Storm Front--Part XXXII--Final Offensive
Thursday, October 9, 2008

Parliament pulls one more rabbit from its hat, and Mal’s life is, to no one’s surprise, in danger.


“He’s not going to budge,” Senator Jinyu said irritably. “And we can hardly accede to his demands. It would mean disbanding the parliament.”

“Don’t be troubled,” Senator Strong said calmly. “There is always a contingency plan.”

“If that is so, I’d sure as hell like to hear it,” Jinyu scoffed. “Because there’s been no gorram contingency plan throughout this entire god-forsaken war.”

“Of course there has,” Strong said, smiling thinly. “However, it was thought it would be best to let things come to a certain point before exercising our final option.”

“A certain point?” Jinyu exclaimed. “I would assume that we’ve met and passed any point that would help us by now. We’re sitting in negotiations for our entire way of life, with a rebel leader with no compunction about bringing the entire system to its knees. How much farther need we sink before we do something?”

“You’re distraught,” Strong said pleasantly. “And you’re not thinking clearly.”

“Then, please, enlighten me,” Jinyu said sarcastically.

Strong leaned back in his chair. “With pleasure,” he said, smiling. “Think it through. We knew going into the war that our resources were stretched thin. We knew also that more and more dissidents were banding together to fight against our troops. Further, we knew that they would rally around their charismatic leader.”

“Yes,” Jinyu said irritably. “So?”

“So,” Strong continued, as if he had not been interrupted. “If we had killed their leader, we would have only managed to create in him a martyr figure. Our earliest attempts to discredit him proved quite disastrous on all counts. The insurgency gained momentum at an alarming rate. All of this pointed to the fact that we would have to neutralize the effect Reynolds had on the movement somehow.”

“Which we have failed miserably to do, as is evident by his presence at the negotiating table every gorram day,” Jinyu said harshly.

Strong smiled. “Then it would seem that now is the time to discredit him once and for all,” he said. “And quite publicly, at that.”


“There is one more…duplicate of Reynolds, a man most amenable to our way of thinking. He has been with us since we acquired the last of BlueSun’s assets.”

“A clone?” Jinyu asked, leaning forward excitedly in his chair.

“Exactly so,” Strong said, smiling smugly. “Let us suppose for a moment that he were the one sitting at the negotiating table with us. And let us further suppose that the negotiations occurred in a public forum, open to the press. How do you suppose the rebels would feel if they saw their illustrious leader cave in to our demands bit by bit until their precious little ideals hung in shreds? How long would it take for them to scatter in total disarray?”

Jinyu sat back in his chair, steepling his hands under his chin in thought. “How would the switch occur?”

“Easily enough,” Strong said. “Mr. Reynolds, for all his uncanny ability to survive, is like other men. He has a certain pattern, a certain routine every day. Once the noon break comes, he leaves the council chambers with only his man Cobb for company. He has the habit of walking down a little path through the gardens behind the building and eating his lunch in relative quiet to avoid the possibility of running into reporters. There are any number of places along his usual route that might be a little, shall we say, dangerous.”

Jinyu smiled for the first time since the cursed negotiations had begun. “I see,” he said, much more calmly than he had spoken before. “And you are certain that this…clone…will act in accord with the best interests of the Parliament?”

“Absolutely,” Strong replied. “He is definitely our man.”


Zoe perched at her post in a large tree in the garden behind the building that housed the council chamber. Her legs, still recovering from the injury she’d sustained, ached from staying immobile for so long. But her senses were sharply heightened, aware of every minute change in her surroundings. She saw the sniper, hidden in some foliage on the other side of the garden, waiting patiently in position for Mal’s predictable arrival.

From the other direction, she saw Mal emerge from the building, Jayne following closely behind him, his eyes moving over the landscape restlessly in search of the sniper as well. Zoe’s hand moved almost imperceptibly, her finger hovering over the trigger of her gun. Mal continued down the path, looking not at all concerned for his safety. Sitting on his usual bench, he made a show of opening the bag that held his lunch.

Zoe followed the slow progression of the sniper’s gun as he sighted down the barrel with consummate professionalism. She raised her own weapon swiftly, pulling the trigger as soon as she had the sniper in her sights. There was a small pop and the sniper slumped forward, the barrel of his gun pointing uselessly now at the ground.

