Tuesday, May 20, 2003

What if, River's brother never came for her? What if, the crew of Serenity was just a dream? What if, they were a fantasy to get River through the next day of testing and experimenting?



* * *

Author’s Note: There are spelling mistakes and tense mistakes, I Know. This has not been seen by a beta. Sarah forgive me. I used semicolons and ellipsis's. Tell me what y'all think about the story, not the grammar.

Disclaimer: Not mine, of course.

* * *

“And his folks come by to fetch him, and it turns out he's, like, fourteen years old,” Kaylee’s voice echoed across Serenity’s cargo bay.

Book and Jayne thundered down the stairs, moving to the weight bench preparing to begin their usual routine of weight lifting starting with the bench press. Jayne sat down to begin his set of lifting repetitions as Book moved to spot for him. They conversed with one another and neither acknowledged the girls a few feet away.

Kaylee and River were sitting on the cargo bay floor, playing jacks. Laughing Kaylee continued her story, “I mean, he must've been some kind of genetic experiment, 'cause, I swear this guy was, uh...” She emphasized her point by waggling her eyebrows, “Oh, my daddy whipped me so hard.”

Kaylee bounced the ball and absently picked up her spoils of jacks as she challenged River, “Oh... I'm at fours. Let's see you match that.”

River took the ball in her hand and surveys hard at the scattered jacks on the floor.

“I can win this,” River studied the position of the jacks. Mathematically calculating the necessary position and force required to-be asserted for victory.

“Oh, I'm hearin' a lot of talk there, genius. Come on -- show me what you got,” Kaylee quips.

River only looked for a moment to reflect on the context of the quip before her attention was drawn back to the situation. Holding the little rubber ball in her fingertips, River studied the texture, marking the imperfections that would cause an unpredictable bounce if dropped on. Course chosen, she thrust the ball down. It followed its predetermined mathematical course.

River’s mind seemed to follow that rubber ball down to the deck plating, but her mind didn’t ricochet off the plating. She went through the plating, wires and hull and out into space leaving Serenity behind…

* * *

“Subject Zero-One-Two-Alpha, your sleep rotation has terminated,” A voice emanates from a hidden intercom in the ceiling. It isn’t the only thing hidden, Alpha can feel and hear the listening devices and infrared sensors transmitting from their hidden locations within the walls. The automated lights move from dim to full intensity. Alpha’s eyelids become a red-black as the light bled through the body’s natural covers to the rods and cones in the back of her eyes that interpret light. Alpha opens her eyes, light floods in as they focused on the white utilitarian ceiling. Turning her head to the left Alpha takes in the fullness of her domicile, a cubical really. It was, in truth, her cell. As usual the room was ever its insipid self a mixture of whites, grays, and blues. It consisted of a cot-sized bed, a small table built into the opposite wall from the bed and a clothing locker a few feet from the end of the bed on the adjoining wall, completely devoid of personality. A small vid screen imbedded in the wall a few inches above the table switches its message.

This screen replays the same sequence of brain washing messages every five point twenty three minutes. The messages are always the same containing one to two word phrases at a time. They are always displayed in both English and Chinese at the same juncture. Most commonly displayed, ten out of twenty messages to be exact, was obey or any of its synonyms. Right now the word abide was displayed.

“Subject Zero-One-Two-Alpha, you have remained in a horizontal position for one minute and twenty thre- four seconds. Are you experiencing a deficiency in motor control? Do you require medical assistance?” the voice from the intercom was insipid as the room, “Respond Subject Zero-One-Two-Alpha.”

Alpha once had a real name, one that was her own, one that had personality and made her unique. That name rushed to her like a torrent of water, River. Now, she was a number, a cog on the well-oiled Government machine, made to conform, to fit in the gap they required her to fill. If she did not fit they would discard her into the trash and melt her down for another use.

They had attempted to crush her individuality, to do their bidding but they could never get to what she was and what she had inside, her Serenity. They could read her mind and they would find nothing because the essence was not in her head but in her heart. They would never take her Serenity.

River sits up pushing her covers off her legs she swings them over the edge of the bed. Her bare feet touch the cold uninviting floor. Pushing herself upon her elegant dancer legs she strips the dirty bed scrubs from her body. Casting them across the covers of the bed, she walks to the clothing locker and gently pulls its door to her. Contained within was a lone set of hospital white scrubs hanging from a small bar suspended in between the locker’s walls. River removes the scrubs from the hanger. Sliding the sterile scrubs on, she closes the empty locker and pulls her rich dark hair from beneath the shirt as a dull thump and the preceding hum of the hydraulic door confirmed that a new rotation of experiments was about to begin.

