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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
If it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two?
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1212 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "INSIDE OUT"
SERIES: THE DICHOTOMY SERIES.
CHAPTER: 11. Sequel to "MASKS". **SERIES CONCLUSION**
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
SUMMARY: "Once out of the simulation everyone picks up their
regular lives as if there had been no interruption and with no memory
of what happened. Only one person knows that the stage has been set
for something that will change their lives forever."
A "Firefly" Story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
The House Mistress stared at Inara as if she had taken complete leave of her senses. "Why do you want to leave House Madrassa?"
"It would not be permanent, Mother, I just feel being out in the world would broaden my experience as a Companion."
"It would be unseemly, Inara. Are you trying to bring this House into disrepute?"
Inara flushed. "That I would never do."
The House Mistress fixed her with a gimlet eye. "What has brought about this sudden desire to leave us?"
She could not afford to explain it, least of all to a House Mistress for whom duty to the Guild was everything. Inara knew her only opportunity to correct a most basic of errors lay outside these beautiful but cloistered walls. The company of her sisters would be missed but it would only be for a time and the more she thought about it the more fiercely the notion settled within her. To make her decision more believable she would need to fashion a life outside the protection of her House, one where she would continue to be a Companion loyal to the Guild but with the freedom to do what must be done without that constricting oversight.
"Where will you go?"
When Inara told the House Mistress what she had in mind the woman blanched. "Child, you are not thinking clearly!"
"*Bushi* Mother," said Inara in her most reasonable and soothing tone "I have never thought more clearly in my life."
"If you go through with this madness," the House Mistress stressed "you can expect no assistance from this House or any other. You will be on your own."
"I have the Guild, Mother, and I will not let it down or forget your teachings. Besides, it is only for a while then I will return."
The House Mistress gave Inara a long hard look but the Companion remained firm, serene even. "You were always *wangu* Inara but I had hoped you had grown out of such intemperance. If you do this you must realise you relinquish any chance of becoming the next Mistress of House Madrassa and you were at the top of a very short list."
After the interview Inara took time reviewing her plan. The House Mistress had managed to delay Inara's departure by two weeks, the hope being that she would come to her senses and change her mind. Inara had been quick to agree, anything to seem reasonable and not cause more friction between them. Alone in her room, Inara allowed her hand to drop to her stomach, an ache in her heart and her wounded soul. What she needed required the utmost discretion and above all, freedom from the watchful eyes of her sisters and the Guild. If all went well no one would be any the wiser and her return would heal the momentary rift of leaving. That she would lose her place in the House hierarchy was a regrettable but necessary price to pay.
It was bright and sunny on Carousel. One of those legendary Summer days of old bathing young and old alike in warmth and the promise of a good harvest. The main house was huge with extra annexes added as the family had grown. Across the small meadow a mix of out buildings and sheds housed tractors and mechanical bits and pieces along with a huge well equipped workshop. Martin Frye peered through the half light of the workshop until he made out his youngest and most gifted child.
"Kaylee-girl what're you doin' moonin' away the daylight?"
Kaylee had been staring off into space, her dungarees smeared with old oil and grease but still clean enough to wear a few more days before her Mama insisted on boiling the homely scents of the workshop out of it. "Just thinkin' is all."
Her father smiled and walked over to her, noticing that the engine part their neighbour Lem had needed repairing was all fixed. He picked it up and admired his daughter's work. "You got natural talent, Kaylee."
"I know daddy but sometimes..." Her voice trailed off as if worried she would sound ungrateful.
"Sometimes what? You get bored? Restless?"
Her eyes met his and Kaylee knew she couldn't keep a thing from her daddy. He knew her too well and being secretive wasn't in her nature. "You ever had wakin' dreams? Y'know, ones what come from who knows where but take ya fancy?"
Mr Frye chuckled and leant on the work bench. "We all have such dreams a time or two, ain't nothin' wrong with day dreamin'."
"Yeah, but in my dreams my feet ain't even on the ground, *dong ma*?"
His eyebrows rose, a smile twitching his lips. "Then where the *diyu* are they?"
Kaylee laughed, a bright sparkling shiny thing. "*Wo bu zhidao*, all I know is it's somewhere beyond the stars."
He blinked then put a warm hand on her shoulder. "Unless you sprout wings an' fly Kaylee-girl you're feet are gonna stay on the ground. Dream all ya want but don't go hankerin' after anythin' ya can't have."
"*Wo zhidao* it's just..."
"Ya have them wakin' dreams?"
Kaylee nodded then snuggled into her father's side, a sigh of content slipping from her lips when he put his arm around her and dropped a kiss on the top of her head.
"Sometimes Kaylee-girl dreams is just dreams."
* * * * *
Malcolm Reynolds leant on the post holer and stared at Tracy. "Where you gonna go?"
