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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Next in my once-again Mal/Inara series. Well, nearly. Inara finds out about the fate of Serenity.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1069 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Though both would have wished to continue in the recklessness that had brought them together, the fact that Inara and Ronson woke up in her quarters at House Madrassa made it impossible for them to persist in disregarding the separate and joint dangers that overshadowed them.
They soothed each other with strokes and kisses while they discussed Inara’s situation and the connected problem of getting Ronson back to his apartment without being seen.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” Inara said, shifting her body so that she felt the full reassuring length of his. “I couldn’t have talked about this with anyone else.”
The idea that Inara was making do with him could hardly have failed to occur to Ronson. But even if she was, she did it in a such a very nice way that he hardly felt it at all.
“Let’s stay here all day,” she said, suddenly shifting excitedly to sitting. When he was on Sihnon Ronson signed on as a relief doctor at the capital’s biggest hospital; and it was no effort for him to convince himself that if he was needed but found to be unavailable then another relief would easily be arranged.
She called down to the kitchen for food and went to bathe. When she returned he was watching news reports on the cortex and in a joke-brattish way she told him that she didn’t want to watch it. She was quietly delighted with the way he replied that he did and with a slight smile resumed watching. And then, when she was busying herself with her hair, unobtrusively changed channels.
There was a knock and Inara called for their food to be left outside the door. Had he done it on purpose, waited until she had had some breakfast, before asking her why she didn’t go to the police?
They were eating together at a small, low table near one of the sitting room’s tall windows. Inara put down her bowl. “Never mind the things that I became involved with, while I was on Serenity. It would also – it would be very offensive to the Guild, as an institution.”
“Vivian Wa, the Guild’s founder, formulated it as a body that was entirely self-regulating and self-sustaining. She believed that it was only as long as women held all the top positions in the Guild hierarchy would it remain true to her ideals. So you can see that involving the police would go against Guild practice on many levels.”
“But how much faith can you place in the Guild finding these two women who have disappeared? When you think people in the High Priestess’s Office might be involved?
“It would only have taken one person, you know, to enable Lang to use the room at the House of the High Priestess.”
“And you’ve no idea who it might be?”
Inara shook her head, smiled sadly. “When Ling-Ling said that the police were looking into the disappearances I was shocked. But now, knowing what I do, I’m glad. It seems – it seems that the Guild is” – and she spoke more quietly – “not what it was.” She paused thoughtfully. “Its authority, its strength, has weakened.” She paused again. “It must have, for people like Edward Tang to be able to find a way in.”
“But you just said it yourself – it only takes one well-placed person to enable that to happen.”
Inara shook her head again. “No. It takes more than that.” She really, really wasn’t ready, to have the conversation that she had had with Mal, that had led to her flight from him, with another man. But, as she had just admitted, she had no-one else to talk to. “Why did the Tangs single out Madrassa? Whatever it is that they’re trying to do, why did they start here?” Ronson listened. “I mean – did the weakening begin here? My assured succession – it made us complacent, all of us.” And in her thoughts she included the House’s beloved former Mistress. “And the fact that Ling-Ling was even allowed to begin training as a Companion – how did that happen? I haven’t questioned it until now. But she should never have got past the initial selection. I – I” – She suddenly leaned over, grasped Ronson’s arm. “Samuel – I can not tell you what she meant to me, the House Mistress who died.” Tears came to Inara’s eyes. “She – she became my Guardian after my mother died. She nurtured me.” Ronson felt the ache in the word ‘nurtured’. “And I thought the Tangs killed her as a prelude to taking over the house. But what if the takeover began before that? What if it began with her?” Inara put her hands over her face.
Ronson put his hand on Inara’s arm, thought over what she had said. “You mean, did the Tangs induce her to allow the placement of Ling-Ling.”
