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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Simon enacts his plan. The rest of the crew are unhappy but unable to do anything."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2121 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "TOP THREE PER CENT"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
STATUS: SEQUEL to "DANCING WITH THE DEVIL"
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Simon enacts his plan. The rest of the crew
are unhappy but unable to do anything."
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.
"TOP THREE PER CENT"
A "Firefly" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
"Trust you?" Said the Captain warily. "What the good gorram you gonna do?"
His eyes widened as he watched the doctor fill a syringe. He had not felt too good when he woke up, right now he wished he was still in a coma. Manfully he tried to batten down the nest of rattlers churning up the inside of his gut. He wasn't no coward but fear was no respecter of a man's courage. It did not help when Simon paused and gave him a look he could not fathom. "Time to go to sleep, Captain." He said so softly it stirred the hair on the back of the Captain's neck.
Mal felt his mouth go very dry. Tried to remind himself that Simon was a doctor, not a cold blooded murderer. Some kind of hypothetical oath. Didn't help a good gorram that he had played a cruel joke or two on the good doctor his own self. "Am I gonna wake up again, Simon?"
Simon almost laughed outright, the look in the Captain's eyes as close to fearful as he had ever seen on the man's face and one he had *never* been the cause of before. "You'll feel a slight prick..."
The Captain opened his mouth but nothing came out. The needle sliding into the vein as if in slow motion. Simon watched the change in his patient's pupils, the Captain struggling to hang on to consciousness as long as he could but it had been a losing battle from the moment the drug began to enter his system. A tiny sigh slid out of Mal's mouth, his eyes going vacant as if someone had switched off a light. Simon reached out and closed the Captain's eyes. As if that act set the clock ticking again, the doctor began to get everything ready for Niska and his men.
Inara Serra was beyond annoyed though most of her temper was hidden behind a mask perfected from childhood. Only her eyes gave her away and she had been careful to keep them averted as much as possible. Just when she thought things could not get any worse Simon was handing the Captain over to his worst enemy. *Diyu*, Niska was everyone's worst enemy. Zoe was pacing up and down, every line of her body taut. Wash made no attempt to reassure her, his gentle face tight with anxiety and concern, eyes pinched with worry. Inwardly trembling with the memories that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Niska! How in the nine hells had the crime lord found them? And would his vendetta against the Captain never cease?
Everyone turned to look at River. The girl was sitting in the corner of the commons area, hands hugging her knees, hair hanging lank and dull around her pale face. As if realising they were all expecting some kind of explanation she gave one.
"Jihad. Holy War."
Inara did not think that was funny or appropriate. Her temper more frayed by the sounds of Sarah sobbing her heart out at the kitchen table than by the gifted girl's words. "This isn't war, River." She said evenly, her voice softened in an effort to hide how angry she was. But the Shepherd had noticed, it was in his eyes. Fortunately no one called her on it.
"Is so. Same war, different battlefield."
Kaylee sat next to her friend and tried to relax the stranglehold of fear clutching her throat. "What ya sayin', River? Ya sayin' there's gonna be fightin'?"
River shook her head and gave an enigmatic smile. "Can't shoot what you can't see."
"Not sure you should be calling it a 'holy war'," Said the Shepherd. "Adelei Niska is as far removed from Heaven as a man can be and still draw breath."
She shook her head. "His war is the war of the fanatic. His obssession is pain and torture. Only his reputation is real to him. It's the trap that's the illusion."
Zoe turned and stared at River, her muscles bunching with tension. "Trap?"
"Like a spider his web reaches far, one tug and you're caught. The more you struggle the harder it gets until he binds you for the feast."
Everyone stared at her. Sarah's breath caught in her throat, eyes wide and filled with tears. Wash patted her shoulder awkwardly. Careful not to show too much sympathy with Zoe's eyes darkening and boring into him like lasers. Even Inara looked ready to kill something. He just hoped it wasn't him. Shepherd Book looked towards the door, the two thugs guarding it remained alert and watchful. Each one of Serenity's crew had been disarmed and rounded up. Part of him was amazed no one had been killed or injured especially given Niska's predilection for inflicting pain. But then the man was within minutes of getting what he wanted. He could afford to be generous he supposed.
