Beta'd by KrisEleven. Many thanks!

Translations: Are below.

Le-se: Garbage

Go se: Crap

Chu feil wo si le: Over my dead body

Wo de ma he ta de feng kuang de wai sheng dou: Holy Mother of God and all her wacky nephews

Dong ma?: Understand?

Chapter 10: Simon Confrontation

Osiris, February of 2517

They'd taken away his hands, and that terrified him. Simon had never been a fighter, not physically at least; that wasn't the point. As all his intellect had grown to seem progressively more useless in his search for River, he'd come to rely on his hands for a sense of steadiness, for something he could still depend on. Save for the time he'd collapsed from exhaustion, that night with Joanna, he'd never caught his own fingers shaking. Since then, he'd become obsessed with calming the tremors even at the height of his frustration and fear, because that one skill allowed him to maintain an illusion of control.

Now he could not see his hands. Nor could he move them, not even enough to brush at the tickle of blood running into his palms. Simon chastised himself for not knowing better than to fight the top-of-the-line handcuffs, but the panic when the Feds had grabbed him had been too great to resist. Was it all going to end now, when he was so close? The doctor realized vaguely that he was more frightened for River, abandoned at the Academy with no one to come for her, than he was for himself, even standing in a lineup while his DNA imprint was processed before being thrown into jail.

They're hurting us. Get me out.

Simon rocked a vein in his lip between his teeth. No. He would get out of here if he had to defy the laws of physics, much less government or morality. He would make that top-three-percent ranking good for more than landing jobs in places sanitized from every hint of moral ambiguity. Perhaps he was going mad. The idea disturbed him less than it should have. The longer he searched, the longer it seemed that his previous cosseted existence had been the dream, and that this—using credits and coin for bribes, dropping drugs in alcohol and smearing them on his own lips, erasing his waves and shutting out the concern in his colleagues' voices—this was real.

"Thieving le-se." The guard's voice was more bored than malicious. "At least rats have the sense to stay away when there's traps about. I was hoping to get home early tonight. Now—"

"Hey, Officer." The man behind the desk was frowning. "This one's in our database."

"So? Bet you anything half these idiots have prior records. It was a blackout zone, not a beauty salon."

"No, no prior record. Federal listing."


The man behind the desk tapped on his touch-screen. "Oh, hey, a MedAcad license. No previous at St. Martin's...Dr. Simon Tam. We should probably wave his folks, tell them what happened."

"I'll do you one better. Tell them if they pay two thousand we'll let him off with a warning. I've got enough files to hunt through as it is."

"Got it. We can grab him out of the holding cell later if we need to."


The guard slammed shut the door of the cell. Simon hunched in the corner and hoped the other three men who shared the cramped space would leave him alone. He hadn't seen Geming or Sumner on the way here, for which he was grateful. At least if he got out, there would still be a chance of their being able to help him and River.

"This is your fault," one of the men accused the other. "If you hadn't let them hit you with the rifle, I wouldn't have tripped and—"

"Let? I let them shoot me? Next you'll be sayin' I planned for us to be there the night of a raid!"

"You're stupid enough," the first man snapped. "Our first job, and we get snatched. And one of the Feds stole all the coin I brought with me tonight. Count on these Alliance dogs to grab everything they can get."

"They do that," the third man grumbled. "Haven't you ever been in jail before?"

The second man opened his mouth, then closed it, and his eyes alighted on Simon. "Maybe we can get it back," he said craftily. "That man looks like he could have something we want."

"I don't—" Simon began, but the first man was already dragging him out of the corner, turning his pockets inside out.

"There's no coin here."

"Of course there isn't," Simon snapped, trying to jerk out of his hold. "The same man who took your money took mine. You should have realized that, you fool."

The man threw him down hard on the floor. Simon felt his head crack against the wall, already cursing himself for losing his temper. "You've got a tongue on you. Maybe I should rip it out." Fear rose in Simon's throat. I can't do a thing...

"Hey! Are you straight off the Rim or what?" The third man spoke up. "Expensive Alliance cell, remember? Monitors! They'll punish us all if they catch you fighting."

"Go-se." The man who'd knocked Simon down turned on his partner. "Why didn't you think of that?"

"Why didn't I think of that? Why didn't you think of that?"

The third man eyed the doctor. "Save it for later. Guards don't much care what happens in prison." He grinned nastily at Simon. "Got no money, hmm? Well, there's other things you can bargain with when you're there."

Simon gritted his teeth. River. Who's going to help River? If I don't get out of here, she'll be alone...

There was a click and the door slid open. "You people are nothing but trouble. You deserve to rot." He pulled Simon to his feet by one arm and dragged him out of the cell. "Come on."

The third man sighed. "Too bad. We were having so much fun."


"Have you completely lost your mind?"

Let's see. I've been robbed from and shot at, fainted from exhaustion, lost at least ten pounds, and just came from hearing that the government I trusted is playing with my beloved meimei's brain. "Pretty nearly."

Simon's father glared at him. "We got the wave at the Friedlich's. I had to leave your mother at the dinner table."

Do I even know you? "I'm sorry, Dad. You know I would never have tried to save River's life if I had known there was a dinner partyat risk."

"Don't you dare be flippant with me." Gabriel's voice was low. "I just spent two thousand credits to get you out of here and I had to walk through that door which goes on my permanent profile." He glanced behind him. "Are you trying to destroy this family?"

"I didn't realize it would be so easy." It was the wrong thing to say, and Simon realized that instantly. "Dad, I...I didn't doanything."

"You were in a blackout zone—"

"Talking! To someone who might be able to help River. And I'm going right back there." Simon lurched past his father.

