BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

CBSTEVE

River's Run - Part 13
Monday, May 4, 2009

Shock and a sense of tragedy fill Serenity as the crew struggles to deal with Derek's betrayal. Meanwhile, the Operative comes a step closer to finding Serenity.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2004    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

River’s Run – Part 13

It was night time on Serenity, the ship’s 24 hour clock of Earth That Was hours showing just past midnight. Sleep didn’t come to River as easily to others on board. Her sexual urges were fully aroused as she thought of what she and Derek had done the night before. It wasn’t the same as with Janice. With her it had been long, slow build ups to ecstasy, with plenty of kissing and hugging and leisurely talking between love making. Janice was soft, her hair long and silky, her lips and tongue so wonderful when they touched River’s lips and the rest of her body.

Derek was hard, so hard, in all the right places. When River first touched his manhood she thought he would die from the sounds he made. She let her fingers explore him and used her mouth and tongue for just a brief moment before he pulled her off him, saying he wouldn’t last long if she did that. She climbed on top of his body and let him kiss her breasts and use his hand between her legs. She couldn’t stand it any longer and begged him to enter her, and when he did there was pain, and River fought it off and let him do what he wanted to do to her. He didn’t last long the first time and she let him orgasm inside her, knowing Kaylee and Inara and probably Zoe too had those morning after pills.

As she lay on her bed in the passenger room she thought on this and she let her mind search for Derek, across in his room, wondering if he was having the same thoughts as her. But after a few moments she realized he wasn’t there. She stretched out her mind to find him, searching and then she had a fleeting glimpse of Derek. His thoughts were cloudy, mostly hidden, and she had trouble understanding what was happening. He was looking at images on a Cortex screen, but she could barely make out the images as they entered his mind. Suddenly one image was like a red hot knife poking his brain and River gasped as she knew what it meant and had to turn away from those thoughts before something wrong, terribly wrong, happened to her.

She swiftly rose from bed clad in her nightdress, reached under her thin mattress and took out a pistol and made sure it was loaded as she left her room. River walked across to the stairs going up and had a brief glimpse of Simon in the infirmary checking the unconscious Jayne’s vitals. Up the stairs she went and just as she turned toward the dining area she suddenly knew where Derek was and what he was doing.

BLAM! The pistol shot was so loud, in her head and ears and now she saw Derek firing and hitting Justin Powers and the former colonel toppling over in his chair. River ran to the dining room as Derek turned the pistol toward Mal.

“DEREK!” she screamed in her voice and in her head and as he fired he was slightly distracted and turned toward her. Mal dropped like a stone and River thought he was dead.

“Oh, God, Derek, what are you doing?!?!” River yelled as she entered the dining room. His pistol was pointing toward her and he stopped for a second, let his pistol arm drop, and looked at her, his eyes and face so cold, not a hint of emotion, and then the gun rose and she knew what he was going to do.

As Derek’s gun fired River dropped and rolled behind the heavy wooden table. Bullets screamed over her head and some slammed into the heavy table.

“Stop it! Stop it!” she yelled. “It’s not you! It’s not you! Derek, oh God, Derek, please wake up! Please!!”

Now River could sense her brother nearby, could sense alarm through the ship, could feel Zoe and Wash waking, knew Zoe would be coming out of her bunk in a few seconds, knew she would be vulnerable, stuck in a hole.

Derek sensed it also, knew someone was behind him, and turned back down the fore hall and walked right to Zoe and Wash’s bunk. River knew they would be as dead as Mal and Powers in a few moments. The hatch to the bunk opened and River knew what she had to do. River stood from behind the table and fired her gun down the hall at Derek as tears filled her eyes.

**********************************************

Derek knew he would wake up soon, had to wake up soon. It was a dream, just another nightmare. The brown hair man fell down and then he turned to the sound of the woman’s voice. It wasn’t a woman, more like a girl, with long brown hair, big brown eyes, a look of horror on her face. He knew her, somehow, from somewhere. She was shouting, but he couldn’t hear her. He looked at his right hand and there was a pistol in it. That’s odd. How did that get there? He lowered it for a moment, not understanding what was happening.

And then something told him to kill her, kill the woman, the girl, and something in his heart said a small “no” for a just a second and then he was overwhelmed by the urge to kill her, shoot her, and the gun came up.

