GENIUS SERIES: 24. "Left and Right Hands"
Thursday, March 16, 2006

"With the arrival of an Alliance ship river does not share the crew's sense of doom. Jayne worries about Kaylee and the Captain tries to protect the siblings from Regan."


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

SUMMARY: "With the arrival of an Alliance ship River does not share the crew's sense of doom. Jayne worries about Kaylee and the Captain tries to protect the siblings from Regan." 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

* * * * *

"*Tzao goa*, what we gonna do?"

For a moment no one had a reply for Jayne. The blinking light damning them all to stunned silence. No one noticed River wheedle her way to the front, her eyes calming as she stared unblinking at the huge ship dominating their vision and their waking nightmare. "Don't answer."

Zoe clicked back into real time and stared at her. "*Shenme*?"

"Don't answer. It'll give us seconds we can use."

"To do what?" Snarled Jayne, his fear and anger turning on the slim girl as if to unload all the blame on her.

"*Ni bu dong*. This doesn't have to be a tragedy."

Inara felt her mouth go dry but didn't try to speak, give words of wisdom or caution. It was already too late for that. If Simon's gifted sister had a plan then she was willing to listen. The same thought seemed to hit them all at the same time.

"If it ain't a tragedy," Came a slightly breathless and laboured voice. "Then what in the nine hells is it?"

All heads turned to see the Captain leaning heavily on Simon at the back of the queue. As bad as things were his appearance seemed to steady them somewhat. Impending doom notwithstanding. River looked at the Captain, her eyes glimmering. "An opportunity."

Kaylee hovered next to Simon and the Captain, all anxious and fearful. In front of her Thadius steady as a rock, radiating calm and surety. The man turned to catch the Captain's eye and Mal gave a tiny nod. It was the only indication that anything had passed between them. Oddly enough it looked like Thadius had asked permission and the Captain had given it, but Kaylee was confused because not a word had passed between them. That wasn't possible. Cap'n wasn't a reader. Then the conversation around her became quick and business-like and Kaylee found herself back on the catwalk, everyone moving swiftly out of the way until only River and the readers stood on the bridge. Kaylee frowned, more than a little confused. "Zoe, what they doin'?"

It was the Captain who answered for her, his voice soft and low as he wearily sank to the grating and let his legs dangle over the edge of the catwalk, arms wrapping lightly round the railing to hold him in place. Simon seemed torn between wanting to be on the bridge to see what River was doing and keeping an eye on the Captain. Zoe stood a few feet from the Captain so that she could look through the doorway to the bridge in case everything went to *diyu*. What good she could do if that happened nobody knew. Jayne hadn't stopped to hang around with the others, his heavy boots beating a tattoo as he ran to his bunk. Man figured if they were about to be boarded by the gorram Alliance they weren't taking him without a fight.

* * * * *

Regan Tam was strong, stronger than Gabriel had ever given her credit for. That ignorance of her gifts had served her well but now she was facing something unexpected. A flicker of fear disrupted her calm. Commandant Hugo Austin waited for the order to open a channel to the Firefly. It seemed to take forever but when the nod came and the transmission was sent for Serenity to prepare to be boarded they were met with silence. Austin watched the Councillor, waiting for her decision. Did she want them to fire on the ship until it was pulverised into surrender or to board and engage in a hostile takeover? Or maybe just blow the annoying smuggler's ship out of the Black?

The Councillor did not look at the Commandant. All her attention on the diminutive transport ship, her mind seeking and finding the unexpected. A flare of joy, of success, at contacting her daughter's wayward mind quickly deflating then morphing into anger at being rebuffed and ousted like some unwanted alien intruder. *River, you cannot fight me*.

*You are not my mother. Sharks have offspring not children, I will not be fodder to your ego any longer and neither will my brother*.

*What you want is irrelevant*.

*Bu qu, your arrogance is irrelevant. You manipulate, take control, and you haven't the right. We are happy here, safe. If you have any spark of humanity left you will leave us*.

Regan Tam blinked in surprise despite the fact that she had been hoping for this. *Simon is with you?*

*He has always been with me*.