Jayne, following the sound, saw the sniper fall and grinned up at Zoe in the tree. “Good shot,” he said.

“Thanks,” she replied blandly, climbing down to the lower branches with a small amount of difficulty.

“That the only one they sent?” Mal asked, somewhat surprised and almost insulted.

“He was supposed to be the best they had,” Zoe snorted. “Guess they were runnin’ short on snipers.”

“And shorter now, thanks to you,” Mal said, grinning. “Still, you’d think they’d at least have a backup.”

“Mebbe they didn’t think you were smart enough for them to need one,” Jayne pointed out with his best innocent look.

Mal frowned. “Very funny, though truth be told, it might not have gone so smooth without River.”

“It does sometimes pay to have a Reader on your side,” Zoe said evenly.

“A little fact that the noble Senators forgot, I conjure,” Mal said. “Speakin’ of River, any word?”

“None yet,” Zoe said, pulling the earpiece from her ear. “Must still be inside.”

“See if she needs some help,” Mal said. “Jayne and I can handle it from here.”

Zoe nodded, moving slowly but with a straight spine toward the back entrance of the building.


River crept quietly along the corridor of the nearly empty building, listening intently for her prey. She heard voices coming from one of the rooms to the left and she paused for a moment, sifting through their thoughts in search of something useful. Deciding quickly that they had no answers for her, she moved forward slowly, her mind reaching into the empty rooms around her.

Soon, she found the room where the Senators from the negotiations sat, eating their lunch and talking among themselves about the lack of any real progress in their meetings with the rebel leaders. She smiled, allowing herself to enjoy their frustration with her husband’s stubbornness for just a moment before moving on. Senators Strong and Jinyu were absent.

She turned a corner into a darkened corridor and moved with renewed purpose down the hall as she sensed the presence of the clone close by. As she moved closer, she read his thoughts, his mind a horrible parody of Mal’s, twisted with his allegiance to the Alliance as his mentors and saviors. She shuddered, revolted by the sheer magnitude of his hatred for the Independents and what they stood for. This thing, she thought grimly, was much farther removed from her husband than any of the others had been. And for that, she was almost grateful.

Reaching the door behind which he awaited his signal to come forward and play the part of the rebel leader, she slowly slid it open and stepped inside. The clone sat with his back to the door. But still, when she entered, he said pleasantly, “Knew you would come for me.”

The skin on River’s arms prickled as he turned to look at her calmly. “Knew it would be you that came,” he said again. “You and I, we are destined to meet in every incarnation of this body, I think.”

“How many of you are there?” she asked.

The clone shrugged. “I have no idea,” he replied. “Truthfully, my only concern is me. Any others will have to fend for themselves.”

“They do not plan to let you live, you know,” River said. “Once you’ve done their bidding, they will see to your destruction.”

“I might not be quite as easy to destroy as the Senators seem to think,” he said, the skin around his eyes crinkling as he smiled.

“No matter,” River replied, her arms hanging loosely at her sides. “They will never get the opportunity.”

The clone rose, emphasizing the unhurried quality of his movements. “You intend to end this here and now,” he said flatly, not a question.

“I do,” River said.

“I do,” the clone repeated as if tasting the words on his tongue. “Sounds almost like a marriage vow, doesn’t it?”

River saw his hand move slightly toward the gun strapped to his leg, and she reached easily for the blades across her back. “Not at all,” she replied, the blades now held lightly in each hand.

The clone smiled more widely. “The blades are a good look on you,” he said conversationally as he drew his weapon and aimed it squarely at her chest.

River leapt forward, catching him with a swift slash of her blade. The clone crumpled to the floor, blood gushing from the thin slice at his neck. “Tell me, River, why did you let me draw my weapon?” he gurgled, looking up into her hard, brown eyes.

“Why didn’t you fire?” she replied.

He blinked slowly as if coming to some realization. “Because I love you,” he said faintly.

She nodded. “I know,” she said, though he did not live to hear the words. Slowly, she wiped her blade on the hem of her dress and walked out of the room without looking back.

Seeing River emerge from a side corridor, Zoe limped forward. “Is it done?” she asked quickly.

River nodded. “Third door on the left,” she said, not breaking stride.


Mal sat on one end of the long conference table, thinking that the lights of the recording devices that the media had placed so strategically were much too warm for comfort. However, looking across the table at the Senators, he realized that they were much more uncomfortable at this point than he was ever apt to be.

