GENIUS SERIES: 23. "Poisoned Gifts"
Sunday, March 12, 2006

"The crew discover Simon's secret not understanding the repercussions. Meanwhile Councillor Tam is painstakingly hunting him down."


TITLE: "POISONED GIFTS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: No specific pairing. STATUS: SEQUEL to "FRIEND OR FOE" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE:

SUMMARY: "The crew discover Simon's secret not understanding the repercussions. Meanwhile Councillor Tam is painstakingly hunting him down." 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

* * * * *

Commandant Austin could feel his mouth go dry. It was not finding the craft adrift that scared him but the look on Councillor Tam's face when they found it was empty. The Commandant had the interceptor searched from top to bottom, inside out, but there was no one on board and not a single clue as to where the occupant had gone. Reluctantly he had to face the icy blast of the Councillor's displeasure. "I want to know what happened here and where the pilot is, *dong ma*?"

"Ma'am, we have no way of tracking..."

She cut him off. Cold imperious anger all but nailing his tongue to the roof of his mouth. "I have no interest in your plans for failure, Commandant." He could not swallow. Austin felt as if he was seeing his death in her dispiteous eyes. His heartbeat racing so fast he was sure he would never be able to catch it. *Wode ma*, how could he have thought this would be an honour? "We have no way of knowing what happened. Our sensors..."

"Are not as useless as you would claim."

The bite in her words stopped him in his tracks. He blinked. Confused. "Ma'am?"

"This ship is the newest one off the line, do you know what that means?"

Mutely, he shook his head. Too afraid that anything he said would come out wrong and only inflame her anger.

"It means this ship carries additional capabilities."

Austin stared. This was his ship, his command. How come he didn't know that? "I was not aprised of that, ma'am."

Councillor Tam stared at him for a moment, the anger easing out of her but leaving no glimmer of comfort in its' place. "You did not need to know."

"And now?" He dared.

"You need to know."

Without a word the Councillor led him off the bridge and into his ready room. There she told him what he was to do and how to access the specialised resources now at his command. Eyes round with amazement he began to feel hope creep back into his shrinking veins. "With enhanced sensors of that magnitude, Councillor, we should be able to detect the energy trail of any other ship that came into contact with this vessel."

She nodded, her eyes not leaving his. A promise lurking in their depths that he was loathe to break. This was his last chance to make good and they both knew it. If he failed a second time he would not live to try again. Determined to save both his career and his neck he nodded and turned sharply, the crisp echo of his boots on steel underlining that commitment.

* * * * *

Everyone was in shock. Simon looked deeply traumatised but calmer than he had been before. The incongruency struck them all in different ways.

"Simon, *duibuqi*. Not in my worst gorram nightmares could I see that comin'."

The doctor nodded, still numb but oddly feeling a sense of freedom percolating through his mind. How that was possible he did not know except that River's words were now haunting his waking thoughts. *The truth shall set you free*. "No, Captain, I should be the one to apologise. I had no idea I was being manipulated." He paused and gave River a sharp look, a tinge of wonder creeping into his voice. "You knew, didn't you *mei mei*?"

His sister nodded. "Couldn't say anything, too many failsafes to over ride. You had to do it for yourself but you couldn't break the chains on your own."

Simon nodded, visibly moved. Looking up he nodded to Thadius and the others. "I don't know how to thank you."

"*Bu xie*, the control was hurting everyone."

Simon noticed that Thadius's speech seemed to alter depending on who he was talking to. When he was with him or Inara he almost sounded core bred, when with the Captain he adopted Mal's idiosyncratic speech patterns. The others didn't do that so much, and certainly not so obviously. Made Simon think of the boy's mind as a sponge. His thought produced smiles on five faces. *Diyu*, how was he going to have a private thought again now that they had breached his fortress? Didn't matter that he had given them the key and let them in, they knew the configuration of his mind now. Funny, but he found it oddly comforting. A reassuring knowledge that for the first time in a very long time he was not alone.

"You've never been alone, Simon." Said River gently.

Her brother blinked back the threat of tears. Kaylee wanted to hug him but it was too soon. Jayne's patience had been wearing steadily thinner and impatience was beginning to break through. "That mean ya ain't gonna go shootin' folk no more?"

"Oh, I might just be persuaded to make one notable exception."

Jayne scowled. "Huh?"

Kaylee was smiling. "Oh he don't mean nothin', Jayne. Simon's just kiddin'."

When Simon did not reassure her Kaylee's smile slipped. "Ya were kiddin', weren't ya Simon?"