It was the sudden wail from Sarah that jolted them from their reverie. "We can't just sit here an' let them take him! We have to DO somethin'."
Zoe was looking at the guards on the door. Much as she agreed with Sarah it was hard to formulate a plan when you were outgunned and pretty much a prisoner aboard your own boat. It irked, it rattled, it incensed her. Fighting for control she tried to calm down enough to come up with a plan but they did not have the luxury of time. The opening of the door turned every head. River looked up and smiled brightly. "Time's up!
No one smiled back. Sarah started crying again. Zoe stiffened as the guards stepped aside to allow Niska into the room. Kaylee felt her heart trembling. River took her hand, her touch steady and firm, her eyes now fixed on Niska. The smile she had given them now locked away for better days. Niska took a moment to cast a gloating eye around the crew. His attention then settled on Zoe Warren. "Soon, we will go but first you come."
Her eyes were sharp with suspicion. Her emotions brittle but she wouldn't crack. Niska seemed to feed off her reaction. The Shepherd watched him closely but kept his own counsel. "Where?"
His beady eyes were openly laughing at her now. Zoe wished she could rip him apart with her bare hands. Hated that to him this was a source of amusement. Could not bear to imagine what he would do to the Captain. A smile dusted Niska's lips, his eyes twinkling with pleasure. Savouring every moment. "The Captain is... how do you say? Indisposed."
Inara's voice was cold and sharp, as deadly as a blade. "What have you done to him?"
Niska gave her a mild look. Quick to notice it was the women doing all the talking while the men in the room eyed him with cold anger and disquiet. "*Yiwusuoyou*." Niska pointed to the Shepherd and Wash. "You come. Now!" At the look of alarm on Zoe's face he smiled. "You come too. Is heavy." Her heart went cold.
"What's heavy?" Asked Wash, not liking where his thoughts were taking him.
Kaylee put a hand over her mouth. River just stared silently at the *liumang* but said nothing.
"The cryo chamber."
They gave him blank stares. Niska snapped his fingers and four of his men stepped into the room and walked over to Wash and Book, nudging them towards the door. Zoe was about to protest when Niska's voice froze her in place. "If you interfere we take him too." He paused. "Take everyone, *dong ma*?"
"What do you want from us?" Asked Book.
"Muscle." He paused. "You carry the cryo chamber to my ship then you go. Is for you finished, yes?"
Inara raised disbelieving eyebrows. "You expect us to believe you'll let us go?"
He shrugged. "I have what I want."
Zoe found it hard to breathe properly. This could not be happening, she wouldn't let it, yet she could not see any way out.
Martin Frye was beside himself with worry, hating it that they were watching from the windows of the house while God knew what was happening on board Serenity. Yet he could not deny Monty's contention that to do anything would likely put both family and friends in even more jeopardy. Mrs Frye gave Monty a keen look. "Who is this man an' what's he wantin' with Kaylee's Cap'n?"
It took a moment for Monty to respond, trying to work out how much to tell them. He knew most of what had happened not from Mal but from Wash. Even Zoe had been tight lipped about what Niska had put the two men through and that in itself spoke volumes. "Mal agreed to do a job for him. When he found out what it was he backed out, gave the man back his money."
Her eyes narrowed into slits. "An'?"
Monty glanced at Mr Frye. A look passed between them. "He wouldn't let Mal back out but by then it was too late. Even though he handed the money back Niska wanted his revenge."
Mr Frye looked troubled. "Hold on, ya sayin' that *tamade hundan's* gone to all this trouble to get Mal because he backed out of a deal?"
The big man nodded, clearly unhappy. "Yup."
Mr Frye shook his head. "Don't make sense."
"Adelei Niska ain't a man as takes backin' out as a viable option. He's killed folk for less."
Kaylee's parents went pale. "Ya sayin' he's gonna kill Mal?" Asked Mr Frye.
