Honest Run: Detachment
Tuesday, February 1, 2005

What did Simon decide?


Previous chapters include: Honest Run: Diagnosis
Honest Run: Dance
Honest Run: Dignity
Honest Run

“Doc?” Mal asked him, “You’re drifting off again…” “I was,” Simon looked up regretfully, “Wasn’t I?” “You alright?” Mal looked over Simon critically, “You seem a bit… off,” he rubbed his head tightly, “Though I’m not exactly a hundred percent either,” he rubbed his temples, “Damnable space monkeys got themselves some hammers.” Simon stood up, concerned, “Captain?” he placed the back of his hand to Mal’s head. “Fever?” Mal asked. Simon frowned, “No.” Mal’s stomach tightly squeezed, “Make a path.” He just barely pushed Simon out of the way before he retched over the railing. “There… went…” he pulled back. Then took another turn over the railing, “Lunch.” Simon was unsure whether to go to him or not, “Captain?” “Damn it,” the captain spit out and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, “Of course. The one meal that isn’t wrapped in plastic and shaped like a brick…” he shook his head, staggering as he did so, “Damn it. This don’t feel right. Don’t reel fight at all…” he stumbled, “Where’s that after puking euphoria???” Simon went to him anyway, “They told us that we had some lodgings here?” he placed an arm around the captain’s waist, “I didn’t have the chance to get proper instructions after I checked the cargo…” “Yeah, Trissa just showed them to me a minute ago,” Mal rolled his head around, “We’re bunkin’ together…” “I’ll sleep on the floor if it’s all the same,” Simon steered him toward the door. Mal pushed him off, “I got it. I got it. Damnable space monkeys!” he mumbled as Simon followed him into the building, “Just because they found us naked in the wilderness, don’t mean they made the love connection between us, doc…” Simon shut the door behind them, “Two beds?” Mal straightened up as some of the ranchhands passed them in the halls. They were in the main building, where he and Duvall had spent a time in the kitchen discussing business. Minutes ago, Trissa had shown Mal the room that had been set aside for pair. It was a guest room at the far end of the building. One of three, but large enough for two people. It had a shower, which was just about opulent in Mal’s eyes, reinforcing the fact that the Browns had done well for themselves. “Yeah,” Mal said nodding to yet more passing ranchhands, “Two beds. I hope none of these boys slip in my mess out there…” Simon came up close, “I think you hit the horse trough,” there was a guilty flicker in his eyes, “Captain?” “Gonna be some unhappy horses, then,” Mal turned back. “I’ll take care of it,” Simon guided him back around, “As soon as I get you to the room.” Surprisingly, the captain let him do it. “Our room,” Mal joked, “I’ve been hearing rave reviews about those eyes of yours, doc.” “Can you go back to hating me please?” Simon asked, “It was much more comfortable then.” “Why do you think I switched tactics?” “Of course,” Simon rolled his eyes, “How could I miss it?”