With a reluctant huff, Simon nodded. Zoe could see the Captain was looking about ready to collapse with fatigue, not that the *wangu baichi* would admit as much. This fun little meeting having already taken longer than anticipated. Plus they had no job to speak of and she wasn't at all sure just where in the 'verse River had programmed the autopilot to take them. Could be the dark side of the very next moon they came to for all she knew. River shook her head at the first mate. "Not a moon or a sun. In fact, not a planet."

The Captain roused enough to frown. "You speakin' in riddles again, little albatross?"

"*Bu qu*, just talking as the crow flies."

"Oh. Glad we got that cleared up."

Kaylee tilted her head at Simon. "Where did you get that ship anyway? Ain't never seen anythin' so *shuai* before." "I uh was going to say I don't know but I have these images in my head." Simon looked at Thadius.

"Memories. The barriers are down now, not all of them will be painless."

Zoe looked troubled but her concern for the Captain over rode any sense of concern at whatever after effects Simon might suffer. The last thing they needed right now was to launch into another long discussion. "You should be restin', Cap'n. We can talk about this later."

The Captain blinked, his hazy mind slowly clearing through sheer force of will. If anything was guaranteed to bring him out of his drifting thoughts it was being told what to do. He was the Captain, gorrammit. "I'm thinkin' we need to finish this. No tellin' what kind of *goushi* we got in store now we know they been usin' Simon."

River moved to the Captain's side. "Thoughts are clearer when rested."

"You tellin' me to go to gorram sleep?" He mock growled.

She smiled brightly at him, a spark of affection in her eyes. "Wise men listen to good advice regardless of the source."

The Captain was about to tell her what he thought of that when Thadius spoke up. "I think we could all do with a break, Cap'n. Simon needs to rest too, it will help him readjust."

Feeling awkward at the reminder of what had recently happened to him, Simon tried to claw back a semblance of control. "First I need to check your wound, Captain."

Jayne looked ready to grab hold of the doctor and shake him again but Kaylee's warning glare was enough for him to reluctantly hold back. Zoe wondered whether the Captain would let Simon near him after everything that had happened but whether it was plain exhaustion or some residue of common sense Mal gave a tired nod. "Might not be a bad thing."

Pleased to have the opportunity to make up for past actions Simon went with Mal to the infirmary, River and Thadius following close behind. Inara and Kaylee left shortly after, their heads close together as if they were hatching some scheme. Zoe figured it was more likely a case of the Companion reassuring the mechanic. Personally, she thought Kaylee should leave Simon alone for a while. Let the doctor sort himself out and come to terms with what had been done to him before pinning her hopes on some romance that might never happen. Jayne waited until it was just him, Zoe and the last four readers.

"You trustin' that *wangba dan* with the Cap?"

"The Captain is quite safe." Said Ruben before Zoe could reply.

Jayne scowled at him. "Yeah, well how'd we know that for sure?"

"Thadius and River went with him." Helen assured.

"What the *diyu* can a crazy girl an' a kid like Thadius do? Stoppin' bullets is a crazy way to protect someone an' Simon might do somethin' before he can act. Then what?"

"We will kill him."

Jayne and Zoe stared at Michael. The young man did not so much as blink. He was so utterly calm and matter of fact about it that it was kind of chilling.

"You're talkin' about murder." Said Zoe, no inflection in her voice.

"*Bu qu*," Michael explained. "We are talkin' about protection." Michael shrugged, "If Simon makes no attempt on the Captain's life he will be safe. Besides, River knows. She will stop him doing anything stupid."

Jayne wanted to laugh. "Like that worked last time." He said scathingly.

But Zoe had never felt less like laughing. She was watching Ruben, Michael, Helen and Carl closely. "How would you do that? You said we."

"A single mind can derail another's thoughts, influence their direction depending on the strength of the individual mind to resist." Explained Carl.

"Five minds acting in concert can overload a single mind." Michael added.

"Until what?"

"Aneurisms are a common consequence." Said Helen.

Jayne could feel his breath catch, River's words echoing round and round inside his gorram head like the voice of doom. *I can kill you with my brain*. His mouth went dry. Gorram girl *was* a witch. "Why ya so gorram protective of the Cap?"

Ruben's smile was soft, calm, a gently simmering pool of content. It was all kinds of weird to Jayne but he couldn't take his eyes off the man. "We simply protect the one who protects us."

"All this 'cause he opened a gorram box?"

Helen looked sad. "*Ni bu dong*."

For a moment Jayne was lost. "That mean ya'll protect us too?"

"As long as you remain loyal." Ruben intoned in a smooth almost hypnotic voice.

"An' if we don't?"

"They turn on us." Zoe answered before Ruben could.

It was almost funny seeing the flash of fear in Jayne's eyes but Zoe knew it was no laughing matter. Not that she would ever turn on Mal but Jayne was another matter. The Captain trusted him and for now that was enough for Zoe. Ruben's eyes almost seemed to glow as he turned his attention to Zoe. There was a look of respect in his eyes. "We will sleep now."

