GENIUS SERIES: 16. "When The Devil Drives"
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

"Simon gets an inkling about what his mother is up to. The Captain drops off the crates but dealing with one problem only sets them up for another."



SUMMARY: "Simon gets an inkling about what his mother is up to. The Captain drops off the crates but dealing with one problem only sets them up for another." 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

* * * * *

Simon watched his mother and tried to tamp down the temptation to give in to a feeling of rising panic. This was not going the way he had planned. If anticipation was the better part of the feast, finding the food all manner of unpalatable was far worse. He waited until the day's duties were done and they were alone in the lush apartments set aside for them. "*Wo bu dong*, what is going on?"

She regarded him in silence for a moment. Knew exactly what was troubling him and gave in to a tentative probe. The strength of his mental shield had always been impressive but this was the first time it had been impenetrable. Regan Tam did not like what that might mean. "The ship should have been boarded."

"*Shenme*? What are you saying?" The answer flashed in his mind almost before the words were out. Shock and horror traded places with each other. "You set them up!"

"Nobody takes from me, Simon. *Dong ma*?" Regan was walking towards him slowly, closing the gap, her eyes locked on his, her voice no longer the soothing musical lilt of someone who cared. This was a harder and more implacable creature trading on emotions as efficiently as she did a balance sheet. "Doesn't matter whether it's family, friends or the *baichi goushi* on that *lese* Firefly."

"River's on that ship." Simon managed in a faint, stunned voice. His heart straining to hold in his mounting fear. A heartbeat away from begging.

"Those who are not with us are against us, Simon."

He stared at her and wondered who in the nine hells this woman was. Had he ever thought her beautiful? Regal? Tender and caring? Was this cold calculating creature the true face of Regan Tam? "I can't believe..."

"Belief is not necessary." She cut him off calmly. "Only obedience matters."

Simon blinked, pieces slotting into place but not making the picture he had imagined it would. What he was seeing and intuiting was not so pretty. "We have to find River."

"She made her choice."

"But family..."

"Should stick together, Simon. I agree. *Fang xin*, my son. Relax. She *will* come back to us."

The young doctor stared at her as if he did not recognise her.

"Now we have some planning to do then you need to get some sleep."

"Planning?" Simon felt like an echo. His whole world seemed to be falling apart at the seams and she wanted to talk about planning? What the gorram did it matter now? Nothing made sense or maybe he just didn't want it to. The alternative was frightening. Slowly he forced himself to face a painful truth. He had underestimated Regan Tam and unless he was very smart he would lose everything. Resolve began to build and settle deep inside him, quelling the panic and sharpening his mind for the battle ahead. His wits did not need to be dulled by negative thinking. Not when everything he had come to value was at stake.

* * * * *

Jayne wanted to stay and watch but the Captain was adamant. The big man scowled and grumbled as he closed up Serenity's ramp. "Never get to have any fun."

The Captain's lips quirked in a tug of humour. "We work before we play."

The mercenary looked round at Mal. "Yeah, on'y we never seem to play no more."

Zoe was on the catwalk above, on her way to the bridge. She paused at Jayne's lament, waiting for the Captain's reply. Heart aching with unbearable loss and determined not to lose anything or anyone else.

"Jayne," Mal's voice had dropped low and soft. Not angry and deadly, not warning even. "We got lucky, we get to walk away this time, *dong ma*?"

Something clicked in the big man's brain. He was more subdued when he spoke again. Perhaps remembering Wash and Book. "Any one ya walk away from?"

The Captain put a hand on Jayne's shoulder, a rare show of solidarity. "I call that a win."

Jayne didn't move but watched the Captain, other thoughts slewing slowly through his mind. "Still don't like them newbies, Mal."

"Ain't askin' you to."

"They's trouble."


The hand on Jayne's shoulder fell away but nothing would derail the big man when something was nagging away at him. "Apart from being creepifyin' what d'we know about 'em?"

