Somnambulism - Chapter Thirteen
Thursday, December 7, 2006

Trap. Hunt. Enemy. Trap


Mal's shuttle settled into the dirt not far from the Rusty Hinge. He, Kaylee and Simon disembarked. They all had guns drawn.

"She's close, Cap'n." Kaylee said "And, it looks like she hasn't found the transmitter we put on her."

"In her, you mean" Simon said. He was quite unhappy that he had implanted a transmitter under the skin of his sister's arm, but, Mal had seemed to think that she might sense it if it were anywhere outside her body.

"I wouldn't be so sure about that, Little Kaylee." Mal said. He seemed more than distracted. He seemed to be haunted.

Mal circled around the circular rock formation they had landed in. The fading sun was making things harder and harder to see. He narrowly missed stepping on a cactus, but stopped to look down sharply.

"He's been here. Recently."

"How can you tell?" Simon asked.

Wordlessly, Mal pulled a flashlight from his belt, and shined it on the ground at his feet. Dark splotches of blood were quite visible on the ground.


"She's close, but, she's still heading south."

"Why would he leave his den?"

"How do you know..." Simon started. Mal turned on his heel and walked to the south end of the clearing. There was a cave there. Outside of it, there were fresh bones, bloodstains, and Alliance uniforms.

"If you want to investigate further, Doc, the entrance to his house is right there, but, I'm pretty sure he's not there anymore. And, seeing how Reavers like to booby trap things, you might want to step careful."

As if preordained, there was an explosion to the south.

* * *

"Jayne! Shut up!" Zoe hissed.

Normally, when on a job, you could count on silence from Jayne Cobb. After the job was over, there might be a problem, of course, but, normally, he was too intent on getting things done. He was chattery tonight, however.

"I'm just sayin's all. Captain's lyin'. Simon's putting River on the line. Book told everyone to shut up...Things ain't right on this job."

"Yes, I told you to shut up, and I surely wish you would have listened!" Book said, sternly. He reshouldered the scoped rifle he was carrying. He had used the scope to watch River enter the clearing that Mal had indicated when they were flying in. It was very hard to spot her. She moved like a shadow, and seeing how as her skin was darkening as it had been before, only more quickly, she had become quite stealthy. It was like tracking a cat.

"I've been quiet." Wash said, quietly.

"Very good, Wash" Inara said, in a way that would make everyone think it was less than good.

"Look" Zoe warned "Simon warned us that irratibility would be a side effect of the stimulant. We just have to work through it."

The explosion from the south went off just then, and everyone except Book and Zoe turned in that direction. Their attention was on the clearing below. The signal they were waiting for from Mal (two waves of the flashlight above his head) was immediate, and they started marshalling everyone into the shuttle.

They were to meet up with Mal and the others at the explosion site.

* * *

Wash set the shuttle down next to Mal's while listening to Jayne complain for the tenth time about the smell in Inara's shuttle. (Too flowery to be a proper shuttle, he said again.) and they all exited.

Thick, black smoke was twirling skyward, and there was a bit of rubble and flame about, but, no River, no Rudd, and no signs of any other devices.

"I'm gettin' a signal, Cap'n,'s real faint."

Simon jerked the reciever out of her hands and ran in the direction that was indicated. Everyone else called his name and ran after him, but, they were just a little too late.

He stopped. Sagged suddenly.

"It's gone. The signal. It's gone."

Kaylee placed her hand on his shoulder and pulled the reciever gently out of his hand.

Jayne stepped forward and snatched something off the ground.

"Here's why. There's a little blood on it."

Simon looked as though the world was ending. Book had stepped forward and was examining the ground where Jayne had claimed the bug.

"There's not much blood here. A splash, mostly. Looks like she removed it herself."

Mal sighed. "I had hoped that would come later rather than. Okay. We're on eyes alone now. Jayne, Zoe, take point. Book, you're with me. Everyone else, walk between us, and try to keep an eye out. I don't know if Rudd would come after one of you, but, if River has a mind too, I think she might go for any of us, but, Kaylee, Simon...look sharp."

"What about me" Inara chimed in.

"Protect them. You're better with a firearm than they are. At least, I think you are. Just stay in the middle with those two."

Something passed between the two of them. Something, that, if articulated out loud, would have ended months of tension between them. Of course, neither one of them could bring themselves to say it, and the moment passed, as had hundreds, thousands of others, slowly, yearning, and painfully.