Not knowing what else to say the first mate nodded back. "*Wan an*."

The four heads nodded one after the other then they left. For a minute Zoe stood staring at the space where they had been standing. Jayne found his voice first. "Was that as creepy assed for ya as it was for me?"

"Just be grateful they're on our side, Jayne."

Long after Zoe had left, Jayne ruminated on recent events. A horrible thought settling in his brain. What the good gorram would happen to them if anything happened to the Captain? Would the readers hold them responsible and kill the rutting lot of them? Perhaps it would happen while they slept, sneaking into their heads and snuffing them out like the flame of a gorram candle. The mercenary shuddered and vowed to sleep with one eye open from now on. Maybe the crazy creeps were okay and maybe they weren't, either way he wasn't taking any chances. River was their own home grown crazy and she had slashed him with a knife. What kind of bizarre behaviour could he expect from these readers? Unable to find any answers, Jayne knew it would be a long time before he got any sleep.

* * * * *

The trail was faint, almost like a ghost, but the enhanced sensors of the IAV Rosencruz were more than up to the task. Austin could feel his good humour returning in force. The thought of being able to present the Councillor with a successful mission could do nothing but good for the future prospects of his career. Tracking the vessel should be even easier, as they drew closer to their prey the signal would get stronger.

* * * * *

Gabriel Tam listened to the update from the Director in silence. One might almost think it a sign of respect but it wasn't. Gabriel was simply intent on everything he was being told and did not wish to miss or misunderstand so much as a syllable. As the Director finished speaking, Gabriel steepled the fingers of his hands into a pyramid, his look thoughtful. "You are sure that they are closing in on Serenity? There can be no mistake?"

Director Rossheim smiled, but it lacked all pretence to humour. "It is the Firefly, but I am curious. Your wife is aboard the Rosencruz, does that not indicate a conflict of interest?"

"My dear Claude," Said Gabriel Tam leaning forward on his desk, the implied familiarity producing a different kind of tension. "You are the Director. I am a ghost. My wife is a parasite on the body of the Alliance politic. The plan was derailed not destroyed. With my son out of the way there is nothing - I repeat - nothing, that can stand between us and the retrieval of my daughter."

"Gabriel, I agreed to allow Regan to acquire the post of Councillor." His voice sounded grave now. "It was not done lightly nor was it implemented by the Council simply to curry favour with you. Understand this. We want the girl returned as eagerly as you but not at the cost of one of our own."

It almost made Gabriel laugh outright. Regan Tam, one of their own? Who was living in a fool's paradise now? But Director Rossheim was not a man to be underestimated and he was not in a position yet to make that position or his place in it defunct. He needed this man, just as he needed the support of the Alliance to further his own ambition. Simon had been a Blue Sun Agent and when compliant, a surprisingly gifted one. But then the time had come when the boy had shown his true intent, Simon's devotion to his sister proving a more problematic fly in the ointment than even he had supposed. His wife was a different matter. Someone he could respect even if he did not love her. Yet respect would buy her nothing but the ignomy of an unmarked grave. Now, the Director was reminding him that simply getting rid of his wife was no longer an option. Suspicion chased suspicion in his mind. He watched Rossheim leave and fell deep into thought. Determined to do nothing in haste which he would repent at leisure.

* * * * *

Thadius helped the Captain on to the infirmary bed, River watching. Her eyes flicking from the Captain to Simon and back again. Feeling as if he was on probation, Simon did everything meticulously. It amused River but she did not let that humour show, tucking unhelpful thoughts deep where Simon could not find them. Thadius smiled faintly then looked serious again. The Captain was drowsy and in no small amount of pain. Naturally, Simon knew.

"You realise you've reopened the wound, Captain?"

It was almost too painful for Mal to talk but he didn't like the accusation in Simon's tone. "It's not like it was done on purpose."

Concerned by how quickly the man was weakening, Simon checked him over carefully. His hands gentle but efficient despite his sharp words. "This is a serious wound, Captain, and I'm going to need to close it again. You could probably do with another infusion of blood, just to be on the safe side."

"Don't fuss, Simon." The Captain mumbled, his fight to stay conscious slipping away from him.

Thadius put a hand on the Captain's forehead and looked at Simon. "I can ease the pain."

It kind of creeped Simon out having Thadius display his abilities so openly. Reading his mind Thadius gave a quirkly little smile, his mind slipping easily into the Captain's drowsy one and disconnecting the chemical cues to the brain which registered as pain. The silent sigh was mentally noted but physically absent as the Captain quickly lost consciousness.

"That's cheating." Said River in a quiet detached voice.