"You know as much as I do, Jayne. They were gonna be slaves. Not nobody deserves that."

"*Diyu* Mal, *wo zhidao* they just make my gorram skin crawl. All them knowin' looks as if they're crawlin' around inside my ruttin' brain. Ain't natural is all."

The Captain felt tired. He didn't want to argue with Jayne. *Diyu*, he didn't want to argue with nobody. Wished he could switch his brain off and just go to sleep. Trouble was him and sleep were barely on talking terms. Too many rutting nightmares sharing his quiet time. The only good thing was that him and Inara seemed to have come to an understanding and he had to admit being in her arms was all his mind, body and soul could crave and more. It was also the only time sleep came as a blessing, a reward for his efforts that made his heart soar in ways Mal had never imagined he would feel again. Yet he was a realist. Pragmatic. Knew nothing that shone so bright or gave such pleasure was like to last but while it did it was all kinds of satisfying. The Captain realised now what was making him all manner of jumpy inside. He was waiting for the other rutting shoe to drop as if anything good that came his way was like to be snatched out of his hands before he could savour it. No way did he want that happening with Inara. These new additions though did not have the feel of anything bad. Oddly enough they made him feel as if him and his crew had turned some kind of corner in the luck department. Wasn't gonna jinx it by speaking on it.

Up on the bridge his little albatross was well aware of the thoughts going through the Captain's head. Even eavesdropping on Zoe's sorrow, her heart faltering, eyes extra shiny, wishing she could do or say something that would heal all the hurt but there was nothing to be done. Acceptance would come albeit reluctantly but Zoe would forever carry a hollow part inside her that nothing would fill. Memories bright and painful would in time become her source of solace. Kaylee tried to pretend that time would heal and everything would be shiny again. Jayne didn't think much about it. And River knew and kept all their secrets while the hollow in her own heart grew and grew. Drawing her legs up she wrapped her arms around them and stared out at the stars. The bridge the one place on Serenity that made her feel whole. Closing her eyes she reached for him as she had done time and again since Simon had left. And like every time before the echo of her questing heart came back empty. Slowly she rocked herself as silent tears began to fall down her pale face.

* * * * *

It was a shiny explosion. Jayne Cobb would have been proud. Their client? Not so much. Not a lot was left of the welcoming committee. The waiting ship was a silent observer. Her passengers equally so. The pilot made no comment and showed no sign of surprise or distress. His job was simple and curiosity would not only complicate things it would terminate the happy regard he had for living. The two men stared out across the landing platform as the debris slowly settled. Rosy buds of DNA scattered like flower petals in a funeral procession. Expressionless and emotionless they noted that even scattered by the explosion there was insufficient blood, flesh and bones to account for what should have been there. Their conclusion was unanamous. The contents of the crates had already been removed.

Without a single spoken word of command being uttered the outer door sealed and the craft rose, the two men stepped away and left the pilot to take them back to their waiting ship. This was not over.

* * * * *

Back on Serenity the Captain was doing his rounds. He had seen little of Inara since their last meal. Had no time to discuss the developments or her feelings on the subject of the new additions. Was more than a mite uncertain whether he even wanted to. It was something of a relief to be able to put off the airing of her disapproval. Not that he could say she would react that way for certain but if history repeating itself was anything to go by he could count on one hand the actions he had taken that Inara Serra *had* approved of.

As he walked he felt a familiar calm settle over him. The comfort of knowing both ship and crew were in one piece and all accounted for. Most were in their bunks now except for River who had taken to lingering up on the bridge before going to bed. Sometimes he would gently chide her and shoo her to her room to sleep. Even albatrosses couldn't sleep forever on the wing. Passing the crew quarters into the passenger ones he was not surprised to find Thadius Clay's door left open. Poking his head inside he noticed that even though he had given them all their own bunks all five were crammed into the tiny little room. Thadius got to his feet and the others automatically began to follow suit but the Captain waved them back and waited while they retook their places on the narrow bed and single chair.

