Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Seven
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

River remembers her birthday and meets a monkey . . . sort of.


Unfinished Business Chapter Twenty-Seven

River Tam had found something new. She was lying down in the middle of Serenity’s catwalk, pointedly ignoring the seething sexual tension that was rapidly filling the ship (complete with a nasal cacophony of belligerent pheromones), letting her mind wander. There wasn’t really anything better to do. She was still trying to put her recent unexpected conversation with her parents into context. It was difficult, what with the echoes of the dead of Miranda still haunting her, but the ghosts of those ghosts were receding daily from her mind and she found them less troublesome than she had . . . before. The horror of Miranda was now an established fact in the world, and she no longer had to bear the burden of the secret alone. The weight of the verse was, temporarily at least, lifted from her. She could focus on more concrete, personal issues. Her birthday. Simon. Simon and Kaylee. Mal. Mal and Inara. Zoe. Shepherd Book and Wash. Piloting. Being a pilot (which, she had learned on Muir, was a different skill from piloting). Sex. Criminal activity and its long-term effect on her career options. Teenage angst. Cannibalistic, rapacious Reavers. Raging hormones. Murderous bounty hunters. Potential boyfriends. Genocidal operatives of Parliament. Her parents. She made the tour of her inner thoughts thrice before she finally settled down and resigned herself to replaying and examining the episode. The still-crazy aspect of River (or the aggregate craziness River had accumulated – take your pick) had been studiously avoiding it since it had happened, letting the course of events preoccupy as much of her mind as she could stand while the ugly, nagging fact of their virtual reunion hung in her mind like rotten fruit. It was harder for her to process such things. Her time under the tender care of Dr. Mathias and his butchers had shattered the normal human mechanisms for emotionally placing things in context within her brain. She was hard-wired to compartmentalize, now, and in order to maintain at least the illusion of sanity she had to regularly police her thoughts in ways that normal folk did automatically. It was a difficult, exhausting process, and not as effective as the natural state, but by processing her emotions cognitively, she was starting to acquire some sense of inner balance. She was getting much better at it, too. And one of the first things she had learned was to start with the happy and work towards the horrid. It took discipline, but the end-result was far more satisfactory. Surprise. She had been as surprised as she could be – she had to hand that to Simon. If not ingenious, his plan had at least been crafty and shrewd. She honestly hadn’t thought he had the skills within him to pull off something so inherently sneaky. River indulged herself in a full five seconds of pure, unadulterated big-brother worship in reverent memory of his feat. Criminal genius, indeed. Party. She had loved the sudden attention, and she never would have guessed that about herself. Recovering from the trauma of the Academy and all the other horrors she had accumulated along the way had made her withdrawn and often uncertain in social situations. But the surprise party had overwhelmed that tendency, and she had gotten warmly toasty on all the choice booze her brother had scrounged. She cherished each memory of the party like hand-blown glass. It was the best party she could remember, and the only birthday party. Even the later parts of it, after she had— Simon had ushered her up to the office where the soldiers were setting up the screen. He had managed to conceal the ultimate surprise by distracting her – and she chided herself for allowing her thoughts to be so undisciplined. Then she remembered that there had been cake, and her self-criticism faded. When the screen activated and the faces of her parents had resolved upon it, there was a period of utter shock mixed with joy and apprehension, with a vein of fear of rejection tangled miserably around it. And then . . . Nothing. She had felt nothing. They had taken so much of her, the hands-of-blue and their minions. Along with her sanity and her free will and her amygdale and her innocence they had removed – repaired – replaced her memories of her parents. She knew that parental archetypes based on one’s own biological forebears often played an essential role in the proper development of the adult personality, and that the strength of those archetypes could influence basic behavior