He fired and she wasn’t where he thought she would be. She was hidden, he couldn’t see her. He fired some more and was about to move into the room to find her when something grabbed his mind. Someone was behind him, someone with a gun, with a fierce intent to do harm to him, someone was coming up from below. He forgot about the woman, turned to find this knew threat, located it, and prepared to deal with it. The door opened and he fired.

Then pain, in his side and he felt himself scream. More pain, he turned slightly, and suddenly Derek was awake. He knew what he had done and he saw who was shooting at him. River! Wait! River! I love….and then there was no more. All he was and all he ever would be was gone.

***************************************

“What the hell was that?” Wash asked and Zoe was already up and grabbing her gun.

“Shots fired,” she said and then more shots came. “Close to here. Dining room.” She reached for the control panel on the side of the bunk ladder.

“Wait! Wait!’ Wash said in alarm as he scrambled out of bed.

“Somebody’s shooting!” Zoe said through clenched teeth.

“Yeah, and that someone is only one person I can think of!” Wash said but before he could add more, Zoe hit the open button. Wash was out of bed and before he even knew what he was doing he had his arms around Zoe’s waist and was using all his strength to drag her back from the ladder she was poised to climb up. Just as he did so, bullets plunged down into their bunk, hitting the metal floor and sending sparks flying and bullets ricocheting around. Then they could hear more shots from above.

There was a yell of surprise and then the sound of a gun dropping. Then Derek Bowen’s body dropped straight down into their bunk, a bullet in the head and two in the chest.

*****************************************

Simon was just getting ready to head to bed when he saw a glimpse of his sister heading topside with a gun in her hand. He knew that wasn’t a good sign and he grabbed his med kit and ran out after her, just getting to the aft hall as bullets starting flying past him, heading towards the engine room.

He barely got a glimpse of River hiding behind the table and Derek firing at her. Then he heard her yells, heard the emotion in her voice, knew what was happening, and also knew what his sister was about to do.

Simon peeked out and saw it all. Derek firing down into Zoe and Wash’s bunk, River firing at him, bullets hitting Derek on the left side, then one hitting him in the head. He yelled at the first hit, dropped his pistol after the last, and pitched forward and to the side down into Wash and Zoe’s bunk.

“Nooooo!” River wailed in anguish and she just collapsed on the floor and let out a big sobbing wrenching wail of pain and agony and loss.

“River! River!” Simon yelled as he rushed to her side. “Are you hurt? Are you shot?”

Through her fog River heard his voice. “No,” she barely whispered in reply. “Not hurt. Not outside.”

Simon knew what she meant but had no time. People were hurt on the outside. He looked at Mal and saw the blood coming from his head and thought he was dead for sure. Then he raced over and looked at Powers, felt for a pulse and there was one, barely. Then Inara and Kaylee arrived, Inara from the fore hall, Kaylee from the aft hall.

“Mal!” Inara screamed and ran over to her man. “Oh, merciful Buddha! No, Mal, Mal no!!!”

“Kaylee!” Simon yelled to his stunned wife, just standing by the sobbing River, looking at the bodies and the blood. “Kaylee!”

“What happened?” she finally said, almost crying, her voice cracking. “Is the Capt’n…is he…dead?”

“I need the stretcher, Kaylee, I need it now!”

“Simon…just tell me…is he dead?”

Simon ran over to Mal. Inara was holding his head, trying to stop the blood coming from the left temple area. Simon looked in Mal eyes, saw life there, found a pulse.

“Not yet! Now hurry!” Simon yelled and Kaylee raced for the stretcher.

“Derek is dead,” Zoe said as she stood with her gun and husband in the fore hall. “He must have done it. He shot them. Who killed Derek?” Her voice was cold and barely had any emotion as she looked at her captain lying there with blood coming from his head, Inara’s hands covered in blood.

Simon glanced back at the sobbing River, the pistol near her hand and Zoe followed his eyes and knew what had happened.

He looked at Zoe. “I need you to go to the infirmary and move Jayne off the table. Put him in the passenger lounge for now.”

“And Mal?” Zoe asked, not even answering his request.

“Simon, Simon,” Inara said through her tears. “You can save him, can’t you?”

Simon was still looking at Mal’s wound and then heaved a sigh of relief. “It’s just a graze, skull’s intact. He’ll have a hell of a headache, maybe a concussion. He’ll live.”

Inara closed her eyes and said a small prayer to her Buddha as Zoe did the same without the prayer. She nodded toward Wash and they moved off to the infirmary as Simon moved over to Powers. Kaylee returned with Gabriel and the stretcher.