"No need to stand on ceremony just makin' sure you're all okay, *dong ma*?"

Heads nodded. The Captain looked at Thadius. "So, I'm guessin' you're the spokesman for this little group, *dui*?"

Thadius gave a little smile. "*Bu qu*, Cap'n, but one voice is easier to follow than five."

He laughed. "That it is." Mal paused and looked from face to face. "I'm thinkin' this is a little cramped for talkin'. What say we take this to the commons room? Have us a cup of somethin' hot then we can get to discussin' what comes next."

They followed him out without a murmur, Thadius falling into step beside him as if it were the most natural thing in the 'verse, the others making a tidy little escort behind them. As they stepped into the commons room the girl, Helen, went over to the kitchen area and filled the kettle. Mal raised an eyebrow but said nothing. They kept the conversation general until she joined them, all of them retiring into the lounge area where they could settle and sprawl with a fair degree of comfort. The Captain nodded his thanks as he took the mug of tea, a smile widening on his lips when he tasted it and found it was just the way he liked it.

"No doubt you all know what I'm about to say anyway but some things need sayin' out loud. Makes everythin' clear so there can be no misunderstandin's."

Thadius locked eyes with him. "There will be no misunderstandings, Cap'n. You saved us and we are grateful."

His words seemed to embarrass the Captain somewhat. "Not seekin' your gratitude, *dong ma*? Not that I'm not all in favour of goodly appreciation an' such just not tryin' to curry favour. You were in a tight spot, is all."

For the first time Carl spoke up. "Not many would have done anything about that, sir. Our troubles not being theirs."

Mal nodded seriously back. "That is a fact, there's no denyin' that this has complicated things somewhat but I don't hold with trading in people no matter the excuse but now I got me another complication. What do I do with you?"

Helen was smirking into her cup. Mal noticed.

"Somethin' I say amusin' you?"

Her smile fled. "*Duibuqi*, Captain."

"Don't mind you laughin' an' smilin' on my boat, just be all manner of nice to be knowin' why."

"It's just," She hesitated then looked at Thadius. Thadius carried on talking for all of them. Considering he was not their spokesman Mal thought he was doing a shiny job.

"It's a long time, sir, since we had the freedom to just be ourselves. We're just happy."

The Captain frowned. "How long you been in them crates?"

"Oh the crates are nothing, *shifu*."

"Don't look like nothin' to me."

They all felt the anger simmering in the Captain, his indignation that people could be treated like this. As if they had no worth and no right to self determination.

"This *life* is all we've ever known."

Mal's eyebrows rose as his heart sank. "*Shenme*?" He looked from face to face. No one was laughing or smiling now. It twisted him up inside. "What about your parents, family?"

"We don't have any family, Captain." Said Ruben softly.

Something cold clicked in Mal's brain. "You meanin' to say you were created in some Alliance lab or some such?" He was thinking of Simon and River and feeling more than a mite sick.

Thadius reached out and touched the Captain's arm. "It's alright, Cap'n. We have family now."

Anger sparked in the Captain's eyes. "No, it ain't. It ain't alright. This is what we fought for..." His words trailed off. Fought and lost. Each of the listening pair of ears heard the unfinished thought in their heads. "Gorramit," Mal broke off and ran a hand through his hair, his tea forgotten. "This ain't right." He paused. "What happens now? You got someplace you wanna go?"

"Wherever you go."

The Captain blinked then he smiled slowly. "I don't think you're comprehendin' what I do on this boat."

"We comprehend *and* we understand."

That jolted him. Echoes of River. Before he could comment on it Thadius was speaking again.

"I should warn you, they will come for us. That explosion will not have bought much time, Cap'n."

Secretly Mal had been expecting that. Truth to tell the explosion was more to reassure his crew and them than a serious attempt to end any pursuit or payback. He had just hoped it would buy them enough time to get so deep in the Black not nobody could find them. Now he was not sure that such a place existed. Thadius seemed to know the direction in which his thoughts were going.