Mal hadn’t said much about the crew’s special goodbye that had had rousing laughter pour in through the open hatch. All Simon could do was speculate from the mixed look of chagrin and humor that the captain displayed as he passed the doctor on the way to the pilot’s chair. There was a bit of mumbling that Simon didn’t catch. Simon chose not to even mention it, nor notice when Mal looked back to him expecting the inevitable question. “Fruity Wash,” was the one phrase that Simon did catch. Since, Simon busied himself with the hasty research that he had produced before Zoe gathered him up. There was some history on the system and information on the supplies and cargo. It was far from complete, but it was a respectable amount of information that he had downloaded in the few spare minutes that he had. After half an hour, Mal started trying to get his attention. Some off color whistling, some open ended comments… Simon wasn’t still angry, but the last thing that he wanted was to converse with the captain. Even if it was about nothing. Well, especially if it was nothing. And of course, that was what it would be about. Mal asked him before if Simon trusted him, but it was obvious that Mal had just that amount in him as well. Enough for presence, enough for basic respect, but not enough for anything else. There was nothing between the two men but time now and that was a very frightening prospect. Neither men probably really wanted to know each other, they were content with the way things were. Neither were going to be comfortable with change. “You still mad, doc?” Mal said. He had said quite a bit else, but this was the first time that there was meaningful address. You don’t care so why are you asking? Simon thought, “No,” he said, “Just doing a little reading.” “I’ve noticed that,” Mal turned around… If he smiles that infuriating grin of his… And smiled. Simon flinched inwardly. “What is it about? You’ve got yourself a bunch of paperwork there,” Mal leaned forward, bringing his hands together, “You download that from the Cortex when Zoe was prepping ya?” “Yes,” Simon answered, “It’s about a number of things, actually. Recent history of Chava and the origin of the two communities, the handling of your pesticide cargo, its history and basic description…” Simon flipped through a number of pages, “The manifest of the medical supplies that I’m to inspect. More information on the pesticide…” “Sounds like pretty dry stuff,” Mal conceded, “I don’t suppose that you could turn that into something remotely interesting for me to digest…” he glanced back at the dials, “I’ve got coordinates and contact information memorized, but that’s about all…” “Captain dummy talk?” the doctor asked. If Mal took offense, it didn’t show, “You know this term, do ya?” Simon almost offered him the pages, but he knew better. The captain just wanted to talk, not read some uninteresting facts, “It won’t be much better than me reading off the page… Lectures weren’t my favorite in school…” “I’m sure they fascinated everyone who knew what you were talking about,” Mal said, “You said you’ve got a history there. I don’t remember New Denver from the war, but it’s too far out from the Core to have been Alliance…” “Actually,” Simon shifted some papers, “It was. The charter of New Denver didn’t change hands during the war. It remained Alliance from beginning to end…” “This far out?” Mal asked, “How did that happen?” “That is probably the most interesting part of the research. But I’ll start at the beginning:” Simon cleared his throat, “New Denver was the idea of several entrepreneurs. Several independently rich entrepreneurs. The idea was to completely own a planet underneath a congress of governors, a congress that actually had participated in the purchase of the planet from what was to be the Alliance. Not a rental agreement, but actual ownership. While there was a provision in it that would become a defacto charter for the Alliance, the document was cunningly created by the arbiters. It allowed the privatization of an entire planet without direct government control.” “A non-Alliance planet underneath an Alliance charter?” “Essentially, yes. The privateers knew the charter provision was a definite future, so they literally built the rest of the agreement around giving them as much freedom as possible when it came to be.” “Sounds like smart people,” Mal said, “How far did they call it?” “Fifty years.” “Damn.” “The governors were highly educated and very independently rich. Their foresight was almost unmatched. New Denver was also very strategically placed. Outside the Core Worlds, but alongside most of the established trade routes for the far flung colonies…” “Which would become the Independent worlds…” Mal said. “Indeed. While an Alliance world, it hosted no enemy garrison for the Independents to strike at. New Denver had hosted its own private army that was the equal of an Alliance one. New Denver was too far out to defend from the Independents, so the Alliance didn’t. They left New Denver to its own devices.” “But it was one more planet that the Independents didn’t have to fight for or over, so they never brought the fight to New Denver and its moon.” “Correct,” Simon said, “The New Denver governors worked both sides of the war, keeping their strategic value in the war low with the absence of any troops but its own.” “I wonder if that foresight of theirs predicted the outcome of the war…” Mal wondered to himself. “At any rate,” the doctor moved on, “They kept the war off the moon and off the planet. They didn’t have to rebuild anything when it was over. It did stem the economic growth that the governors were trying to precipitate, but when the war was over, the pair of celestial bodies enjoyed a boom rebuilding the other planets that were not so lucky. With its organized infrastructure, Chava and New Denver were extremely efficient and productive…” “New Denver is all about agriculture and raw materials,” Simon added, “Chava, about science and Zero-G mining.” He flipped through some more papers, “Chava was the moon where much of the terraforming equipment for New Denver had been left by the pre-Alliance organization. There are two other moons, but their orbits aren’t as near as the primary moon. They have Zero-G mining, as well. One is a penal mining facility…” “Makes prison escape rather difficult, doesn’t it?” Simon nodded. “Well, that’s all well and good,” Mal said, “But that’s where I’m lost. Now that the Alliance has won, doesn’t New Denver threaten them in some governmental way?” “The word you are looking for is sovereignty,” Simon said, “And yes, that’s what you would think, but that’s not happening. Actually, the attention that the system is getting now is corporate. The hospital that we are running the cargo for is the equal of any of the core worlds, its university on Chava producing some of the best minds in the Alliance. Corporations such as Blue Sun and Tanger are investing deeply into both fields…” “Making soda in zero-G must be good fun…” Mal grinned, alluding to corporate advertising. Simon rolled his eyes, “Commercials not withstanding…” “So the Alliance isn’t interested in this sector at all?” “As with the war, the Alliance doesn’t want to waste the resources on it. New Denver has a small manageable fleet answerable to the Alliance and the governors. Most of them are older ships that the Alliance was going to scrap from the war…” “One more sector the Alliance doesn’t have to patrol…” “The New Denver governors might be courting the corporations to keep Alliance attention elsewhere. Tanger is one of the premier associations behind the military machine,” Simon told him, “And while soda pop and T-shirts are hardly standard Alliance issue, Blue Sun has immense resources related to its own wealth…” “Alliance still keeps a close enough wrap on the system, though…” Mal reasoned, “’Course the Alliance owns the Cortex, don’t they?” “The information is there,” Simon conceded, “But I see your point. The governors’ control of the system is loose but still present. Crime statistics are the equal of a Core world, so it edges out the criminal element. It is a haven for ex-Independents, however… Persecution of any war veterans, no matter the side, is punishable by their strictest laws.” “It’s still not what we fought for, doc,” the captain looked out to the Black, “But a world this far out, never touched by the war, civilized but free from the bootheel of the Alliance…” he let the sentence hang, “Not too bad… This might be a better, doc,” Mal reasoned, “I’m sure that you thought of that. A decent hospital outside the Alliance grip.” “I doubt it,” Simon sighed, “Unless you’re ready to be rid of me.” “Shines too brightly?” Mal asked. “I find that I have a new born attitude of cynicism and paranoia,” Simon told him, “Ease is something of the past, I fear.” Mal turned back around without reply. From his chair behind him, Simon saw the blue orb of a planet through the front. “I don’t put no one off my ship without good cause, doc.”