*No, bao bei, he is with you NOW, on that lese piece of goushi?*

*Qu. Now, go. Freedom is more than you deserve and more than you gave to us*.

*I can have the ship destroyed*.

The Councillor could feel the cold humour fill and chill her mind as River responded, an unidentified strength fortifying her mind in a way that Regan could not breach. It unsettled her and made her realise that she would not be able to manipulate her daughter. Simon had always been the easier option but for now she could not feel him still less link her mind to his however surreptitiously. The reason evaded her but she was not done yet. *Let me see him*.


Regan hesitated. Lying with a link this strong was near to impossible. *If I promise to go can I see him?*

A pause. Consideration. *Weishenme?*

*He is still my son*. As you are my daughter she thought but did not project. Yet River knew her meaning.

*You would trick us even now*.

*No. I need to see him, speak with him and you. One last chance, face to face, to change your minds*.

River wanted to tell her to go to *diyu* but Simon deserved to make that decision for himself. Breaking the connection for a moment she left the readers on the bridge and went to find Simon, a tiny smile forming on her face when she saw him sitting on the catwalk one side of the Captain, his hand in Kaylee's, while Inara sat on Mal's other side. The Captain and Companion were not touching but it was a start. "Simon, mother wants to see you. Speak to you."

Alarm flashed on Simon's face. Dropping Kaylee's hand he jumped to his feet. "No, I can't!"

"It's alright, I won't do anything you don't want but I have to ask."

Simon's face distorted into an ugly sneer. "This is a trick, *mei mei*. We can't trust her."

The Captain looked thoughtful. "What does she want?"

River locked eyes with him. "She didn't say."

A flicker of understanding passed between them. The Captain lurched to his feet, the movement slow and painful, Inara unexpectedly reaching out and taking his arm to steady him. Surprised at her touch, Mal stared at her. Inara's expression was unreadable but then Simon was talking and the moment was lost. Her hand fell away as Mal watched Simon's reaction, turning to speak to Inara as soon as the doctor fell silent but she had gone. Only River saw the confusion of pain in the Captain's eyes before he masked it. Not understanding why she always seemed to leave him feeling bereft. Alone. Cut off from her warmth as if they had never had a moment of intimacy or truthsomeness between them. Perhaps it had been wishful thinking on his part, his heart turning the Companion into a caricature of something she could never be. Filling the hollow places of his soul as if she was made to do so. Belatedly the Captain realised Simon was still in a quandry as to whether or not he should talk to his mother.

"Not that I'm suggestin' anythin', doc, but if you do agree to see her - face to face as she's been askin' - I'll on'y agree if you let Thadius and the others be present."

The condition robbed Simon momentarily of words. The Captain waited for him to recover. Not like he was going anywhere his own self, the energy leaking out of him faster than the blood from his weeping wound. Not that he intended to speak on it. First he needed to know what the boy was going to do, especially if it meant putting his ship and crew in even more danger than it was currently. "I... I don't want to see her."

The Captain nodded but before he could respond Simon seemed to do a mental about face. His expression so intense and inward looking that they all knew his decision was taking a high toll. His inherent goodness wanting even now to be fair.

"But I think I should find out what she wants. Maybe it will help make this whole unsavoury mess make a little more sense."

"She wants to take you back." Said River calmly.

"*Wo zhidao, mei mei*."

"No, not back to the Academy Simon."

"Then where?"

River's attention seemed to drift for a moment. "To the seat of power."

Zoe walked back to join them, a frown deepening on her face. "Where might that be?"

With a sickening sense of premonition the Captain knew what River was going to say right before the word popped out of her mouth.


Closing his eyes he remembered an odd little saying his Uncle Frank had adopted from the history books of Earth-That-Was. 'All roads lead to Rome'. It had never made much sense to him before. Now he wondered whether all roads led to the gorram Alliance. 'Verse was shrinking every gorram day. One day it was like to crush the life out of every last one of them.

* * * * *

Gabriel Tam let the smile linger on his face, soaking up the confirmation as if he had orchestrated the outcome himself. The Director was not so amused at the man's arrogance, his patience so thin it was almost transparent. Not that Gabriel gave a damn. When he had what he wanted other people would cease to have any hold over the height and breadth of his ambition. Nor would they be able to stop the new worlds forming beneath their feet and populating the Black. Each one turning, spinning and singing his song.

