Somnambulism - Chapter Ten
Monday, August 14, 2006

Mal's Dream. Walt's Problem. River's Regain.


Malcolm Reynolds was never what anyone could call a weak man. He experienced moments of weakness from time to time. He dealt with them, most of the time, erring on the side of good. Sometimes not. Being gifted with a certain moral flexibility since the Battle of Serenity Valley, he had the ability to turn almost any moments of weakness, his own, or whoever was around him, to his advantage.

Having secured River in the cargo hold, Mal had taken a slight painkiller. As a rule, he didn't trust such medicines. He had a feeling, a premonition that he was going to need to be at one hundred percent to handle whatever Walt's problem on Hera was.

Given what had been happening to the crew...the wild dreams that featured River, and that River seemed to be exhibiting the same symptoms that Mal had seen twice before in people who were exposed purposely to Reavers, Mal had a decent idea of what was going on on Hera. If his theory was correct, River might be the best tool on th ship for dealing with it.

The painkiller kicked in, and Mal had lain down in his sparse quarters aboard Serenity. He drifted on the very edge of sleep. He had drifted so far, in fact that he couldn't have regained a waking state if he tried, and at the last second, he tried to. He was suddenly hit with the notion that they had fixed one problem, that of River stalking the ship, but had failed to deal with the primary problem.

River's haunting of the crew's dreams.

The realization floated before him just as he fell out of consciousness..

* * *

In the cargo hold, River was trussed up like a ceremonial boar. Her arms were stretched out and clamped in the manacles. Her ankles were likewise spread out and lashed to the deck. She could not move, and Jayne had learned the hard way that this was best for everyone. In a moment of inattention, she had hissed and ran her claws down the side of his face. The big man had pulled away at the last second, but, River had been as quick as lightening. Jayne got a couple of shallow scratches for his trouble, and a newfound respect for staying away from River's hands.

Simon was assisting as best he could, trying to make certain his sister was comfortable. He didn't see how she could be in this position, but, they had tried three other configurations, and she had managed to find a way out of all of them before they had come up with this one. Her skin, darkened and hardened as it was, was hard to hold onto.

When they were certain that she was good and trussed up, Jayne had made a joke of patting a little slap on River's face. This garnered two reactions. One from Simon: "Don't." he said, and Jayne had started to wisecrack back, when he caught sight of Simon, and Book simultaneously. Book, who had shown no fear about anything aboard Serenity, even Reavers, backed away a step. There was more than clinical coldness in Simon now. There was a flinty fire that obviously caught the preacher up short. And, if Book was afraid of it, Jayne reckoned he should be too.

The other reaction, from River, was more subtle.

She had tried to bite him, but, he had seen that coming. What no one had expected was for River's normal voice to come out of the person they had tied up.

"Jayne? Simon? Kaylee?"

Simon rushed to stand in front of River, sweeping Jayne out of the way as though the large man were nothing more than smoke. Jayne, for his part, was so shocked that the little girl voice was coming from the creature he had just tied up, that he forgot to show his normal indignance that Simon had touched him.

"River? What is it, mei mei?" Simon said.

River's eyes were closed, and at the sound of Simon's voice, they popped reveal the chocolate brown of normalcy. They were way bloodshot, yes, but, they were River's eyes, and not the black , soulless eyes of the creature they had been fighting.

Simon was visibly weakened by this, and his voice took on an urgency few in the crew had heard from him.

"River? Are you okay?"

"Simon? I'm lost. I'm here, but not. I don't know...I don't know how to get out of myself." And then, she burst into tears.

Simon leaned closer. Jayne took an exploratory step forward. As River shook with the force of her weeping, Simon began to fumble around for the key to the manacles.

"What the ruttin' hell are you doin'?"

"Can't you see? She's waking up!" Simon said, roughly. The emotion of the moment was clearly getting to him. Gone was the clinical, logical being they were used to. He was in the grip of protecting his sister, and, as usual, in regards to River, Simon had tunnel vision.

Book caught Simon by the arm, just as Jayne dragged the doctor by the collar. Simon had been ready to physically defend himself, but there was no need. Jayne had already released him. It was only then that he heard teeth clicking next to his ear. Jayne had probably just saved him from hideous disfigurement at his sister's hands.

She howled and shook her chains, gnashing her teeth. Her bunched muscles strained with all their might. She pulled at her chains once, twice, and then stared at Simon under her lank, greasy hair. Her gaze had returned to the crimson and black. Given the whiteness of her teeth, in contrast to her skin, she made for a horrible figure.

She growled a tuneless version of "Red River Valley" that was made all the more horrible by her seeming inability to form coherent words. She did form one coherent phrase, though.

"Malcolm...Reynolds." And then she seemed to go to sleep.

The three men stared at each other for a beat before bolting for the captain's quarters.

* * *

The bulk of the planet Hera came into view, not far ahead of Serenity. She gleamed in the dark. The Alliance had made a big show of industrializing this world. Just to rub it in and show the Browncoats just who owned this galaxy. Lights from any number of factories, homes, large estates could be seen from far out in space. Zoe had not been anywhere near this planet in eight years, and she could tell times had gotten tough if Mal were willing to come here, let alone do a deal.

A Cortex hail let them know that Walt was ready to recieve them.

"Zoe! Good to see you..."

"Stow it, Walt. Captain's already said he don't care for you, and you know I don't either, so, let's just hear the deal, and we'll take care of your problem and be on our way. What are you calling for...We already know where you're at, and we're on our way."

"Okay, fine, be that way. I was just trying to urge you along a little faster. You already know that I took this contract from the Alliance, so you know that they ain't exactly the patient type."