There was a spittoon produced for Mal in their room. A few hours of retching had sapped his strength to the point where he couldn’t even stagger to the washroom. Simon did what he could, but he could only check in on the captain. The Dentons had themselves more than a few people to answer to. Bill Duvall was well liked about the area, despite his nervous demeanor, and an attack on him wasn’t easily forgiven. Randall Brown, Trissa’s father, was no different. He gathered up those he knew had been ‘pinched’ by the Dentons. Randall and the captain had reached an easy going relationship in a short period of time; it had been the idea of both to head up such a meeting. Mal’s condition dictated that Simon take his place. Trissa’s mother, Susan, offered to look after Mal while Simon attended, but the quick, almost desperate grip that Mal had seized the doctor’s wrist with had Simon begging off the woman’s good intentions. Of course, there was a bit too much disappointment on Susan Brown’s face when she walked away. Thankfully, none approached him about the captain’s current straits. At the meeting, Simon couldn’t say much for the captain or their interests. He instead listened and asked questions of the assembly of men and women before him. There were an even dozen, all vocal, but respectful of Randall Brown and his booming voice. They answered Simon’s questions nicely enough, though some spoke clearly of his naiveté in such matters, others clearly spoke for his intelligence. Through those, he quickly ascertained why the Dentons could continue to molest the area the way they did. There was some ignorance to what they could actually do. They had a malicious streak that ran through the clan, but there was intelligence there as well. Hoarding the technology they did, the Dentons also had an education that outstripped that of their peers. Not necessarily an education, but an understanding. Like Kaylee almost, but without the nice; add piles of nasty. The presence of the law kept them in check to a degree, but the Dentons’ abilities daunted them as well. Surprisingly, a member of the law was there, a single deputy with an agreeable disposition that had heard about the gathering and attended. The elder Brown had no qualms about his inclusion. Simon asked the man about why the Dentons hadn’t been picked up per the law. The man could only shrug in the presence of his peers. The reports had been filed, but the courts had either thrown out the cases from lack of proof, or they were still pending. After a while, the meeting had dissolved into a shouting match. Presence of the law didn’t make the distinction enough to not make the call for stringing up the whole gang on a long running series of nooses. Wisely, the lawman didn’t make his thoughts known. Even the voice of Randall Brown couldn’t quell the differences in the neighbors completely. Fired up as they were, the doctor didn’t believe they would be much help. As the community made their objections more and more vocal, Simon decided that it was his cue to exit the meeting. He walked to the main house, his mind turning over the information in it. He walked alone to the main house where they were staying the night. The captain deserved to know. He deserved the truth, but the closer that he came to the building; the more he dreaded the next step. Why was this so hard? He asked himself. Simon Tam had been a doctor, one of the best in the Core Worlds. He had had to tell patients the very worst. Why was this different? Was it the grudging respect he had for the man? Or was it something else? He caught a shadow move in front of him. He had just come up the left side of the house; Simon had been making his way around to the front of it. The shadow had been in the shape of a man. A suspicious thought pressed Simon to the side of the structure, his eyes just peeking around the corner. The entrance of the house had two bright incandescent lamps in the style of antiquity that illuminated the front porch. There was a muffled deepness behind Simon indicating the argument in the barn. There were two people in the porch light, one Simon didn’t know, certainly the man he spotted only a moment before… The second… “You’ve got a lot of guts showing yourself about here, Bobby Denton,” Trissa Brown called out. She was on the porch, her hat pitched high on her head, looking down the steps at the now identified stranger, “You ain’t welcome ‘round here. This night of all nights…” Now that Simon could see the man, he was positive that he hadn’t seen him before. This wasn’t one of the thieves that stole the shuttle from them that afternoon. Trissa had indicated that it was a whole family of felons. This was just one he hadn’t seen yet. “Come on, Patty,” the man smarmed, “I’m just a concerned citizen…” He stepped forward, his height making up the difference in the steps, his eyes leveled with hers, “Can’t I see what all the excitement’s about?” If Trissa was intimidated by his closeness or his size, she didn’t show it. She stepped forward, “Audacious as ever, Bobby? Or maybe a little fearful? Bit off more than you can chew this time?” “Just curious,” the man smiled, “Wondering why all this is being raised for a bunch of strangers that ain’t even one of us…” “Bill’s one of us, Bobby,” she told him. “That was Bill Duvall’s cargo, then,” he reached over and took her beat up straw hat from her head, “Might not have known that,” he toyed with the brim, while looking at the top of her head, “You should let the sun get in your hair. It’s pretty with it there…” Trissa still didn’t give an inch, snatching her hat back from him, “Damn it, Bobby. Why don’t you keep what’s yours and let others do the same?” “We’re just born with wandering hands, Trissa,” his voice turned fierce, making Simon’s own hands clench, “Awful brave, aren’t you now? Think I could steal you right now and noone would be the wiser,” he nodded through the house indicating the barn beyond, “Not with them all in ya’ll’s barn,” he smiled unpleasantly, “I might even let you scream a little.” “Bobby Denton,” she said with snap, “If you think for a minute that I can’t whup you like I did when we were younger, you’ve got another thing coming…” “Goddamn, woman,” he walked up a single step, “You still got fire, don’t ya?” Dwarfing her in bulk and height as the Denton did, Simon couldn’t help but wrap his hands around a shovel handle that was lying against the house next to him, “A good man might try to tame that spirit of yours,” he leaned forward intimately, “Good thing