget. Captain Foster takes the ashes to Commander Shair's widow. Meanwhile someone is actively trying to put two and two together."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1729    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

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

SUMMARY: "Simon faces up to a past he would rather forget. Captain Foster takes the ashes to Commander Shair's widow. Meanwhile someone is actively trying to put two and two together." 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.

"POWER CORRUPTS"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

"They did things to me."

Kaylee's eyes went round as saucers. "What kind'a things?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but I think River knows."

"*Weishenme*?"

He hesitated. "It's just a feeling." Simon shuddered.

As much as Kaylee liked Simon coming to her bunk in the middle of the night there were plenty of things she would rather do with him than talk but he seemed to need this. She didn't have the heart to send him away. "Simon, what d'ya think they did?"

"River says I can kill people with my brain."

The mechanic stared at him for a moment without blinking, tempted to laugh outright at the very idea, but Simon was serious. His face paler than usual, the words whispered as if saying them any louder would give them power. Kaylee sat up and patted the bed for Simon to sit. Seeing him all tense and worried made her heart ache in a way she couldn't bear. She waited until he sat beside her. "Can people really do that?"

He shrugged. "I didn't think it was possible but River says..."

"River doesn't know everythin', Simon. Maybe she's wrong."

"Kaylee, my sister is gifted in ways I can barely understand. She might play around, tease and have fun but she doesn't lie."

That was what she was afraid of then something occurred to her. "You ever kill anyone like that?"

"*Shenme*?"

"Ya know, with your brain? Kill 'em just by thinkin' 'em dead."

Simon shook his head. "No, of course not."

A smile broke out across her face. "There ya are then, ain't nothin' to worry about."

"Kaylee, *ni bu dong*."

"How long ya been on Serenity? An' how many times have ya wanted to throttle someone? Maybe not me but Jayne or the Cap'n?"

"I'm a doctor..."

"You're human, Simon. Listen to me. If ya could really kill with your brain don't reckon many of us would still be breathin' right now."

Kaylee patted his hand then wriggled over to make room in her bed. "Come on, might as well get some sleep while ya can."

Simon flushed, about to get to his feet and apologise for disturbing her but Kaylee's hand shot out as he moved to stand and caught his arm.

"Ain't gonna do nothin' but sleep, *dong ma*?"

With a shock Simon realised he was worn out. Kaylee flung back the covers and waited. The little sigh of defeat was the sweetest gorram thing Kaylee had heard since they had fallen out. Kicking his slippers off Simon gave in, smiling when Kaylee couldn't stop a jaw breaking yawn. "*Xie xie ni, Kaylee."

Snuggling down Kaylee drew him close and buried into him, her eyelids heavy but her heart light. "Night, Simon." She murmured.

Before he could say goodnight back Kaylee was fast asleep. Simon watched her for a long time, a fond smile on his face. The terrible fear that there was a deadly darkness lurking within him as distant a memory as his childhood dreams. Leaning down, he dropped a kiss on Kaylee's cheek and snuggled close, his eyes finally closing to join her in sleep.

* * * * *

Mrs Shair was beside herself with grief. Captain Foster felt terrible, as if he had personally failed her. The pilot who had accompanied him gave the Captain a sympathetic look and climbed back in the flyer. Foster followed the weeping and wailing woman into the house, his eyes sad as he watched her cradle the urn to her chest, ribbons of tears rolling down her dusky cheeks.

"*Wode dubuqi*, Mary, there was nothing I could do. Niyan's body had already been cremated. I was too late."

She nodded but couldn't speak, her throat all closed up.

"The Minister extends his deepest sympathies and apologies and says the technician responsible will be punished."

A flash of anger was the only sign she had heard him then it was gone and the crying continued. Not sure what to do Captain Foster asked if he could make her a cup of tea. Mary Shair did not react so he crossed the room to the sink and filled the kettle, Mary sat and watched him, her eyes tracking his every movement but without seeming to have any life left in them. At least the tears had stopped but not because her grief was abating. Foster hated the tense silence between them, his own awkwardness making talking difficult. The kettle took forever to boil and with the cups ready and nothing to do but wait he had to resist the urge to fidget.