Tracy's face was all laughter and bon homie, not a gorram care in the world. Looking at the three of them no one would have guessed at the weeks they had spent in an Alliance *jianyu*. It was right satisfying for Mal to see the way he was filling out again, putting flesh on his bones. Zoe had been stringing a section of fence but paused to hear Tracy's reply while Mal wiped the sweat off his face and neck with a folded kerchief.
"Dunno, Sarge. Just wanna be out in the world."
"Itchy feet?" Said Zoe.
His grin was automatic. There had always been something charismatic about Tracy, even when he was conning them they couldn't help liking the man. Plus nobody played better or funnier pranks even when the War had been at its' bloodiest heights. "Yeah. Bein' cooped up in that *jianyu* didn't help none neither."
"Goin' home to visit the folks?"
"Maybe, not sure Sarge. Might just see what else is out there, y'know?"
"How d'you figure to get off this planet? We're workin' to save up the fare an' we ain't even halfway there yet."
Tracy squinted into the sun as he looked at Mal. "*Fang xin*, Sarge. I'm like that bad penny you used to talk about."
Even though the story always made Mal smile the thought of Tracy going off on his own was more than a mite worrying. Never knew a man who could attract as much trouble as Tracy and this time he wouldn't have him and Zoe to get him out of it. "You need to be more careful, Tracy. We may be outta Alliance hands but that don't mean they won't be lookin' to make our lives harder, *dong ma*? Step outta line just a little bit an' they may lock you up an' throw away the gorram key."
"*Fang xin*, I'll be careful."
Mal straightened. "Well then, if your mind's made up..."
Tracy looked solemn for a moment. "I hear Monty's got himself a ship. Thought I'd work passage off-world."
"Way I heard it," Zoe said cautiously "he hasn't got a crew yet."
Again that winning smile flashed out at them. Tracy pointed to his own chest. "Well, he's got one now."
Mal raised his eyebrows. "What can you do on a boat?"
Their friend shrugged. "Dunno, guess I'll find out when I get there."
They laughed then said their goodbyes, Mal and Zoe's best wishes ringing in Tracy's ears along with the promise to pass on their best to Monty. How that old sasquatch had survived the War was a mystery, him being such a big target and all, but they were heartily glad he had. Zoe looked at Mal as he picked up the post holer.
"Think we'll see him again, sir?"
Mal paused then laughed. "Soon as he gets in trouble."
Zoe's lips tightened. "That's what I figured."
The rain was lashing down in stair rods, falling so hard it was difficult to see through it. Mr Cobb was a big broad chested man with a thick shock of greying hair now plastered to his head. He stood with his arms out letting the rain wash the dirt and coal dust off him. Jayne squinted at him from the wide brim of his hat, not stepping out of the makeshift front porch though he still got a mite wet as the wind shifted.
"We should build a barn."
His father laughed. "What in the turnin' of the worlds would I wanna do that for?"
"Ya could clean up in the dry without messin' up the house."
His father threw back his head and laughed. It was a hearty wholesome sound. "Not nothin' can clean a man when he comes outta the mine better than this, Jayne. Ain't gonna waste money on a barn with nothin' in it."
Just then Jayne caught the sound of voices and his brothers appeared, as filthy as it was possible for a body to be. His father looked scrubbed clean as a new pin next to them. Mr Cobb gave them a nod and told them to stay outside until they'd washed the coal dust off then went inside, stopping just in the doorway while his wife handed him her biggest towel. They all knew the drill. Shutting the door quickly he stripped and wrapped the towel around him, his wife whipping the sodden clothes off the floor and into the wash tub before he could say two words.
It was minutes later when Mr Cobb came into the kitchen in dry clothes and noticed Jayne sitting at the table cleaning his guns. His eyes narrowed. "What was that job ya said ya got lined up?"
Jayne was looking down the barrel of his second favourite gun, making sure she was as clean inside as out. His hands as sure as his eyes were sharp. "Didn't."
His father pulled out a chair and sat alongside him. "You goin' huntin'?"
Jayne gave that a moment's thought then nodded. "Yeah, that's what I'm doin'."
"An' folk pay ya for that?"
"*Fang xin* pa, it's just vermin control."
His father nodded but said no more. Didn't believe that was all it was but Jayne was a man full grown now and as long he kept his nose clean and kept working who was he to say what that work should be? Over Jayne's shoulder he saw his wife at the range cooking up a tasty stew, her brows were drawn with worry though she didn't say a word.
"How 'bout you hunt us down some rabbits then before ya go?"
Jayne laughed, reassembling his gun without looking at it and putting it back in his holster. "In this downpour, pa? Only thing I'm like to catch is a gorram cold!"
It was after they had all eaten and Jayne had left that it preyed on Mr Cobb's mind, if it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two? Shaking his head he pushed such thoughts from his mind, didn't do to go borrowing trouble 'til it came knocking at your door. He just hoped Jayne knew what the *diyu* he was doing.