Wash stuck fairly close to his wife, to Jayne's annoyance. Book walked along with Mal in the rear, occasionally and suddenly turning to see what was behind him. It was just the way Mal had been trained to protect a convoy in basic training. Mysteries swirled around the preacher, but Mal sensed this was not the time to bring it up. Mal had wanted Jayne up front for two very specific reasons. He was by far the best tracker of the group, and he was carrying a not so small arsenal. Wordlessly, Kaylee's hand sought out Simon's. Normally, the doctor would have pulled away, or stuck his foot in his mouth, but, tonight, out of concern for his sister, out of concern for Kaylee, he held fast to her hand. Inara glanced at the two and smiled, briefly looking over her shoulder at Mal, who was looking elsewhere.

"She went west from here." Jayne said, and they set out.

They had not gotten ten steps when that same strange, otherworldly howl that had frightened everyone so badly on Serenity pierced the night. It was far too close for anyone's comfort. What made everyone more uncomfortable was an answering cry, further distant still, but, stronger for all that.

"I guess this is the right direction" Wash gasped, slowly releasing his murderous grip on Zoe's beltloop.

* * *

Rudd ran sporadically in the night, his crimson eyes darting to and fro. He didn't use his eyes, them having been ruined so long ago by an Alliance Shrieker, but he found he didn't need them. Especially on the hunt. He jumped over a large rock in his path, and used his talon like claws to scrabble up the larger rock beyond. He lifted his anthracite colored face, or what was left of it, to the night, and sniffed deeply.

Rudd used all his senses when on the hunt. He had been waiting, and waiting for Malcolm Reynolds, the only quarry that had ever escaped him, to return. But, Malcolm had brought friends with him. And, apparently, a surprise as well.

Rudd lashed out with his mind, and found...Something impossible. He found a mind very much like his own. So much, in fact, that it was painful to touch. Rudd found pleasure in pain, but, this was too much. A high pitched whine echoed throughout his head, and he howled. He had just missed River's howl of pain in the distance. He immediately jumped down, and quickly moved his large powerful frame further down the path he had chosen.

He could use his mind reading abilities to confuse, to hide, to sense. The only trouble was that this time, he had an adversary against which his sixth sense proved not only useless, but painful in the extreme. He had gleaned, before the pain had set in, that this entity had but one purpose. To end him.

Rudd did not fear death. Rudd didn't think he could be killed at all. How could anyone endure the things he had, the things he had done to himself alone, and be killed be anything so crude as an assassin?

He continued on his path, closing his mind to all but the attention he needed to get to his destination.

* * *

The party had started moving again, and Jayne was leading them on quicker and quicker, becoming more sure of his direction. It didn't take long for Book and Mal to see that River was not being discrete about where she was going. It could be a trap, and the further along they went, the more certain Mal became that this was what they were headed for.

"Hold!" He called, and Zoe had almost managed to get everyone to stop where they were. Mal stepped forward, to the front with Zoe. Looking nervously about, he said: "This look familiar to you?"

"Yes" Zoe said, quietly.

"They're leading us straight to it. Gorramit."

"What? Leading us to what?" Wash said. Zoe turned and stared at Wash. She suddenly looked tired and worn.

"The valley. They're leading us to Serenity Valley."

Reavers are known to booby trap places they have been. And, the devices they use are sometime quite ingenius, and sometimes they're not. You can never be sure when dealing with mind as savage as theirs seem to be. Of course, sometimes the most deadly device can be the simplest.

That was why everyone was caught completely offguard when Simon stepped on something that first clicked, and then began to beep.

A landmine.


Thursday, December 7, 2006 7:56 PM


I like the story. Once again, I get a kick out of the dialogue...but if you blow off Simon's toe I'll hurt you.

Friday, December 8, 2006 1:31 AM


This is creepily stupendous and it would have to be Simon, wouldn't it? I really like what you are doing with this story and the manner in which it is being told. Just wonderful, keep going, can't wait for the next part! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, December 8, 2006 5:06 PM


Oh...that ain't good...least it's a presure-sensitive one, cuz the direct-trigger type of landmine? Not so shiny at all:(

And Rudd's an Academy grad, huh? Well, ain't that just peachy...two mentally-damaged psychic warriors out to fight and make hassle for the crew. Definitely can't wait to see what's next;)


Friday, December 8, 2006 7:56 PM


Perhaps I should clarify...Rudd comes by his mind talents naturally...His gifts are different from River's...he was born with them.


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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