“Son, what’s going on? What’s wrong with River?” Gabriel asked in hushed tones, taking in all this blood and mayhem.

Simon looked at his father and then toward River. “She killed Derek.”

*********************************************

Mal lay on the sofa and Jayne on floor in the passenger lounge, Mal’s head wrapped in a thick bandage. Inara sat on the floor by Mal and held his hand, barely holding back her tears, making sure he was still breathing. River was curled up in a chair, her mother and father next to her. She had stopped crying, but her face was a mask of sorry.

Inside the infirmary, Simon and Kaylee and Zoe stood over the open chest of Justin Powers, all three with rubber aprons and gloves on. Simon had the electro paddles for the defibrillator in his hands.

“Charge again!” he said, for the fifth time. Zoe didn’t move toward the control panel, just looked at Simon and laid a hand on his arm.

“He’s gone.”

Simon knew she was right. He dropped the paddles, ripped off his gloves and threw them on the floor. “Gorramnit!” he cursed uncharacteristically.

“You did everything you could,” Kaylee said after she took off her gloves and apron. She helped him talk off his apron and then gave him a big hug.

“Powers is dead,” Zoe said to the others as she came out of the infirmary. “Bullet nicked his heart.” Everyone was still in too much shock to say anything.

After a few moments Simon and Kaylee came out, Simon all business again. “Let’s get Mal on the table and check his head.”

They took Powers’ body off the table and Gabriel and Zoe took it to the cargo bay on the stretcher and lay it next to the body of Ames, which was getting a little gamey after a few days. In a few moments Mal was on the table and Simon was doing a scan of his head.

As Simon looked at the scans Inara finally asked him. “What happened? Why did he do this?”

Before Simon could answer Wash did, sticking his head in the doorway. “He was on the Cortex, few minutes before it happened. Least I think it was him. No one else was around and I didn’t leave anything on before hitting the sack. When I got on the bridge the screen was still on, playing some music show.”

“What’s the Cortex have to do with this?’ Zoe asked.

“Messages,” Simon said. “I think they were sending messages through the Cortex to the students.”

“Shin,” Zoe said through gritted teeth. “He did this.”

“Yeah, but how did Derek know to check the Cortex?’ Kaylee asked. “Last I saw he went to bed. Why’d he get up? Ain’t no Cortex screen in his room.”

“A better question is why did he kill Powers now and save him a few days ago,” Wash said. “It makes no sense.”

“A few days ago he received his orders verbally from the other one, Ames. Now he received them directly from his handlers.”

“So they reach out across the galaxy and tell them to do whatever they want?” Wash said with a large dose of skepticism.

“Seems that way,” Zoe said.

Kaylee glanced out at the passenger lounge where River was sitting. She lowered her voice. “You mean, if River looks at the Cortex, she could try to kill us all?”

They all looked at Simon. “I don’t know,” he said. “But let’s not take that chance. Anyone sees her near a Cortex screen, get her away from it, fast.”

As Simon continued to examine Mal, Kaylee drifted out to the passenger lounge and looked at River and her parents as she took a seat.

“How you all doing?’ Kaylee asked as sympathetically as she could.

Regan was a mess, almost in tears. “I… I just don’t understand all of this.”

“I killed Derek, Mother,” River said, a slight catch to her voice. “Because he was trying to kill us. All of us.”

“River,” Zoe asked as she sat down also. “What can you tell us about what happened?”

“I sensed…something…that he was looking at the Cortex….and then I knew what he was going to do. He was going to kill all of us. He was ordered to kill all of us, everyone on Serenity.”

Gabriel was staring at his daughter. “You sensed? What do you mean you could sense?”

“For God sakes,” Regan said in exasperation. “She can read minds!”

“What in the verse are you talking about?” Gabriel said as he stared at his wife like she was crazy and then his daughter who was staring at her mother.

“I know you knew,” River said. “I was waiting for you to say something first.”

“I wasn’t always so sure….but you seem to have the gift,” Regan said and now they were all looking at her in surprise. “My grandmother…she knew things, impossible things, things she could never have known. When I was a small girl, just before she died, she told me some of the women in our family, not all, but some, had the gift. Could know things other people know, could sometimes sense when bad things would happen before they happened.”

“See the future?” Kaylee asked in surprise.

“No,” said River. “Not details, not events, just a sense of …dread…and fear. Of danger.”