that we agree that I’m not one of those.” “Damn it, Bobby, you could be,” Trissa said to him, “You could be. Just give back the shuttle and the cargo and this’ll all end.” “’Fraid I can’t do that, Patty. Not even if you asked me nicely.” Trissa shook her head. While she did so, she caught Simon off in the corner. She paused only for a second, enough to meet the doctor’s eyes, “Worked too hard for it, did ya?” she asked Bobby. He narrowed his eyes, though not seeing the moment’s pause, “How’d you know that?” “We got the folks here that you pinched, Bobby. What did you do to their ship?” Denton smiled, “Can’t help it if folks start fallin’ out of the sky. What makes you think we had something to do with it?” “Something about a brain in my head, Bobby,” She folded her arms, “You nearly killed those folks. Bad as you think you are, you ain’t killed nobody. You’ve been real nasty with folks, but you ain’t killed ‘em.” “Don’t get all disappointed with me, Patty Brown,” Bobby said, “Killin’ folks wasn’t in the plan. Plan was to yank the shuttle. Anything that kills them, makes the shuttle worthless to us,” he told her, “But they didn’t die, so get off that righteous soap box of yours…” “What’s so damn important about this shuttle, Bobby? It’s just a ship. Not even one that can do anything outside the planet with…” In reply, he brought out his arm, grabbed her by the back of her head, and kissed her roughly. Startled, Trissa paused only a moment before she pulled away and slapped him hard across the cheek. The blow turned his head away, his arm dropped from her. His smile returned, “Of all the trouble I get in, Patty Brown, I’d think you’d be the worst.” “You’d be right.” There was a pause. His smile never faltered. Neither did her stare. “Best be upin’ the ante, then,” Bobby said, “Before your father starts raising the pitchforks…” “You’d best,” Trissa replied, “We might have to put a bullet in you and yours this time around, Bobby.” He stepped down and turned, “As long as it’s your bullet in me, I haven’t a problem with it, Patty.” “Get outta here.” Bobby only turned and smiled before he walked out of the light’s reach. Trissa sighed and watched him go until there was nothing to stare after. “Doc?” Simon came out from the shadow of the corner. Trissa smiled when she saw him, “Going to do some harm with that ol’ shovel, were you?” Simon fumbled with the tool, “Well, I’m…” he set it against the house, “I suppose I was… going to… If he was going to be untowards… I mean…” “You were going to spring into action with a yard tool?” Trissa laughed, “I appreciate the chivalry, but Bobby has himself a gun or two…” “You handled him pretty well,” Simon walked up to her. “Well, the day I can’t handle Bobby Denton will be a day indeed,” She said, “Sorry, I couldn’t get much more out of him, but he knows when I’m fishin’…” “Well, the captain was right, I see…” “Was right about a lot of things so far,” She leaned on the railing, looking after the direction Bobby Denton went, “Damn it, Bobby,” after a minute, she appraised the doctor, “Could have made a move yerself…” “I doubt he would have seen me as much of a threat,” Simon said. “According to your captain, you’re an Alliance bred genius,” Trissa smiled, “Unarmed, but for your cunning mind…” “The captain didn’t say that,” Simon said with certainty. From what he knew of the captain, Mal kept his business his own and wasn’t prone to such liberties. “There might have been some guessing along the way,” she winked, “You talk a little too good to be from around here. And you’re a little too strong to be a moonbody,” Trissa looked at him, “But you’re right; getting information out of Mal is like beating your head against a charming wall… That smile of his…” she paused. “Yes?” “Gets a bit infuriating after a while, doesn’t it?” “You have no idea.” “Still,” she said, “Talking to him all day with me and my dad, I get the feeling he thinks pretty highly of you.” Simon thought about it for a moment, “Certainly doesn’t show.” “That’s just the war façade,” she said, “New Denver’s got Browncoats everywhere, some bitter, most brooding, but there are a few that are trying to leave the war behind. Some do better than most…” “You are a rather insightful person,” Simon acknowledged, “I doubt the captain volunteered his war information either…” “You can usually spot the Browncoats, Simon,” she said, “They usually take their defeat with ‘em. They can never quite leave it behind…” Especially when they name their ships after it, Simon thought. “…And they’re a little empty for it,” she said, “It’s not what they do, usually. It’s what they don’t do…” Extremely insightful, Simon mentally amended, “This Bobby Denton of yours, Trissa… Is he their leader?” “Bobby?” She asked without being uncomfortable at the personal change of subject, “Leader of the Dentons?” she frowned, “I suppose so. He’s their face, more often than not. Of all of them, he’s got a way with people,” she smiled back at Simon, “Not just the ones that carry old crushes, mind you.” “Is there anyway we can arrange for some kind of exchange?” “I don’t think Mal has the idea to pay for his ship back,” Trissa said, “But no. If Bobby was up for something like that, he would have just said so.” Simon shook his head, “I need to check on the captain.” “How is he?” Trissa Brown asked, opening the door for him. He paused in front of it, waiting for her to at least pass the knob to him and enter, “And they say chivalry is dead,” she said as she entered in front of him. “He’ll be better in the morning,” Simon answered her as they walked side by side. She really was quite pretty, he mused. “Damn hot, s‘what I’m sayin’,” Jayne said, “Doc, you’d better jump on that…” “Jayne?” Simon’s eyes opened completely, turning to the side where he thought that he heard the voice. It was almost if the big mercenary had been standing next to him. He had been so startled that he physically jumped. Trissa did the same. He glanced down the hall. “Simon? What is it?” Trissa searched the hallway with her eyes. The doctor refocused on her, “I’m sorry. I thought I heard someone.” “Someone else?” She asked, “There’s not anyone else,” Trissa glanced at the door, “Not that I heard anyway. Are you alright?” Jayne? Why had it been Jayne? Of all people? “I haven’t had very much sleep, Trissa.” Simon confessed, “That must be it.” “Who’s Jane? Is that your honey back in the Black?” Simon blinked, “Um… No.” “Oh,” Trissa looked a bit perplexed, but didn’t push the point, “Good night, then.” “Good night.”