The Fryes exchanged a horrified glance. Mr Frye strode over to the fireplace and took down his rifle. "Ain't standin' by while that happens."
"We've already had this discussion."
"That was afore ya talked torture."
"I didn't say anythin' about torture, Mr Frye."
There was a look on Martin Frye's face that reminded Monty that the Frye's were anything but dim. "Ya said he was gonna kill him - eventually - that means torture in my book."
"Leave this to us." Said Monty quietly.
"No offence Monty but I don't see hidin' behind closed doors as helpin' any."
Monty sucked in a pained breath then stroked his beard for a moment. "Mal's a friend, closest thing I got left to a brother. In fact closer, can't say I reckoned much to them as were kin. But I've been through the war with that man, seen more kinds of *goushi* than ya could imagine. Man's saved my life an' me his more times than either of us could count but this is somethin' ya can't go shootin' your way in an' out of."
"So what ya gonna do? Bury him when it's over?"
Monty actually flinched. Ricky stood over by the other window and watched the interplay in silence. Mrs Frye laid a hand on her husband's arm. "Let the man speak, Martin."
He huffed but fell silent. Monty took a long deep breath then told them everything he knew about Adelei Niska. By the time he finished neither of Kaylee's parents had a fleck of colour left in their faces. After a long moment Mr Frye found his voice. "An' what about my Kaylee? What about the rest of Mal's crew? Could be that *wangba dan* 'll kill *em all."
"The way I heard it from Wash he just wants the Cap'n." Monty shrugged unhappily. Would have liked nothing better than to take his men and go storming in guns blazing but a rescue was no good if it killed them as you intended to save. Trying to figure out a good plan was making his gorram head ache. Mal had always been the one with the smarts, always thinking. Never known a man with a more fertile and warped imagination. Was a thing of beauty to see that mind a'turning. Right now he would have given anything to see it again. Without the *shenjingbing hundan* holding his friend good as hostage. What he didn't tell the Fryes or their family was that he was stationed at the window not to take out Niska or his men but to put a bullet through his friend's head the first clear shot he got. No way in *diyu* was he going to let that *tamade hundan* torture Mal again. Man had been through enough for twelve liftetimes.
The look Zoe gave Simon was enough to vaporise metal. He bit his lip and said nothing, let his head hang forward and would not meet her eyes. In silence Zoe, Wash and Book took up the weight of the cryo chamber. Wash blinked back tears, thinking of the Captain locked inside what was pretty much a fancified coffin only Niska wanted him alive. Alive so he could die slowly and painfully for as long as the *liumang* could make it last. It hurt Wash something fierce. Made him tremble with emotion, shake with fear, and falter with the wrongness of it. But he could see no way to turn this around, to get a crack at Niska and his henchmen. There were too many of them and they were both alert and well armed. A sidelong glance at Book told him the Shepherd was also deep in thought.
The journey down Serenity's ramp and across to the other ship was hideously hard for all of them. From the house Monty tore off a stream of curses. Ricky Sable looked at his boss then peered out of the other window to see why he was so upset. Mr Frye looked to the big man for an explanation but Monty did not turn his head, his eyes fixed on the fancy crate that Zoe, Wash and Book were carrying. In that second he realised there would be no daring rescue. No merciful bullet to put his friend out of the agony that would soon be visited upon him. No way to get to Niska and tear the perverted son of a bitch to pieces.
Once the cryo chamber had been deposited, Niska had them escorted back to Serenity. With a last word of warning not to try to follow, Niska and his crew took off leaving a stunned and furious crew staring impotently at the rapidly disappearing ship. As the dark shape hit atmo everyone started talking at once, Wash running for the bridge and yelling to Kaylee to get to the engine room *mashang*. The Shepherd looked at Inara's pale face then took a seat at the table next to Sarah before his legs gave out. The girl did not even acknowledge his presence. Zoe glared then stormed off to the infirmary. As soon as the door opened Zoe walked over to Simon and punched him in the face. Startled he dropped the syringe he was holding and stumbled to his knees, blood pouring from his nose. In a quick fluid motion almost the equal of the Captain's quick draw Zoe had her gun in hand. Close enough that even a blind man couldn't miss.