Derrial Book felt relief and comfort encompass him as soon as he put on his Preacher's threads. Southdown Abbey was part home, part resting place but also a sanctuary of sorts. Stepping out in the world was always a risk but one he calculated needed to be done sooner rather than later. If he missed his opportunity someone else would be chosen and this was a task that needed a great deal of subtlety and cunning.
The Abbot watched him go with mixed feelings then shifted his mind to his duties and those in his care. Book walked through the meadow surrounding the Abbey grounds making sure he was completely out of sight before he changed direction. He would go into town but first he had a call to make and one that he did not wish anyone to witness but God himself.
It was the biggest hunk of junk Zoe Warren had seen in a long time yet her long time friend was looking at it like a lover meeting his heart's desire. It was downright unsettling.
"You bought this, on purpose sir?"
He was not looking at her, eyes only for the worn and poorly maintained Firefly. Once the cargo bay door was open he started to walk up it, Zoe beside him. Getting a look inside the ship didn't alter her original assessment.
"You paid money for this, sir? On purpose?"
Malcolm Reynolds was not dismayed at her reaction, the words rolling off his back as if nothing could penetrate this fledgling love affair with a wreck that had seen better days and looked to not have many more such days left in her. Malcolm Reynolds still had something of the dreamer in him, the heart that had got crushed by War and disenchantment still beating beneath all the pain and loss. A faint determined flicker of hope in a 'verse gone impossibly dark. And because he was the closest thing she had ever had to a soul mate Zoe was silently grateful for it even if she did think him *shenjingbing*.
Hearing his plan to get her up and running again, get him a crew and live like real folk touched her heart. She could not see it, not yet at least, but if Mal said it could be done then he was the man to make it happen. Just didn't know how he was gonna get his wounded bird to fly.
"The surveillance must not arouse any suspicion, *ni dongle ma*?"
Book gave a solemn nod. "I have done this before." He said quietly.
"Before was then, this is now." Snapped the Alliance official. "What makes you think the girl will end up with them?"
He could have told him, explained that the past, present and future were more fluid than anyone thought but it would have made him sound *fafeng* and he needed to be allowed to handle this his way. The girl was the key but only if she remained intact. Let the Alliance think this was a simple retrieval, he knew the truth and that information would never pass his lips even on pain of death. No. The girl was important. Not simply for herself but for what was to follow.
Derrial book had seen the future. Now he would take his own unobtrusive place in shaping it.
Tracy let the whiskey slide down his throat and momentarily closed his eyes. When he opened them again his glass was empty and his contact was leaning forward on the table, eyes fixed on his. They were at the back of the bar. Tracy licked his lips.
"What would I have to do?"
The man waved a hand in a nonchalant manner but Tracy knew it was
just meant to put him at ease. "Nothin' hard. We got a facility here, pretty high tech. The operation would be painless, you'd get the good drugs an' be put back together again good as new."
"What about payment?"
"Half before the op, the other half when you deliver."
"An' I'd get my own stuff back?"
His contact nodded. "Yep. Got no use for 'em, buyers want the best *dong ma*?"
Tracy ignored the slight. He was thinking about the money. His contact, Morgan Stone, refilled Tracy's glass and gave him a slow smile. Tracy picked up the glass, raised it then downed it in one. By the time he put the glass back on the table the deal was done and he was on his way to becoming a rich man.
It was the kind of establishment Inara would normally not be seen dead in but it had the advantage of not being part of the Guild network though she knew that their spies were everywhere, hence the disguise.
If the doctor was surprised he hid it well. The examination was thorough and confirmed what she already knew. They discussed terms and her ability to pay. Once satisfied the doctor set up the time and date, advised her of the risks but assured her she would be in no danger. Medical advances made accidents as rare as hen's teeth.
When it was all over Inara Serra bravely held back the tears and thanked him. There was only one place she wanted to go, where she would not only be safe but have time to recover without being judged. Nandi was at first overjoyed to hear from her old friend then horrified and saddened by what she had done.
"Come as soon as you can, Inara. You know you are always welcome at the Heart of Gold."
Inara nodded, her gratitude and relief so deep it was hard to form words. "*Xie xie ni*, Nandi. It will be good to see you again."
"You too, *bao bei*."
Cutting the link, Inara bit back a sigh. The slim ornate box carefully hidden about her person. The last thing she needed now was for some pickpocket to steal the one thing that would keep her functioning now that the deed was done. Miss one dose and she would be as good as dead by morning. Funny, in the numb aftermath of the botched operation it didn't seem such a bad ending after all.
* * * * * *
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*bushi* = not so *wangu* = stubborn *dong ma* = understand? *diyu* = hell *wo zhidao* = I know *jianyu* = prison *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *shenjingbing* = crazy *ni dongle ma* = do you understand? *fafeng* = mad *xie xie ni* = thank you *bao bei* = precious/treasure
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