Having spent the better part of his lunch break arranging to take the place of his clone, he had to admit that he was enjoying the slow dawning of realization on the faces of Senators Strong and Jinyu. Confident that their plan had been a resounding success when they confirmed the presence of Mal’s body slumped over the garden bench beside a seemingly corpsified Jayne, they had opened the meetings to the press. And now, in front of all the worlds spinning, Mal was setting the terms of their surrender, calling for sweeping reforms including a restructuring of the entire government with a broad emphasis on autonomy for each world coordinated through a central ruling body with limited powers.

And though the Senators strongly resisted the demands of the Independents as Mal presented them, they had been badly outmaneuvered at every turn. Seeing no way to discredit the Independent leadership and no way to save their positions without endangering their lives, they agreed to Mal’s terms with minor amendments that would at least leave them with the small concession of having won on a few trivial matters.

The meetings lasted for days, each section of the peace treaty hard fought in every detail. And the people of the ‘verse watched in fascination as the only government most of them had ever known came to its knees on the soil of Ariel.


To be continued


Thursday, October 9, 2008 9:45 PM


And so it comes towards an ending ...

Friday, October 10, 2008 1:20 AM


Glad River was finally able to justify the price at being made a reader. Glad the war stories didn't linger too long, and now you have a brand new 'verse. Karma is an interesting thing to come back and bite you - too bad the Alliance didn't learn that.

Friday, October 10, 2008 1:54 AM


It's always good to have a Reader on your side. Especially with assination plots and replacement by a clone are a possibility.

I'm interested to see how the crew functions in the new 'verse and what the kids are up too. But that's another story isn't it?

Friday, October 10, 2008 8:03 AM


w00t! Go Mal. Awesome. I also want to see the children reunited tho - how much older would they all be? Maturer? I hope to find out.

Friday, October 10, 2008 2:35 PM


Loved this, very neat turning the switch on them and having Mal take the place of the last clone. Very nice piece of poetic justice. Hope we get to see the children being reunited with our Big Damn Heroes and hope Mal won't have to stay in a political capacity but finds someone trustworthy to hand the reins of power over to. Really liked River tracking down the last clone then finishing him off though a tiny, infinitesimally small part of me feels a frisson of sorrow for the clones in that each one has enough of Mal's memories to love River and feel what he feels for her. After all, they are victims albeit on the enemy side of the fence. - Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, October 10, 2008 3:22 PM


Glad you didn't have the clone already infiltrated as the "real" Mal from the beginning, with the entire Revolution as an Alliance false flag psyop.

So Serenity grows up. Now they have to get real jobs. Creepifyin.


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'Til Death Parts Us--Part VI
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. For Marcus and Elizabeth, the moment has arrived, and Mal gives the ceremony his best shot.

'Til Death Parts Us--Part V
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. The Hit or Miss crew’s plans for Marcus swing into effect.

'Til Death Parts Us--Part IV
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. The search is on for Anya, and Adam faces the music.

'Til Death Parts Us--Part III
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. Anya makes an inadvisable deal with Adam, and complications ensue.
Note: Thanks, ebfiddler, for suggesting that we include a small reminder note about the timeline of this story. At this point in this version of the ‘verse, we are about 10 to 11 years past the BDM, for those who keep track of such things. My, how time flies when you’re having fun! :)

'Til Death Parts Us--Part II
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. Anya asks a favor of Mal, and Marcus plans a job.

'Til Death Parts Us--Part I
Co-written by the ever-talented Midnight Obsidian. Takes place shortly after the events of “Fractured” and “Aftermath” in a continuing Mal/River storyline that began a million years ago with “Voices”.
Summary: Life goes on for the crews of Serenity and the Hit or Miss, as everyone prepares for the long-awaited wedding.

Bad...In the Latin
Set within the timeline of the series. Stream of consciousness study. River contemplates her new environment. I'm kinda' rusty, so here's to hoping I have remembered a little something about writing!

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One-shot set anytime within scope of the Mal/River storyline.

Aftermath--Part IV--Mal
Conclusion. Mal deals with the aftereffects of his time spent with the madman.

Aftermath--Part III--Marcus
Follows the events of “Fractured” in a continuing Mal/River storyline. Marcus re-evaluates his choices.