to the extreme. Fear of rejection from the mother, for instance, was at the dark heart of every nightmarish moment of terror. Craving love and affection and acceptance from the father figure was essential in fully developing feminine adult persona. She was a physics geek who liked to fly and dance, and even she knew enough psychology to figure that out. So the Academy – the secret base that had turned her brain into carefully constructed hamburger – had removed those pillars of her subconscious, which made it much easier to convince her that it was appropriate for her to go into a room, pick up a loaded pistol, and discharge it into the brainpan of a hooded man she had never met. That had been before her telepathy had been fully developed, she remembered with startling clarity, and while she had not been privy to his name, his history, and how he had come to find himself a sacrificial victim, she had felt him die. In retrospect she knew she should have felt more, but the murder had been a test: had her social restraints based upon early childhood development been sufficiently altered to permit an extreme shift in behavior without undue emotional consequence? That’s what stripping away most of her childhood memories of her parents had helped accomplished. Oh, she remembered them, in abstract. They were inelegant in how they had gone about it, and shards and shreds of memory reflecting, say, watching her father’s expression at her first year dance recital, or the smell of her mother after her parents had come back from the Spring Ball, the smell of Joachim Vivant No.4 and hashish and fur and gin and sex. But direct memories, like those captures Simon had liberated from the family archives before he had fled, those were gone, mostly, as coherent thoughts. So she felt nothing. But she was, intellectually speaking, both furious and elated. The first moments of the reunion had been banal in their emotional outpouring. Mother had cried, of course, and continued crying throughout most of the dialogue. Daddy had broke down into an emotional tangle upon seeing his long lost daughter and wayward son, but quickly pulled himself back to paternal stoicism. Daddy was always so strong. “Are you okay, ai nyu?” he had asked, concerned. A thousand responses came instantly to mind. Yes. No. I’ve been horribly mutilated. I’m slightly drunk. “I am . . . now,” she had replied, gravely, after evaluating the potential emotional index of all of her possible responses. Luckily the alcohol had somewhat retarded her usual impulsive behavior. “Thanks to Simon. He rescued me.” “I . . . that’s what I hear,” her father had conceded, his eyes flicking down for a moment. “I did some checking into that . . . place, mei li, and . . . Simon was right.” It was a major admission for him, she could tell that by his face. She knew he and Simon had argued over her silly, desperate little code, and that her father had insisted that the secret lab was really an advanced school right up until the day Simon abruptly left. She felt profoundly gratified at the admission – she knew how stubborn he was. Simon, on the other hand, was flabbergasted. He stared incredulously at the screen, his mouth agape. “How . . . parental of you,” he finally said. “Better late than never, I suppose.” “Son we were under a lot of pressure from the government,” the elder Tam said, putting his hand on his wife’s shoulder defensively. “You have no idea! I was keeping things from you, trying to protect you—” “You were trying to protect me?” her big brother asked, shocked. “Your only daughter was being tortured and maimed, and you were worried about me?” “River made her choice,” their mother said, ignoring her tears. “She wanted to go off and study . . . you had made yours. Don’t fault your father, ai tz, for trying to help you fulfill your life’s dream—” “My life’s dream did not include losing my sister,” Simon said, flatly. “Not when it was within my power to save her.” “Which you did,” Mr. Tam admitted. “And got yourself into a cauldron of trouble yourself.” “She’s alive,” he pointed out, trying hard to contain his emotions. “I’m working on treating her condition. She’s still my sister. What kind of trouble isn’t worth that?” “That’s very noble of you, Simon,” her mother said, sharply. “But I don’t think you realize just what you gave up when you went on your . . . your little quest. Dr. Ramos says you would have made Chief of Surgery before you were thirty, maybe even received a faculty post.” She said it as she was announcing his Nobel Prize. “And all I had to do was consign my sister to a life of ceaseless suffering and torment.” He appeared to consider the matter for a moment. “Faculty