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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 963 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "MEANS TO AN END"
SERIES: UNFINMISHED BUSINESS
CHAPTER: 4. Sequel to "HELL HATH NO FURTY"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara
SUMMARY: "River and Simon are reunited with
old friends. The Captain faces a nightmare not of
his making and Zoe has a decision to make."
"MEANS TO AN END"
A "Firefly" Story written by
Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
At first Kaylee was so relieved she could have cried. The news that the Alliance were going to free them was the best ever. When the officer started to walk away from the cells Zoe called after him.
"*Wei*! You said you were releasin' us."
The officer paused. "*Qu*. We should be landin' in the next half hour."
Shepherd Book looked confused. "Then why are we still locked up?"
A thin almost spiteful smile settled on the man's lips. "Just a precaution, *ni dong*?"
"What about Serenity?" Kaylee wailed, her relief at being let go overshadowed by the fact that they were not going to be reunited with their ship. It made no gorram sense.
"I'm sure you'll find it where you left it."
Zoe's eyes narrowed with suspicion. Wash looked confused. "Wouldn't it be best to just drop us off at our ship?"
"The Alliance is not runnin' a ruttin' taxi service, *dong ma*?" All trace of bon homie, however false, had vanished now.
"What about the Cap'n?"
"He'll meet up with you when he's ready."
Jayne stared at the officer, all manner of thoughts going through his head. "Why can't he join us now? An' where're ya droppin' us off?"
"Paquin. You'll be released when the ship lands."
Then the officer was gone. Kaylee turned to Inara, unable to hide her worry. "Why they keepin' the Cap'n? An' why can't we be dropped off at Serenity?"
Inara tried to hide her worry as she reached through the bars to take Kaylee's hand. "Hopefully we'll find out soon, *mei mei*."
"They said the owner of the crate dropped all charges." Book mused. Zoe gave him a sharp look.
"What're you thinkin', Preacher?"
"The contents of that crate were very expensive, more than we could afford in a month of Sundays. Who waves away the theft of somethin' so costly?"
"Might help if we knew who the crate belonged to." Said Wash. "I don't know about the rest of you but all my friends are poor."
"Ya don't have any friends." Quipped Jayne.
"Now that's just mean. Isn't that mean, Zoe?"
Zoe ignored Wash's half hearted plea. "*Wo bu xihuan*."
"You ask me that *meiyiu muqin de xiao gou* knows somethin'." Jayne growled.
Kaylee pushed her face up against the bars of her cell and looked at her friends. "It don't make sense. Cap'n was right, the crate was a trap but then why let us go?"
"They're not lettin' all of us go." Said Book.
"If the owner of the crate dropped all charges why're they not lettin' the Cap'n go?" Kaylee persisted.
"Maybe it has nothin' to do with the crate."
Everyone stared at Book. Zoe got a hollow feeling in the pit of her stomach. "What're you sayin', Preacher?"
"*Wo bu zhidao*, just thinkin' out loud."
Jayne suddenly brightened. "What if we all refuse to go until they release the Cap? They have to let him go then, *dui*?"
Zoe shook her head. "*Bushi*. This is the Alliance Jayne an' they have no love for any of us especially those of us who fought on the side of the Independents."
"I didn't fight in no ruttin' war."
Kaylee fought back tears, not hearing anything reassuring. "What're we gonna do?"
"Nothing in haste." Said Book. "Whatever is going on we won't help anyone by lashing out. Best wait an' see what happens."
"Then what?" Growled Jayne.
"Then we'll see."
Jer didn't like this. Folk tended to think of the Black as 'The Big Empty' only it wasn't. It was vast, unpredictable and oft times downright hostile but never empty. Whether it was gorram asteroids, other ships or debris it was amazing how something bigger than a anyone's imagination could still leave a man and his ship no place to hide. Follow them, she had said. Jer snorted. Easy for her to say. He had to stay so far back to stay off their radar that when they did make a move he rutting well missed it.