"I wish I could have done more."

Mary shook her head. "Not your fault, Johnny. You did all I asked, wasn't your fault they were better prepared than us."

He was just lifting the kettle off the range when he paused. "*Ni shi shenme yisi*?"

"They were covering their tracks."

Foster blinked and set the kettle down with care. "You really think Niyan was killed?"

She nodded. "I do."

"But the Minister..."

"Cannot be trusted."

He looked shocked. "Mary, we have no proof."

"Exactly!"

They stared in silence at each other, hardly taking note of the sound of the flyer taking off again. After a minute or two the Captain went back to making the tea and poured them both a cup. He sipped the steaming liquid slowly, his sleep deprived mind taking longer than he liked to cycle through both what was said and what was not. Cocking his head to one side he realised something.

"It's very quiet."

Mrs Shair's smile had no humour in it. "The children are staying with my cousin Alice."

He finished his tea and was about to get up to leave when there was a knock at the door. Mary Shair and John Foster exchanged a wary look. When the second knock came, louder and somewhat more impatient, Mary got to her feet and put the urn on the table. Captain Foster walked to the door with her, ready to protect her if need be. As Mrs Shair opened the door the Captain got a shock, for standing on the porch was General Franks.

* * * * *

Inara was stunned by what had happened and with little urging from Annalise was taken to her old room to rest. For over an hour she sat on the richly padded stool and stared out at the beautiful gardens. The fog in her mind seeming to take forever to clear, but as it did so a lightness of spirit chased her dark thoughts and fears away. Oh how foolish she had been to blindly follow a course of action as unnecessary as it was cruel. Those cobwebs had been blown away now. A simple act had torn the blindfold from her eyes. Mistress Barbette was gone and so were her machinations, the intrigues, the half truths. No more manipulation from behind the scenes, no more knowledge wielded for purposes she could not fathom. It surprised Inara that she did not feel the urge to delve into Cyan's affairs, to discover just what the woman had been up to and the extent of her considerable reach. It did not matter now. The complex and confounding woman was gone and with her passing things seemed so much clearer.

Rising elegantly to her feet, Inara crossed to the glass doors and opened them, her eyes widening in delight as the scents, the perfumes, the colours and vibrancy of the exotic blooms teased and invaded her starving senses. She breathed deeply, the cool perfumed air filling her lungs and renewing her spirit with hope. Inara stood there and slowly clensed the dull stale thoughts and misconceptions from her mind, her lungs embracing a purer energy, the worries and self doubts disolving until all was light, all was joy. Peace showering upon her soul in a beautiful endless cascade of inner light. Laughter bubbled up from deep within, trapped by the weight of all the things that had bound her and confused her, darkening the light that had once shone so brightly. Now all artifice was gone and she could see clearly, embrace all and everything around her with unstigmatised eyes. Inara laughed. She swayed in the breeze to music only she could hear and relished every moment, every renewing of the senses she had missed so much. Why had she ever wanted to leave?

* * * * *

Jacob Rosenbaum had heard the news, of course he had, but returning to hear all the details was beyond shock. He could not believe it. His friend, his mentor, Howard Tirrell was dead. He watched the footage of the ruins, the Blue Sun Complex completely destroyed though above ground it had seemed such a modest set of buildings. The prototype, Jason Parker, had used the control device to cause damage on an unimaginable scale. All the research, the precious research, was gone. Destroyed. In minutes if not seconds. He would need to see more detailed analysis of every moment that traitor had spent in the building. Piece together second by second of time and inch by inch of his progress to Tirrell's office what exactly had happened.