“Read minds?’ Gabriel looked at his daughter in wonder. “For how long?”

“Years…I can’t remember when I couldn’t. That’s one reason the academy wanted me. They knew.”

“How?” Gabriel asked, looking at his wife.

“I don’t know. I never told a soul until now.”

“Alliance always has ways to know,” Zoe said. “They ain’t nothing if not thorough.”

“River,” Gabriel asked in as tender a voice as he could. “You knew Derek was going to kill us all?”

“Yes,” she said. “So I had to stop him.”

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I know he was your friend.”

More than a friend, River thought, but then quickly cast it aside. It was too soon, too raw. “It’s not your fault, Father. It’s just the way things are.”

She rose and went to her bed and lay down and for some reason her mind wasn’t as troubled as earlier and now she felt some peace and within minutes she was asleep.

******************************************

Sleep did not come so easy to the rest of the crew. They placed the still unconscious Jayne in a passenger room for the night and Mal stayed on the infirmary table with the vital signs monitor hooked up to him. He was still unconscious and Inara refused to leave his side. Simon went off to help with Derek’s body and he knew Inara would yell for him if anything changed.

Wash went to the bridge and looked out at the Cricket, drifting about two kilometers away. He decided to let them sleep for now and they could get all the terrible news on the morrow. He contacted Mr. Universe and uploaded the last part of the Derek’s Cortex surfing to see if Mr. Universe could decipher what was going on. The tech wizard promised a wave back as soon as he knew anything.

Zoe and Simon stood in her bunk, looking at the body of Derek Bowen.

“Three shots, two in the chest, heart area, one in the head,” Simon said as he did a quick examination.

“Any one of them fatal,” Zoe said with a professional eye. “Your sister is…”

“A killer,” Simon said. “I know.”

Zoe felt like she had said too much. “Sorry. Just…she probably saved mine and Wash’s lives.”

“More than likely. It’s all right, Zoe. She is what she is, and thankfully she did what she had to do to save us. I just hope she can get over this.”

“They weren’t that close, were they?” Zoe asked. “I mean, she hadn’t seen him in five years.”

Simon decided to tell her, so she knew the full implications. “She made love to him last night.”

“Oh, God…that’s too awful to think about, to have to kill him the next day.”

“She’ll not likely get over this…especially since he was her first.”

Zoe just shook her head. “Poor kid. Her first? Are you sure?”

“Well, no, not one hundred percent sure,” Simons said. “Why? Do you know something I don’t?”

“No, no,” Zoe said quickly. “Just…how would you know?”

“She tells me everything.”

“I see…so, about the body?”

“I want to do an autopsy.”

“An autopsy? Simon, cause of death was an injection of metal. End of story.”

“No, I’m not looking for that. I want to autopsy his brain. See what they did to him. Let’s move him to the cargo bay.”

*********************************************

As Wash, Simon, and Zoe took Derek’s body to the cargo bay, Regan and Kaylee cleaned up the blood in the dining area as Gabriel made coffee and tea.

“Do you do this much?” Regan asked Kaylee as she mopped up Powers blood. “I mean, clean up blood.”

“Happened a few times,” Kaylee said. “My blood once.”

“My God, what happened?’ Regan asked.

“I got shot, in the belly. Simon saved me.”

Gabriel smiled. “Thank God he was here.”

“Yeah, well, him being here was kinda the reason I got shot. Was a lawman looking for Simon and River.”

“Oh dear, that’s awful,” said Regan as she leaned on the mop. “What happened to the lawman?”

“Capt’n killed him.”

They didn’t know what to say to that, looks of dread on their faces. Kaylee smiled, a bit forcefully. “We…we…well….things ain’t like normal life round here. Things are a bit…crazy…at times. Not all the time. Mostly, though.”

“Has anyone else been hurt?” Regan asked.

“Sure, just about all of us,” Kaylee said and then she and Regan sat at the table with Gabriel, had tea, and Kaylee started telling stories about how Simon saved this person and that and how he had even been shot himself by Jubal Early. The Tams listened in fascination and horror and finally Kaylee started talking about River and the problems she had and then stopped herself, feeling she had said too much.

“Don’t know if it’s my place to say anything or not,” she said. “Best to let Simon explain it all. He’s your son and River’s your daughter.”

Regan laid a reassuring hand on Kaylee’s arm. “You are part of this family now, dear.”

That made Kaylee feel all warm inside. They weren’t as cold as she thought they would be.

