A/N: I'm a recently converted Browncoat. Yay me. This is my first Firefly fic, and it started out kinda angsty and ended kinda fluffy. Ah well.
Also, I don't own Firefly or Serenity (because Joss Whedon totally goes online and writes fanfics about his own show).
Ammit- Egyptian goddess; "Devourer of Souls"
bao bei- sweetheart
fei hua- nonsense
tian a- oh God
tian sheng de ye dui rou- inbred stack of meat
Gabriel Tam did not have time for this. He had a very tight schedule to keep, and now some government official had the gall to request to see him about some supposedly urgent matter. Gabriel had been performing a surgery at the time he got the message, and he'd had to hurry the procedure up, which irked him since he took great pride in his work. His office door was closed, and he took the opportunity to straighten his attire and run a hand through his dark silver hair. His clothes, in spite of the fact that he had just been up to his elbows in organs, were a pressed, pristine white that complemented the surgeon's ramrod straight posture and brisk movements. Once presentable, Gabriel swiftly opened his office door and strode inside.
The official had light brown hair and freckles, and his skin looked as if all the blood had been drained from it. Although his starched grey uniform screamed Alliance brass, he was a young man, and he stood respectfully when Gabriel Tam entered.
"Dr. Tam?" He sounded unsure, and Gabriel frowned and motioned for the boy to sit. The boy did (almost entirely missing the chair in the process), then, looking almost ashamed, continued speaking. "I'm Lester Morgan and I work at the Facility..." He swallowed nervously; Gabriel glared.
"Well? Get on with it!"
Morgan flinched at the harsh tone. "We, um...Sir, we lost your son."
The last words were spoken in a rush, and Gabriel blinked, taken aback. "Excuse me?"
"Your son. Simon. We lost him."
"What do you mean, you lost him?" Gabriel spat. The boy's answer was a whisper.
Ammit was a desolate planet, and had been deliberately terraformed to be so. There were only two communities on it; one was an orderly oasis, with drab white box houses lined neatly one after the other. All of the men who lived here with their families commuted to work every day, and they all worked at the same place. This place, the second community, was a sand-colored fortress that was known to government officials, guards, and wardens simply as the Facility. Few others knew that the Facility existed. Those who did know about the Facility but didn't work in it were, in fact, prisoners in the Facility, and they just called it "Hell".
Josef Grange was the Director of the Facility, and he, like Gabriel Tam, was a man who prided himself on his job. Grange had been a General during the war against the Browncoats, and as such he was a strict, disciplined man who valued precision and could not abide by incompetence. He was also a very uncreative man and had a hard time thinking outside the box, which was why he was confused at the moment. To his knowledge, no one had ever escaped from the Facility before, and now Simon Tam had to go and be the first. The question was, how? It simply wasn't logical!
Grange thinned his lips, which was somewhat of a feat since he'd been thinning them in frustration for the past half hour and thus to the casual observer appear to be eating his own face. His bushy blonde eyebrows knitted together as he surveyed Tam's file for the umpteenth time.
Simon Tam. Dark brown hair. Blue eyes. Five feet and ten inches tall. Strong, straight facial features and a lean build. A troublemaker, even if he didn't look like one. About a year and a half ago, he'd been a top-rated trauma surgeon in Capitol City in Osiris; one day, he up and vanished. A few days later, his sister, River, had disappeared from the academy she'd been attending. They had been spotted a few times since then, but most of the sightings were mere blips on the radar.
Tam, a brilliant doctor and a genius, had, with his sister, somehow managed to infiltrate several high-security Allegiance institutions and elude capture. River Tam had finally been captured by Allegiance personnel several months ago, but her brother freed her, and the siblings had been neither seen nor heard from since. After that little snafu, the search for the Tams was taken to the next level, and an operative was sent to track them down. Much to the Alliance's bafflement, the operative soon vanished as well. It was all very disconcerting.
Then, almost two months ago, the Tams had been involved in a heist that went sour, and Simon, in what Grange thought of as a desperate move, used himself as a distraction so that his sister would have time to escape. The girl did escape, as did the rest of the thieves, and Simon had been promptly shackled and taken to a holding cell where, for the next seventy-two hours, he was thoroughly interrogated and moderately beaten. They got no information from him.
When the Tam boy—a young man, really, but there was somewhat of a boyish air around him—was brought to Grange he was immediately shoved into a maximum security cell in one of the Facility's underground levels. And this, thought Grange, was there the fei hua of the escape kicked in.
The gorram boy had guards outside his door day and night. He had nothing in his cell but two blankets, a bucket that served as a toilet, and a small spigot over a tiny drain to use as a sink. He was fed on protein cubes and had no means of communication with the outside world. Five times a week, he was brought up to the lab for conditioning, and each time he went he was escorted by a different guard. But no guards had been attacked the day Simon Tam escaped, and all the guards were fingerprinted and had special IDs and there were cameras all over the gorram building.
Grange had reviewed the security discs countless times, and as far as he could tell, Tam had been taken out of his cell to the lab, and when the conditioning session was over he'd walked out of the lab and was somehow spirited away into thin air.
