GENIUS SERIES: 12. "Parlour Games"
Monday, January 30, 2006

"Mal and the crew take a job on Sophia. Simon accompanies his mother to see the Chancellor before moving on to the next level of his plan."



SUMMARY: "Mal and the crew take a job on Sophia. Simon accompanies his mother to see the Chancellor before moving on to the next level of his plan." 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.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Sophia. A beautiful surfeit of average. Every hill and plain of her as unremarkable as could be without being specifically terraformed to be just a notch above nondescript. The kind of mid rim world you could lose yourself in and not nobody would notice your coming or your going. Mal fell in love with it immediately. The others, not so much. It made no never mind to Zoe whether it was made of mud and *goushi* or platinum. It was a planet with little or no Alliance presence and for now that was shiny. Inara Serra considered her options, her body still warm and heated from the night's excursions, her mind still reeling from the fact that she and Mal had finally stopped dancing around each other and given in to their feelings. Part of her was waiting for the fire and brimstone, the other part expecting to wake and find it had all been a dream.

But then the dream gave a languid moan and warm very male limbs stirred, arms wrapped slowly around her as the Captain rolled from his back to his side, eyes slitting open as lazy as a cat on the verge of sleeping. Inara knew he was anything but and marvelled how Mal could go from the depths of sleep to not only awake but bright eyed and alert in a matter of seconds. His reflexes were not the only thing she found impressive. The man had stamina. Maybe that was why Niska had not been able to break him? Whatever the reason, a naughty smile flirted with her lips as memory added colour to every thought cascading inside her head. Inara allowed the amusement in her eyes to reflect back at him as if turning a mirror on the sun. The Captain blinked, Owlish and sleepy, wanting to hold the wide awake at bay for a little longer because once acknowledged the Captain would have to take over from the lover and he was not yet over the novelty value of having his very own Companion to wake up to.

Inara leaned close and brushed her warm fragrant lips over his, thinking this touselled half awake look was adorable. Not that a thousand *guai* would drag the admission from her.

"I thought you had exciting new crime lined up?"

He started to frown at her words as if they were pins sharpened ready to pop his bubble only her look was not one of rejection but satisfaction. Acceptance even. It made his heart lose traction, every beat thundering like a runaway train in his chest, his breathing only kept in check by the need to keep looking at her and convincing himself this was not only real but his. "That I do."

Mal wanted to ask if she was still leaving but did not dare. This new tolerance for each other was kind of beautiful. Peaceful and all manner of addictive. He did not want any words of his to be twisted out of shape and bring the petty and bitter back to the Companion's face and manner because that would simply spark the ugly in him. Never had known a woman with a sharper tongue when the mood took her than he had. What at one time had drawn him to Inara now had a unique power to hurt him. Not that he was weak nor nothing but a man had his pride gorramit. Her smile bore the slow warm comfort of genuine regret. "Don't let me keep you."

He wanted to say all manner of things to her, open his heart and let the happy flood out to wash over her like an emotional tsunami taking away all the months of awkwardness and mistunderstandings but this new feeling made him too vulnerable and his heart was still fragile. Much as he wanted to trust this was real, that it would last, experience made him cautious. Wary. Afraid that the moment he left her arms she would close that door and it would be as if it had never been open. The thought hurt him. The notion making him want reassurances from Inara but he would never ask. Because once you asked there would be no going back. If this was just a one time thing he could not bear to hear it from her lips. See it in her eyes. Feel the goodbye in the withdrawal of her touch. So he played it casual, stretched and managed a smile of his own before dropping a tender kiss upon her startled lips. Then he was rolling away from her and on to his feet. Inara blinking in surprise. She had thought he would complain, argue, try to press whatever advantage the night had bequeathed him. That he didn't was one more reason to be fascinated by the man. Like woman he was a mystery but unlike woman he was all male, and for the moment at least he was hers.

* * * * *

Regan Tam watched her son's face closely. She could always tell when something was wrong and right now Simon was beyond upset. "*Shenme shi, bao bei*?"

He mentally shook himself. "I had to leave River behind."

His mother frowned, a stab of pain ghosting over her heart. The feeling pushed aside before it could weaken her. Years of planning could not be wasted because of one component. Yet she felt the need to know. "*Weishenme*? What happened?"

They were in her bedroom. One of the few rooms in the house that still looked as elegant and regal as it had in his youth. The signs of neglect and decay less obvious amidst all the finery. "River refused to come with me."

"*Shenme*?" Regan Tam's hands paused in the middle of packing.

Simon bit back a sigh and tried to sound clinical about it but his mother was not fooled. The siblings had always shared the kind of bond that defied division. "She loves Serenity, loves the crew." He snorted softly, not realising how much his face and voice gave away. "*All* of them, can you believe that?"