Once the Director had gone, Gabriel turned to face the other door in his office and waited. Seconds later the door opened and a sober suited man stepped inside, his partner following him into the room without a sound. It did not discomfit Gabriel Tam any more than the knowledge of the things the agents had done. Their pale slim bodies were like walking cadavers. Eyes empty of any emotion, minds sharp as a razor's edge. He waited patiently for them to take their seats. The one directly opposite him spoke first. "Your experiment failed."

He shook his head. "*Bu qu*, it was a setback no more. In fact, it did produce an interesting piece of information."

Mr Smith inclined his head just a fraction. Gabriel looked from his face to the equally passive expression his partner wore. The two men could have been clones. Yet Gabriel knew they hung on his every word. Ah. Power. There was no drug quite like it. "What information?" "I know now where the project went wrong. The gene manipulation was too sudden. The regressions too severe."

"You got what you wanted." Said Mr Brown without emotion.

"No. I got the violence and agression but not the control."

Mr Smith leaned forward. "You promised cannon fodder. Mindless savages primed for destruction but able to be unleashed at will. Rabid dogs. Lack of intelligence was not the problem you forgot to factor in."

A brow rose in reluctant curiosity. "Then what was it?"

Mr Brown's eyes glittered briefly. "You made them *too* intelligent."

Now he was confused. They watched him blink, mind scrambling for handholds as understanding eluded him. "I don't think..."

The temperature in the room suddenly plummeted. "You NEVER think!" Snapped Mr White.

Startled, Gabriel stared at them. He would never admit how much the flash of anger disturbed him.

"Because of this," Smith took up the revelation. "The word has spread. The biddable are no longer responding. The tide is turning, Gabriel Tam, and your time on the crest of that wave is waning."

"*Bushi*. When I am done you will hold a greater prize in your hands than the one that was lost."

They stared without blinking. The silence elongating into a waiting game none of the participants could afford to lose. Yet Gabriel still had one final trick up his sleeve.

* * * * *

The Captain had always suspected Simon was not as cool, calm and collected as he appeared but this decision was madness. "Are you *shenjingbing*? What the good gorram you wantin' to go lettin' that woman on board my boat for? A woman as like to drag you an' little sis off to the torture house as hug you?"

Kaylee wanted to defend Simon's position but in all honestly she was kind of in agreement with the Captain. Rather than say as much she kept silent, not wanting Simon to feel as though folks were ganging up on him.

"It's something I have to do, Captain."

"An' what about River? Handin' her over to that mad woman somethin' you gotta do too?"

A flash of barely contained fury sparked across Simon Tam's face. Truth be told the Captain was glad to see it. For a while it had been looking as if everything he had come to expect from this man was a lie. Nice to know he could still irritate the *goushi* out of him. Hopefully enough to get the boy to see straight. "Nobody's handing anyone over, Captain."

The Captain kept repeating that sentence over and over inside his head as the Alliance vessel docked with his boat. Simon wanted to speak to his mother alone but no way in *diyu* would Mal allow that and River had backed him up. The Captain's only concession was to let Simon and River see their mother in the cargo hold with just him and the readers present. Jayne joined them with Vera cradled comfortably in his arms. "Don't know what all the jawin's about. Just stick her in the airlock. She say anythin' ya don't like ya can vent her into the atmo."

Simon looked horrified. "Jayne, you can't do that! That would be murder."

The mercenary rolled his eyes and River fought back a fit of the giggles. The Captain wasn't laughing. All manner of concerned he was beginning to feel frustrated, his nerves taut as they waited for Regan Tam to board the ship. Thadius moved next to the Captain. "*Fang xin*, there are enough of us here Captain to stop her doing anything we wouldn't want."

As comforting as those words were meant to be Mal could not help focusing on the last part of the sentence. He rolled it around in his head, *anything WE wouldn't want*. Just who the good gorram was in charge on this boat and why in the nine hells wasn't it him? The Captain jerked his head up towards the catwalk and taking his cue Jayne ran up the metal stairs just as Regan stepped into the cargo hold. The Captain positioned himself so he could lean against some crates, his arms folded to hide the fact that he was wounded, though anyone looking would notice from his pale sweaty face that all was not right with Serenity's Captain.