“Doc?” Mal asked weakly from his bed as the doctor entered. Somehow, he had produced a firearm and was pointing it toward the door. Toward Simon. “Captain.” Simon confirmed. The gun dropped on the bed, “Had to be sure.” “Captain,” Simon began, “Is there something else that we should be safeguarding? I’m almost definite that we had nothing left…” Even pale, Mal smiled, “Paranoid? Me?” “Asides aside,” Simon said, “How are you feeling?” “How do I look?” “Fair enough,” Simon knelt to his side, feeling out a pulse on Mal’s wrist. “How’d the meeting go?” Mal asked as Simon inspected his eyes. “Productive, I suppose,” Simon told him, “Mr. Brown is going to drop by later to fill you in.” “Anything resembling a plan?” “Not as far as I could tell,” Simon timed out Mal’s pulse with a borrowed watch, “You described an itching before. Is it still there?” “Nah. But my vision’s blurry and this headache won’t quit,” Mal said, “No plan? What about you? Have you come up with anything? Word is you’re a genius.” “If being a genius could get me out of every predicament,” Simon smiled, “You’d be out of a job. What about heart palpitations?” “No plan then, eh?” Mal then looked at him blankly, “Heart palpawhat?” “Your heart,” Simon explained, “Has it sped up for a time and then slowed down?” “No,” The captain scratched his chest in response, “Am I goin’ to have some kind of heart attack?” “I don’t think so,” Simon sat down thoughtfully. Mal narrowed his eyes. Something wasn’t right. The doc was holding out on him, “Then what do you think?” He scooted up to a sitting position, leaning against the headboard, “You ain’t said a thing since I started getting sick. I thought that it might be some kind of heat stroke, but I’ve got a feeling that it’s something different.” He tried a commanding stare, “Is it?” Simon met his stare, however unwillingly, “It is.” “The cargo? Your shots? What is it?” Mal asked him, “I can’t believe as much as your wheels have spinning you haven’t been thinking of a reason.” “It’s a bit of both actually,” Simon said, “The cargo, the medication, and heat stroke also. It’s difficult to explain.” Mal felt a chill, “Start,” he commanded, “But use small words.” Simon took a breath, “There wasn’t enough serum for the both of us.” “Oh.” Part of Mal wanted to be angry, but the lazier part couldn’t work it up, “That seemed kinda simple to explain actually. Bad. But simple.” There was a silent pause. “You saw my med kit,” Simon explained, “One of the two vials had broken. I had to make a choice. I thought I made the best one.” It had to be a difficult choice for him, Mal reasoned, “Damn it, doc. Why didn’t you tell me?” Simon stared off, “I couldn’t bring myself to it. Which is odd. I have had patients before that I have told much worse…” “It gets worse than dying?” Mal had to ask. There was a wistful look in the doctor’s eyes, “Yes.” “Well, hell, I don’t even like myself half the time either. You were right enough there.” Mal said, “How much time do I have?” “How much time?” Simon asked him. “Yeah,” the captain said, “There’s organ melting to be had, I don’t want to go out without sharing the fun,” he rubbed his arm in memory of the shot that Simon had given to him that afternoon, “That’s what I meant about you stickin’ me with needles. Did you do that for fun? What did you have in that anyway?” “The serum.” Mal’s thought momentum abruptly halted, “Huh? What? What do you mean?” “You got the serum, captain.” The captain looked at him blankly. “Is that the way that I look when you catch me flatfooted?” Simon asked, “Because that is rather amusing.” “But I’m…” Mal started, “I’m the one that’s sick.” “Heat stroke,” Simon told him, “Along with the chemicals in your system, the serum and the pesticides…You’ll be fine in the morning,” he sat down in a chair next to the captain’s bed, “From what I can see your system is trying to purge itself. You also have a serious head injury, though probably not the cause of the headache, it is most definitely aggravating it.” “And you?” Mal sat up straighter in the bed, “How will you be in the morning?” “There is a chance…” Simon opened his hands in front of him and stared into their emptiness, “There is a chance that the first shot will protect me from the effects of the toxin.” “A good chance?” “Not really,” the doctor said, “No.” The way that the doctor spoke so glibly of his life began to infuriate Mal. How could he? How dare Simon choose him over himself? The weakness drained from his body as he swung his feet over the bed. “Damn it, doc,” Mal said, “You should have left that decision to me. That was my decision to make, not yours. I’m your captain, or so you keep reminding me.” “And I’m your doctor,” The doctor told him, “That would have left us at a bit of an impasse, wouldn’t it?” Simon rubbed his jaw erstwhile, “And I don’t care for the way you like to win your arguments. Or the way you punctuate your main points.” “Damn it, doc,” Mal said, “I should knock you on your ass. What about your sister?” “What about your crew?” Simon asked him, “As much as I love my sister, I’m not about to sacrifice their welfare for her.” “Don’t you be worryin’ ‘bout my crew, they can take care of themselves. Can she?” Simon nodded, seemingly conceding the point, “Then it’s about me.” “What?” Mal asked, “How’s that? You’re going to die.” “But I’m not dead yet, captain,” Simon said, “I’m not dead yet. I trust that if there is a chance that both of us can be saved that you can find that way.” “You bring yourself up short, doc.” “Maybe,” Simon said, “But that wasn’t the risk I was prepared to take.” “So the risk you are prepared to take is that you’d rather your life in my hands than mine in yours?” “Do you remember the conversation that we had on Serenity in the infirmary?” the captain rewarded Simon with an evil look in response to the query, “Do you remember the question that you asked me? ‘Do you trust me, doctor?’ you asked…” Simon said, “Think of this an extension of that trust. I’d rather pit my wits against a medical quandary than deal with all that this is going to entail. Tell me that social graces are my strong point and you’d proof yourself a decent liar. I know my limitations, captain, as much as they pain me, I haven’t the time to master them and get us back on Serenity before one of us dies.” “I’d like to extend something,” Mal said, clenching his fist. But Simon didn’t even blink. The look in his eyes was one of complete indifference, which infuriated Mal more, “I also remember your answer, doc. And it wasn’t exactly full of absolution, was it?” “You were being an asshole,” Simon said without flinching, “At the moment, yes, I doubted your motives. You knew I didn’t want to go, but knew I wouldn’t refuse. And I’m convinced that you enjoyed some smug thoughts because of it.” “You think I enjoy pushing my people around?” Mal asked. “To some degree,” Simon crossed his arms, “I’m sure of it.” “And what exactly would get done if I didn’t?” the captain challenged him, “I ain’t running some kind of pleasure cruise here. People don’t get to do everything they want. If they did, Kaylee would have the ship pink and Jayne would do something idiotic to get us all killed,” Mal said, “Hell, he’d probably do the shooting himself.” “Let’s revisit the earlier statement where you think the crew can take care of themselves, then.” The captain narrowed his eyes recognizing the point, “Damn it,” he said, “Fine. Some of the crew can take care of themselves. Is that better?” “And I’m almost certain I don’t fall into that category, do I?” Simon asked him. “I’m not going to have you take a bullet for me, doc!” Mal screamed back suddenly, “Gorram it, it ain’t your place. My damn idea, I take the damn bullet!” “Wrong.” Simon didn’t flinch in the face of Mal’s anger, even though the gun was still within the captain’s reach, “If it was your idea and your plan, then it is your mistake. And you are responsible for the consequences. You are going to be responsible for fixing the problems that have arisen.” “Screw you, you smug righteous bastard,” But Mal knew that Simon was right, “I don’t need any lessons in captaining from you.” But damn it, he was right. And Zoe had been right to worry. He let loose a familiar string of creative Mandarin. “You’re welcome,” Simon told him unhappily, “Are you always this ungrateful or is it another one of those bizarre character flaws that have to endure?” “And how exactly am I supposed to fix you?” Mal asked him, “I ain’t no doctor, not any kind that you need. The cure for gut melting isn’t in my captain’s handbook.” “Get the shuttle back and we’ll go from there,” Simon said, “As you said before on the porch, there’s nothing to be done now.” “And when we get on the horn to Serenity,” Mal said, “What are we going to tell them?” “There’s nothing on Serenity that would help me, captain. There is nothing in the infirmary that can cure this. Not anymore.” Simon told him, “There was a window of opportunity where the serum could have been applied, but it had long past when we set foot on this ranch. Serenity can only be here a few hours earlier than the agreed rendezvous time, correct?” “Yeah, she could be here eight hours early on full burn. She’s someplace cosmical, or I’d wave her now.” “I figured as much.” “Wode ma. But if your drugs on Serenity can’t help you…” Mal said, “What then?” “You finish your cargo run, captain,” Simon told him, “That’s the only way I can see a solution.” “The medical facilities on the moon?” “Irony of ironies, I’m going to need a doctor,” Simon confessed, “I guess I should count myself lucky that its one of the few without overt Alliance presence.” “You going to last that long?” Mal asked. “I have taken a few measures available to do what I can to slow the process.” Dying was a process with him, Mal thought, “Yeah?” “Some of River’s drugs were my medkit. Some of the drugs that were meant for some of her minor cerebral scarring. Hopefully, that will staunch some of the degradation,” Simon paused, “There was also some behavioral smoothers that should shield my brain to a degree. I’m not sure how severe the drug effects will be.” “So you took some of your sister’s drugs,” Great. This does get better, “Drugs that you were hoping would make her less crazy, you took yourself…” “Yes,” Simon said, “There have already been… incidents. I just had one with Trissa. A delusion, it seems.” “You sure?” “Unless Jayne found a way to get planetside, yes.” “You saw Jayne?” “Heard him, actually,” Simon sighed, “He was of the