It was a rhetorical question but she answered it anyway. "We are family. River should come home."

Bitter bile threatened to rise in Simon's throat but he resisted the urge. "It was her decision." He said softly, the words flapping idly like a flag of surrender.

Briefly she wondered if Simon envied his sister. But while losing one was bad, it would be catastrophic to lose both of them especially now that they had a shot at Parliament. "There is still time to bring your sister back into the family, Simon."

Simon gave a little shrug, as if it meant nothing to him. "We can't afford to be distracted, mother. We are so close."

"*Wo zhidao*, my son, but there may yet be a way."

The softness of her words alerted him to the hidden cunning. Simon gave her all his attention. "What do you mean?"

Smiling, his mother raised a hand to cup his cheek. The light catching her face and lending it a certain benificence. "I have been listening to you speak, Simon. Recalling the meeting with Captain Reynolds and some of his crew. Am I right in thinking the Captain holds the others together?"

He wished he knew where she was going with this. "*Qu*."

Regan's smile blossomed like a sun going nova. "Don't give up on, River. I have a feeling that if something were to happen to Captain Reynolds the rest would fold like a pack of cards." She paused, looking on him with such love and surety that it made his throat tighten. Mistaking his reaction, his mother kissed his forehead then moved back to her packing. All business now, her manner as smooth and calm as if they had been discussing the weather rather than a lightly veiled threat to have Serenity's Captain eliminated. Regan Tam felt no measure of remorse or sorrow. She was pragmatic, a survivor, and with a little ingenuity her family would survive as well. Even if it meant that others would not.

* * * * *

"What d'ya think's in it?"

The Captain shrugged, a mite distracted but still tuned in to his mercenary. Just had a lot on his mind was all. Jayne noticed and wondered what the good gorram it meant. He squinted in the bright sun, the two of them making short work of loading up the mule. Mal had left everybody else back on Serenity, not sure why in the nine hells he was so edgy. His order for them all to stay put not going down none too well what with there being next to no Alliance presence. Zoe wanted to shake him, ask what the *diyu* was wrong but one glance at Inara watching the Captain had left the words unspoken. Out on the planet's surface Jayne eyed the boxes with curiosity. Not none of them holding an even weight. Kind'a felt like whatever the gorram was inside did not sit still. When he thought on it the notion was all manner of creepy. Not that he had any idea why.

"So, what'd ya think Cap?"

Mal turned his head and gave Jayne a quizzical look. "Huh? What you yammerin' on about?"

"*Wode ma*, Mal, ya ain't listened to a word I been sayin'."

"That ain't so just you ain't been sayin' nothin' worth listenin' to."

"That's a load of *fei hua*!" The mercenary's eyes narrowed but the Captain paid it no never mind, his eyes a constant motion of surreptitious sweeps, his head not moving so that a casual observer would think him concentrating on his work. But sooner or later five crates would be loaded no matter how slow you tried to do it. The Captain's mood was making Jayne ansty. "What in the diyu's the matter with ya?" He growled, not sure whether to be more mad or amused. "Huh, might'a known gettin' sexed would leave ya even more up tight than you was before."

Mal froze and stared at him. "You get tired of livin'?"

The big man was about to ask what Mal was talking about when he caught the slightest flicker of something out of the corner of his eye. Not even movement really but light has a way of reflecting off metal that is distinctive and Jayne had been in more bad situations than a body had a right to own to. Right now his sixth sense was doing handstands to catch his attention. Without needing to think the big man drew his gun and shoved the Captain just as a shot rang out. Jayne Cobb squeezing off a burst of rapid fire a fraction of a second after the sniper.

* * * * *

Simon Tam tried to ignore his mother's words but they kept lighting up the inside of his brain like the Fourth of July from Earth-That-Was. Outwardly he was controlled. Calm. Years working as a trauma surgeon had enabled him to remain steady and clinically detatched in some of the most awful and traumatic circumstances. The discipline now scaled new heights.

The rented ground car glided to an elegant halt outside their new apartment. Everything had been arranged and paid for by the Parlimentary Oversight Committee. Made him a little uneasy but it was nothing he could not live with. Needs must as the Devil drives. Simon recognised the man who came to meet them, his mother already projecting polished reserve and archaic charm. Even dusted off and aired tens of years after the last time she had used it, the ingrained habits of culture and position still had a modern use. One that helped oil the corridors of power and Simon needed that power like flowers craved sunlight. He almost itched with the necessity to feel it. Touch it with his mind, savour it with his senses, feel it within the periphery of imperfect physical sensation. He had done it before and would do it again. Only this time the stakes were even higher.

"Ah, *Councillor* Tam."

Regan Tam inclined her head just the right amount for protocol but not enough to imply subservience. "You are a little premature, Chancellor Conroy."

