In The Ether 5: Considerations
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The crew considers the current situation while River privately considers a disturbing turn of events.


A/N: Don't own them. If anyone in charge would like to remedy that situation, please contact me. ;)

So I managed to club the Ether Bunny a bit. I got the Tooth Fairy up next. Santa better duck and cover.

Yes, this one goes pretty much nowhere. Time wise, it's about 2 minutes in the cargo bay. But we gotta get some internal monologues sometimes.


"And we're clear, folks. They only had atmo ships after us." Wash's voice came over the comm as Kaylee buttoned up the cargo lift. Mal, Jayne and Simon hopped down, Mal turning to give River a hand. She seemed oblivious to his offer, so he shrugged and turned to the rest of the crew.

"Well. Now that we're not being shot at, wanna explain what the hell was goin' on down there?" Mal holstered his gun as he felt the ship nose up and speed towards space as Wash left the atmo-only police craft in the dust. "Not that I don't enjoy watchin' Jayne plummet out of my ship, but I do like to know why. Doc, let's start with why your mom - and may I say, what a charmin' woman she is, I can see where you get your winnin' bedside manner - let's start with what she was doin' tryin' to kill my first mate."

Simon said nothing, just looked at the captain with a glazed expression and blinked twice, then turned on his heel and walked through the back of the cargo bay and towards his room. "See?" Mal gestured towards Simon's retreating form. "Exactly the kind of personality I'm talkin' about. Doc! Get your ass back here!"

"I'll get him, Cap'n. He's just....thinkin' is all. Probably didn't hear you." Kaylee made to chase after Simon, but was stopped by Zoe slightly shaking her head.

"Best give him some time, Kaylee. Most like needs to go sleep an' gather his wits. Man had himself quite a shock tonight."

"Yeah? Didn't see his skinny ass gettin' shoved out a cargo bay." Jayne shot River a glare, obviously out of sorts about his part in the plan, but not quite willing to yell at her for fear of her killing him with her freaky brain.

"Boy keeps this up, you might see it yet," Mal muttered under his breath, before switching to his normal captainy voice. "Well, then, Zoe. You're elected. What was that all about?" Mal decided to let Simon go have his sulk for the time being.

"We hit a small snag, sir."

"So I noticed. Care to tell me the nature of that snag?"

Zoe took a moment to sort out her thoughts. "Well, things were just like River said, mostly. A bunch of muckety-mucks pattin' themselves on the back 'bout how smart they are for cuttin' into little kids, an' then begging for money to do it some more. I only understood 'bout a third of the crap they were spewin', but I think Simon got most of it." Mal nodded and made a note to get those details from Simon as well. "Other than the medical stuff, we got two other interestin' tidbits."

"And I do so love the tidbits, seein' as we so rarely get any."

"One: the elder Tams - Regan and Gabriel, according to the Doc - are heavy contributors to the cause that did up River, an' seem to have some type of authority in the program."

"Heavy in what way?," Book asked.

"Heavy enough they gave River over with no second thoughts an' are shillin' for donations, an' Simon indicated that they were contributin' a fair amount of their own cash."

"Gave her over? As in willin'?" Kaylee's voice was small, hoping that Zoe didn't mean what it sounded like.

Zoe looked directly at the captain so he could see how serious she was. "They knew it all 'fore it even started. Everything Simon told us is true, and his folks were in on it. They did it to their own kids."

Mal returned the serious gaze. "You sure of that, Zoe? They weren't duped?"

"'Fraid not, sir. I watched 'em stand up there and smile when they told us all how 'advanced' all that butchery was. Hundans sold out their daughter for a 'better world' an' stand to make a mint doin' it. Damdest thing I ever saw." Zoe stopped talking and waited, watching each person play out their emotions. Inara and Kaylee looked stricken, obviously unable to totally process the idea of someone's parents handing them over for torture. Mal's face turned red, fists balled up at his side as he no doubt began to plot who he would kill and how. Jayne looked utterly dumbfounded, too surprised to be angry, although Zoe knew it would come eventually, most likely with a demand to throw the siblings off the ship. Book remained outwardly passive, but the glint in his eyes showed that he was merely guarding his thoughts, and she made a mental note to ask him some rather pointed questions later. Once everyone took a moment to settle, Zoe continued. "Considered shootin' both of 'em on the spot, but figured it wouldn't do the Doc or River any good at the time."

Inara recovered first, Zoe's last comment triggering a thought. "Zoe? Simon heard all this, right? How'd he take it?"

"Fairly well, far as it goes. Had to keep him from fainting at the end a bit. He seems somewhat tore up, an' I can't rightly blame him. Boy just lost the last bit of family he had other than River." Kaylee squeaked and bolted for the aft of the ship, and this time no one tried to stop her. Zoe watched her go, then turned sad eyes onto the youngest Tam, brief memories of her own family last seen as she signed up for the War. "It's a tough thing, losing your daddy, little one." River nodded absently, thoughts obviously elsewhere.