On the face of it Jason Parker had acted alone but Rosenbaum was never one for accepting the obvious. Why blindly embrace what appears to be the truth when with a little digging you can have the real thing? There were always others involved. Conspirators, confederates, infiltrators. Parker may have been the catalyst of their worst nightmares but someone had primed him, turned him against his masters and those that made him. It was inconceivable to Minister Rosenbaum that the matter would end here. With a few firm but calm words he commanded the technician to go over the information again. The pale drawn faces of the replacement staff slowly taking strength from his no nonsense business-as-usual approach to the disaster. Confidence would take time reasserting itself for this was something so immense it had shaken them all. In the vacuum left behind by Tirrell's death Rosenbaum quietly and confidently took up his mantle. It was as natural and seamless a transfer of power as anyone could envisage and it gave the first glimmerings of hope where hope had been extinguished. The scale of what had happened numbing those left to step in and pick up the pieces until Rosenbaum reminded them that the Alliance had taken a blow but it was not a fatal one, they would carry on. Rebuild and become stronger and better than they had been before. This was not the past but the future and each and every one of them would be a part of it. The essence of everything the Alliance stood for.

Not much footage survived and only from cameras above ground but it was enough to show how utter the devastation was. The Minister watched it again and again, his anger solidifying into a deep dark revenge that did not show upon his face. He was cold and utterly implaccable in his determination to root out whoever was responsible for what had happened. There would be a reckoning. Someone would pay dearly for the death of Minister Tirrell.

* * * * *

Shepherd Book was already up and busy making tea when the Captain walked into the commons room. His movements were awkward and heavy but every day there was more control over his finer motor skills. Feeling coming back that he relished even when it gave him pain. Book watched the Captain's progress and smiled genially.

"You are walkin' much better, Captain."

"That I am." The Captain stomped over to the large oak table that dominated the commons area and stared at his chair. Normally he would grab the makings of his breaskfast then sit at the table to eat, knowing that one by one his crew would surface and do the same. Today he just stared. Book frowned, pouring a second mug of tea as he watched the Captain with concern.

"*Shenme shi*?"

The Captain shook his head and gave the ghost of a smile. "*Yiwusuoyou*. Just reluctant to sit again now I'm on my gorram feet."

The Shepherd felt himself relax. "That's perfectly natural, Captain." He set their mugs on the table but did not pull the Captain's chair out for him. After all the man was not an invalid and would not appreciate the gesture as the courtesy he intended. "Kaylee managed to get some eggs last planetfall. I decided to make omelettes."

Mal's face lit up. "Real, honest to goodness hen-egg omelettes?"

Book's lip twitched. "Real, honest to goodness hen-egg omelettes, Captain."

"Well what're you waitin' for? Starvin' man here, Book. Ain't your bible got somethin' to say about feedin' the five thousand or some such?"

It was good to hear Book's deep rich chuckle. It had been a long time since any of them had anything to laugh about. "That was loaves an' fishes, Captain."

The Captain pulled out his chair and carefully sat down. The oiled joints of the leg braces accommodating the movement easily and efficiently. He couldn't wait for the day to come when he could dispense with them completely. At least he wasn't using that walking stick any more. Made him feel like an old gorram man. "Don't seem right to have all them animals two-by-two an' not an egg between 'em."

Book opened his mouth to correct him then stopped, realised he was being teased and went back to his frying pan. "I was going to add some basil, tomatoes and mushroom. How does that sound?"

"Sounds like *tiantang*. Where we get the mushrooms an' what not?"

"The tomatoes are tinned and the mushrooms are dried."

"Dried not protein?"

"Not protein. This is as near to fresh produce as we're goin' to get."

Just as Book was finishing up Jayne walked in followed by Kaylee, Simon, River, Zoe and Wash. All of sudden it looked like the Captain's omelette was getting smaller and smaller but he need not have worried. Seeing the look on Mal's face the Shepherd smirked and nodded thanks to Kaylee when she offered to put out the plates, making Jayne sit down before he could eat the food right out of the pan and leave nothing for anyone else. But Book was smart as well as handy in the kitchen. Opening the oven he took out a large metal dish and added the last of the omelette to it. Jayne reached over to take it from him but Book held firm.