"*Wo zhidao* but effective. The Captain needs to sleep and the pain medication would take too long to act."

Simon had the bizarre notion that he was standing outside of his own life watching it unfold around him. Shaking the fanciful thoughts from his head he refocused as River began passing him instruments. Working now in silence he cleaned up and closed the wound then dressed it. He also set up an iv and connected the Captain to a couple of monitors. He knew the monitors probably would not be needed but he felt guilty enough about shooting the man in the first place, his guilt ten times heavier for being induced by manipulation. Even with that control removed from him Simon panicked in case something more insidious had been hidden in his brain.

"Dummy, we wouldn't leave you crippled Simon."

He blinked at his sister. "*Shenme*?"

River smiled indulgently at him. "Wool gathering but without sheep."

Thadius was amused by how confused Simon often was at the fashion of his sister's thoughts. He might love her more than the breath in his body but he didn't really understand her. That was about to change and in a fashion so dramatic that the two would wonder how they had functioned apart yet joined for so long. River turned her head and smiled at Thadius. The two in such perfect accord that for a moment Simon was insanely jealous. Thadius knew, but as a kindness to River did not say anything. Sooner or later Simon Tam would come to realise that River did not belong to him. None of them did. They were individuals swimming in a pool of humanity, sometimes gravitating to one side, sometimes the other. Yet the pool was filled with sharks and plankton not just fish. Simon had been groomed to be a shark but was learning to be a fish again. Everyone knew about the danger of swimming with sharks but they usually overlooked the plankton. River never did. It was the plankton that carried any seeds of infection. The ones who poisoned the well.

As someone had once said long ago on Earth-That-Was: the Devil was in the detail.

* * * * *

It seemed like an age since Zoe had last been this relaxed. Staring out at the Black a myriad of thoughts twinkled and sparkled in her mind like stars bursting into life in mimicry of lighted flowers opening to the sun. Her thoughts invariably turned to Wash, a slide of sorrow ghosting over the momentary happiness like endomorphins drowned in a poisonous vapor. Not all of life's gifts were benign. River had set the ship's course by autopilot and this gave the bridge the illusion that the ship was flying itself. To Zoe it wouldn't be so much of a stretch of the imagination. After all, both Kaylee and the Captain spoke as if Serenity were a living and breathing person and River had even gone so far on one occasion to actually *be* the ship, though that was the neatest little piece of theatre the first mate had witnessed in a long time.

Zoe turned, intending to go and check on the Captain before seeing if she could get some sleep. As she reached the doorway the proxity alarm set fire to every gorram nerve in her body. Turning and racing back to the console she was oblivious as the others began to pound their way to the bridge and crowd in an anxious huddle behind her. Stunned, Zoe could only stare at the flashing com, her eyes widening as the shiny new Alliance vessel filled her vision. Heart in her mouth she left it to Jayne Cobb to put her thoughts into the vernacular.

"Ruttin' *diyu*, how in the nine hells did those *tamade hundan* find us?"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand? *wode ma* = mother of God *mei mei* = little sister *duibuqi* = thanks *bu xie* = you're welcome *diyu* = hell *wangu* = stubborn *baichi* = idiot *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *goushi* = crap/dog shit *wan an* = good night *wangba dan*/*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *wo zhidao* = I know *shenme* = what *shuai* = handsome/snazzy


Sunday, March 12, 2006 1:27 PM


'Refresh and ye shall be rewarded'

Wheel never stops turnin' and I can see some plot twists and 'not-smooth' events on the horizon.

A great series. Can't wait for the next instalment!

(*crosses fingers in hope of first comment*)

Sunday, March 12, 2006 1:49 PM


Oh very well done.

>That was about to change and in a fashion so dramatic that the two would wonder how they had functioned apart yet joined for so long.

That was at once both creepifying and satisfying.

So - Kaylee gonna start hoping in vain...? Toss us a bone here! :)

Eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

Sunday, March 12, 2006 2:57 PM


If we chant "Kaylee and Simon, sitting in a tree..." will you give us romantics something to hope for? Just a little conversation, a look, a touch, anything?

I really like where this is heading (now that Simon's NOT evil, mind you!) Write fast.

Sunday, March 12, 2006 4:27 PM


Hehehe! Great turn of events! Fantastic storytelling :D

Monday, March 13, 2006 2:16 AM


Another wonderful one!

All the strands are coming together now, is the big confrontation coming?

Can't wait for the next installment.

Saturday, April 2, 2011 7:08 PM


I love this series...Mal and the Readers are just so touching

Sunday, April 3, 2011 1:04 AM


Thank you for all the shiny comments. Lots more to come with a few unexpected twists. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


You must log in to post comments.



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.