post, you say? Did it come with a parking space?” River hadn’t been able to stifle her laugh. “Enough sarcasm, Son,” his father insisted. “Don’t misunderstand us – seeing you two, alive, after a year of worry is worth everything to us. In retrospect I’m very happy you . . . did what you did. But every action has repercussions, Son, and we’ve felt them.” “Alliance agents interviewing us at all hours of the night, interviews with investigators, search warrants, background checks – the neighbors are besides themselves with embarrassment, we’ve upset the neighborhood so.” Her mother looked weary and tortured, as if mindless bureaucracy was the moral equivalent to being tortured. “Mother, the neighbors can’t even see our house from theirs,” Simon reminded her, shaking her head. “But they know! Agnes Fu showed up to my bridge club – with your wanted poster! Do you realize how embarrassed I was? What can I say to that?” “That . . . I’ve chosen a more upwardly-mobile career path? I’m on sabbatical? Please, Mother, I have no doubt you thought of a hundred creative little white lies. That’s your forte, remember?” “I told her it was all a horrible misunderstanding, and that your father’s firm was handling it,” she said, evenly. “That didn’t stop the whispers.” “Gossip can be deadly,” Simon agreed, sagely. “River, remember when the Reavers were about to rape and eat us alive that one time, and then Jayne asked about Kaylee’s extra little trips to the infirmary? That was a bad day.” “Son, you are upsetting your mother!” Daddy said, crossly. “And she is upsetting me!” Simon exploded back with such force that it made River’s head hurt, just under the frontal lobes. “Your constant jockeying for social position, your concern for the opinions of people you barely know, your blindness to the suffering of others, your superficial—” “That’s . . . ENOUGH!” Mother had barked. “You have NOT earned the right to speak to me that way!” “I did when you refused to help your own child,” Simon riposted viciously. “When I gave you and Father a chance to help me, you turned your back. Worse! You told me I was crazy. And I wasn’t. I got River out, and I’ve kept her alive and healthy. I earned the right to speak my mind the moment you two abrogated your parental responsibilities.” “How were we to know that that sort of thing was going on?” objected Daddy. “I TOLD YOU THEY WERE!” Simon howled. “Yi su!” “Language, Simon!” Mother shot back shrilly. “Oh, stuff it up your ass,” her brother said, wearily. “Look, I’ve moved the planets around in the sky to get this precious few moments of quality family time on my sister’s birthday. Let’s save the acrimonious recriminations of neglect and abandonment for next time, shall we? Let’s start again. You look well. How is everything back home? Is there anything you want to know about what River and I did over Summer Break?” Her parents were very quiet for a few moments. Then her mother leaned forward just a hair. “Just who is this ‘Jane’ girl, Simon? Are you . . . involved?” River laughed herself into a coughing fit while Simon explained that no, he and Jayne weren’t involved. That’s when her impulsive nature decided to rear its ugly head. “Besides, Simon doesn’t have time to explore his homoerotic side,” she said, innocently. “He spends too much time having sex with Kaylee.” She nearly regretted saying it as soon as the words left her mouth – that was Simon’s business, not hers, and certainly not her news to tell. So she almost regretted it. But not quite. “Simon, you are involved with a girl?” Mother gasped. Daddy just stared. River thought that that would have been a very good time to have an amygdale, because the fear and horror she felt as she witnessed Simon consider a variety of responses – two of which involved direct physical violence to her person – would have come in handy just then. But then sigh with resignation. “Yes. Yes, Mother, I have a girlfriend. A wild, beautiful, smart, sexy girlfriend who also happens to like crawling around the innards of spaceships.” “I . . . see,” Mother said in a whisper. Her lip was trembling. River didn’t remember much about her childhood, but she remembered that lip. That, she was certain, was a warning sign of some sort. “Is it serious?” she continued whispering. “I’m not the sort for a casual relationship, Mother,” Simon said, evenly. “So yes, as far as the relationship part goes, it’s serious. But it’s probably not long-term.” “Oh, thank God!” Mother said, clasping a hand to her breast in relief. “Why not? Is she not . . . faithful?” “Oh, no, I couldn’t scrape Kaylee off of me with a stick,” Simon assured her. “It’s just that in this line of work we’ll all likely be dead