Simon was not expecting the acute pang of regret that assailed him when his mother moved towards him. The Captain eyed her carefully but did not move absurdly grateful to have Thadius near. This was Simon and River's show but if Regan tried anything he had no qualms about putting a bullet in her gorram head. Though he'd be just as happy not to.

* * * * *

Kaylee couldn't help it. It was in her nature to worry about Simon. She paced back and forth across the commons room, hands twisting together. Inara would have made tea but had the feeling no one would be drinking it, everyone so keyed up it was bordering on painful. Zoe watched as Jayne stood next to Kaylee, knowing that despite everything he might say to the contrary the big man was uncommonly fond of the mechanic. Gorrammit, they all were.

"What d'ya supposed is happenin'?" Kaylee asked for the tenth time in as many seconds, her eyes settling on Zoe.

"Nothin's gonna happen, Kaylee. Cap'n won't let it, *dong ma*?" "Yeah, but what if she does somethin' to 'em? Makes 'em wanna leave?"

Jayne scowled, his face darkening. "Then if the Cap don't step in, Vera will."

Inara almost smiled. Coming from Jayne it was almost a declaration of love.

* * * * *

As Regan Tam stepped into the cargo hold she realised what she had suspected. River's eyes narrowed but she held her ground, standing close to Simon but not in touching distance. She wanted the freedom to move if her mother did anything untoward. She could feel how tense her brother was, his muscles bunching and flexing, his mind a whirlwind of competing emotions. The images blurring in his mind as memories merged and confused his senses. "You don't belong here, Simon. I've come to take you home." Regan smiled at River. "You too, my daughter. We have so much to talk about and a whole new life to plan."

Her words sparked a reaction in Simon. "Haven't you done enough?"

She blinked. "Simon..."

"I don't want to hear it."

For a moment Regan seemed to falter.

"Whatever you're planning you'll have to do it without me or my sister. We won't be pawns any longer."

Regan tried to touch Simon's mind but was so effectively blocked that she could not even sense his nearness if she closed her eyes. It was disconcerting to have that lack of connection when her son stood within six feet of her. Slowly she glanced around the cargo hold, noting the Captain standing with Thadius then seeing the other readers. It took a mammoth effort to stop herself from a violent reaction. Regan fixed her unforgiving gaze on Serenity's Captain. "You *imprinted* with them?"

The sheer venom in her voice did nothing to cow the Captain. If anything he seemed to relax though Simon was beginning to realise that what he saw and what was were not necessarily the same thing. The Captain was quite adept at appearing as he wanted to be seen. In the end everything was little more than a sleight of hand. A game of perception.

"I'm sorry, were they for you?"

Regan's lips peeled back in an ugly rictus of hate. "You have been a thorn in my side for too long, Captain. Nothing but a grubby little thief. First you take my children, then you take their..."

As weary as he was the Captain had no intention of letting her adopt the moral high ground, the very notion of it offending him. "Not convinced the kids are yours."

His quiet flat assertion paused the diatribe of vitriol gathering on Regan's tongue, derailing her outpouring of spite. "They ARE mine. I carried them in my womb. Gave life to them!"

The Captain straightened, Thadius hyper aware of everyone in the room. Ruben and the others poised to act should Regan give them the slightest excuse. Mal seemed to have forgotten anyone else was in the room, his attention fixed on the witch queen trying to lord it over his people. His protective instincts fully roused, nostrils flaring. "An' now you wanna take it away, that it? All in the service of that big ego of yours. *Qu*, I can see how that makes you such a carin' mother. No, really. Just not believin' a family spawned in*diyu* can be destined for a happy life but that ain't your concern, is it?"

Regan snarled and took an angry step towards the Captain. Simon and River watching with baited breath. "My happy ending will be your very painful death, Captain Reynolds."