Jer had some quick reckoning to do. By the time he got to the area where the Firefly had been adrift the transport ship was gone and so was the ship that had come sniffing round it. No sign of where either ship had gone and no breadcrumbs to follow. Shannon would be beyond pissed but explaining the facts would hardly square things with her and he was wanting to cut ties and be rid of the twisted *pofu*. Wouldn't put it passed her to arrange some kind of fatal accident for him and his crew for not following through.
With a heavy sigh Jer dug in his pocket for a coin. Heads he would call Shannon, tell her the why of it and that would be that. Tails he would leave and put as much distance between himself and her as was humanly possible. He tossed the coin, watched it turn as it rose in the air then watched to see which side it landed up.
"Why would anyone further disable a disabled ship?"
River was half lost under the belly of Serenity's engine, Kaylee's box of tools close at hand. She answered Rafe without poking her head out, as if what she was working on required her full attention. "Insurance. Wanted to make sure no one coming across the ship could get it going again."
Chung Li glanced at his boss. "Pirates and scavengers."
"We ain't neither."
River's head popped out briefly. "Didn't want anyone to recover her either."
Rafe opened his mouth to ask another question but River had disappeared from sight again. He turned to Simon. The doctor raised his hands.
"I don't know what my sister's talking about at the best of times but know enough to trust her."
"Didn't say I didn't trust her." Rafe paused. "Just wish I understood what in the nine hells is going on."
Just then River slid out from under the engine, a smile a mile wide on her face. Simon reached out to wipe black smudges off her face. "All fixed. We can go now."
"Where are we going, *mei mei*?"
"We have to rescue Captain Daddy."
Simon didn't correct her that Mal was not their father, it was a fight he would not win. "You mean rescue all the crew, *dui*?"
She shook her head, carefully putting Kaylee's tools back before turning to Rafe Connor. "Split up. Need to hurry now."
"Are they in danger?"
"We have to go NOW."
Simon was confused. "Because they're in danger?"
River shook her head. "You aren't listening, Simon. They know someone else was on board, what do you think will happen?"
The doctor's face paled. "*Wode ma*, they're coming back to the ship."
"Then best not be here." Said Chung Li.
Rafe was about to ask who would pilot the Firefly but River was way ahead of him. He glanced at Simon. He shrugged, "What can I say? My sister's a genius."
The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying. Not that the Captain was in any condition to observe her flight through space.
"Should'a killed 'em all."
Duncan shook his head. "We aren't murderers, Clem."
"They're his crew."
"Don't matter. They didn't see us, have no idea what this is all about. That suits everyone. We have what we came for an' soon we'll have answers."
The others stirred, the room off the pilot's station was compact but sufficient for the duration of the journey ahead. Duncan glanced around him. The five men firm friends and united in both their loss and need for revenge. This moment had been years in the making. "He awake yet, Marshall?"
"Nah, didn't think I'd hit him that hard."
"Just so long as he don't wake with amnesia." Muttered Matthew Grant.
The sound of a light bell ringing seemed incongruous given the vessel they were on and their mission. Duncan gave the others a nod then left the room, his friends following, grim faced and with common purpose.
The ship was an odd configuration with a deceptively large storage area below deck. The area had been cleared out to make way for a variety of equipment that would have looked more at home in an operating theatre. The men working inside were expressionless, all their attention on a variety of specialised equipment. As Duncan entered the room he glanced around, taking everything in. Captain Reynolds was strapped to a tilting table, a drip hanging from a hook above him. He turned to the technician next to the unconscious Captain.
The man nodded and waited.
As Duncan and the others watched the technician adjusted the drip and woke the Captain. Another technician joined him and began affixing a thin circular frame around the Captain's forehead, carefully screwing the device into position. Stirring, the Captain took a few moments to bring their faces into focus.
"What ya doin'?"
Duncan frowned at the Captain's slurred speech. "How much did ya give him?"
The first technician was untroubled. "*Zugou*." He then produced another thin circular frame, made a small adjustment then looked at the five men. "It would be better for one to be chosen to view."
"*Bushi*. All of us have suffered loss, we all need to see what was done."
"The images will not be quite as clear or stable."
Clement Rae nodded. "*Tamen dong*."