“Thanks,” Kaylee said and she meant it. “I ain’t…I mean I’m not from the Core, I ai…I don’t have no…any education. I’m just a girl from Taos. I fix ships. I know how an engine works. My daddy taught me everything I know.”

“Kaylee,” Gabriel said as he set down his coffee cup. “You don’t need to impress us. We are grateful for all you have done for our children. I can see Simon loves you. That’s all that matters. When things are more…settled…we’ll have a big wedding for you two.”

Simon walked in at that moment. “How are you taking all this?” he asked his parents.

“It’s been an eye opener, this life you lead, son,” Gabriel said. “I believe you have done more extraordinary things in the last few years than I have done in a lifetime.”

Simon almost smiled at that and would have if most of those extraordinary things hadn’t involved sheer terror and death. “Not a life I wanted,” he said and then looked at Kaylee and did smile. “Except for some parts of it.”

“I think we all need some rest,” Regan said. “Tomorrow may have more…interesting… things for us.”

“You all go ahead,” Simon said. “I have a few patients to look in on and things to take care of.”

He kissed his mother and wife goodnight and saw them all to their rooms. After a moment for checking in on Jayne, he saw Mal and an exhausted Inara. He tried to convince her to get some rest and she final did lie down on the bench in the infirmary. Simon went to the engine room and after a few minutes found the tool he needed. It wasn’t clean and would never pass muster in a surgical theater, but it would do for this task.

He found Zoe sitting on a crate near the three bodies laid out in the cargo bay.

“Powers never had a chance, did he?’ she asked Simon.

“No, not much, not even if he was in a Core hospital.”

“The captain, he’ll be okay?”

“Know more when he wakes up,” Simon said. “Zoe, I have to do something, something you may not want to watch.”

“Doc, I’ve seen men and women blown into nothing but vapor. I held a poor boy’s guts in for two hours till the medics got to him. Held another one’s femoral thigh artery in my teeth while a medic clamped it off. Whatever you gotta do, ain’t nothing that can faze me.”

“Okay,” Simon said as he revved up the portable circular saw he held in his hands. “Hold Ames’ head while I cut open his skull.”

********************************************

I’m alive, was the first thing Mal thought as sense began to return. And my head hurts like hell. He opened his eyes and saw he was lying in the infirmary. He tried to rise but couldn’t, his head heavy and aching. He turned slightly and saw Inara asleep on the bench. Then Simon and Zoe came into his field of vision, each with bloody hands, each carrying a glass jar, with what looked like…brains…inside them. He saw them place them on the counter and then he spoke.

“Hey,” he said. In an instant Simon was at his side. He was speaking, flashing a light in Mal’s eyes.

“What?” Mal said. “What happened?” Simon spoke again and Mal still couldn’t hear him. Then as if a fog was lifting, he heard her voice.

“Mal!” Inara said as she kissed him. “Mal! Can you hear me?”

“Yeah,” he said in a whisper. “What happened? Zoe, report.”

Zoe briefly told him the story, that he had been out almost two hours, that Powers and Derek were dead, and how Simon suspected it was a message over the Cortex that triggered Derek.

“Orders, sir?’ Zoe asked.

“No orders,” Mal said. “Rest, take stock, rethink.”

“That’s enough,” Simon said to Zoe. “Mal, I’ll give you a sedative to rest.”

Mal felt the pinch in his arm and then blissful sleep came.

******************************************

Eight hours later the crew was up and having breakfast. Jayne and Jonathan and Mary were filled in on the extraordinary events of the night before, flabbergasted that such a thing could happen.

After breakfast the crew and passengers gathered in the cargo bay. The three bodies were laid out in the lower bomb bay doors, each covered with a sheet. Kaylee stood by with the controls for the bomb bay in her hand. Mal was in a chair, still a bit too wobbly to stand. Jayne stood, gritted his teeth in pain from his shoulder wound, refusing any more painkillers from Simon.

“Someone should say a few words,” Gabriel said. “I’m…not much for religion.”

“Wish Book was here,” said Kaylee sadly.

“Say words for those two bastards?” Jayne said in disgust. “Killed Powers, tried to kill us. They’s going to hell, so no words do them any good.”

“Jayne, shut it,” Zoe said sternly and then she looked to River. “He didn’t mean it.”

“Yes, he did,” River said. “I don’t believe in heaven or hell, but they are not going to any place like hell. It’s not their fault. They didn’t know why they did it. They are as much victims as those they killed.”