before we reach our first anniversary. I’m incredibly surprised that we aren’t dead already. It’s been close. But once you take that into consideration, it really doesn’t do to make many long-range plans.” “Simon, I—” Daddy started to say, then stopped. “Um, I’m sure she’s quite a girl. What’s her name? Kaylee? That’s pretty,” he admitted, grudgingly. “And you seem taken with her.” “She’s my best friend!” River interjected, almost not realizing it. “Kaylee is shininess incarnate.” “Well, I’m glad you approve, River,” Mother said, calmly. “Tell me, does she come from a . . . a good family?” “I honestly haven’t met them yet,” Simon said. “But they’re dirt poor Rimworld trash, mother. She came from a dusty little moon you’ve never heard of, she swears like a spacer – well, because she is a spacer – and she has more fun tearing down an auxiliary power coupling or something like that than just about anything. She has little formal education, provincial manners, and she doesn’t shave her legs. She’s a slob. She wants at least five children,” he continued, lightly – and River was highly gratified to watch her mother squirm wildly in her seat at the mention of children. “She loves animals and people and she’s just a barely passable shot. Shall I describe the tattoos?” “Simon! What the hell are you doing with a girl like that?” she shrieked. “I raised you better than that!" “I’m shacking up on a spaceship on the run from the law and getting laid like a fiend,” he said with obvious relish. “And Kaylee is wonderful lady and I’d gladly take a bullet for her. In point of fact I have. And vice versa. It’s a frontier ritual,” he said with a straight face. “In short, I love her.” The shock of that particular four-letter word on their mother’s face was instant and definitive. She took a moment to respond. “Then I look forward to meeting the young woman who has made such a profound impression on you, Simon,” she said, too gently. “How about you, River? Are you rutting around like an animal in heat, too?” “Maybe after a couple more drinks – it is my birthday,” she had said, considering the sarcasm seriously before she realized what it was. Daddy didn’t look pleased at that at all. “Well, this wave is going to shut down in another minute or so,” Simon said in an attempt to cut the tension. “So to sum up, we’re alive, River’s on the mend, we’re still running for our lives and have been forced into a line of crime, I’ve got a girlfriend, River . . . anything to add?” “We exposed an Alliance cover-up of the creation of the Reavers from a botched experiment that resulted in the deaths of thirty million people,” she said. “Oh! And I got my own spacesuit. It’s AWESOME! And I’m a pilot now. Not just fliers, I fly the spaceship. With half my brain tied behind my back, sometimes,” she said, wondering if her parents would appreciate the joke. “Space suit? Reavers? Oh, God, I can’t even tell when you’re joking any more,” Daddy said. “Look, I don’t know how, yet, but we’ll find some way to meet soon. I know you’re on the run – do you need money?” “Life of crime,” Simon said. “We do all right.” “You could have been married by now,” Mother pronounced. “To a proper girl.” “Things don’t always work out like we plan, Mother. River and I love you, we love you both, and if we make it through the next few months maybe we can talk this out. But for now . . . we love you. Stay safe. Enjoy yourselves.” “You too, Son,” Daddy said, gravely. “I’d tell you to take care of your sister, but you seem to have done pretty well by that. I’m proud of you, Simon. Uh, you too, River. Your mother and I love you both very—” And that was when the signal was lost. They were both silent for a moment, and River stood in quiet contemplation and even shed a tear. But then Simon stretched, leaned over and hugged her. She returned the embrace warmly – she was always so unsure of when it was appropriate to hug, she was grateful to get the cues. After a few moments they broke apart, and River was surprised to see that she had not been alone in weeping. Simon realized he was crying and laughed through the tears. “Hell, that was the most fun I’ve had in months,” he sighed. “I never realized how much I enjoyed torturing my own mother. I wonder what that says about what kind of person I am?” “It’s a lot of fun,” River agreed. “I’ve been doing it since I was four. They’re really worried,” River observed. “Mother is just too hidebound by social order and Father is too emotionally constipated to convey that in a comforting way.” “God, for how did two such humped up people produce two relatively well-adjusted kids like us?” “Yeah,” River said, as she parsed his words. “We’re just . . . shiny.”