"*Qu*, they will use others like us to track us down." He said quietly.

"Ain't there nothin' we can do to stop that? Must be a way."

The silence that answered him was damning. The Captain could feel his mouth going dry. *Wode ma*, what pile of hellfire was he bringing down upon the heads of his unsuspecting crew? And these innocents, how in the nine hells was he going to protect them? There was no doubt in his mind now that the people who would be coming after Thadius and his friends were the same ones responsible for what had happened to River.

"We will help." Said Ruben in his soft and gentle voice. Soft brown eyes locking on to Mal's. A resolve in them the Captain had not expected to see.

"Not sure what you can do." Mal said with a crack in his voice, his eyes saying sorry. Sorry that he wasn't smart enough, strong enough nor gifted enough to end this sick people trade for once and for all.

"We will make sure you and your crew do not come to harm in our name." Thadius responded.

The Captain blinked at them, the determination and certainly shining like some inward light and illuminating them like some kind of gorram aura. Oddly enough it made him feel proud of them. Now wasn't that something? "Son, I think you got it backwards. Me an' mine are gonna protect you."

Thadius smiled gently but did not gainsay the Captain. All five were now of a like mind, as committed to Captain and crew as he was to them. The Captain felt a wave of weariness come over him and got to his feet. "Best you all go an' get some sleep. Want everyone bright eyed and bushy tailed when you wake."

Thadius followed him out, the others lingering on in the lounge area to give them space. "I'll walk you to your room."

The Captain stopped, amused and surprised. "That ain't necessary, Thad. I know the way to my bunk but *xie xie ni* for askin'."

The boy shook his head. "That's not why I offered."

"Not sure I'm followin' you."

"No, I'm following you, Cap'n." At Mal's baffled looked, Thadius chuckled lightly then gave the Captain a little push. "I just need to talk to you that's all."


Something pricked Thadius with a tiny sliver of sorrow, sad that the Captain would automatically think he only wanted to talk because something was wrong. "*Bu qu*."

Once in his bunk the Captain turned and gave the boy a warier look.

"*Fang xin*, I know you're not sleeping."

Shock stunned the Captain. Thadius indicated for him to sit and Mal sat on his bunk and just stared at Thadius as he pulled the chair up and took a seat. Seconds passed before Mal found his voice. "You fixin' to drug me?"

Thadius laughed. Another light pleasant sound. "Never."

"Then I'm not seein' as how you intend to help. An' how you know I ain't sleepin' like a babe?" It took a great effort for the Captain to remain seated and not pace his room.

The boy raised his eyebrows and just looked at Mal. "I can help you, that's all you need to know but I need to know something first. Do you trust me, Cap'n?" And there it was. The thing his crew had danced around and yet for him, despite everything that had happened in his life he actually did trust the boy. "Don't know the why of it but yes I do."

"And we trust you. Lie back now and close your eyes."

"What you gonna do?"

"Hush, Cap'n. Either lie back and close your eyes or shoot me."

That made the Captain start, alarm in his eyes, laughter in Thadius's. The Captain's eyes narrowed, not amused. "That ain't funny, Thad."

"It isn't sleeping either, Cap'n."

Not knowing quite what to say and curious despite his reservations Mal stretched out and closed his eyes. Thadius did not move closer, did not touch him, but started talking. His voice low and soothing, the words urging him to breathe more deeply, to follow the path of each breath, to feel it filling his lungs then reaching out to his fingers and toes slowly putting his body to sleep. By the time he reached his solar plexus the Captain's breath was deep and even. Thadius watched him sleep for several minutes, his mind gently touching the Captain's and soothing his worries and endless concerns. Easing him deeper and deeper into a healthy and wholesome sleep. Maybe not one without dreams but certainly one without nightmares. Quietly Thadius climbed up the ladder and exited the hatch, carefully closing it so as not to wake the sleeping man. As he made his way back to the passenger quarters he was so focused on the conversation with the Captain that he did not notice a suspicious pair of eyes watch him leave.