"Like the Cap'n said, you rich kids think your lives are the only ones that matter."
Simon put a hand to his nose but did not attempt to stand. Fortunately it was not broken. He felt groggy and dizzy from the force of the blow and could see that Zoe was in no mood to be reasonable. "Zoe, *ni bu dong*..."
"I know enough to put a bullet in your gorram ungrateful head."
Simon closed his eyes and froze as the gun was cocked. Sure that this would be the day that he died. To his relief another voice filled the tense air. "Gorrammit Zoe, don't go shootin' our doc!"
She blinked. Confused and for a moment sure her imagination was running away with her.
Nope. Not her imagination, that was definitely the Captain's voice. But it couldn't be... He was on his way to Niska's new torture palace, wasn't he? Taking advantage of Zoe's shock Simon retrieved the syringe off the floor but did not get up. Still on his knees he turned to the infirmary bed where the Captain had been lying before Niska demanded possession of his body. The bed was still empty but now she became aware that Simon was pulling back the blanket that had been draped over it. As the blanket was pulled aside her breath caught in her throat and her eyes pricked with sudden emotion. "*Wode ma* Simon, why the *diyu* didn't you tell me?"
Simon did not reply, too busy checking on the Captain. The rack under the bed was intended for hospital supplies, blankets and somesuch but had made a good impromptu hiding place when Simon had enacted his hastily put together plan. It was not as if there had been time to discuss it with the others first. Zoe dropped to her knees and peered under the bed at her long time friend. "Cap'n, you alright?"
The Captain's eyes were half closed, his colour was not good, but he was alive and breathing and that was something Zoe had not expected to see ever again. It brought a strong rush of emotion which momentarily robbed her of coherent thought. The relief so powerful she almost passed out. The Captains' words were slurred from the drugs but heaven to her ears. "*Hen hao*, Zoe, don't fuss just a little dizzy is all."
She could have hugged him but forebore when she saw his face scrunch up and eyes close as if in pain. "Mal? *Shenme shi*?"
His eyes fluttered open as Simon took his pulse. "Not pain, just gotta pee."
Zoe looked surprised then chuckled. Simon tried to hide the smile tugging at his lips but failed even though it made the cut on his lip smart. "*Duibuqi*, sir, that's one duty you'll have to do for yourself." She said with a smirk.
The doctor looked at Zoe. "If you could give us a few minutes, *qing*? The Captain's not well enough to stand and I'm not strong enough to carry him."
Mal's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What you sayin', doc?"
"I'm sayin' you need to empty your bladder but I don't want to move you until I'm sure you're stabilised. I'll get you a bottle."
A look of horror stole over the Captains' face. Zoe had to look away so she wouldn't laugh out loud. The man was fully awake now. "Gorrammit Simon I am *not* peein' in a ruttin' bottle!"
Weak with relief and feeling happier than a body had a right to feel, Zoe got to her feet and left the infirmary, unable to wipe the smile off her face as she went to find the others and give them the good news. No point in going anywhere when everything she wanted was right here on Carousel. She had her husband, her best friend and the finest friends and crew in the whole gorram 'verse.
Monty couldn't stand it, he just couldn't. Flinging open the Frye's front door he ran out. Martin and his wife looked at each other, saw Rick cast a look back at them then follow his *laoban*. Martin huffed. "Won't find out nothin' standin' here."
"I'm comin' with ya an' don't ya even think of arguin' Martin Frye."
He flashed her a fond smile. "Wouldn't dream of it, *xin gan*."
Mrs Frye paused only long enough to tell Charlie to look after the others, to tell Aunt Jessica to round up the children, then they hurried in the direction of Serenity to find out what in the nine hells had happened and make sure Kaylee was still in one piece. What they found was not at all what any of them were expecting.