River moves compliantly as a woman dressed in a nurse’s uniform enters and collects the used bed sheets and scrubs. Behind the woman comes a man, dressed in a fine black suit with a white shirt and black tie. Like everyone in the facility that wasn’t a subject, this man wore blue surgical gloves on his hands. He approaches River, whose head was lowered in submission.

“Did we have a problem earlier Zero-One-Two-Alpha?” As he spoke that hideous number River had the sadistic urge to end his corporeal existence.

River realizes that she has taken too long to answer the presented question. “You will answer or disciplinary action will be administered.”

“No, there was not a problem,” River speaks softly.

“Good, I would hope there are no complications with the ending of your sleep rotation in the future,” The man spins on his heels, in military fashion, and strolls out of River’s domicile. River watches him go noting he has no individuality in his walk. It was just a function to the man, nothing more. She lingers on the thought, wondering if that was in store for her.

“Zero-One-Two-Alpha exit your quarters and present yourself,” A familiar voice called her from the room.

As she exits, the voice was given the form of her handler, an orderly. A tall black male dressed in like dress as the nurse gently guides her into a waiting wheel chair. River has the sudden flash that the orderly was dressed in a red leather-like jump suit. After she comes to a rest in the seat he begins to wheel her down a corridor similarly colored as her domicile…

* * *

They entered into a Recovery Area, filled with various doctors, nurses, and patients in their beds. As they passed through nothing of their situation flagged any suspicion, the employees dodge between their patients, monitoring and treating. The Patients were lined up diagonally against the left wall as Simon carted her through. Jayne walked along side nervous and jumpy. Simon was holding up better, he was just nervous.

Simon had devised a plan to sneak River into the Imaging Suite of St. Lucy’s Hospital. In an attempt to figure out what the Academy had done to his sister. Simon was dresses as a typical Core Hospital Doctor and Jayne was dressed as a Paramedic, River wore a Hospital gown as she sat in the wheelchair.

“They're doing it backwards; walking up the down slide,” River sensed someone’s pain as they passed the beds, she couldn’t place which one required help. As they continued the feelings become increasingly evident.

Startled at her comment Jayne whispered to Simon harshly, “Keep her quiet.”

Simon, comprehending the danger of one of River’s tangents leaned down and quietly whispered in her ear, “This is the recovery ward. This is where patients come to get better.”

“They're going to die.”

“No one is going to die.” Simon hurriedly shot back.

Pain washed over River as they reached the middle of the Patient line, “He is,” River pointed the Patient out.

Quickly Simon snatched her hand and put it down hoping that her comment and action went unnoticed, “No he’s not. That man standing next to him is his Doctor. He’s going to help him.”

“He’s not helping him right.” “River, the Doctors here are the best in the system. This is one of the top hospitals in the Core, or anywhere else.” “Where you should be,” River could never express her gratitude to her brother for his sacrifice. He gave away all he had to secure her away from the Academy. If Simon had not gotten her out he would still be on Osiris, at the Capital’s finest Hospital saving lives and helping the sick. As they rounded the traffic way on their way out of the recovery ward, the Patient, River had pointed to; monitors began to beep wildly as he began to go into cardiac arrest. River tried to rise from the wheelchair to help as forgotten Jayne shoved her back into the chair. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pinning her. “You have to save him,” River intercedes on the Patients behalf to her brother. Torn between the risk of their intrusion into the hospital and his natural drive to save the sick and injured Simon could only offer, “We don’t have time.” Fighting Jayne’s manacle grasp, River shouted, “He’s killing him!” Across the room a Crash Team Nurse shouts, “Code Blue!” Simon moved instinctively, as much as trying to pacify River, “Stay here. Don’t move.” Jayne still holding down River, mouths “don’t” to Simon as he pulls away from River and him. Quickly crossing the Recovery Area Simon heads for the distressed Patient. River placated, watched her brother work his magic and save the life of the Patient. As the Patient’s heart returned to its normal rhythm Simon moved to reprimand the attending Physician. Simon quickly returned with the drive to put distance between the angry Physician and themselves. Grabbing a hold of the wheelchair handles Simon muttered, “Let’s go.” Jayne lingered for a second, amazed that Simon had saved the Patient’s life, and then he quickly followed behind heading for the Imaging Suite… * * *

River is wheeled into a large chamber with only two objects decorating it. An adjustable examination chair sits in the center facing the entry. Behind that, a gray monitoring console sits to the left. The room’s geometric shape is a mixture of angles and curves lacking sharp corners that make up a normal room. It is sterile performing its function efficiently.