His smile was practised, professional but also calculating. "*Duibuqi*, I was so excited when I heard you had responded to our offer."

Simon listened to the pleasantries in silence. This mummery did not involve him but sometimes the ears picked up things that words alone could not convey. A tone. An inflection. An ambiguous pause. He might not be a Guild trained Companion but what Simon knew about psychology and non verbal communication would have shocked Inara. Probably frightened the *guai* out of her too. And they all thought his sister was the crazy one.

"I was surprised to be honest with you. It has been so long..."

They were walking up an elaborate staircase, the outer doors closing like the seal on a bank vault behind them. Simon knew this place. It would not give up its' secrets without a fight.

"I imagine the Council is meeting as we speak?"

The Chancellor's slight pause was the kind of lapse Simon would not have forgiven but his mother did not seem to pick up on it. She was not picking up on a lot of things lately. "*Dangran*. You do not wish to freshen up first? It has been a long journey..."

"Forgive my inappropriate haste, Chancellor, but my professional life has been on hold as long as my marriage."

The flick of her eyes to Simon and back was not lost on either of them. The Chancellor cleared his throat as if he had not been expecting her impatience. A play. Words in motion, subtle moves and counter moves. The real talking went unspoken, the meaning trapped between the spaces each occupied like pieces on a chess board. Mind games played out by unsuspected bodies in motion. Plans drawn up and executed between the blinks of an eye. So subtle, so perfectly honed, and so deadly. When had manners come to outgun bullets and mortar fire? A few deft phrases that would outmanouevre mass drivers. Plasma weapons too crude for the clinical incision of thoughts travelling the mind's super highway from one exotic locale to another. All in the measure of a heartbeat. Signed. Sealed. Delivered.

Once they reached the board room, the Chancellor turned and smiled at Simon. "You must be in need of refreshment." A servitor exited a dark blue door. Simon wondered how long he had been waiting behind it for the mental cue to show himself. "This should not take long."

Then Conroy was escorting Regan Tam through the large heavy double doors, their operation so smooth the only sound was a click as the doors closed leaving Simon in the corridor outside. He followed the servitor and allowed his thoughts to wander just a little. The next part would not be so easy.

* * * * *

"Gorramit, Mal, will ya sit still? How the good gorram did ya get hit when I pushed ya outta the ruttin' way?"

They were behind the mule, the sniper having been caught out by Jayne's sharp eyes and lightening quick reflexes. Jayne wanted to make sure the marksman had been acting alone before leaving their temporary cover. Had he not shoved the Captain a split second before the sniper had fired Mal would have been dead but it still annoyed the mercenary that he had been hit at all. Gorramit, for that to happen meant... The Captain was panting now, trying to bite back a hiss of pain as Jayne efficiently padded out the shoulder wound. Soon as it was done they were on the mule and heading back for Serenity as fast as the craft could go.

Zoe was standing at the bottom of the ramp as the mule approached, eyes narrowing with concern. "What happened?"

The Captain looked mighty pissed. "Deal went south."

Jayne didn't stop until he had driven right into the cargo hold, trusting Zoe to get the ramp up and locked down so they could get the *diyu* off this rock. The Captain caught Zoe's eye. "Get River to lift us off this rock, *mashang*." She didn't argue nor ask how bad he was hit, the site of the bandage telling her it wasn't life threatening even though her face darkened and eyes got hard. This was not the time to be short one shiny doctor. Zoe shouted through the com for River to take take off. Kaylee leaned over the catwalk railing as she and Inara came to see what was happening. "Cap'n, ya got shot?"

"Looks like." He muttered, more irritated by being hit than the wound itself.

"Hey, I got ya outta the way of dyin'."

"*Qu*, Jayne you did." The Captain paused long enough to meet the big man's eyes before negotiating the stairs. "I'll say it again, you did good." There was no reaction on Jayne's face but the words pleased him. Praise from Malcolm Reynolds was as rare as hen's teeth and the man never said what he didn't mean. But still the whole thing was bugging him. "Shouldn't'a got shot." He murmured darkly.

Zoe was trying to steer the Captain into the infirmary so she could tend his wound, the Captain not helping by wanting to get to the bridge. In frustration the first mate stepped round Mal and Jayne and blocked the way. "Cap'n, unless you wish to drip blood everywhere an' make everyone's job that little bit harder let me look at that shoulder before it gets infected."

"Ain't more'n a scratch, Zoe, no need to fuss. 'Sides, Jayne patched it up."

"No Cap'n, Jayne stuck a dirty rag on it." At Jayne's indignant look she spoke quickly to mollify both men as best he could. "But it did stop the bleedin' an' that's the important thing."