River occupied herself with reliving the episode five times in a row, appreciating and observing from every thinkable perspective, and then mentally translating the dialog into Farsi because it amused her. When the first thought of the experience didn’t automatically elevate her stress levels, she knew that she had made some progress. She could move on to more interesting things. Like the crew of this ancient ship and its prisoners. She had casually brushed up against their minds from afar, but she had yet to make a systematic study – or even initial foray – into the thoughts of these people. Everyone was scared – from the prisoners to the guards to the scientists. She visited each mental spark briefly, long enough to get initial impressions and mentally construct an aggregate graph of emotional indices. The prisoners were scared and excited – something was brewing, most of them knew, and she was intrigued that it was the appearance of her brother – as a Parliamentary Inspector, she realized – that was the focus of their energy. The guards and other security personnel were all suffering from various degrees of despair. Some mourned for a lost career, some for the rosy futures that were now almost certainly denied to them, some just seethed in impotent rage as their fates were being decided by others. The scientists and researchers were perhaps the most terrified, she saw, each of them wracked with a cloud of collective guilt and the fear of collective judgment. She began to drift lower in the ship until she recognized surface thoughts so horribly hostile – and frighteningly familiar to her – that she quickly withdrew. She knew about Below, now, and she would not willingly let her mind wander there. That was good, she realized, the triumph of cognitive reasoning over blind curiosity. That was a rare achievement for her, and she consciously allowed her internal adulation of the experience to distract her from dwelling on what lay Below. She was about to probe even more deeply in a few of the more interesting brains of the people of the Suri Madron when she realized she had missed something. Something new. River had found something new. She scanned the ship again with her mind and recognized several iterations of the newness, scattered around various sections of the ship, but the focus of them all lay within one solitary node of consciousness. She traced it with eagerness borne of curiosity – and this time she was willing to throw caution to the proverbial wind. This was something strange, breathtakingly strange – and new. The node was abuzz with activity, a swirling ball of light with tendrils that stretched across the bulkheads and decks. That wasn’t unique, she knew – she had encountered that kind of gestalt among certain experimental subjects at the Academy – but the origin and make-up of the patterns of consciousness were unique to her experience. There was information flowing, here, she knew, and that in and of itself was important. But there was more. The new. She began gently probing the swirl with her own mind, rubbing her consciousness gently across the Other. It was a delicate thing, when she did this, and it was easy to get lost if she was not careful. The novelty of the Other made it significantly more challenging, but it also made it worth the effort. The surface thoughts were scattered, shattered, fractured fragments of hastily combined thoughts and experience. With sudden clarity she recognized them as similar to her own, if less coherent. What she had here was at least partially the result of surgical mutilation, akin to what had been inflicted upon her. But the special nature of the Other went far beyond another mere mental monstrosity – there were those aplenty on this ship. The perspective was skewed, the perceptions were distorted, the experiences relayed were undeniably different at a fundamental level from any she had encountered. It wasn’t inhuman, like a Reaver, lust wrapped in rage bound in a vile shell of naked aggression. But it wasn’t Human, either. River’s heart fluttered a single moment when her busy brain offered her the tag of alien to describe the Other. That, she knew, would be the ultimate horrific telepathic thrill, to feel truly alien thoughts caress her own. That experience, she knew, she would seek her entire life. In truth she was not eager for it to happen so soon, as it didn’t give her much else to look forward to. But just as quickly as she considered the possibility that this might be an actual alien, she discarded it as imprecise. As foreign as this Other was, as unHuman as it was, it was not the product of an alien biology. Aliens, she reasoned, would hardly choose to think in Chinese. Her curiosity truly piqued, now, she could not resist advancing into the thick of the stream of the Other’s consciousness to at least discover some personal identification information. She hated the banality of calling it the ‘Other’ and was desperate to find some sense of this entity’s self . . . only to discover one of the last things she had suspected. The Other had a name. A very specific name. Sun Wu-k’ung. The Monkey King. Instantly every morsel of data about the history of the character poured relentlessly into her brain. Of course the first bits were tied to her own personal experience of the Monkey King character as a child, and so began there. She knew the loveable and popular children’s character was developed into its current classic incarnation after the split between the SCO nations of Earth That Was and the Euro-American Atlantic Alliance in the mid 21st century. As the various factions of corporate multinationals took sides between the two and split up assets and intellectual property rights with their Western counterparts, Disney Asia lost the valuable trademarks of the traditional characters owned by the Disney America/EuroDisney entertainment cartel. Turning instead to looting traditional Asian cultures for profit and market share, they immediately seized on an ancient, popular Chinese folk hero that had been successfully re-branded repeatedly over the centuries. Sun Wu-k’ung had become a sensation among the gleeful throngs, and became associated – even iconic – with the cultural institutions of the early Great China. His original powers of magic, great strength, amazing cunning and an inherent sense of rebellion became re-imagined for the masses of Great China to include wise-cracking banter and straight-man sidekicks, the journey now bereft of religious imagery in the sophisticated new empire. The video animations, voiced by fashionable celebrities, were still highly popular fare on the K channels of the Cortex – it was hard