The good Shepherd was laughing, Zoe actually smiling at a stunned and shocked Sarah. Inara wanting to rush into the infirmary to see for herself but propriety forcing her to hold back. According to Zoe now would not be a good time to see the Captain. Simon would tell them when it was. The dour funereal air was gone and something approaching a festive spirit was in the air. Mr and Mrs Frye wanted an explanation. "What the diyu's goin' on, Miss Serra?"
Her eyes were twinkling but had sombre depths. The happy like a glaze over some sleeping pain. "Simon pulled a switch on Niska."
Monty turned to look at her, his bafflement reflected on the faces of Ricky Sable and the Fryes. "Switch? What gorram switch?"
Wash jogged into the commons area, a grease smudged Kaylee in tow. "Switch? You want me to throw switches now?"
His wife turned a smiling face on him. "No, *bao bei*. Just sayin' Cap'n wasn't in that crate."
He looked stunned. "He wasn't?" Then he paused, his mind working through the recent events and how real it had all felt. "Then what was in that crate?"
It was River who answered. Her voice echoing strangely from the floor where she was sitting in something close to deep contemplation. "Mass for mass one body is pretty much like another."
Monty leaned down to look into her eyes but the girl seemed to be almost in a light trance. "Body? What body?"
She blinked, looked up and seemed surprised to see a sea of faces staring down at her. "He was dead already, can't kill him again."
"Who?" Said Kaylee from the warm circle of her father's arms.
Kaylee gasped and put a hand over her mouth, she had forgotten all about the Captain's friend. Zoe nodded slowly, the pieces slotting into place. Pieces she should have been seeing her own self. "So Simon gave them Ty, using the cryo chamber they'd put him in coming back from Shadow. But that doesn't explain how they got the deception passed Niska."
"I think I can answer that." Said Book. "He didn't, we did."
"Come again, Shepherd?"
He smiled slightly. "We did. I don't know what Simon said to Niska but for some reason he wanted us to move the body."
"Told him it was infected. A virus. Deadly."
Looks of consternation greeted River's words. She lifted her head then smoothly rose to her feet and smiled, her eyes beginning to sparkle at the deception. "Fooled you!" She gave a gay twirl, eyes sparkling with joy, fun and mild mischief. "Fooled you all!"
No one asked River how she knew. Sarah wiped her face dry and gave a tentative smile. Her voice only trembling a little. "So, Mal's gonna be alright, *dui*?"
The smiles and reassurances she got back almost cut the strings holding her together, the relief was so profound. Inara wanted to hate her, to go on hating her, but they had all come so close to losing the Captain for real she could not hold on to it any longer. And why should she hate the girl for having the courage to do the one thing she did not? She loved him in silence, in private, a closely guarded piece of her heart she would never let him see. But there had been cracks. Paved over with enigmatic smiles and careful misdirection. Couldn't let him see, get too close. Didn't want him to know that her heart had paper thin walls trapped in a body of steel. Had no words to explain that the men she laid with meant nothing to her and never would. It was a job, no more and no less. But she knew he would never see it that way. And Inara realised she did not have it in her to hurt him that way.
Shepherd Book smiled at the relief turning to quiet contentment on everybody's faces then began to frown. "Not wishing to worry anyone but has anyone seen Jayne?"
River gave them all her most beautiful smile. "Had to put him in the ground. To keep the children safe."
Looks of horror and consternation crossed the crews' faces but Mr and Mrs Frye were quicker on the uptake. Mrs Frye sighed with relief. "*Xie xie shangdi*! We wondered what had happened to the children."
At their continued blank looks Mr Frye shared a smile with Kaylee and explained. We got underground storage, *dong ma*? Used to use it for the feed an' such but over the years it just became a kind of bunker. A safe place."
Wash looked surprised. "So are you sayin' Jayne took the children down into that bunker for safety?"
Mr Frye nodded. "Looks like. That's a good man ya got there."
Wash wasn't sure how to respond to that so did not say anything. It was River who put them all in the picture. She smiled at the Fryes and shook her head. "A common misconception. Had to keep him out of trouble."