The conditioning sessions were, in Grange's professional opinion, a waste of time and money, but the Alliance wanted to used Tam for their own purposes, and in order to do so they needed him on their side. So the boy had been force-fed propaganda, his eyes wired open at times and the electrodes attached to his temples or chest. Grange had no idea how well the process had worked. As far as Grange was concerned, Tam should have been shot upon capture; the Alliance had underestimated the boy, which had been foolish because the Tams were the stuff of criminal legend. Right up there with the infamous ruffian Malcolm Reynolds (another one whose death would be beneficial to everyone in the 'verse).
Just thinking about that tian sheng de ye dui rou made Grange's head hurt, and he closed Tam's file with a tired sigh. Ruttin' criminal masterminds. Without warning the door to his office clanged open and Grange automatically jumped to his feet, ready to chew out whoever had dared to enter without knocking. Two men he'd never seen before stood side-by-side in the doorway, both pale and bony with professional dark suits and creepifying, unblinking eyes. Oddly, their hands were covered in blue latex gloves.
Surprised, Grange limply dropped the file on his desk. One of the men moved forward and, with a vacant shark-like smile, slid the file off the desk. The other man, his expression blank, held out his right hand, in the palm of which rested a small black rod. Confused, Grange stared as two thin green lasers slid out of either side of the rod. The two men stood unmoving and unblinking, and Grange was beginning to wonder just who the hell these men thought they were when he felt warm liquid seeping from his nose. He touched a tentative hand to his face and when he pulled it back he saw the unmistakable red of blood.
Beaming, Kaylee set a bowl of steaming broth on the table in front of him. Simon stared. Was this...soup? As in, not protein cubes? Kaylee giggled at his expression as he slowly lifted the spoon. River drifted into the kitchen. "Keep your strength up," she murmured in a dreamy voice, her hand trailing lightly against his thin shoulder as she floated by.
Loud voices echoed from the bridge, and seconds later Mal, Jayne, and Zoe tromped in. "How ya feelin'?" Mal sounded obscenely cheerful. Jayne was obviously in a somewhat friendly mood himself, as he gave Simon a hearty slap on the back by way of a greeting (an action that resulted in Simon half-gagging on hot soup and accidentally dropping his spoon on the floor). Kaylee glared at the mercenary. Once his throat was cleared, Simon choked out an answer to Mal's query.
"Better. You seem to be a good mood."
Mal tossed down his cup of coffee and a disgusted look flickered across his face. "First time in a while a job's gone by without a hitch."
Simon raised his eyebrows. Did rescuing him count as a job? "And you got paid for breaking me out?"
Kaylee cut in. "Not platinum-wise." She brushed her lips against his cheek and went to get her own cup of coffee.
Inara swept in, her dark curls tumbling loosely down her back in a way reminiscent of River's hair. She smiled gently when she saw him at the table. "Nice to see you up and about." She paused next to him and reached into the pocket of her embroidered silk jacket, rummaging for a second before pulling out a plain gold ring. As far as rings went, it was the best he could afford, which really wasn't saying much. Kaylee had been thrilled just the same. "I held onto it for you."
Dropping it into his palm, she smiled again as Kaylee's face lit up with joy. The ring was cold in his hand, and when he slipped it onto his finger it hung loosely on the bone. Maybe he should keep it in his jacket until he'd gained some weight back. "Thank you, Inara...although, didn't I give this to Kaylee for safekeeping?"
River said," She almost lost it in the engine."
"I was distraught!" defended Kaylee, blushing. "'Bout Simon's bein' gone, remember? 'Sides, I ain't lost mine yet." To illustrate her point she held up her left hand and wiggled her fingers; the gold was a bit smudged with grease but it still glittered beautifully on her finger. Zoe stared wistfully at the rings, her sorrow over Wash's death momentarily tangible to everyone in the room. The silence was broken by Mal.
"How's li'l Kaylee's dress comin' along?"
Inara had ordered a white satin dress during their last visit to Persephone; after they picked it up the Companion had insisted on altering it so that it was more to Kaylee's taste. "It'll definitely be ready in time for the wedding." Kaylee positively glowed.
Zoe inclined her head toward Simon. "And you'd best be careful not to get captured again before your wedding."
"Or after," added Kaylee with mock sternness.
"If he gets captured durin' their honeymoon or somethin', I get to... distract the bride, right?" Jayne's voice was hopeful in spite of the teasing wink he sent Kaylee's way.
"Jayne!" Zoe scolded. River's soft voice murmured, "Girl is jealous of Simon."
"No, I ain't!" Jayne sulked as everyone snorted over the fact that he hadn't even bothered to remind River that he wasn't a girl.
Mal said, "We are gonna have to lay low for awhile. Doc, when we're planet-side, you 'n' River are gonna have to stay on the ship. I ain't dressin' like an Alliance guard for you again."
The Captain gave an authoritative nod and turned to River. "You ready to fly, li'l Albatross?"
"Are you?" She padded out of the kitchen, leaving behind a vague flowery scent. Mal followed.
"I'm always ready."
Simon watched them leave. River was lucid almost all of the time now, which was good since she was almost nineteen. Almost grown up. The thought made him feel oddly lonely.
"Simon? You feelin' alright?" Kaylee's fingers intertwined with his. Her hazel eyes were brimming with love and concern, and he leaned forward and kissed her. "I'm fine, bao bei." Serenity jolted slightly as she lifted off the ground, causing Jayne to stumble and almost trip. Simon smiled to himself as the mercenary cursed loudly. It felt good to be home.