River waits for Simon’s soothing words but they do not come, she looks up to see, not Simon pushing the wheelchair, but the Academy Orderly. He wheels her up to the menacing examination chair; River rises from the chair and climbs upon the examination chair compliantly. The Orderly maneuvers the wheelchair toward the door as it slides open and two men enter. The two men are dressed as Doctors one was shorter than the other. The taller one continues to the console as the shorter one stops to converse with the Orderly. River cannot distinguish everything said from her position and their low tones.

“No sir, she complied.” The question is lost in the shorter Doctor’s quiet voice.

“She mumbled some but nothing coherent.”

“Okay, thank you, please wait outside,” Is the Doc’s audible reply.

As the Orderly leaves the shorter Doc comes up to River. He fastens her into the chair, not even acknowledging her existence. The man considers her a lab rat, not even human. She is his work, a clump of clay, something to be molded to his desire or the desires of his Masters. An in-adamant object holds more value than her life.

He departs only to come back with an electrode reader that he places on her head. That done he retreats to the monitoring console. Next comes the taller Doc he wheels a small cart, which holds several two-inch long needles with small red transmitters contained on their ends. This Doctor is different, for a fleeting moment he focused on her. He reflects on her innocent face. She reminds him of his daughter. He blinks and the moment is lost. He picks up one of the needles as a globe like object descends from the ceiling.

The globe objects holds ten wires. The Taller doc takes one of the wires and fastens the needle to it. Looking at River he hesitates, regretting the action he is about to take. He brushes a loose strand of River’s hair away and begins to place the needle into the muscle that the eyelid leaves exposed when open on the side of the eyeball. River screams…

* * *

River lurched out of the cryo-box, screaming. Whipping her head to and fro she couldn’t make out any faces. Several people stood staring at her; an authoritarian angry man, an elegant woman, a brutish man and a familiar man she couldn’t place. Two more stood further away a man and a woman. Climbing clumsily out of the cryo-box she spilled over the edge and landed on the hard grating. River crawled backwards against the cold box. Her breathing was hard and she flailed her eyes around the cargo bay. The familiar man wrenched himself free of the brute and rushed over to her, he knelt down to look in her eyes.

“River?” He reached out and touched her.

River flinched and screamed at his touch, but he was persistent in trying to get her to look into his eyes, “River. It’s okay. It’s okay. I’m here.”

River finally looked at him trying to focus; her breathing continued to be hard. His eyes fill with tears, but his eyes stay their course never leaving hers. She broke their lock and surveyed the unknown people in the bay stopping at every individual face memorizing it reading it before returning to tear filled eyes staring into hers.


“Simon?” Relief washed over her and the dam that held back her emotions cracked and crumbled, breaking away. Tears spilled over the lids of her eyes and down her face, “Simon… They talk to me, they want me to… to talk…”

“They’re gone… they’re gone and we’re safe now, we’re safe and I’m here,” Simon soothed her. Simon pulled his sister into him, shielding her, comforting her. A respectful silence blanketed the occupants of the cargo bay.

“What the hell is this?” the authoritarian man demands.

Simon looked up defensively at the man, “This is my sister…”

* * *

The door slides open revealing a small white paneled room with a large solid black glass panel on the right wall. River is wheeled forward to an uninteresting piece of furniture, a steel table. The table is adorned with a single object, a firearm. It’s clear it wasn’t loaded just from a glance. The Orderly locks the wheelchair in position, turns and leaves, the door hums to a close behind him. River’s eyes focus on the object before her, standing in complete contrast to the color of the table. “Subject Zero-One-Two-Alpha, pick up the firearm on the table before you and enter the adjoining room,” A voice comes across the hidden intercom. River hesitates and looks at the black glass panel to her right. Beyond it she can feel three people monitoring her. River knows the next experiment by heart she doesn’t hesitate for fear of the unknown. There’s an oddity, there are three, but there were always only two. A foreign element has been introduced. River quickly calculates the odds that the following experiment has been altered. She comes up with a ninety-eight point ninety-nine percent probability of a change to the fore coming experiment.

Feeling out the location of the foreign Observer River focuses on the position of his eyes, to her own. Reaching out she grasps the handle of the firearm and pulls it to her, standing River moves to the door across from the one she came in through. As she passes through the threshold a curtain is drawn across the normal gun range. In the space between the curtain and the door there is a blindfold and a bullet magazine resting on a small table. The door seals and locks behind her.