Inara nodded from behind her hands. “They could have paid her. She could have been in their pay! And – and she was a Companion, a wonderful, intelligent, talented woman! She was no match for them! Whatever she thought she was getting into, it was only ever the Tangs who were going to win!”
“Then you were right, to turn them down when they approached you.”
“But why didn’t they just kill me! Like they killed her!” Inara almost wailed, tearing her hands from her face.
“I imagine they thought they might have a use for you.”
Inara stared at the paraphernalia of breakfast things in front of her as her thoughts raced. “Yes, yes,” she said urgently. “That makes sense.” She seemed to slump with a sort of relief. “Yes. That makes sense,” she repeated. She continued, half talking to herself. “Yes. That accounts for me. But what about the House? What did they want from the House?”
“There is one obvious commodity,” Ronson said tentatively.
Still Inara looked down at the table, rubbed a finger over the lacquer and watched her fingerprint disappear. “Yes. There was talk of it, when I was on Serenity.” She remembered how Mal had wanted to track Saffron down. “We took on a passenger about a year and a half ago, a young woman who had Companion training but wasn’t a Companion. We learned later that she had been abducted by Betta Korski and put through their – own particular training program.” Her voice fell to a whisper. “She was warped, through and through, by her experiences.”
“She was from Sihnon?”
“No. I don’t know where she was from.”
Ronson bit at the skin around a nail, something she had never seen him do before. “This weakness – it goes all the way through the Core,” he said, sounding quietly furious. “Rottenness.” He continued biting. “I’ll never forget when I heard the wave, the one your captain sent from Miranda. And what about what happened to Dogger. And your River.” Inara felt a pang at hearing River described as ‘hers’. She felt also the pause as Ronson failed to list Sherene among the symptoms of the rotting of the Core. “You know, I haven’t been able to contact them. The settlers.”
“Since we got here.”
Inara stared back at him in alarm. “Well – how often do you usually communicate with them?”
“It depends. Mishra, the Cortex genius, the one who can get around using Idents, he always finds a way of setting up an address without an Ident sooner or later. I go to different terminexes around the city, dial the same number, get hold of him when he’s got an address up and running. But this time, whenever I dial, I get nothing.”
“Has this happened before?”
“No. Not for such a long time. I was wondering, I was wondering could I wave Serenity, try to get through to them that way?”
And once again, the recklessness that ran like a thread of fine metal through Inara’s personality, made her rise quickly to her feet and approach her cortex screen. “You mean from here?”
“Inara, it could be traced, if this place has become as corrupted as you fear. I’d have to go to a public terminex.”
“If you’re speaking to them then so am I. And I can’t go to a public terminex.” The thought, suddenly, of not speaking to Kaylee, and Simon, and – everyone else was unbearable, impossible. Her breathing had quickened; she had gone from a sort of distressed thoughtfulness to a state of absolute agitation in a moment.
She stood up, started to whirl from one part of the room to another, picking up this, putting that away, shaking out a shawl, starting to make the bed…
Finally, turning towards him, she announced: “I’ll have to go to the Office of the High Priestess. All Cortex traffic is unmonitored through there.” She walked around the bed, twitching and smoothing out the covers. He was disappointed that they would not be spending the day together, as she had first suggested; and wondered what it was about her need to contact Serenity that emboldened her to enter an enemy’s lair. Instantly his question was answered by an image of the ship’s captain. He remembered having seen them, walking around Pity one evening, not hand in hand, but smiling and, he had thought at the time, together. Then, when she had left Pity so urgently, and while the captain was away on Cornelius, he had adjusted this initial assumption. Which, perhaps, he should not have.
“If you come too then you can speak to your people. It would be safe, I think, if we” – she faltered at the awkwardness of the suggestion – “if you drove me. No-one would look at you twice, they would think you were a House driver. Shall we – shall we try it?”
Ronson rose, drained his cup. “Okay.”