Seeing they were determined the technician had chairs arranged in a semi circle around the reclining Captain. The technician indicated for them to sit then gave them some guidelines. "Only one of you may ask questions, it should be the same person throughout."
The men did not need to draw lots. Duncan was the leader, he would steer the interrogation. "When can we begin?"
Malcolm Reynolds listened with growing alarm. Bound as he was he could not move and though his head felt oddly disconnected from the rest of him he appeared to be in one piece. That meant they were using drugs but to what end? What the good gorram did they think they would find? He didn't kill children and he certainly had never abucted any. Before he could voice a single objection something cold, thin and impossibly sharp was threaded through a tiny hole in the front of the frame around his head. He opened his mouth to cry out but made no sound. He felt the intrusion burrow deeper and deeper but there was no pain as such. They must have given him the good drugs. Then his vision blurred and a deep viscera pain shivered down the thin wire into his brain.
She was livid. Not only had Jer failed to keep her updated, he had not carried out the extra duty of watching the unknown ship. Efforts to track it down were pointless. Having no ship of her own she would have to hire another one and its' inevitable crew. Was it worth it? Probably not. It did not however mitigate the sting of being unable to satisfy her curiosity. So, the Firefly was gone, the ship that had been sniffing around Serenity had vanished without trace. Obviously the two were connected.
Leaning back in her seat she wondered why she was not happier. Reynolds had been taken by the Alliance and was no doubt sitting in some top security *jianyu* somewhere where the sun would never shine. His crew either sharing his fate or scattered to the four winds. Their ship, Serenity, seized by scavengers or pirates. Yet she felt cheated, unable to shake off the notion that somehow that *tamade hundan* had escaped the justice she felt he deserved.
After a few minutes she put in a wave to the last person she wanted to speak to but her need for information was paramount. Part of her twisted and unique psyche. The connection made, the face of the only man she had ever loved appeared on the screen.
"I didn't expect to be hearing from you again."
Saffron could tell nothing from his demeanour. "I didn't expect to be makin' this call."
A single eyebrow rose in query. Patiently Haymer waited for her to get to the point. It was one of the things that both attracted and repelled her about him.
"Need you to tell me exactly what happened, *dong ma*?"
She saw the flicker of something cross his face too fast for her to catch. The calm bland face that stared back at her gave nothing away. As he started to speak Saffron leant closer to the screen, determined not to miss or misinterpret a single word.
It was a busy port, the hustle and bustle not so much a comfort as something familiar. Shepherd Book did not like the downcast look on his friends' faces. "It could have been worse."
Kaylee was still crying but at least it was muted now. Inara glanced around. "We seem to be drawing attention."
"Huh, they probably ain't seen a Registered Companion up close an' personal without emptyin' their ruttin' accounts for the privilege."
The mercenary gave Zoe a blank look. "*Shenme*? It's the truth."
"*Bi zui*, this ain't the time or place to say such things."
Shepherd Book moved close to Jayne and whispered something quiet-like in his ear. The big man didn't speak again. Wash wondered what Book had said but right now Zoe was urging them to keep moving.
"Where we goin', *bao bei*?"
Book answered before Zoe could. "I know some people who will shelter us while we decide what to do next."
"We know what we gotta do."
Zoe turned to Kaylee. "An' we'll discuss it when we get there, *dong ma*?"
As they moved off Inara paused to look at some wraps. Large many coloured fabrications for throwing on when the weather turned chill, but they were muted understated colours, nothing bright or flash. Inara picked one, paid for it then put it on. Kaylee's eyes widened when she turned to see where her friend was. Inara caught up with her to explain before Kaylee blurted something out. "It will help me to blend in, *mei mei*. We don't want to draw any more attention, *dong ma*?"
Serenity's mechanic looked a mite doubtful. With a smile Inara hooked her arm through Kaylee's and at once that sunny smile was back. Maybehaps being on Paquin wouldn't be as bad as she thought. After all they had a plan, right?
If Simon thought getting Serenity back under her own steam would solve their problems he was much mistaken. Being able to travel through the Black again was one thing but they lacked a direction to go in.
"We need to know where they took the rest of the crew."