If the words were intended to chill him they fell wide of the mark. The Captain smirked though his eyes were cold. "Been there, done that, don't want the gorram t-shirt. So whatever you're sellin'? I ain't buyin' an' neither are any of my crew."

"They aren't yours!" Regan snapped.

"No, they belong to their own selves which means in Cap'n Dummy Talk they get to choose."

Simon stared at the Captain. River listened with a growing smile on her lips, her face aglow, looking for all the 'verse as if she didn't have a care. Simon envied her. Mal let his gaze wash over the siblings before coming back to rest on Regan Tam.

"Ain't democracy a wonderful thing?"

Simon watched stunned as Regan stormed off the ship, his sister in no way sharing his reaction. On light feet she danced over to the Captain and stretched up to kiss his cheek. "I love my Captain."

Amused the Captain smiled back. "I'm thinkin' you been hangin' around Kaylee too long, little albatross."

As River hurried away to go and find the mechanic Simon walked over to the Captain. "Lately I seem to keep finding myself thanking you, Captain." He paused, his sharp eyes boring into Mal's with an intensity that put the Captain on notice that he might not be liking his next words. "You do know this isn't over, don't you?"

"I do. The question remains: what you wantin' to do? You gotta know not nowhere safe from the long slippery arm of the Alliance but we keep movin', never stop in one place too long. Still think Serenity's the safest place for you an' little sis. 'Til you find better."

A little smile tugged at the corner of Simon's mouth, his expression softening a little. The simple but sincere offer made Simon want to cry. Trust was such a hard thing for him to embrace having been lost so painfully when those he had loved without reserve had failed him. Now he found himself wanting to put his faith in this man's rough grace but he wasn't quite there yet. He could see that the Captain was all aware of that fact but not judging him for his caution just accepting Simon as he was.

Once it became obvious that the Alliance ship was leaving, the doctor insisted on checking Mal's wound. Slowly the crew allowed themselves to relax. The Captain let Simon take him to the infirmary and had the wound redressed, the doctor reluctantly allowing him to go to his bunk to sleep rather than spending the night in the infirmary. Thadius gave Simon a little nod of thanks then followed in the Captain's wake. Thadius was well aware that Mal was letting him follow him to his bunk for a reason and not because he thought he might need to lean on the man's arm or have help getting down his gorram ladder. Mal waited until Thadius closed the hatch behind them.

"Now I been a patient man, Thad. I'm thinkin' it's time you told me the real reason you were in them gorram crates, an' I don't mean that pile of *goushi* you first told us, *dong ma*?"

Thadius smiled, his eyes sparkling with humour. Pleasure slowly lighting him up inside out. Unless Mal was much mistaken Thadius looked uncommonly smug. "River Tam chose her champion well."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme* = what *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *diyu* = hell *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *bao bei* = precious/treasure *goushi* = crap/dog shit *qu* = yes (lit. go) *weishenme* = why? *mei mei* = little sister *wo zhidao* = I know *bushi* = not so *shenjingbing* = crazy *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *dong ma* = understand?


Thursday, March 16, 2006 4:58 PM


Ohh very well done. Momma's pissed off. Can't wait to see what she tries next.

Hope Simon gets over his trust issue. I'm encouraged by Simon and Kaylee holding hands again. How, exactly did they get back to that point, anyway?

Friday, March 17, 2006 2:01 AM


I'm worried! Don't trust those pesky kids! :O

Friday, March 17, 2006 7:46 AM


I do trust them but I think their original purpose/mission was much more sinister!

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Also, Yay Mal! Nice to see him standing up for his crew!

Saturday, March 18, 2006 6:19 AM


Another great installment Ali, thank you!

Saturday, April 22, 2006 3:11 PM


Yay, very good! I like Mal's speech about democracy, all in 'Captain Dummy Talk'. The last line, though, is my favorite: River Tam chose her champion well. For some reason, that gives me chills. Hope everything is gonna turn out all right!

Sunday, July 14, 2013 6:34 PM


Thadius smiled, his eyes sparkling with humour. Pleasure slowly lighting him up inside out. Unless Mal was much mistaken Thadius looked uncommonly smug. "River Tam chose her champion well."

I LOVE THAT!! this is one of your best series, AliD, thank you


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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.