Prospero's Legacy - Part XXIII
Sunday, November 2, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Gabriel gives up his final secret, and Kaylee gets mad with Simon. NEW CHAPTER


“I'm waiting.” Mal stood in the small room, his height making the ceiling seem lower still. Thumbs caught in his pants’ pockets, he stared down at the man on the bed.

Gabriel Tam gathered himself a moment, looking from Serenity’s captain to Freya, then past them. He could see River in the corridor, standing close to the man who’d saved their lives, the demi-mountain who was apparently her husband.

“He is,” she whispered.

Gabriel started, realising she’d read his mind. “I'm sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to –“

Mal turned and glared at her. “Albatross, can we hold off on the slushy stuff until I've gotten to the bottom of this? And I’ll be reminding you that you were the one said this is important.”

“Sorry.” She leaned closer in to Jayne.

“Why don’t you ask her to tell you?” Gabriel wanted to know. “If she’s read my mind –“

“Kinda like to hear it from you. If you don't mind.”

“I understand. And please let me apologise for not telling you everything right from the beginning.”

“Whether I accept that or not depends on the information. And I’m still waiting.”

“Of course.” Gabriel nodded, noting Regan appearing behind Jayne and River. “Some of it you know. At least, I got that impression from Andrew Brooks.”

Mal remembered the old man, Simon’s mentor. They’d both been there on Corvus when he died, poisoned because of information he had, things he knew. “Go on.”

“Andrew and I talked, over the years. About a lot of things. But mostly he told me about you.” Gabriel fixed River with his eyes, the way he used to when she was a child. “About how I was wrong. That Simon was right.” He had to swallow back on the emotion before it spilled down his cheeks. “I'm so sorry.”

“Accepted.” She wondered why she wanted to hug him, but she denied herself, instead taking hold of Jayne’s hand and holding on tightly.

He looked disappointed, but went on, “One of the other things we talked about was his belief concerning the true nature of the psychic gene. He was a brilliant scientist, much more so than he ever let on, and his brain had been working on it for a while. But there was something else, something I believe he only told me.” He leaned back, a wave of weakness washing through him. “You heard of the phrase ‘the unstoppable force versus the immovable object’?”

“I've come across it,” Mal admitted, somewhat grudgingly.

“Riv?” Jayne muttered.

“It’s a paradox,” she murmured. “If an unstoppable force, by its very nature unstoppable, should meet an object that cannot be moved, they would have to destroy each other.”


She shrugged. “That’s it.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

Mal only raised an eyebrow, then looked back at Gabriel. “Go ahead.”

“Well, from what Andrew said, he considered that Simon and River’s genetic father, whoever he was, was the immovable object. His mother was, at least in hereditary terms, nothing. Andrew was convinced it was the male gene that actually has the psychic strand built in.”

“Yeah. I remember him saying. Which explains Bethie, coming from Simon’s side, but not –“

“It takes two, Captain. That’s what Andrew ultimately came to believe. One of each. An immovable object and an unstoppable force.”

“You mean River’s mother,” Freya put in quietly.

“Yes. What Andrew called a potential. In truth even with both sides to the equation there’s no guarantee of success,” Gabriel went on. “Andrew said they tried it again, but had no success.”

“Except with Mara,” Mal said, taking a deep breath.


“So Simon really is the key.”

“Simon and any other potential. Yes.” Gabriel gazed at River again. “You can only pass on the female potential, my dear. Not the gene. But -”

“Simon can,” Mal finished.

“Yes. You know, he really is like the immovable object, isn’t he? Strong, solid, dependable.” Gabriel couldn’t help the slight smile. “I wish he was my son. I'm so proud of him.”

Mal made a mental note to pass on that little bit of information at a more appropriate time. “And Kaylee?”

Freya answered for the older Tam. “Unstoppable. And more than just potential. With her talking to Serenity, her mother reading tea leaves … add Simon and -”


“Bethie. Yes.”

“But that little girl didn’t go through anything to bring it out,” Mal argued. “How could she be -”

“Kaylee. The ‘more than potential’.” She swallowed hard, fear growing in her heart for her own children, knowing what River thought he could have been forced to become. “That’s why Bethie’s psychic, not because of Simon on his own.”

“Exactly,” Gabriel confirmed.

“And why Caleb shows no signs,” River added.

Jayne squeezed her hand tighter. “Never did think I had anything special ‘bout me,” he whispered to her.

My Jayne, he heard in his mind, reassuring him. Special to me.

Gabriel took a deep breath. “They can breed from the female potentials until the cows come home, but they’ll never get more than people who talk to machinery … unless they have the male gene.”


