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Albatross One: The Means to Justify an Ending

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Summary: If River Tam was the Academy's idea of perfection, what exactly had led them to that point? How many lives had they stolen and ruined for their end result? More importantly, what had been the start of it all?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Firefly > GeneralBlackBettieFR1824,896031,3549 Sep 121 Nov 12No

Chapter One

Disclaimer: I do not own anything pertaining to the TV series, Firefly or any of its subsidiaries (i.e. the movie Serenity, and graphic novels of the same name). They all belong to the wonderfully marvelous Joss Whedon. I am simply borrowing several aspects to create a story for my own amusement. If in the process it amuses others, sobeit. I am not making any money from this, so please don't sue me. It'd just be a waste of both our time. (Cause I'm broke as a skoke!)

(A/N: This has been a story idea playing in my head for years. Finally I decided to sit down and try writing it out. I write solely for my own amusement and satisfaction, however, if you feel obliged to tell me what you think, feel free to do so. I love constructive criticism. Thanks! Now on with the show!)

Chapter One

"Sabrina! Could you come down here please?" A man's voice called up the stairs.

"Yes, Father!" She called over her shoulder. "I'll be right there!" What could that be about?

The teenager smiled as she set down the playing cards she was using for a game with her brother. She smiled at him before reaching across the short distance and ruffling his dark brown hair. "Sorry, Simon. We'll have to finish our game later, alright?"

The boy smiled up at her and nodded, "Ok, Brin." She ruffled his hair again and he grimaced and pushed her hand away. She loved to tease him.

Standing up from her Indian-style position on the floor, she walked over to the playpen in the corner of the nursery. From within, a bright-eyed baby girl turned her face and grinned up at Sabrina. Instinctively the babe reached her hands out to be picked up. It was easy to tell, even at first glance, that the three children were related. Though facial features varied in several ways, they all had the same eyes and dark-brown, almost black colored hair, both features they'd inherited from their mother.

Sabrina chuckled softly at her baby sister, "Come on, little River. Let's go see what father wants, shall we?" She cradled the baby against her hip as the child cooed softly.

River's little hand almost immediately reached out to play with the locket around Sabrina's neck. Sabrina smiled as she took the pendant in her hand. The baby loved her necklace, and tried to play with it every moment she could. Apart from having a natural shine, it was very simple in appearance. Just a small silver heart. The remarkable feature, however, was inside.

Sabrina chuckled as she snapped the locket open and let it rest on her palm. The two sides of the pendant shined a light that projected a still image of their family. One could tell it was a fairly recent picture, for Sabrina and Simon looked very much the same as they did now. In the image, Sabrina was sitting in an arm-chair next to a hospital bed, with a grinning Simon in her lap. Their father sat on the other side of the bed with his arm wrapped around the shoulders of a raven-haired woman. Only three of the four bright faces gazed up at the Imager, all smiling, foolishly and proud. What Sabrina could figure that little River seemed to like most about the locket, though, was probably the fact that instead of smiling at the capture like the rest of them, her mother could not pull her gaze from the small newborn babe in her arms.

The locket had been a gift from their father Gabriel, to their mother. When she had fallen ill, Carra Tam had given it to her first daughter, telling her it was up to her to look after their family now. A message Sabrina had taken fully to heart. The locket was the last thing she had of her mother, and to her it was more valuable than all the platinum in the 'verse.

Sabrina felt a tug on her arm and she looked over to see Simon, "Come on, Brinny. I wanna see too!"

Sabrina chuckled, "Alright, Simon!" She grinned as she crouched down to his level. He reached for the pendant and she let him hold it in his smaller palm. She put her arm around him and he laid his head on her other shoulder.

"I miss, mother," Simon whispered.

Sabrina's eyes watered and she leaned over and kissed the top of his forehead, "I know, bubba. I do too." She blinked her tears away and kissed the top of his head once more as she rubbed his shoulder soothingly. Sabrina then cleared her throat, breaking the moment, "Come on, little man. We shouldn't keep father waiting." She leaned over and kissed the top of River's head as well.

With a sigh, Sabrina closed the locket and moved to stand. River laid her tiny head on Sabrina's shoulder making the older girl smile. Sabrina then brushed her thumb across her little cheek, then followed Simon out of the nursery.