River didn't respond, she was staring out at the Black as if the answers would materialise before her eyes only the far off look in them was beginning to alarm her brother.
"*Mei mei, ni mei shir ba*?"
Rafe Connor wondered what was wrong with the girl, not at all reassured to have River sitting in the pilot's chair while having some kind of fit. He was just thinking of calling his pilot Danny to change places with her when she turned and looked him in the eye, suddenly as sharp and cognisant as could be.
"I don't have fits but I see things. Sense them moving through space and time. The trick is to match the right space with the correct time. Don't want to get lost."
Alarmed, Rafe was momentarily lost for words. How in the nine hells had she known what he was thinking? River gave a soft sad smile.
"I'm not a witch."
Stung, Rafe began to protest that he had been thinking no such thing but River had already moved on.
"We think the Alliance took them but it was a ruse. A slight of hand to add legitimacy to the stop and search."
"Do you know who they are?"
River shook her head then brightened up. "*Bu qu* but I know where they went."
Simon looked confused. "How can you know that? River we have no idea, we were in hiding when Serenity was boarded."
"You forgot the bug, Simon."
Rafe, Chung Li and Simon leaned close as River took the tag she had removed from the ship. Chung Li tilted his head, his calm round moon face showing curiosity not worry. He appeared to be listening intently. "Not transmitting now."
Startled, Simon stared at the Chinaman. "How can you tell?"
"Electronic surveillance smart, not silent."
"I can't hear anything."
A shadow of a smile touched Chung Li's lips. "Just so."
Simon turned to River. "*Wo bu dong*."
"I turned it off."
Rafe was curious, the girl intriguing him more and more. "How're we gonna find out who took Mal an' the crew an' where they went?"
"Follow the breadcrumbs." At Rafe's look River laughed, a light bright sound. "What goes one way can go the other way, like a piece of string."
"Are you sayin' the ship can retrace their path?"
"*Bu qu*." River held the device between her index and forefinger. "First we find somewhere to hide Serenity then we switch it back on."
For a moment no one spoke. Simon desperately wanted to find and rescue the crew, especially Kaylee, but what if the plan worked too well? How could they rescue anyone if they got caught too? River smiled at her brother.
"You just have to have a little faith."
Her words were such a close echo of Kaylee that Simon felt a lump rise in his throat. This had to work because he could not imagine his life without the cheery mechanic in it. Reading his thoughts River looked fondly at her brother. "You are such a boob."
The silence was filled with shock and more than a little awe. Stunned, Duncan slowly removed the thin circular frame from around his head and stared at the others. One by one his friends followed suit, the metal bands being returned to the technician. He did not remove the one from the Captain who appeared to be semi conscious. A thin trickle of blood ran down the middle of the Captain's forehead where the wire had pierced his forehead. Although no more than a dribble it disturbed Matthew Grant that they had taken such extreme measures.
Impossible as the Captain's story was they had all relieved every part of it with him. Clem had to swallow a couple of times before he could speak. "Think ya should take that contraption off him, *mashang*.
He did not ask Duncan's permission and Duncan didn't gainsay him. In fact all of them were slowly coming to terms with what they had discovered. Harlan Hatcham rarely spoke but he needed to put his thoughts into words as if that would somehow make sense of this new reality. "Least we know he didn't murder 'em."
Then they were all talking at once. In the babble none of them noticed when the Captain lost consciousness. It was Clement Rae who alerted the others, the technician moving in to check on the Captain's vital signs. "When he wakes he will be traumatised but he should recover. That is, if you want him to recover."
CHINESE CLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*wei* = hey! *qu* = yes (lit. go) *ni dong* = you understand? *dong ma* = understand? *mei mei* = little sister *wo bu xihuan* = I don't like it *meiyiu muqin de xiao gou* = motherless cur *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *dui* = correct *bushi* = not so *pofu* = bitch *wode ma* = mother of God *zugou* = enough *tamen dong* = we understand *jianyu* = prison *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *shenme* = what *bi zui* = shut up/be quiet *bao bei* = precious/treasure *ni mei shir ba* = are you alright? *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately
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