Mal closed his eyes a moment, seeking equilibrium. He had a sudden and powerful conviction to make someone pay dearly for the hurt visited upon a helpless teenager. But first, he needed to gather information and make a plan. "OK. An' the second tidbit?"

"You ain't going to like this one, sir."

Mal snorted a disbelieving laugh, tension draining a notch. "Didn't like the last one, neither, so at least we're consistent."

"Finally got a reason for what they're doin' with River an' her kind. They're looking for us, or at least folk what meet our general description."

"Us? Us who?"

"Terrorists, they say. They weren't too forthcoming on what that was; but most likely could fit you, me, an' even Kaylee into that description. But more specifically for us, they mentioned Browncoats." This time Mal couldn't contain it, and erupted into the most glorious abuse of Chinese cursing ever heard in the 'verse. Even Jayne had to admit that the captain put together a few expletives he'd never heard before. Thus it was that while Mal ranted, he managed to get the first word in.

"So you're tellin' me that the 'Liance's lookin' for 'terrorists', an' they made a whole bunch of freaky crazy kids to do it?" Jayne's eyes were getting rounder as he considered this. "An' here we are, fully admitted we ain't too fond of the folks in charge, and we're flyin' around with a gorram trackin' device?" He turned to the captain. "Hell! This ain't good, Mal. I know I ain't all that fond of moony and her brother, but now I ain't just bein' onery. Time to ditch 'em, an' fast. Maybe even put in for the reward when we send 'em home." Jayne looked at the others for support, fully confident that his logic would prevail. He was met by Inara's cold stare. If looks could kill, Jayne would have been a smoking crater and Kaylee would be complaining about the cleanup of her floor. He turned quickly to Mal, hoping to find a warmer reception as the captain wound down his diatribe. "Cap?"

Mal honestly considered it. Jayne had the truth of it: as captain, he had to look out for his crew, and the Tams - both the children and the parents - presented a fairly large danger, now doubly so since River was effectively designed to rat him out. Combine that with Simon's often prickly personality and River's penchant for knives, and it didn't speak well for them. Kaylee, Inara, and Wash most likely wouldn't understand, but the others would see the logic in leaving Simon and River on the nearest moon with anything resembling an atmosphere. A captain's first duty was to his crew and his ship, and that sometimes meant doing unsavory things to keep them safe.

But it wasn't that easy anymore. Mal had made the siblings crew as well. He'd even said as much to Simon after he'd gone back for them on Jianyin. A doctor and a psychic were both fairly handy people to have on board. River's liability - the mind-reading that was supposed to turn them all in - was also a blessing if used creatively. So it really came down to the choice of selling out one portion of his crew for the other. And Mal Reynolds didn't get through the War by selling his people out, even when one of 'em had a stick so far up his rear he was most likely chewing wood.

Besides, anything he did to help Simon and River would no doubt piss off the Alliance. And impress Inara. Hell. It was no contest.

"To be truthful? I've thought of it, Jayne," he finally admitted. Book looked immediately ready to object, and Inara shifted her stare from Jayne to him. He quickly defended himself by motioning to River. "But like as not, they ain't got a home to go to no more, not when their folks'll send 'em both for torture. Could you stomach that?"

Jayne opened his mouth to retort, but closed it again as his brain caught up and realized that this was very dangerous ground to be on with the captain. He vividly remembered the airlock from the last time. "Well. Just sayin', is all. Not like I'm wishin' torture on anyone or nothin'. But gettin' in loads of go se for no gain ain't the best plan I ever heard."

"I already told her an' her brother that they're crew, an' I meant it. Girl lost her parents today, an' we won't go makin' that better by abandonin' her. 'Sides which, I find myself a mite curious as to the nature of this Browncoat thing. I tend to take such things personal."

Zoe gave Mal a look that to anyone else would be termed 'skeptical', but to Mal meant 'are you sure?' "Jayne's got a point. Thought the war was long done, sir."

"It is for us, Zoe, but 'parently others don't share our more enlightened view." Zoe nodded her agreement. "So I don't see the harm in remindin' 'em why we all decided to stop shootin'."

"And why's that, sir?"

"Folks in a war tend to end up dead."

So far, River had not joined into the conversation; in fact, she hadn't even moved from her perch on the cargo lift. She simply sat still, features clouded over as she started at the opposite wall. If Simon had still been in the room, he would have recognized the expression: River was deeply troubled by something, and was trying mightily to figure it out.

Simon didn't know it - or want to admit it - but Mal had been very nearly correct when he'd labeled her a "reader". She supposed that was a good a name as any she could come up with. The funny part of it was, it wasn't as special as the captain thought. Everyone could do it to some extent. Most people had "gut feelings" or "hunches"; subtle cues from body language, inflections from a voice, that creepy feeling of being watched, even just having a general bad feeling about something. Basically, any information you somehow knew without really knowing how. Ancient civilizations - and even early physicists - would say that this information came "through the ether." It couldn't be explained or seen, but it worked.