not to be delighted in the antics of the Monkey King as he and his comrades . . . well, she was a little hazy on the details of the original plot, that being considered part of her childhood memories and, therefore, considered expendable. But there was plenty else there: how Monkey King was originally a Chinese folk hero and minor divinity, the Trickster God who challenged authority and occasionally threw feces at them. Originally associated with the Taoist proto-culture of the northern China, when Buddhism was brought to China by Bodhidharma the Monkey King was fictionally converted to the new religion. And after a seemingly endless series of adventures, some of which involved outrageous magic and Taoist sorcery and kung fu and some of which involved the throwing of feces, Monkey King was promoted to a high position in the highly stylized Chinese heaven . . . until he was needed again by his people, as a corporate icon and profit center. Of course the ancient Three Disneys had long ago re-conglomerated, and still ran a powerful multi-headed entertainment empire in the Core. The Monkey King had become a beloved childhood icon, as well as an ancient divine folk hero. Pure fiction. Except it wasn’t, apparently. The Other called himself Monkey King. Sun Wu-k’ung, actually, preferring the Eastern to the Western. He, too, was aware of the history of the name, and if River was confused about whether or not this was, indeed, the actual Monkey King, alive and untainted by corporate re-branding, then the Other – Sun Wu-k’ung – was likewise confused. And that amused River. She dared herself to go yet deeper, to try to skip past the surface and observe the consciousness directly. In some ways it was easier to accomplish than it would be for another human, and in some ways it was breathtakingly different. But she found herself witnessing the inner workings of Sun Wu k’ung’s mind, and it was beautiful and strange and bestial all at once. Much of what she experienced was unintelligible, without context, and she filed it away for later review. Some was purely biologically reflex with a thin veneer of conscious thought over it. But some of it was oddly familiar, and definitely perceivable (if not entirely understandable) as real, intelligible conscious thought. Sun Wu k’ung was listening intently to a conversation between two barely-distinguishable humans, and he was thinking furiously. About survival, and alarm, and panic, and desperation . . . not unlike many of the other inhabitants of the Suri Madron. Indeed, Sun Wu k’ung was aware, at least in part, of the urgency of the situation on the ship. The fact that he even knew he was on a spaceship amused River – and the idea that a 6,000 year old folk god was here, of all places in the ‘verse, intrigued her to no end. With a mixture of fear and trepidation she went further, into his prime conscious thoughts – seeing what he was seeing, hearing what he was hearing, and all through a strange monkey-shaped haze. The sheer novelty of the experience was exhilarating, like sitting behind the stick on a new ship for the first time. She reveled in the feel a moment before she tried to make sense of this monkey’s senses. A small office, painstakingly neat yet undeniably shabby – and she knew that Sun Wu k’ung was responsible for the neatness, and he was even somewhat proud of it. It struck her as funny that a monkey might be a fussy housekeeper. The two humans were harder to make out. The more familiar of the two was a droning male, clearly a leader, but sad and stupid from Sun Wu k’ung’s perspective. The Monkey King had known the male all his life and River could sense a deeply troubling, highly emotional range of feelings associated with him. The other was likewise a male, new, nervous, raw. Sun Wu k’ung could smell his fear as profoundly as he could the other male’s, though it was a different character. River stopped a moment to appreciate the sensitivity of Sun Wu k’ung’s nose – how come her own didn’t function as acutely? Was it a learned skill? Could she artificially augment her own nose’s sensitivity? She tabled the issue for later consideration and moved on. Trying to hone in on facial features through unfamiliar eyes proved more difficult than she anticipated – monkeys just didn’t see the same things on faces that humans did. She had to get closer to the origin of the consciousness, stand as near to the fount of Sun Wu k’ung’s mind as she could to approach that level of understanding. Slowly, it started making sense to her. It required a shift of perspective that incorporated movement and position in three dimensions, rather than an emphasis on color and hue. It took effort, but by trial and error it started to focus out. To help the process she relaxed the attempt to master the visual and concentrated instead on the aural. The voices were speaking English, mostly, and sounded strange through monkey ears. Once again she put forth the effort and tried to adjust her perceptions through trial and error. They still didn’t sound quite right, but she could make out words and ideas. A few snatches of conversation caught her interest, and she focused more on the strange new man. He was familiar, she realized, not to Sun Wu k’ung, but to her, River Tam. With a mental gasp of recognition she went back to managing the visual, and with her familiar perspective now in place the face swam into focus, in full resolution. Simon! River startled herself, and almost came unglued from Sun Wu k’ung entirely. She steadied her focus and tried to actually see and understand what was being said. Eavesdropping on your brother was always an acceptable form of recreation. To be able to do so by hitchhiking on a monkey’s brain, well, River figured there was something unique about that pleasure. This was just too much fun not to. While she tried to re-atune herself to the vein of experience she became aware of another novel sensation: someone was watching her. Not outside of her body, where she lay on the catwalk in Serenity’s cargo hold. No, someone was watching her . . . right here, in the monkey brain. Someone was aware of her presence and observing her, and she had just realized it. Can I help you? A mental “voice” said to her, in strangely accented Chinese. Reflexively River withdrew, pulling her own focused point of consciousness back into her body. She inhaled quickly and violently, her eyes opened wide with wonder, awe, and terror. “The Monkey King is here!” she whispered. She had to tell Mal. Even if he and Inara were . . . she had to tell Mal. This was too important. The Monkey King was here.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008 5:24 PM