The three children made their way downstairs to the living room where they found their father and former-nanny-slash-soon-to-be-stepmother sitting in the living area with two distinguished looking gentlemen. Almost immediately after walking into the room the smile began to falter on Sabrina's face.

"There you are!" The older woman said. "What took you so long?" Sabrina had to bite back the retort on her lips. It hadn't taken them long at all, the woman just said it in spite, to sound superior.

"Regan, would you please take the smaller children back upstairs to play?" The request had come from their father, Gabriel. Sabrina eyed the woman warily as Regan approached to take the children from her.

Once River was taken from Sabrina's arms, however, the small babe began to cry and gripped a lock of Sabrina's hair tightly in her tiny, but strong, fist. It had taken several tries, but Regan finally managed to pull River's hand free from Sabrina's hair. The older woman tried rocking and shushing River tenderly, but the baby’s cries could still be heard the entire way back upstairs. Sabrina couldn't do much but watch them go with reluctance in her heart. She hated hearing her sister cry, it pulled at her heartstrings like nothing else.

"Sabrina!" Her father spoke as he touched her shoulder, startling her back to his attention. "Please come sit with us, sweetheart. These gentleman have some exciting new information I think you will like to hear."

Sabrina nodded and stepped further into the room; her father closed the study doors behind her. Sabrina smiled tentatively at the two men as she slid between the coffee table to sit on the couch opposite them.

"Hello, Sabrina." The greeting came from the man on the right. He was smaller than the other, with dark brown hair in almost stark contrast to the other man's bright red.

"Hello," Sabrina responded courteously. Gabriel sat down next to her and she felt some of her tension leave as he took her hand. "What exactly is this about, may I ask?"

Gabriel leaned in to whisper, "Darling, these men are the administrators at the new Academy opening on Persephone." Sabrina looked up at her father, surprised; she hadn't heard of any new academy opening.

Before she could ask any questions, however, the brunette man spoke again, "I am Mr. Heinrickson, and this is my colleague, Mr. White. As your father said, we are the academic administrators for the new Allied Academy. It is a special school for gifted individuals, such as yourself.”

“Gifted?” Sabrina asked in surprise. “Perhaps, you would do better speaking to my brother then. I am no prodigy, sir.” Her comment made the redhead, Mr. White she remembered, grin. For reasons Sabrina could not fathom, his smile unsettled her to no end.

“We are looking for students of extraordinary talents, Sabrina.” Mr. Heinrickson continued. “Not just mental but physical as well. That is why we are here."

Her father handed Sabrina the brochure they had given him. It boasted challenging courses in physical and mental aptitude. Exciting clubs and venues to further admirable qualities in their students. It even went so far as to boasting, ‘All Academy graduates can look forward to a bright and challenging future.’ Sabrina couldn't lie to herself, it looked intriguing and fascinating.

"But why me, sir?” Sabrina asked, still unbelieving she had anything to offer them. “Surely my records would reflect that I am no student of great intellect or merit. My eight year old brother is more intelligent than I am." The course brochure looked like it boasted advanced courses and a challenging curriculum. How did that bode for her? "I just barely managed to graduate with a B average." Sabrina coyly stated that last part, knowing full well that such a statistic did not make her father proud.

Both men shared a grin with each other before Mr. Heinrickson turned to her and clasped his hands together; which she noticed were covered by black leather gloves. "You misunderstand our intentions, Miss Tam. The Academy is not simply for intellectual thinkers. You, my dear, have excelled in every physical challenge that has ever been placed before you. You have a perfect attendance record. No history of illness, injury or disease. We have seen footage of your performance in gymnastics, sports, dance. Your expertise and grace are unrivaled by even most professional athletes twice your age.”

Sabrina had never really thought anything of her love of physical pursuits. Especially since her mother fell ill and she had lost her biggest cheering squad. Gabriel Tam valued intellectual pursuits far above physical ones. However, having her history of athletic aptitude laid out before her, did fill her with a sense of pride she hadn’t felt in years.

“At the Academy you will be able to focus on your strengths, and in the process we will help build up your weaknesses. With talents like yours, Miss Tam, the possibilities are endless."