No one said anything, thinking on these words, when Jonathan cleared his throat. “Guess I got enough religion to say a word or two. Lord, look after these three souls. They did some killing in their time, but you know why they did it. Judge them accordingly. Let them pass into the kingdom of heaven and rejoice in eternal peace. Amen.”

After a few more ‘amens’ Zoe nodded to Kaylee and she closed the inner doors. After a brief moment she opened the outer doors and the three bodies were sucked out and then drifted off, to remain forever in the deep cold recesses of the black.

*******************************************

Later that night, Serenity and the Cricket were still united and the crew had a nice dinner. After which Simon and River retired to the infirmary, to experiment on the two brains, Simon wanted to say, but knew they had just eaten so said nothing about that.

After the Tam siblings left, a Cortex screen was hooked up by Jonathan in the dining room and they watched another funeral, in a delayed broadcast from Londinium. Susan Blakely’s body was carried in a flag draped coffin on a horse drawn carriage through the streets of the capital, a guard of honor on horseback in front and behind her, he husband and son in a limousine following. The procession made its way to a church in the center of the city, one of the first churches built almost 500 years ago. Blakely was Catholic and the service was done by the bishop of Londinium. An hour later it was over and the procession proceeded to the graveyard, where she was to be buried in a simple plot at the insistence of her husband and family.

Shin gave his speech and it was an effective plea for more action to find her killers and at the same time to regain some of his tarnished reputation. The broadcast by Powers was front page news, but Shin knew the secrets of Adam Cutter would began to bring dividends as pressure was brought to bear on one media outlet after another to stop the stories about him and any connection to Blakely’s death. Shin did nothing to stop the news about the Reavers and that more than overtook any media interest in him.

“Son-of a-bitch,” Jayne said as he drank himself drunk, to ease the pain in his shoulder and to get over the recent events. Knowledge that they had almost ten million credits did make him happy, but he still cursed the loss of that other bag.

“That he is,” said Mal. They had just watched Shin’s speech after the funeral.

“What we gonna do about him?” Jayne asked. “Powers dead, you’re still rebel leader.”

“They don’t know Powers is dead,” Zoe said as she took a drink of Chinese wine. “We can use that.”

“Maybe,” said Mal, still wincing in pain every time he tried to move or talk. “But we’re hurt, we need time to rest, refit, think.”

“Here’s as good as anywhere,” said Wash. “No one comes this way.”

“Supplies?” Mal asked.

“Still chock-a-block full of food and water,” said Kaylee. “Fuel for VTOLs is still three quarters. And we got the FTL.”

Mal nodded. “Okay. Let’s rest up. Keep an eye on the Cortex for news. And Wash, get back to Mr. Universe and see what he found out about what Derek saw on the Cortex.”

“Roger that,’ Wash said and he headed to the bridge, a bit worried since it had been almost a day since he had set the info to Mr. Universe.

Wash sat at the Cortex screen, found the wave address in the stored addresses and sent it. After a few moments the image came to life. Wash gave a start. It wasn’t Mr. Universe, or his love bot. It was a black man, who had cold eyes and stared at Wash.

“Mr. Washburne, I presume,” the Operative said. “Former classmate of this man who calls himself Mr. Universe. Quite a moniker.”

“Whaa..Whooo….are you?” Wash stammered, totally taken aback by this turn of events.

“An Operative of the Parliament,” he said. “I would like to speak to Captain Malcolm Reynolds, please.”

“Where’s Mr. Universe?’ Wash asked, dreading the answer.

“Oh, still alive, for now, until we question him, of course.”

“How did you find him?”

“Trade secret. Captain Reynolds?”

Wash just gulped and called Mal to the bridge. After a few moments he arrived at the door where Wash quickly told him what was going on. Mal controlled his anger at Wash for talking to this man and then had Wash remove his bandage and straighten his hair. Mal sat and got a look at this man.

“Howdy. What can I do you for?” Mal said, controlling his pain and trying not to appear in discomfort.

“Captain Reynolds, I would like you to surrender.”

“I didn’t know we was at war. By the by, doesn’t matter if you get a trace off this wave. We’ll be gone second it ends.”

“Of course. You can go wherever you please. But you know you can’t win. We will find you eventually.”

“So you’re Shin’s lackey. Thought you worked for the Parliament, not against them.”

“I work for who gives the orders. As does your crew. How about Justin Powers? Who does he take orders from?”