"What do you mean, River?" Asked Book cautiously.
He thought the girl looked like nothing so much as a mischievous little imp. "Had to keep him out of the way or he would have ruined the plan."
She nodded. "Simon's plan would only work if everybody believed it. Jayne would have been one risk too many."
Kaylee was frowning now. "River, Jayne's on our side."
River did not seem at all concerned. "*Qu* but he acts before he thinks and we needed the thinking to come first."
It was Book who put the pieces together. His laughter turned all eyes in his direction. "I think what River is saying is that if Jayne had been with us he would have gone in guns blazing and we'd have been in a firefight. By giving him something important to do - looking after the Frye's young ones - she kept him out of the way until the danger was over."
Wash looked at them hopefully. "And is the danger over?"
River thought about that for a moment and no one interrupted. Their hopes hanging on the slim thread of the crazy girl's drifting sanity. Not one of them thought it odd that they trusted her even when her cryptic pronoucements creeped them out. "For us but not for them."
Monty shook his head. It had been a long wearying few days and all he wanted was to see his friend safe and well then get on his way. He had a crew of his own to look out for and much as he loved Mal and Zoe like kinfolk there was only so much of their bizarre life an old war horse like him could stand at one time. Again, River Tam surprised him. Her hand resting lightly on his thick forearm, her pale moon-glow face tilted up to his with complete trust. He held his breath.
"Can't go 'till the feast is over."
He frowned. "What gorram feast?"
River flicked a merry eye towards Mrs Frye who caught the plea and leaned close to her husband to whisper in his ear. His smile was her answer. River tugged on Monty's arm. "You missed Christmas."
"*Bu qu*, I was Santa - *jide*? Who do ya think gave ya your gorram presents?"
"We had Christmas but you lost yours."
"River," Said Book stepping in to save Monty's confusion. "It is almost Easter, why don't we celebrate that instead?"
But River shook her head, wanting to get the image of a hanged man out of her head. The fact that he was upside down probably explained why he had lost his crown of thorns. A stubborn look settled in her eyes and warned them that it would take something cataclysmic to change her mind. "They stole Christmas but he brought it back. Now we can celebrate in style. The way it was when there was no room at the Inn."
Inara Serra had no idea what was running through the girls' mind. "We can celebrate again next year."
"*Ni bu dong*. Too late. We didn't get Monty anything..."
The big man's face cleared. So that was what was troubling the girl? "Oh, *fang xin nu haizi*. Gettin' outta this mess alive is more than present enough for me."
River's face took on a sorrowful look, almost pain. "We didn't get *him* anything." She added softly.
A little silence fell which was so profound no one wanted to be the one to break it. They realised this wasn't about Monty and his crew, it was about the Captain. The Hands of Blue had stolen River's Christmas from her, took all the presents. Serenity's Captain had brought it back again, filled their hearts with happy for the first time in a long long while but River Tam was not simply gifted, she had a photographic memory and one thing had struck a dischordant note when all the shiny wore off. They hadn't got anything for their Captain.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*diyu* = hell *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *liumang* = asshole/bastard/criminal/gangser
*dong ma* = understand *tamade hundan*/*wangba dan* = fucking bastard
*shenjingbing* = crazy *hundan* = bastard *ni bu dong* = you don't understand
*wode ma* = mother of God *hen hao* = very good *shenme shi* = what's the matter?
*duibuqi* = sorry *qing* = please *laoban* = boss *xin gan* = sweetheart
*bao bei* = precious/treasure *dui* = correct *xie xie shangdi* = thank God!
*qu* = yes (lit. go) *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *jide* = remember *nu haizi* = girl
*fang xin* = dont' worry (lit. ease your heart) *goushi* = crap/dog shit
*mashang* = on the double/quickly/right away/immediately
Sunday, March 13, 2005 7:53 AM
Monday, March 14, 2005 4:39 AM
Tuesday, March 15, 2005 4:57 AM
Wednesday, March 16, 2005 12:36 AM
Wednesday, November 2, 2011 1:54 PM
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