"Patience, Jayne." Seeing the big man scowl Book smiled sweetly at him. "Allow me to serve you for a change."

It was amusing seeing the beligerence about to explode off the mercenary's tongue turn into pleasure. "*Xie xie ni*, Preacher."

River slipped behind Book and took out the still warming bread and put it in a couple of baskets handing one to Simon. Simon took a roll then passed the basket to Wash. Wash took two, handing one of the warm rolls to Zoe in exchange for a kiss. Jayne made a face at them but didn't say anything, too fixed on the fresh food being scooped onto his plate, River dancing by with the other basket to drop a large roll onto it. At the head of the table the Captain was relaxed and smiling, all his crew settling happily down to eat. Even the newcomers Paul and Natalie had surfaced and were finding places. Kaylee fetched more plates, the Preacher conjured up more food and pretty soon laughter and the happy sounds of contented folk eating filled his ship. Mal ate with relish but tried not to wolf it down. The food wouldn't be on his plate long and he wanted to savour the goodness. The rightness of a moment in time when every gorram thing was shiny. Perfect.

* * * * *

It was fortunate that Captain Foster was still with Mrs Shair when the General imparted his news. Fearing the woman would faint, Foster quickly set a chair under her. Mary stared up at the General through eyes wet with tears. "You brought Niyan's body?"

She spoke as if the words made no sense to her, the import not percolating through her befogged brain enough to make sense but Captain Foster got it.

"You set it up to look like the Commandant had been cremated, General. *Weishenme*?"

"Because everything was being monitored, Captain. From your accommodation room to the offices to the mortuary and the crematorium."

Foster frowned. "That being the case, *shifu*, wouldn't you be caught on camera makin' the switch?"

General Franks smile changed the whole aspect of his face. "I am not a *baichi*, Captain, and knew it would not be a simple thing. But I knew Commandant Shair and respected him. His untimely death was suspicious to me yet I could not voice such concerns without drawing unwanted attention to myself. I did not want to get *beibu* for asking the wrong questions at the wrong time, *dong ma*?"

"You suspected the Minister was connected?"

"Everything goes through Rosenbaum, Captain, and the higher up the chain of command you go the more insidious the tendrils of power become."

Mary Shair listened and gradually began to take in the fact that she would have her husband's body returned to her after all. "When can I see him?"

"Soon but it is too dangerous to transport the Commandant's body here."

"Where is it?"

"Somewhere safe. Mrs Shair, I must request that you ask no more questions. You need to trust me and listen very carefully to what I have to say."

Captain Foster spoke up before Mrs Shair could object. "We are listening, General, but do not be offended if we don't blindly accept everything you say."

A small wry smile touched the General's lips. "*Wo dong*, Captain. Once my suspicions were aroused, namely by your arrival I might add Captain, I felt the need to check the body for myself before deciding what to do. When I did so I saw that there was evidence of trauma as if the Commandant had been beaten. I was shocked but there was no time to completely strip the body and check all over. All I could allow myself was a glimpse but it was enough to expose the lie that he had died of natural causes."

Mary gasped and put a hand over her mouth. Captain Foster moved closer hoping his presence would give her some reassurance if not comfort. The General continued, knowing he had to update them quickly then move on to their next course of action. Time now was of the essence.

"I had a couple of my own men with me which was fortunate. They are completely trustworthy and devoted to me. I relieved the standing guard and replaced him with my own man, the other I took with me to retrieve the body and carefully removed it. I then had ashes taken from the crematorium oven and placed in an urn. The ovens always have ashes left inside along the edges, the number of cremations so many that they do not have time to adequately empty them before the next cremations take place. It is therefore impossible to be certain all the ashes belong to a particular individual. A detail that is of no concern to those in charge of the facility. In the eyes of the Alliance ash is ash, dead is dead. Such practice played into my hands not that I expected anyone to examine the contents of the urn but I have learnt that Minister Rosenbaum is anything but predictable and he is a very dangerous man to cross. I also had the monitoring feed disrupted and used the ruse that I needed to check the footage to ensure that no one would realise that the body had been cremated *after* Captain Foster made the request for burial on behalf of Mrs Shair."