Sabrina actually managed to grin at that, because like she said, ever since her mother died it had seemed all encouragement in her athletic ability had diminished. The focus had seemed to be rerouted to her grade point average, and let’s face it; she was no Simon Tam. Her father had tried to show encouragement in her pursuit of gymnastics and sports, but Gabriel Tam was an intellectual man. It wasn't his fault that he saw greater value in study than in sport.

When Regan had entered their lives, it had only gotten worse. The woman had initially been hired as a nanny, because Carra had been weak and mostly bedridden throughout her entire pregnancy with River. Regan had been employed to help around the house, especially with the children. Sabrina had not taken well to Regan at all, finding the woman overstepping her role and her bounds at every turn. The woman tried to act like their mother, and treated Sabrina like she was an infant; not the eighteen year old young woman she was. Deep down, Sabrina had also sensed Regan's intentions towards their father. Gabriel was a devoted husband, and somewhat naive to that sort of thing, but Sabrina could see the hidden desires of the woman's heart, and the dollar signs in her eyes.

After her mother's death, Sabrina's academics had suffered greatly. Not only had she found herself in a state of depression, but she would use most of her spare time to look after her brother and newborn baby sister. This had not gone unnoticed by Gabriel Tam and he had taken it upon himself to try and find a suitable replacement mother figure for his children. Regan had been more than willing to take on more responsibility with the Tam children and had quickly thrown herself into that role, making herself seem irreplaceable to Gabriel Tam. Despite Sabrina's misgivings, Gabriel had been taken with the woman. Regan and Sabrina had consistently failed to get along and almost two years later that had not changed much. Granted, they did not full on argue and fight as often, but the relationship between them was still hostile and strained.

Sabrina saw the Academy as not only an opportunity for her to excel in the areas she was great at, but it would give her some time away from the stresses and tensions of home; to perhaps just be a girl for a change. So, despite her instinctive misgivings, Sabrina found herself more and more excited about the prospect. Her only doubts came about the care of her siblings.

"Well, Sabrina darling.” Gabriel interrupting her musings. “What do you think?"

Sabrina looked up from the brochure and smiled brightly at her father. It had been so long since Gabriel had seen her smile, that it made him smile as well. Gabriel brought his hand up and playfully pinched her chin. It was good to see her happy and excited about something for a change. His wife's death had somewhat forced his eldest daughter to grow up faster than any teenage girl should. Gabriel felt all sorts of guilty for that; which inevitably had been why he had taken to Regan so quickly. Of course, he still loved and grieved for his dearly departed, but he knew he could not raise his children properly and help them through this time without help.

"You need not worry about your friends, baobei.” Gabriel spoke again. “You may correspond with them all you wish! Oh, Sabrina, darling this could be such a wonderful opportunity for you!" Gabriel tried to encourage her. "To finally be able to focus on you and what you’re good at, without everything else getting in the way."

Sabrina just sat for a long moment, thinking; weighing the pros and cons in her mind. When she had finally come to a decision, Sabrina turned to the two men and set the brochure down on the table. The black gloved men exchanged worried glances and looked somewhat down-trodden for Sabrina’s gesture made them think she was going to decline their offer. Therefore, the young girl’s next words were like beautiful music to their ears.

"When does the new semester start?" Sabrina asked, a resolute set to her shoulders.

An almost evil grin spread on both men's faces. They shared another glance with each other before turning back to the girl. Mr. Heinrickson spoke first, "Well, Sabrina Tam, in just three months time..."

His words trailed off, allowing his redheaded colleague to finish the sentence "The path to your destiny begins." It was not lost on Sabrina that Mr. White had just spoken his his first and only words of the evening. The ominous tone behind them, however, completely went over her head. She was far too excited and naïve to think anything of it. Soon she would learn just how supremely naïve she was... They all were…

(A/N: Well there it is. The beginning. I originally wrote this as a one shot, but I am thoroughly debating on continuing it. I already have a second chapter started I’m just not sure exactly how this one is going to play out... I will try to write more, but as I’m sure you are all very aware, I have several stories in the works right now so we'll see.

Any feedback is much appreciated! Constructive criticism greatly welcomed, just No Flaming please! kthx! Cheers! =^.^=)
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