Often, after they had left the House compound behind, Ronson glanced in his mirror at Inara sitting very upright in the back of the transport. She looked pale, and still appeared agitated in spite of her controlled posture. She stared out of the window at the passing city but he could tell that she was seeing nothing.
Minutes before they arrived at the Office, she leaned forward, appearing to access the Cortex through the terminal in the back of the transport. She announced herself and made the formal greetings scrupulously politely but with an unmistakeable note of steel. He realized that she was demanding to see the High Priestess; ensuring that it happened by asking if whoever was on the other end wished her to drive round and round the buildings until she came to the notice of the Press.
“I’m certain that our Mother will be able to fit me in,” she said, before ending the wave.
They entered, with admirable boldness he thought, through the front of the main building. The marble floor, the carved wall panels and woven hangings – all seemed still and heavy with the weight of the Guild’s tradition and authority. Ronson stood behind and apart from Inara when she was approached by the House Secretary, who seemed to glide out from behind a heavy door to the left.
“Half an hour?” he heard Inara say. “Then I will take care of some business while I wait. Please take me to a Cortex terminal.”
They followed the Secretary along a hushed corridor that led into the heart of the building. The décor – all white and dark wood and curtained mirrors and discreetly placed porcelain, flowers and paintings – managed to appear sparse and yet hint at enormous wealth all at the same time, mirroring the image that the finest Companions strove to convey, of a sort of purified luxury, or luxurious purity.
The room they were led into was of the same ilk. And of course they were offered tea – which Inara refused for both of them – before the House Secretary noiselessly removed himself and closed the door.
“Well!” said Inara with a deep breath as she accessed the Cortex and entered Serenity’s address. He stood at her shoulder, joined her in watching the address as it looped across the bottom of the screen while the connection was attempted. Looped and looped and looped. Inara glanced back at Ronson, barely hiding her trepidation. Ended the attempted wave, entered the address again. The same endless looping had her covering her mouth with her hand.
“Samuel! Something terrible has happened on Highgate!”
“Maybe not,” he replied, shaking his head, unable to tear his eyes away from the screen.
“There was a store in Warminger, it had a Blue Sun screen! Simon told me about it, it was how” –
“Yes, the place Dogger goes to.”
“It must be listed in a directory somewhere.”
“Let me try,” said Ronson, and Inara reluctantly gave up her stool to him. It took him only a few minutes to find. They both gasped with delight, tried to swallow their near-anguish.
A lazy store-keeper appeared on screen; they both wanted to reach into it and embrace him.
“Yeah?” he said suspiciously.
“Good day,” said Ronson.
“Please,” said Inara, moving back into the stool in front of the screen. Ronson crouched beside her. “I’ve been trying without success to contact the ship Serenity. She had been put down in a settlement several miles from Warminger for some time. Do you know if she is still on Highgate?”
“’s the ship what blew up, ain’t it?” the store-keeper asked.
Inara stared at the screen, frozen.
“What?” said Ronson. “Blew up?”
“Yeah. Settlement was attacked. Blown sky-high. Didn’t ya know?”
Neither Inara nor Ronson was able to reply.
“Jeez. Sorry. Hate to be the one to break it to ya,” the store-keeper went on.
“The people,” Ronson managed to utter. “What happened to the people?”
“Had the luck of the devil, ‘f you ask me. Hid in a mine, turns out.”
“Was – was anyone killed?”
“What about Serenity? The crew – are they safe?” Inara interrupted.
“Yeah,” the store-keeper replied.
So hoped-for was the answer that Inara was unable to take it in.
“All of them?”
“Yeah. You want me to get them?”
“Oh, please!” Inara burst out joyfully.
“Anyone in particular?”
“The captain,” said Inara. “Captain Reynolds.”
Saturday, May 08, 2010 10:29 AM
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Sunday, May 09, 2010 12:02 AM
Sunday, May 09, 2010 4:15 AM
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Sunday, May 09, 2010 7:57 AM
Sunday, May 09, 2010 8:49 AM
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