"What happens now?" Asked Foster, privately impressed with the General's forsight and efficiency.

The General gave Mrs Shair a level look, his expression utterly serious. "You must continue with the funeral arrangements. Do not tell anyone outside of this room what you now know. Play the innocent and inter the urn of ashes in your family plot."

Anger rose on Mrs Shair's face and she leapt to her feet. The General raised a hand and stopped her protests quickly.

"You are not being tricked, Mrs Shair. The deceit is necessary only to protect yourself and your children."

That took the wind out of her sails. Visibly sagging with shock, Mrs Shair retook her seat, Captain Foster staying next to her side.

"The Alliance will send someone to the ceremony, you may count on that. It will be couched as a courtesy, a show of respect to a man who was loyal to the Alliance and will be sadly missed. You must accept this representative with what grace you can muster and know only that this mummury serves a higher purpose. Once the Alliance is satisfied that you have accepted the death of your husband and the funeral is over you will be offered any aid you require. Accept whatever money or reparations they may make, not for yourself, not as blood money, but to ensure the future security of your children. Something your husband earned and paid for with his life. Do not undermine his sacrifice by being bull headed and refusing what may be on offer. You need now to see the wider view."

"My husband is dead. Killed. Murdered. And you ask this of me?"

Her fury was contained but more powerful because of it. General Franks nodded. "*Qu*. Once attention has moved away from you and your family it will be safe to have a proper burial. The urn will be removed, another two feet will be dug to enable the coffin to be placed inside. Earth will be placed over the coffin then the urn replaced and filled in with soil." "I don't want it in there with Niyan."

General Franks leaned in close to her, his voice quiet but intense, his eyes never leaving hers. "And what if later someone grows suspicious? Someone close to Rosenbaum? What if they excavate the grave? Would it not be better for them to find the urn rather than your husband's body?"

Mary lifted her chin, and in that moment of defiance Captain Foster thought she was glorious. "Then dig up the grave of our first son, the one we lost in childbirth. Bury Niyan there, then if these people do check my husband's grave they will find the urn and only the urn, *dong ma*? If there is a coffin beneath it no covering of soil can guarantee a spade or electrical digger will not connect with it and we would all be in trouble would we not?"

For a long moment the two just stared at each other then a slow smile spread like dawn across the General's face. "Now I know why Niyan married you, Mrs Shair." The General straightened almost as if coming to attention and his expression became serious once more. "It is an honour to meet you, ma'am, and to be of service to you."

Mrs Shair nodded. "And it is an honour to meet you General Franks." She extended her hand. "It is uplifting to meet an honest man within this den of thieves. *Xie xie ni."

"*Mei shi*." He took her hand and shook it, a dark twinkle surfacing in his deep blue eyes. "Oh, they are worse than thieves I assure you, but they will reap what they sow, Mrs Shair."

"*Wo xiwang shi zhei yang*."

The General turned to Captain Foster. "Captain, thank you for assisting Mrs Shair at this time. It will not be prudent for you to contact me either directly or indirectly. My channels of communication will most definitely be monitored now if they were not before. I will contact you when it is safe to have the body buried properly and not before. In the meantime please try to go about your lives in as normal a manner as possible."

Captain Foster licked his lips, an unconscious nervous act. "Do you think we are bein' watched, *shifu*?"

"Someone is always watching."

Long after the General had gone Captain Foster reflected that his parting words were no reassurance at all. It was only much later that Foster recalled that the General had not come in uniform but in nondescript civilian clothing. He had been so surprised to see him that it had not occurred to him to comment on it at the time. If Foster didn't know better he might think the good General had come in disguise. The thought made him smile and left him relieved in the knowledge that they had at least one influencial friend. Only time would tell how true that friend would turn out to be.