The only difference for River was that she was amplified: rather than passively reacting to hunches, she could actively reach out and listen, much like anyone else would strain to hear a conversation. Other times, things simply occurred to her as if she'd already known it. Locations of objects, safe codes, the amount of people in the next room. This sometimes proved to be a tremendous advantage. Ever since she left the Academy and woke up in a box on Serenity's cargo bay, she'd been nearly impossible to sneak up on, was rarely surprised by what people were thinking, and always knew which course of action would be best.

Until today.

She had never meant to send her bother or Zoe into a situation that could get them killed. She truly did believe that the conference would provide solid information to help Simon's search for her cure, if there really was such a thing. She had been totally unaware of her parents' presence or what might transpire when Simon was recognized. Sure, she'd noticed the danger eventually, but she'd really only heard the sudden mob bent on catching her crewmates, and the quick adrenaline surge as they ran. Once she had come down the lift with Mal and seen her mother standing with that mob and ready to shoot Zoe, it had been obvious what her parents' involvement must have been, even before Zoe confirmed it. That actually didn't trouble River at all - she'd long ago given up her parents in favor of Simon's unconditional love and support, and this just made that decision all the easier. What troubled her was something worse: her parents were apparently immune to her abilities as a Reader. Any situation directly involving them would provide her no warning.

She'd never see them coming until they were upon her.

River continued to brood as Mal finished up his explanations and told everyone to get some rest. She wouldn't tell him yet. The captain thought she was an infallible early-warning system. She'd let him believe that a while longer while she figured out what to do.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006 10:36 PM


Well this is a right lovely predicament:S

Gotta love everyone's reaction to Zoe's news and another of Mal's St. Crispin's Day speeches (gotta love Joss for that concept). Though I am curious about how your issue of River being unable to Read her parents will affect everything....


Tuesday, April 25, 2006 10:42 PM


And in case anyone gets their undies all a-twisted, I am aware (now) that the St. Crispin's Day speech is from "Henry V" but I credit Joss for introducing the template of a such a speech into the 'Verse and to Malcolm Reynolds:)


Wednesday, April 26, 2006 3:26 AM


Very nice 2 minutes! *g*

I love how Simon just ignored Mal and wandered off. Hee! And then Zoe stuck up for him! Yay, Zoe! Jayne, Jayne, will you never learn? *shakes head* Verrry in-ter-est-ing that River can't 'read' her folks!

Can't wait to see where this goes from here.

"I love my captain."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 4:58 AM


Ohh, great chapter! For a minute there I thought Mal was going to toss them off!

Do we get to see Kaylee comforting Simon? Now that the immediate danger is past, how is his emotional state? Seeing first hand that his parents willingly gave his sister over to the Academy had to have been a hard blow. He'll need some comforting . . . :)

Looking forward to the next chapter!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 6:13 AM


Great chapter, I felt so horribly for Simon and River, evil parents suck! I too was worried that Mal was going to throw them off the ship, but I knew he just couldn't, plus Kaylee would've most likely disabled Serenity if he did. Would love to see the conversation between Kaylee and Simon too, please! Loved it and can't wait for your next post!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 10:27 AM


Good chapter! And plot development--always good to read.

Loved this: Besides, anything he did to help Simon and River would no doubt piss off the Alliance. And impress Inara.

Good ol' Mal, always thinkin'.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 2:09 AM


Ummmm... I'm confuddled.

Didn't Regan Tam say that River could pick thoughts out of her head during the little speech she gave in the previous chapter?

Still, excellent writing and exciting plot!


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In The Ether 13: Secret Agent Man
Simon takes a turn at super spy as the crew tracks him down.

In The Ether 12: Motivations
A brief history of Simon Tam

In The Ether 11: Telling
Simon and Regan tell each other off, Jayne tells Kaylee a little story, and Wash tells everybody about basic chemistry. Bonus: Jayne actually quotes Shakespeare! Kind of.

In The Ether 10: Technical Difficulties
Jayne goes trophy hunting, Kaylee and Wash attempt to explain technical things to Mal, and eventually everyone realizes that they left something at the last stop.

Generic S/K Plot Outline
Inspired by a story posted at, I present the outline of pretty much every S/K fic out there (including my own, so no one take it personal-like).

Dino Tales: Loss
The dino army mourns the loss of one of their own.

The Old Switcheroo
Jayne and Simon wake up with unique perspectives on life.

In The Ether 9: Minor Complications
Jake and Jasper check out Serenity, River secures some backup, Jayne discovers his protective side, Simon gets physical, and Kaylee meets an old flame.

In The Ether 8: Lady's Choice
Zoe fixes the plan. Kaylee shows Simon how to turn up the heat.

In The Ether 7: Shore Leave
Mal gives everyone a day on Belix to calm the nerves. Wash gets suspicious. A plan is hatched.