opinion that I should be… extremely forward… with the Brown’s daughter.” “I need a laugh, doc,” Mal said, “Humor me and tell me exactly what this ‘Jayne’ of yours said.” Grudgingly, the doctor told him. Mal laughed so hard he cried, “Oh my God. I don’t know what’s funnier. That that Jayne sounds exactly like ours or that he’s only in your head.” “Hopefully, it’s an isolated incident.” Simon replied. There was yet another pause as Mal continued to absorb what the doctor was telling him. It didn’t surprise him, it just… It just pissed him off to no end. Damn it, it had hurt to laugh. This whole plan. His whole plan was going south faster than he could rein it in. This was supposed to be simple. Supposed to be good. An honest run. “You’re awful cool for someone that’s about to die,” Mal said angrily, “You’re putting a lot of faith in me. And if I were you, I’d be a little nervous.” “And that would accomplish what?” Simon asked him, “Not only am I going to die, I’m probably going to go insane on the way. If I have a little dignity about me right now, it’s a luxury that will soon be stripped away. In the next forty-eight hours, I’m going to lose everything that I have left save one,” Simon smiled, “Faith is the act of a desperate man,” he looked at Mal, “Regardless of where it’s placed.” That was it. Mal suddenly stood up, “Don’t you get sanctimonious with me, boy,” he grabbed the doctor’s shirt in angry fists, picking him up from the chair and pressing him against the nearest wall, “Don’t you dare go pretending to find God instead of having the stones to blame who needs to be blamed,” the captain shook him, “Goddamn it, blame me,” his face only inches from the pretty doctor’s, “Get angry. Act like a real goddamn person, for once. This is your life we’re talking about here, not one of your medical case studies. Your life!!!” For a moment, Simon’s eyes were unsure. Frightened. Mal knew in a moment that it wasn’t something he had just done to make it so. But as soon as it entered, the fear left. Simon’s eyes hardened. This is what he had been thinking about since the crash, Mal reasoned, this was what the distracted moments of deep thought had been. Simon knew that he was most likely going to die, but unlike so many people, he had been given a chance to be reflective about it. He was fine. Too damn fine for Mal’s taste, but there it was. “Let go of me.” Simon said, his voice flat and commanding, “What good would blame do? Would it make me any better? Would it deliver the shuttle from those men who stole it?” he asked, “Because if you have a theory, I would love to hear it.” Mal didn’t know what made him madder. Who Simon chose to live, or that he had made the decision at all. “How long did you think about it, doc?” Of course, that resigned look in the boy’s eyes when he talked of believing in him was coming in a close third, “How long did you hold that damnable syringe, toying with the scales of life and death?” Mal stared into him, “Who would live, who would die?” Simon shuffled his weight around in the captain’s resilient grip, “Do you think I enjoyed it? You think I reveled in the fact that your life was somehow more important than mine? That I didn’t have the means to do what needed to be done?” Mal pressed him against the wall, “Yes.” Simon struggled again in vain, “You really are psychotic,” he sighed, ceasing his efforts entirely, “Fine.” The captain narrowed his eyes. He held on to Simon for a moment longer, “What? What’s fine?” “Can you hold me up here forever?” Simon asked him. “No,” the captain let him go. Nausea returned tenfold, and Mal stuck out his hand to the wall for support. Instead of standing, Simon slid down the wall. He sat on the wooden floor, his knees close, the captain standing over him, “I didn’t, you know. I didn’t enjoy it. I’ve made decisions like this one time after time. But that didn’t make this any easier,” he wrapped his arms around his knees, “Afterwards, all I could think of was River. About who could take care of her, who could make her better if I’m gone? That she would live her life always the way they left her,” he shook his head, “Broken.” Mal couldn’t say anything. Simon’s tone changed from his professional detachment to something that betrayed his age. His limits. It carried sadness that touched something that the captain hid away years ago. And it cooled his temper down to a slow boil. “But it was okay, I thought. It would be alright,” Simon said, “Because even without me there, I could still see her laughing and dancing,” he smiled sadly, remembering, “River would be with Kaylee and Serenity and the rest of the crew and while that wasn’t everything…” Mal closed his eyes. While angry with Simon, he became intensely afraid of what the doctor would say next. Such a decision didn’t come lightly, no matter the man who made it. While there was truth to what Simon had said before, but not the truth. Simon sighed, “It was enough.” “Doc,” the captain just wanted him to stop. Mal just wanted him to stop. “She would be free. And somehow, it seemed better that way,” Simon confessed, “Because although I might be the one that works to fix her, captain…” “Simon.” Stop. Simon looked up, his eyes poignantly tearless, “You are the one that keeps her free.”