"Which is why you shouldn't deal with them, Walt."

"Fair enough, except, whatever's been taking the security officers, has stepped up its schedule. They're breathing down my neck. Two more guys were taken broad daylight. My contact tells me that they only turned their back on the guys for a second, and then they were gone."

Zoe's brow furrowed "You mean, they were standing a group of people when this happened?"

"That's what I'm trying to tell you."

Wash, who, for his part, was trying to remain quiet while his wife did a deal (he found her quite sexy when she was handling business), saw that she was troubled. He mouthed the word "What", but she ignored him.

"I'll get back to you, Walt."

"Zoe! This'll..."

"Yeah, we got it, Walt...hurry up. We're working on it."

She turned off the monitor and turned to Wash, all business.

"Keep your heading, and don't alter your speed. In fact, slow down a little bit."

"Yes sir!"

"And, don't call me sir." she said, her voice not modulating in the slightest.

* * *

Whenever Mal had a nightmare, it was more often than not, a variation on two themes. Losing the one's he loved, and the Battle of Serenity Valley. There had been horrific nights where these two themes were combined, and instead of Bendis he was trying to convince that it would all turn out okay, it was Kaylee. Kaylee would die in a rain of Alliance gunfire.

Tonight, he was in Serenity Valley again. Zoe was not there to help him this time either. And, all the Alliance soldiers he battled with had the same, non face that he had encountered on Rudd all those years ago on the same planet. Everywhere he looked, there would be Rudd's feasting on the flesh of his fallen comrades. And the dead all had the same face. Bendis. A sea of dead Bendis faces stared accusatorily at him. He would shoot at the closest Rudd to him, and for everyone that fell, three more would come. He finally ran out of ammunition as six of the Rudds grabbed him, held him high, and each sank their teeth into him.

Mal screamed in pain, and in any normal dream, he would've woken up. Not tonight, however. As his head lolled to the side in agony, he saw a solitary figure over the veritable sea of Reaver like Rudds. It was River, standing sorrowfully in a flowing dress. She stared at him, and turned, looking over her shoulder to say: "It's all your fault."

Mal felt a blade pierce his spine and screamed again, bolting upright in his bunk, flailing wildly. His arms were grabbed in the dark, and he began swinging fists in earnest.

The lights snapped on suddenly, and he saw the he was delivering blows to Shepherd Book and Jayne Cobb. Jayne had had a bad day, and might likely swing back. Book was expertly dodging the blows, even before the lights came on. Simon was standing with his hand on the lightswitch.

"Were we too late?" Simon asked.

The three men tangled on Mal's bed just stared at him for a moment.

* * *

In the cargo hold, where she was suddenly unsupervised, River snapped against her chains again. She sagged against them, suddenly weeping.

Inara and Kaylee had been keeping an eye out since the trouble earlier. Kaylee noticed that Inara still had the gun Mal had given her. The more animalistc River acted, the more like a Reaver her behavior became, the uneasier Inara became. Kaylee supposed she could understand it, but Inara seemed to have a deeper fear of Reavers than most people on the ship.

The crying caught them at a loss. It was something she hadn't done yet. They began to rush down to her, but held back at the last second. River's eyes were back to brown, and it appeared that her skin was lightening. She was weeping, obviously in great physical pain.

"Am I seeing this?" Inara said, astonished.

"I'm not sure that I am." Kaylee said.

"Kaylee? KAYLEE! Where am I? This hurts so much? Tell me where I am" River's voice came weakly.

"Oh honey. You're in the cargo hold. I'll just go get Simon, okay. Hang on."

"Kaylee!? Don't leave me!" River said, frightened.

"I'll go." Inara said, obviously relieved to be away from River.

She got a couple of steps when River said "Stop." calmly.

Her eyes had gone over pink. It seemed as though there was a struggle going on within her.

"Kaylee?" Inara said, strangely.

Inara was rooted to the spot.

"I can't...move."

Kaylee looked uncertainly at River.

"River? Are you doing this?"

"Yes." She said "I'm not River Tam anymore. I'm not the one Malcolm Reynolds is after either. I'm something new."

This scared Kaylee mightily.

"I'll just go get your brother, okay?"

"No." River said, and her eyes flashed red for an instant.

Kaylee's muscles were no longer under her control. She stood stock still, much like a statue. This was not her own doing. She suddenly had no free will to move.

And, if she and Inara couldn't move, they couldn't get help.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006 7:16 PM


Oh...sweet Jesus....things have definitely reached the f-ed up beyond all common goodness point of reality:O

Definitely wanna know what the Hell Rudd is and how he's channelling through River when she isn't in direct contact with him to start taking on physical qualities:)



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Somnambulism - Chapter Fourteen
It's back...well, this is actually a reposting of a lost chapter. Hey! I just refound it myself!

Somnambulism - Chapter Thirteen
Trap. Hunt. Enemy. Trap

Somnambulism - Chapter Twelve
The Plan, Negotiation, Landing, Hunt

Somnambulism - Chapter Eleven
Wash's Orders, Mal's Revelation, The Other, Captiulation

Somnambulism - Chapter Ten
Mal's Dream. Walt's Problem. River's Regain.

Somnambulism - Chapter Nine
Safety. Recollection. Explanation.

Somnambulism - Chapter Eight
Simon's Dream, Mal's Choice, River's Verdict

Somnambulism - Chapter Seven
Memory, Atavism, Hera

Somnambulism - Chapter Six
History, Discovery, Purpose

Somnambulism - Chapter Five
Malice, Theory, Opportunity