“Yes. And that is the root of what I have to tell you.“ Gabriel took a deep breath, and looked up at Mal. “They know, Captain. About the immovable object. I don’t know how, but … I imagine it’s why your friend Patience was tasked with the job of getting you to Argos. Quintana wants Simon.”

“What? Why?” A mixture of expressions crossed Mal’s face that would have been comical at any other time. At any other time.

“I don’t know if it was something he’d discussed with Andrew - they knew each other once, some time ago. But my sources tell me Quintana believes Simon can help him create the next generation of psychics.”

“And you didn’t think to tell me this when we were back on Whitefall?” Mal let his anger show. “When maybe I could have done something about making the doc stay behind?”

“Captain, from what I’ve seen, neither hell nor high water would have forced Simon off this ship.” Gabriel smiled a little, but it was bleak. “I’m glad Bethie isn’t here, though. That she's safe.”

Mal’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”

Freya took his arm. “If Quintana bred from her, perhaps even using Simon’s own genetic material, the chances of a powerful psychic would be greatly increased,” she explained softly.

Mal stared at her. “Bred? You make it sound like they’re cattle!”

“It’s how Quintana sees things,” Gabriel said, nodding. “He might appear that he cares about his subjects, but he’s single-minded. Blinkered. To him, they’re a means to an end, and if they fail him, he disposes of them and tries again with another.”

“Then how come he’s allied himself with these New Browncoats?” Mal wanted to know.

“Revenge. The Alliance stopped his experiments but he‘s found someone to let him continue. Once he’s achieved his aim and Parliament lies in bloody, broken ashes, he’ll move on to the next.”

“But Bethie’s only a kid,” Jayne rumbled. “How could he -”

“Mr Cobb, Quintana’s done things that would make even you blanch.” Gabriel shook his head. “Don’t underestimate him. People have before, and they’ve died because of it.”

“Wait a minute,” Freya said suddenly. “You said you didn’t know. That Simon and River were half-siblings. But you’ve made it sound as if Andrew told you.”

“Yes, Father. Why don’t you explain that?” Simon pushed past his mother and stepped into the small room. “I for one would like to hear your excuse this time.”

“Did you -” Mal began, but River interrupted.

“All of it,” she said sadly.

“A little heads up next time wouldn’t go amiss, xiao nu.”

Gabriel went to speak, to ask why this man, this transport captain with a sometimes unsavoury reputation, was calling River his daughter, but Simon didn’t let him.

“Come on, Father. You told us you didn’t know.” Simon’s voice was quiet, low, emotionless.

“I ... I'm sorry. Andrew told me. When you disappeared. When I wanted to put out a DNA tracer to try and find you. He … he told me then. Said I mustn’t. But I never told your mother.” He looked apologetically at Regan. “It wouldn’t have done any good. We loved you, and we lost you. Whether -”

“God, no wonder you didn't want to say anything,” Simon interrupted. “How many other things have you lied about, Father?” Bitterness now filled his words.

“Probably more than even I’m aware of. But this is the honest truth. They’re still after you, Simon,” Gabriel said, getting to his feet. “Men have been to the house, demanding I tell them where you are.”

“Alliance?” Mal asked.

“Yes. Odd men, always in pairs. Wearing blue gloves.”

Freya glanced at River, then asked, “What did you tell them?”

“Nothing. I couldn’t. And more importantly, I wouldn’t.” Gabriel spoke directly to Simon. “I’d do anything to protect you.”

The young man scoffed. “Why do I find that so hard to believe?”

“It’s the truth.”

“You wouldn’t know the truth if it leaped up and bit you.”

“Simon, I don’t know how many times I have to apologise, but -”

“Always once more, Father.” There was so much venom in the last word that Simon almost spat it. “Always once more.” They were face to face now, barely a hand-width between them.

“What’s going on?” Kaylee, clad only in a hastily donned t-shirt and a pair of Simon’s sleep pants, leaned in the doorway.

“Nothing,” Simon said, not looking round.

“Don’t sound like nothing. You’re all talking loud enough to wake the dead.”

“Go back to bed, Kaylee. It’s just another example of how I can’t trust my so-called father.” Despite his request she leave, he added, “He knew, Kaylee. That River wasn’t my full sister.”

“So?” She crossed the room to stand next to him.

This time he glared at her, and she gasped at the coldness in his eyes. “I said he knew! That we were created, that someone was playing God, that -”

She shook her head. “Simon, does that matter?”

“Of course it does! He lied, Kaylee. His whole life … our entire relationship with the Tam family … it’s all been one ugly lie!”