Gabriel blocked him before he could go far and led him toward the door. "Chu feil wo si le.This is a slippery slope, young man, you have no idea how far down you can go, and you're not taking us with you."

"Meaning what?"

"I won't come for you again. You end up here, or get mixed up in something worse—you're on your own. I will not come for you."

This isn't happening. I'm your son, River is your daughter. Not toys you play with and throw away when they get broken.

"Now, are you coming home?"


Simon stared dully at his parents across the dinner table. "What is it you want from me?"

His mother reached for his hand. "Simon. Don't do this. We've been worried sick about you."

I wish you'd worry less about me and more about River. "Are you concerned about me, or how you're going to explain to society that your son is a criminal?"

Regan drew back. "You're not a criminal, Simon!"

"Yes, Mother, I am. I was in a blackout zone. What's more, I've been meeting with smugglers, thieves, and spies on a regular basis for the past two years," Simon spat. "And furthermore, I'm going to continue doing so until—"

"You will do no such thing," Simon's father said coldly. "The conditions of your release, such as they are, will not allow it."

"The conditions of my release?"

"Are in the form of a verbal agreement with an Alliance official, but are no less binding for all that." Gabriel met Simon's eyes. "You are to live in this house, and be under our supervision. We will monitor you for any sign of this madness continuing."

"Live here? What are you talking about? I have my apartment—"

"The lease on which has now been cancelled. In addition, you will agree to see a psychologist—"

"I don't want to see anyone but River!" Simon exploded. "Would you even listen if I told you what I found out tonight? The government you cut deals with is playing with River's brain!"

Regan cut in. "Simon, we want to help you."

"Help River, then. Help me get her out. To somewhere safe. I know we could do it, if we just—"

"I know we could end up in prison, or worse," Gabriel snapped. "That is what I know for certain. You know nothing, only whispers that may not be true."

"Please." Simon took a breath to calm himself. Tell me I was wrong, tell me you're not going to give up on us. "Just for once, can't you give us what we need?"

"For once? We've always given you anything you could want!"

"And the one time I ask you for something that really matters, you say no!"

"Gabriel! Simon!" Regan laid her hands on the table. "You're both overexcited. I'm sure if we talk about this in the morning—"

"No," Gabriel said firmly. "We are not going to talk about this in the morning, or at all. It isn't negotiable. Simon, you will stay here until you are fit to leave."

Simon bit his lip and closed his eyes. "Fine. But I'll need my things."

"Very well. We'll retrieve them now. The sooner you are truly at home, the better."


Dr. Robina Mahdavi propped her hands on her hips. "Simon Tam, this had better be an emergency. A horrible emergency with a lot of blood."

Simon hefted the bag he'd hastily packed over one shoulder. "Well, there's some blood. Not a lot." He held up his hands.

Mahdavi peered in close. "Wo de ma he ta de feng kuang de wai sheng dou!Are those from handcuffs? I'm guessing you've gotten yourself slightly worse than an indecency charge."

"I have."

Mahdavi sighed. "It's about your sister, isn't it?"

Simon nodded. "May I come in? Just for a minute?"

"You'll do less damage in here than on the street, I suppose." Mahdavi held the door open. "But you have some serious explaining to do." Simon stumbled into the hall. His host shut the door and pointed through to a couch in the next room. "Sit down and start talking, or I'm calling the Feds on you."

Simon sat, dropping his bag down beside him. "I was in a blackout zone, talking to some men who had information about River." He sighed. "I got caught. Dad came to get me out, but..."

"But what?" Mahdavi prompted.

"He and Mother don't believe me about River being in danger. They made a deal with an Alliance official that I'd be under their supervision, until I agree to drop the issue." Simon's voice turned harsh. "I told them what I'd learned, I told them the government was playing with River's brain—"

"Hold on five seconds." Mahdavi held up a hand. "Playing with her brain?"

"Behavioral conditioning, chemical-altering drugs, maybe even surgery. They don't know why, just..." Simon trailed off, then righted himself. "I have to get her out, and I can't do that with two parents and a psychologist watching my every move."

"How did you get away from them?"

"I had my father take me back to my apartment to get my things. He waited outside the door to keep me from leaving. It's on the ground floor, so I climbed out the window." Simon gestured to his bag. "This was all I could bring. And I still have the money in my bank accounts."

"But won't they be after you?"

"I doubt it." Simon smiled bitterly. "They won't want anyone to know I got away from them."

Mahdavi shook her head. "Your parents are fools. So why are you here?"

"I won't stay long. I just don't know where to go; I need a minute to figure it out. And you already know about River's letters, so I thought..."

"You got caught in a blackout zone, talking with traitors, and ran away from your father? No, you didn't think, did you?"

"I'm sorry. I don't want to get you in trouble." Simon stood. "I'll go—"

Mahdavi shoved him back down. "You didn't think about the fact that you just relegated yourself to a sore back from sleeping on my couch."

"You mean I can stay tonight?"

"I'm not letting you out on your own until you can prove your sufficiency at the whole thinking thing." Mahdavi grabbed a blanket off the back of a chair and threw it at him. "If any Feds turn up here, you're going to cover your head with this and let me do the talking, dong ma?"

"Yes. Thank you. I mean..." Simon stared at his former teacher blankly. "Why are you...won't I be putting you in danger too?"

"Probably," Mahdavi gave a bleak smile. "But I've visited penal moons for research, and even if you're out of your head, you don't deserve to end up there." Simon nodded, deciding not to push his luck. He also determined not to think about the fact that Mahdavi might be right.

Before this was over, he might truly go insane.

To be continued. Reviews are helpful and encouraging!