Zoe didn't let the Captain wriggle out of it. "The sooner you let me sew that up the sooner you can go to the bridge an' harrass the crew."

"*Wei*, I don't harrass my crew! I'm the Cap'n."

"Sure ya are." Chipped in a cheerful Kaylee as she entered the infirmary, Inara hot on her heels. The Captain was sitting on an infirmary bed, Zoe calmly peeling off his blood soaked shirt while Jayne frowned deep in thought. Mal looked up and caught Kaylee's eye.

"What you doin' here? Need you in the engine room, you bein' the mechanic an' all."

Kaylee patted his leg as if he were a small child having a tantrum. "I'm goin', Cap'n." She looked at Inara's concerned expression. "He ain't hurt bad if he's all grumpy an' complainin'."

"I ain't complainin'!" The Captain shouted as his mechanic disappeared, only to yell out as Zoe bit a little too deeply with the needle. "Ouch! You gotta be jabbin' away with that thing? Thought you was closin' up the wound not makin' it bigger."

Inara smiled at him. "Yes. Not grumpy and complaining at all."

He scowled at her but it did not dim the amusement in her eyes. Jayne sucked his bottom lip thoughtfully. "Ya know I been figurin' a few things."

The Captain didn't want this conversation but it seemed Jayne did and it wasn't as if he could slip away, what with Zoe digging holes in his shoulder to sew together a bigger hole. "An' what's that?"

"That sniper, he was aimin' at ya."

Mal rolled his eyes. "Really? What gave you that idea?"

"No, seriously Mal. I ain't jokin'. Like I said, ya shouldn't'a got hurt. I shoved ya a fraction of a second before he fired."

"So he missed my heart."

"Ya ain't gettin' it."

"Then speak plain."

"He wanted to kill ya not wing ya."

The Captain was paying strict attention to his mercenary now, hardly felt the needle and thread going back and forth through his skin. "An' this is meant to cheer me up how?"

"That there sniper wasn't no run o' the mill marksman, Mal. Take a shot like that THEN compensate for me shovin' ya aside... That takes real expertise." "If he was that much of a marksman, how come I ain't dead?"

Jayne's frown deepened. "*Wo zhidao*, that's what's botherin' me."

Not knowing what to say, the Captain looked from Zoe to Inara then back to Jayne's serious expression. Malcolm Reynolds did not like the look in his mercenary's eye.

* * * * *

Once he had eaten and been shown to his room, Simon allowed his calm facade to fragment. He paced the luxurious apartment, hands raking through his hair while he tried to think. All manner of distraught and distracted. Being apart from River had not been in the plan. He was upset and it would get worse before it got better, it always did. His mind tried to inject reason into his rising panic. Think. He had to think, find a way out of his dilemna without losing what he had already achieved.

He paused, his eyes scanning the room carefully as he began to pace less erratically. More purpose to his stride now than simply walking off his concern and frustration. Checking out any obvious signs of cameras and listening devices. Not that Simon expected to be able to spot them but it helped focus his mind while he adapted his plan. He had to get River off that ship preferrably before his mother did something he would regret. The longer River was away from him the more his sister would remember and if she remembered enough he would lose her forever. Time was of the essence but no excuse for haste. He had to be careful. Do this right and the plan would work. Mission accomplished. Do this wrong and what would follow would make Miranda look like an appetiser at a smorgasbord. And if that happened the only winner would be the Reavers.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*goushi* = crap/dog shit *guai* = devil/ghost *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *weishenme* = why? *shenme* = what? *wo zhidao* = I know *qu* = yes (lit. go) *diyu* = hell *wei* = hey! *wode ma* = mother of God! *fei hua* = nonsense/garbage talk *duibuqi* = sorry *dangran* = of course/naturally *mashang* = at once/immediately/quickly


Tuesday, January 31, 2006 2:20 AM


Another wonderful installment.

Simon is being way evil, how does he plan to get River back?

And Reavers....oh no!

Saturday, February 4, 2006 11:10 AM


Wow compelling stuff! Supery Dupery!

Sunday, February 12, 2006 8:30 AM


I'm thinking it's probably time for Simon to grow that big black mustache. You never know... it might actually suit him and his scheming ways.


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His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

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.

Personally she didn't care if Serenity was towed off to a junk yard and stripped into spare parts. She had promised the ship to Jer and his crew as a bonus but it looked like scavengers had beaten them to it.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

What in the nine hells were they so afraid of? Then he remembered Tracy. The body mailed to them by their old war buddy and all the trouble that had brought down on them.

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?

The man was in a terrible condition, his pulse weak, and for some reason he was soaking wet which did nothing to staunch the blood soaking through his clothing and seeping from the poorly tended wound where he had been shot.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 8. "All The King's Horses"
Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 7. "Friend or Foe"
Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.