“Load the magazine into the firearm and place the blind fold over your eyes.”

River slaps the magazine into the firearm and racks a round into the breach chamber with smooth efficiency. Placing the gun down, River picks up the blindfold and ties it securely over her eyes. Retrieving the gun she waits for the next set of instructions. She hears the curtain pull violently back and stop with a bam…

* * *

Bullets ricocheted through the cargo bay. Three men fired on Kaylee as she retreated into Serenity’s cargo bay for cover. Safe for the time being, just around the side of the entrance ramp, Kaylee lost it. Dropping her pistol Kaylee cowered as River scurried up in a kneeling run. With a look to Kaylee, River poked her head out memorizing the locations of each man. Pulling her head back, with the locations on her mind she quickly ran the calculations of their locations against the angle of the bullet trajectory. Satisfied with the solution to the Calculations River took up Kaylee’s abandoned pistol, sucking in a deep breath, River chants, “Can’t look. Can’t look.”

Closing her eyes, River twirled out onto the threshold of the entrance ramp. In three quick, precise movements she squeezed the trigger. The reports from the assaulting weapons instantly stopped as an eerie silence blankets the two bays. River opened her eyes on the scene around her, in her peripheral she saw Kaylee poke out on the scene as well. Kaylee’s eyes are drawn back to River astonished and fearful at the feat. A smile spread across River’s lips as she remembered Kaylee’s victory shout earlier that day. Kaylee had taken her apple back from River’s temporary possession of it.

“No power in the ‘verse can stop me…”

* * *

“What was that comment?”

River has forgotten where she is. She lost herself in the fantasy.

“Nothing,” River sheepishly replies.

River can sense their enthusiasm in her proficiency with firearms. Surveying the target dummies place sporadically through the range, River had hit all seven targets square through their simulated heads. An amazing feat, since every one of them is safe from even a marksman’s best shots. The simulated holograms are shimmering red showing confirmation that they were indeed hit. All of them don a square mark some place on their heads.

“You have minded your teaching well. You may have some downtime.”

The door behind her slides open. The other room awaits her occupancy. The wheelchair sits invitingly for her. Behind the chair the Orderly waits patiently for her to come and sit. Although she doesn’t want to River finds herself moving to the chair. On her way she places the pistol back on the table.

The Orderly wheels her down the corridor to a new room. Inside the Orderly locks the wheelchair and leaves. The room again reflects the nature of the rest of this facility. A park bench dominates the room. It sits in the sunlight cast through the windows across from the door. Birds chirp and sing a soothing melody. River stands and begins to move to the song…

* * *

River followed the faint sound to its source. She’d followed it through the town and down an alley to a green field where a joyful song played. People were dancing to it but they were somewhat out of sync with the tune. She moved onto the gazebo and in a few seconds she had the tune down. River began to move with each beat. Twirling and kicking, she joined the strangers in their dance. Soon she was on her own, perfecting the dance to fit the beat.

As she moved around she saw Simon watching her and she rejoiced at the smile she brought to his lips. The sun was shining and she was free from the constraints of the dark. Then something caught her. Simon was no longer there. He had disappeared and left her. She stopped dancing. The other dancers bumped into her as she disrupted the flow…

* * *

The sunlight flickers as River bumps into the wall. She was dancing around the room to the beautiful song of the birds when she hit the wall. She stares at the window in front of her. Slowly she extends her hand out to it. River gets a small shock as the image reacts to her touch and distorts. The room is a lie.

“Subject Zero-One-Two-Alpha, your downtime has concluded. Return to the wheelchair.”

The door sides open again as the Orderly steps in. He takes his position at the wheelchair, always robotic in his movements. River doesn’t move to join him at the wheelchair. She stares at the holo-image of the outside. The image had been so real. All the times she stood and danced in this room she’d thought that she was looking out side.

“Orderly, please escort Subject Zero-One-Two-Alpha to her wheel chair.”

The Orderly moves around the chair towards River…

* * *

Serenity’s airlock is pushed open by the bounty hunter, Jubal Early. He slowly stands and looks at his ship, his mission almost complete. He’d have River and be on his way to trade her in for a large amount of credits. This girl had been by far the most bothersome of his many bounties. She even surpassed a pyromaniac midget he once had the discomfort of trying to bring in. At least this time he wouldn’t be bringing home a torched, bullet riddled corpse.

“You made the right move, darlin'. Best for you to go on with old Early.” Early smiled on his accomplishment.

He didn’t see Mal standing right behind him. “You think so? Some of us feel differently.”