I've been waiting so long to finish this chapter . . .

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 5:46 PM


Nobody does sarcastic Simon as well as you, StA, and your River was wonderfully accurate and believable. Your description of her thought processes is awesome and a thing of beauty. Now I have to go reread the preceding chapters to get back up to speed on this. Looking so forward to more.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 8:07 PM


Very cool and interesting. I was actually thinking about sending you a email this week to poke you about the next chapter. i sure hope you don't keep us hanging this long again. Good to see another chapter. I mean I can only reread the other ones so many times.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008 3:52 AM


You did it to me again! My co-workers are looking at me wierd....of course, I am laughing at my computer screen.....


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Unfinished Business -- Chapter Thirty-One
The battle begins, Rachel changes plans, and River meets the politest baboon she's ever met.

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Thirty
The Uprising Begins

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Nine
A whole lotta folks get ready to do a whole lotta stuff.

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Eight
The Confession of Dr. Rendell.

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Seven
River remembers her birthday and meets a monkey . . . sort of.

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Six
Inara Serra's Temptaion: The Lady, or the Tiger?

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty Five
Inspector Simon and Dr. Romano have a little chat, and Fate gives him a gift

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Four
The excitement of piracy, the agony of waiting, and the anticipation of a completely stupid stunt!

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Three
Serenity arrives on the Suri Madron.

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty Two
Simon gets tested, Zoe gets quizzed, and Kaylee gets . . . satisfied. For the moment.