Wednesday, February 2, 2005 12:00 AM


With Diagnosis out of the way, this one came together a little easier. I love criticism, so love it or hate it, let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Keep flyin'

Wednesday, February 2, 2005 2:37 AM


Absolutely fabulous. Wow, a tour de force between Simon and the Captain, and the utter helplessness Mal feels knowing Simon did the nobler thing. There is a kind of awkward balance between them that while never entirely easy bespeaks a whole wealth of emotional complications and that is brought out very clearly in your dialogue. In Captain Dummy Talk? I liked this a whole lot and can't wait to see what happens next. Very shiny, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, February 2, 2005 7:34 AM


I love the interactions between Mal and Simon, very well done. I'm happily awaiting your next installment. =o)

Wednesday, February 2, 2005 7:48 AM


So. Damned. Good.

The suspense... you had me going both ways with Simon's choice--completely sold the tension and reasoning of it.

The dialog and interaction... absolutely on target. Simon was perfect and Mal with him was also vividly right.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005 10:19 AM


I could regret the time it took you to post this chapter, but then magnificence is not the result of trivial effort, and this was very, very good. It's hard to reveal all the emotions between Mal and Simon, but you did it the hardest way possible, with dialogue.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005 10:16 PM


Absolutely perfect. You have really mastered Mal and Simon's characters. Great job with the suspense too.

Monday, February 7, 2005 10:09 PM


I did commented here before I had an account, but as I like this fic really much may do it twice.
>_< hope that went right.

I like this fic for many different reasons.

First because of how you play the interactons, I mean that I like having Mal and Simon alone in the same fic but that's nothing if they aren0t well played. And they definitly are great played.

Second because you do know how to make a nice twist. Two by the way, because at the beggining I though that Simon would shot Mal with the medecine. Then you made me believe he0d shot himself in order to take care of Mal (which was, from my pont of view the most senible solution), then it turns he'd shot it to Mal... and still makes loads and loads of sense.

And last but not least, because you're a good writer that takes the story roll on itself.


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Honest Run: Daring
Another round table discussion on how to get the captain out of trouble.

Honest Run: Dilemma
Honest Run?!? He's still writing this?!?!

Honest Run: Derelict
Zoe and the crew finish their part of the deal, running across a bit of history along the way.

Reaver Attack: Denial
Reavers are real aren't they? My entry into the Serenity contest.

Honest Run: Door
Mal has another one of his barroom confrontations.

Honest Run: Distraction
Comets, comedy, and confession. Another day on Serenity.

Honest Run: Delusions
Things get a little more resolved. Simon's mind begins its downward spiral.

Honest Run: Deal
A little prequel action, explaining a few of the questions of the where and how variety. Features Wash and Zoe and certain Denton.

Honest Run: Din
Pair up. Where's River?

Honest Run: Detail
What is it with Jayne anyway?