* * * * *

After the meal the crew lingered, reluctant to move on from the good mood but after a while ship's life had to continue and Mal sent Wash up to the bridge to check their course. New Hampshire looked like a better option right now than Persephone. Simon wanted to check on the Captain's legs and much as he would like to tell him he was okay Mal knew when to bow to the inevitable. Besides, he wanted nothing less than a full recovery and if that meant biting his gorram tongue and swallowing his impatience then so be it. Kaylee stayed behind to help River wash up, the girls waving Book's protestations aside. Paul watched the crew breaking up, going about their separate duties. Jayne going to his weight bench when he saw that the Preacher was finished in the kitchen, a nod between them all that was necessary before both men left. Zoe paused before leaving the room, her eyes flicking between their two guests.

"Thought any more about where you two want droppin' off?"

Paul shook his head. "Not really."

The first mate began to frown. It wasn't like they could pay their way. Wasn't anything either of them did aboard Serenity and they couldn't afford to carry non paying passengers.

"We aren't passengers." Said Natalie.

"Then what are you?"

"Friends."

"Don't take this the wrong way, I know you been through a lot but Serenity can't afford to carry anyone who doesn't pull their weight. Passengers pay, crew work, simple as that."

Paul nodded. "What can we do?"

Zoe put her hands on her hips. "*Wo bu zhidao*, suppose you tell me?"

Just then Wash came over the com calling for the Captain.

"We're here to tip the balance." Natalie said.

The first mate hardly heard her, fact was she wasn't listening any more. Hurrying up to the bridge she didn't look back. Natalie looked at Paul. "Come on, we need to get ready *ai ren*."

Being much faster than the Captain, Zoe arrived on the bridge a minute or two before him. "*Shenme shi, bao bei*?"

Wash half turned in his pilot's seat. "We're bein' hailed."

She frowned. "By who?"

Just then the Captain came on to the bridge, Simon just a step behind him, pressure cuff in hand where the call had interrupted his check up.

Wash made a face. "Badger."

The Captain and Zoe exchanged a look. "Not sure I wanna talk to that cheatin, back-stabbin' *wangba dan*."

A clatter of boots announced the arrival of River. Behind her Kaylee, Paul and Natalie completely blocked the doorway. "Badger isn't the problem."

Everyone turned to stare at River but it was Natalie who explained.

"It's who's comin' after."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *weishenme* = why? *shenme* = what? *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *dong ma* = understand? *shifu* = sir *xie xie ni* = thank you *wode duibuqi* = I'm sorry *yiwusouyou* = nothing *ni shi shenme yisi* = what do you mean? *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *tiantang* = Heaven *baichi* = idiot *beibu* = arrested *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wo dong* = I understand *mei shi* = it doesn't matter *ai ren* = sweetheart *wo xiwang shi zhei yang* = I hope so *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *bao bei* = precious/treasure *wangba dan* = bastard

COMMENTS

Saturday, May 16, 2009 11:41 AM

KATESFRIEND


Now would be a good time for justice to start being dealt out. Loved how your last few lines pulled the last few chapters together.

Saturday, May 16, 2009 1:21 PM

AMDOBELL


All sorts of threads are coming together now Katesfriend. Thanks for the shiny feedback! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, May 17, 2009 5:16 AM

JANE0904


I love to see the family together around the table, although Inara's last thought was a little disturbing, unless she was thinking that she didn't know why she left Serenity. General Franks sounds like a good man. And Badger? Definitely isn't!

Sunday, May 17, 2009 11:23 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Is starting to wrap up as plans are unraveling. The moments at the table on Serenity was so perfect in my mind, I could see it all. Last line though, worries me something fierce....keep it going!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 5:13 PM

SLUMMING


Excellent work from start to finish! Well done!


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