Zoe's lips tightened into a thin line. She was tempted to storm down to the Captain's bunk and demand to know what in the nine hells was going on but something cautioned her against it. No. She had a better idea. Turning she made her way up to the bridge. To the one genius who would never turn on them.

* * * * *

Simon wanted to kick himself. Top Three Per Cent and he hadn't seen this coming. He needed to find some way to warn the crew of Serenity but he had cut his ties with them and the manner of his leaving left him more than uncertain of the type of reception he would get if he tried to renew contact. There was of course always River but that had inbuilt dangers too complex to meddle with. He had shielded his mind from her for so long that she believed she was the fragile one. The one who was broken. Not knowing that her brother had preceded her. It was why the Academy had been so pleased to accept her into their ranks. The way already paved for her. Only she was different, her gifts more dangerous. She was a weapon. Simon her safety switch. He knew his sister was a genius and would figure it all out in the end but in the interim there were things he needed to do, to accomplish, before the veil fell and everything turned to blood and ashes.

The moment of solitude was broken when his mother stepped into the room. A disingenuous smile on her lips she went to him. Simon froze, unwilling to move and give away the emotions at variance with his reasoning mind. Control. It was always about control. With a warm smile she reached him, her eyes locking on his as the smile thinned into a narrow sliver of ice. It touched him as she never had. His mind held fast against the intrusion yet she surprised him. Did not try to break his shields nor bring him cowering to his knees. Which meant she wanted something.

Simon Tam felt his mouth go dry. His pulse quickening and his breath becoming laboured. It took effort to slow the heartbeat back to normal, to will his breath back into something approaching normal. To not break eye contact with the Devil.

"Simon," She purred. Her voice soft as velvet but a thousand times more deadly. "It is time for you to be the dutiful son." Distracted by her words it took a moment for him to realise they were no longer alone. He wanted to rant and rail at her, to tell her to go to *Diyu*.

"Your friends took something from me and I want it back."

*And you took something from me*, thought Simon. *You took my sister*. He wasn't thinking of their separation when he left Serenity but of the past. The years of lies and manipulation. Allowing terrible things to happen to River in order to secure his place in their twisted little family politics. And for a time he had been an unknowing accomplice. Only when he was old enough to understand what was going on was he able to make his own first tentative steps. But the road back went through every one of the nine hells and a few the Chinese philosphers had not even been able to imagine.

Even though his mind was shielded she seemed to read his thoughts. "Do this for me and we will both get what we want."

He knew he could not trust her but the desire to get his sister back gave him pause. "What are you suggesting?"

She shrugged. "An Alliance. Something of mutual benefit to us both."


"She doesn't want to come home but I'm beginning to think that siblings should not be parted. Find a way for me to get back what they have taken and I will find a way for you and River to be together again."

It was tempting. His lips almost forming the words of his surrender but that was just the point. It would not just be his surrender, it would be his and River's. And knowing what he now knew it would also be a death sentence for the crew of Serenity. Everyone who had helped and sheltered them. Just like the aftermath of Miranda. All would fall until only their enemies stood before them.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wo bu dong* = I don't understand *shenme* = what? *dong ma* = understand? *baichi* = idiot *goushi* = crap/dog shit *lese* = crappy *qu* = yes (lit. go) *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *diyu* = hell *dui* = correct *duibuqi* = sorry *shifu* = sir *wode ma* = mother of God *xie xie ni* = thank you


Tuesday, February 14, 2006 1:08 PM


Wow *still* don't know where this this going! Things are so involved :D Great again!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006 7:18 PM


I've just discovered this place...last week and read through all your stories. They are great do really bring River to life.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 1:58 AM


I love the way you've written River in this all your fics actually.
The plot continues to thicken nicely leaving me all manner of confused!

It's shiny.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 2:02 AM


Love Jayne's suspicions and Zoe watching in the shadows.

I'm still not sure about those new crew members.

Another great chapter...more please.


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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.