“No, it’s not,” Gabriel put in. “Simon, you have to understand. We wanted you, so desperately, that we -”

“I don’t believe you!”

“Stop it!” Kaylee yelled suddenly, startling everyone except River. “You’re as bad as each other!” She scowled fiercely at them, then sat down heavily on the bed, her arms wrapped around herself.

Bao bei?” Simon was immediately at her side, checking her pulse with one hand, doing a guestimate of her blood pressure with the other. “Kaylee?”

Mal was the other side, looking into her face. “Mei-mei, breathe. You just remember to breathe, now.”

Gabriel took a step forward. “Is she all right?” he asked, his own face pale.

“Kaylee, do you have any pain?” Simon looked down at her stomach.

“I’m okay,” she said, pushing him away. “I’ve just … had enough. I don’t care how you do it, but you’re gonna settle things with your folks.” She glanced at Gabriel, at Regan standing next to River. “We’re headed into something against people as want us out of the ‘verse, and I don’t need to be worrying about this as well. It ain’t good for the baby.” She put her hand on her still flat belly, seeing Freya nodding approvingly out of the corner of her eye.

Simon felt guilt pour into him. He’d been so wrapped up in the blame he’d heaped on his parents, he’d forgotten the most important person to him. “Kaylee -”

“Now I ain’t having you talking no more about the fact that you and River ain’t their natural kids,” she went on quickly, not allowing him to say anything more. “Neither is Hope ours, but I know you’d kill anyone as said different.”

“Well, maybe not actually -” He stopped at her look. “Maim, perhaps.”

She nodded firmly. “That’ll do fine. And it weren’t your folks fault that Blue Sun were playing fast and loose, so you can’t go blaming ‘em for that either. So the only thing you’ve got to discuss is the fact that they didn’t believe you.” She held up a hand to forestall him. “And I know it’s a biggie. I ain’t that stupid.”

“You’re not stupid at all,” Simon managed to put in.

“Well, shiny. But it ain’t gonna get better if you leave it to fester. You’re a doc. You know what happens if you do that, and it ain’t like we got the drugs to deal with it.” She stood up. “Now, I’m going back to bed. Frey, would you mind helpin’ me?”

“Not at all.”

The two women walked out of the small room, everyone staring at them as they left.

Run-tse duh fuo-tsoo, Simon,” Gabriel whispered. “She’s magnificent.”

“Yes, she is,” the young doctor agreed, pride warring with the guilt in his guts.

Mal coughed lightly to get their attention. “I think maybe Kaylee’s got the best idea anyway,” he said. “We got several days to go ‘fore we reach Hera, and plenty more time to talk. So while I tend to agree with her suggestion that you all need to clear the air, probably best it wait ‘til morning.” He stepped out into the corridor. “G’night.”

“Night, Mal,” Jayne said, lifting a vaguely protesting River into his arms and striding out for the cargo bay and their shuttle.

Mal shook his head slightly and headed towards the stairs, Freya catching up with him as he started up. “She okay?” he asked softly.

“Kaylee’s fine,” his wife asserted.

“That fainting fit of hers … she laying it on?”

“A little. But she really has had enough of the atmosphere. And it probably isn’t good for the baby.”

Mal slipped his arm around her waist. “Always did conjure that girl had more sense than the rest of us.”

“Simon loves her,” Freya pointed out. “And he’ll try and make things better just because of that.”

Mal squeezed. “I know the feeling, ai ren.” They rounded the corner.

“What?” Freya asked.


“You wanted to ask something.”

“Did I?”

“I can see it, Mal.”

In the top corridor he stopped. “Peekin’?”

“I just know my husband.”

He turned her towards him. “Then you know what it’s about.”

She nodded slowly. “Ethan and Jesse.”

“I conjure you’d be as scared as me.”

“Yes.” She sighed heavily. “If Andrew Brooks was right Ethan will carry the gene, and Jesse the potential.”

“But that don’t make sense. You’re the psychic, not me.”

She almost smiled. “I don’t see why men shouldn’t carry the potential as well, and I have to have the gene encoded in my DNA to be psychic in the first place. And Ethan can hear us speaking.”

“If Andrew was right.”


“And Jesse?”

“I don’t know.” She sounded so concerned that he wrapped her in his arms. “She’s not showing any signs, but … I don’t know, Mal.”

“I do. She’s our baby. Yours and mine. And we’ll protect her.”

“That we will.”

He attempted to lighten the mood a little. “So you figure I’m one of these unstoppable forces.”

“I think you’re one of the ‘more than potentials’, like River’s said before.”