Early, surprised, turned to see Mal reach out and push him hard. Early lifted up into space, free-falling fast and out of control into space. He flew past his own ship, striking it in the process.

River exits Early's ship and pushes off, floating down toward Serenity as Early's ship takes off on a autopilot sequence River coded while she was in there waiting for him. She had successfully out thought and maneuvered Early into her web. He was now on a dead course to hell when his air ran out.

Mal waited below on Serenity. He caught and steadied her when she came into reach. He held her hands as he guided her to Serenity’s hull.

“Permission to come aboard?” She asked her Captain.

“You know, you ain't quite right,” He tells her.

“It's the popular theory,” She smiles…

* * *

River was on her way to the last of this day’s experiments and training. She wondered when all of this would be finished. When her brother would come for her or when she finally reached the criteria of goals. Neither seemed likely to happen in the near future. The Academy had stopped sending her letters. They had taken anything and everything to write with there was no way to communicate with anyone on the outside. She was truly alone…

* * *

River was lying in bed, Simon’s bed to be precise. She’d had been in the infirmary sleeping until a man with a gun tried to take her back to the Academy. After the man was shot dead Simon had brought her to a shuttle where they sat for a while. Everyone was on edge from some kind of threat. When it passed Simon brought her to his room and laid her down to sleep. He had just finished giving her a shot. Simon crossed the room to the bed and pulled her covers higher, “The shot I gave you will help you sleep.” “I slept for so long...” River quietly spoke.

“Just a little while. Then we'll find a place... we'll find a safe place.” He leaned into her and spoke soothingly. He wasn’t convinced they would find a place safe out here on the border. She touches his face. There are bruises on his delicate features from the past few days. She studies them with her fingertips seeing what had happened to him in the pursuit of safe guarding her. She looked suddenly sad at him. “I didn't think you'd come for me.”

Simon fought back a wave of tears at her statement. “Well, you're a dummy.” He smiled at her to help hold back the tears. She smiled back at him and he gathered her in his arms and held her tight. The security of his arms makes her sob. She’s waited so long to be safe and secure and now it’s here and she could let go…

* * *

“Subject Zero-One-Two-Alpha, your sleep rotation has terminated,” The same voice came again, another day of tests had begun. They could torture her and test her all they wanted. In the end she’d always return to where she was loved, respected and safe. She’d return to her sanctuary on a Firefly class vessel, always one-step ahead of their blue clutches, she’d found her Serenity.


Tuesday, May 20, 2003 11:36 PM


I was in the process of proofreading your fic when I saw this one. I almost thought it was the one I was working on. I read the start of each paragraph to make sure it wasn't. I will come back here and read this in full tomorrow. Lookin' forward to it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003 5:19 AM


Interesting portrayal of River at school. All other fics just tend to have her tied to a chair being tortured. Does this take place after she’s only been at the school for a short time, or is she semi-calm/normal because of blue hand man's medicine?

Wednesday, May 21, 2003 5:56 AM


This is a way nifty little piece! Gives me shivers--especially her populating "Serenity" with hospital staff.

Thursday, May 22, 2003 6:33 AM


The original parts of this are deeply spooky. I read it as she had been returned to the facility and was using her memories of Serenity to stay "River" rather than Cadet Alpha.

Thursday, May 22, 2003 6:56 AM


I read it differently, Sarahetc. I read it that River had created all of Serenity in her mind. Great concept Talrius, kind of a variation on Buffy in the insane asylum. And just as disturbing.

Thursday, May 22, 2003 7:16 PM


Okay, let me clear things up. Futuresmith is dead on. I wrote this piece as Simon never rescued his Sister. Serenity is a fabrication. Sarah got the second piece. River is using the fabricated memories to remain an individual.

Just something interesting. The original title for this fic was Echoes of Serenity.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003 2:34 PM


That is amazing. The parts where they are testing her, those can send a chill down my spine. I figured out everyhing that you said other people figured out. I love this little fanfic. (I have a connection with River, but that is my little secret, and I ain't ever tellin'!)

Monday, October 31, 2005 2:04 PM


beautiful...spooky, painful to read river ending up like that, but beautiful none the less

very well done.

Monday, October 31, 2005 2:05 PM


beautiful...spooky, painful to read river ending up like that, but beautiful none the less

very well done.

Monday, October 31, 2005 2:06 PM


ah the curse of the double post...browser troubles srry about that


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What if, River's brother never came for her? What if, the crew of Serenity was just a dream? What if, they were a fantasy to get River through the next day of testing and experimenting?