“Always knew there was something extra special about me.” He looked deep into her eyes. “Now, ain’t you glad you finally stopped runnin’ so I could catch you?” He tried not to laugh at the affrontery on her face.


Back in the guest quarters, Simon had turned to his father. “You’d better come to the infirmary so I can make sure you haven’t … that you’re okay,” he said, trying to stay professional.

Gabriel felt his mouth twitch. “Simon, I’m fine. Dying, but fine.”

“It’s nothing to laugh at. The later stages of Mandel’s can be -”

“Simon, I know. I’ve had doctor after doctor telling me how bad it’s going to get, but I’m not quite that far gone yet.” He sighed heavily. “But I do feel tired. It must be being out in space,” he added, sitting back down on the bed. “I haven’t slept this much in years.”

“Kaylee would say it was Serenity singing to you,” Simon said.

“It might be,” Gabriel smiled. “There’s something very comforting about the engine noise.”

“Then I’ll let you get some rest.” He turned, passing his mother, giving himself a moment to rest his hand on her arm before stepping out of the room.

“Are we … going to talk?” Gabriel asked.

Simon looked back. “Kaylee says we should.”

“And do you always do what your wife says?”

Finally Simon smiled, just a little. “If I don’t want to be put out of the airlock, yes.”

“How it should be,” Gabriel agreed. “Tomorrow?”

For a moment the young doctor didn’t speak, then nodded, just once. “Tomorrow.” He walked around to his own quarters, sliding the door open. Kaylee was already inside, sitting on the bed, still dressed in the t-shirt and sleep pants. “Are you planning on wearing those all night?” he asked gently, smiling at her.

“Are you plannin’ on talking to your Pa instead of shouting?” she countered.


“Then maybe I’ll go to bed naked.”

“That would be nice.” He closed the door behind him and began to undress.

“Is he … is he gonna be psychic?” Kaylee asked suddenly, her hands protecting her belly.

Simon turned to stare at her. “He?”

“I know it’s a boy. My Ma said so.”

Her husband chuckled. “So did River.”

“And she oughtta know. And you ain’t gonna change the subject.”

He went down onto his heels and looked into her eyes. “I don’t know, Kaylee. Bethie is psychic because of us. You and me. My genes and your ability to talk to machinery. Our baby … our son … is going to come from the same stock. But there’s no guarantee he’ll be psychic himself. He may just carry the gene like I do.”

“And if he is?”

“Kaylee, if he is, will you love him any the less?”

“No!” She was shocked he could even suggest it.

“Neither will I.” He lifted himself up to sit next to her. “And there’s just as much chance he’ll have blue eyes.”

“What?” Confusion made her eyes narrow.

“It’s all the genetic mix, bao bei. Dark hair, blue eyes, being psychic … it’s like a lottery. The same numbers go in, but entirely different sequences come out.”

“Is that mechanic dummy talk?” she asked, only slightly accusingly.

“Perhaps. But it’s also true.” He placed one hand over hers. “And it doesn’t matter. We’ll love the little boy just as much, and protect him, whether he’s got blue eyes or not.”

She smiled. “You’re a good man, Simon Tam.”

“Only because I’m married to an incredible woman.” He shook his head. “Do you know how my … my father described you? As magnificent.”

Kaylee coloured slightly. “He did?”

“And he was right.”

“See?” she said in triumph. “There’s at least something you can agree on.”

He pulled at the waistband of the pants. “So are you going to get out of these?” he asked, leaning forward and dropping a kiss onto the soft skin at the base of her neck.

“Might.” She half-closed her eyes. “Seeing as I’m so magnificent …”

to be continued


Sunday, November 2, 2008 2:12 PM


Lovely. Brilliant chapter, just hope all the kids remain safe from that monster Quintana. It was good to see Kaylee talk some common sense into Simon and Gabriel and some nice little Mal/Freya and Simon/Kaylee moments too. Ali D :~)
You can't take the skyf rom me

Sunday, November 2, 2008 3:34 PM


Glad top three percent is finally getting a clue into important things like relationships. Great story, and great explanation of the complexities of this particular genetic problem. Now I understand the significance of stopping the new browncoats. No sense in changing one master for another if the means to their ends are the same.

Sunday, November 2, 2008 4:25 PM


Top three percents can be dense can't they? But I'm glad Simon's seeing the light but now I'm scared for all the kids, including the one Kaylee is carrying.

Monday, November 3, 2008 7:59 AM


Always thought Mal was a "more than potential". LOL Good work!

Monday, November 3, 2008 10:43 AM


Don't think there's much I can add to the other comments. Brilliant work as usual. Anticipating more.


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