“He keeps his own counsel.”

“May I speak with him?”

“He ain’t with us anymore. Dropped him off on a nice, barren moon. Guy was getting to be a real pain, trying to take over my ship.”

“A ship you sold to the Alliance and then hijacked.”

“Call it what you like. I still got some of that money, if you want to make a deal.”

“Money taken from a bank on Ariel. Two more dead to add to the list of death and destruction following Serenity and its crew.”

“You all brought most of that on yourselves.”

“Including the murder of Paulo Chase on Sihnon?”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about. Paulo who?”

The Operative smiled. “Captain, let’s stop playing games. I know all of your crew. I know their families are all in hiding now, wondering what mess their children have got them involved in. I know Inara Serra murdered her husband Paulo Chase on Sihnon. I know the Tams’ parents and Jonathan Frye are with you now and that you have two FTL ships, not one. And I know the whole galaxy is looking for you and Serenity. You can’t go anywhere.”

Mal smiled. “There’s one place I can go and you can’t follow.”

“Earth?” the Operative said and knew he caught Mal by surprise. “I have access to Cutter’s files. I know he suspected you traveled to Earth and somehow made an FTL engine while there. He thought he destroyed all of the recordings of his interrogation of Jonathan Frye, but we found a backup.”

“Listen, get to the point, I’m getting tired.”

“Certainly. Just a moment.”

Mal just looked at him and wondered what was going on and then the Operative smiled, a cold, toothy grin and then there was a loud beeping sound from the control panel.

Wash was frozen for an instance, looking at the radar and the red missile lock warning. “Mal! A ship! Just appeared off the port bow!”

Mal and Wash both looked left and there it was, a Firefly, but this one was different, it had what looked like missile racks under the stabilizers and a large EMP cannon on the nose under the bridge.

“How in the hell?” Mal said and then he looked at Wash. “It’s an FTL!”

Wash just nodded and then a voice came over the radio. “Serenity, Serenity, this is your first and only warning. Surrender and prepare to be boarded. Now.”

On the Cortex screen the Operative was now looking at Mal in deadly seriousness. “Surrender, Captain. Or die.”

************************************

At about the same time Serenity was having its funeral service for Powers, Ames, and Bowen, the Operative boarded a Firefly class ship in the skies over Londinium. With him was a heavily armed tactical platoon of forty soldiers and their officers.

“Excellent work gentlemen,” he said to the two engineers, who looked like they hadn’t slept in days. “So it works?”

“We are here, so…yes…it works,” said one engineer. “Thank God.”

It had been a busy day for them. Finding the ship was easy, since lots of them were about. They got lucky and found one with a fairly intact structure and engine. After a quick purchase, paying more than they would have normally since the dealer sensed their urgency, they took the ship to an Alliance shipyard and got to work. As others added missile racks and the EMP cannon, they spent many hours making and fitting the engine parts, exactly as they had seen on Serenity and according to the plans they had made from Serenity’s engine. A cable was run to the bridge, where a nav system was installed. After all the work was finished there was the test. They crossed their fingers, said a prayer or two, and then launched from orbit over Sihnon to Londinium, surprised to find themselves still alive and the ship intact.

The Operative ordered the soldiers to get settled in and load the supplies from their shuttlecraft and then made his way to the bridge. He handed the pilot a piece of paper with a set of coordinates. The pilot punched them into the nav computer. Then he looked in puzzlement at the Operative.

“This is an ion moon, nothing there for years. Someone had a complex there, for mining or something, but it never worked out. Workers went a bit batty, something about the ion field and brainwaves”

“Someone is there, someone who is sending broadwaves across the galaxy. Have you ever heard of Mr. Universe?”

“Him? Sure, just a rumor, myth. Some guy who can broadcast all over. Some say he’s a pirate, a folk hero.”

“He is real and he is a criminal. Can you plot a course to this moon?”

“Yeah, but that ion field, will play havoc with our radar, nav systems, radios, everything. I suggest we don’t land there directly.”

“You won’t land. I will land by this Firefly’s shuttles and then I will send you a set of coordinates from the complex. I’m sure his equipment can pierce the ion cloud. You will be under command of the Major in charge of the ground troops. Once you receive the coordinates, jump immediately. Do not wait for me to return. The Major knows what to do after that.”

“How long will it take to get the coordinates?”

“As long as it takes. We are not leaving until we have them. Do your job and plot the course. Tell me when you are ready.”

The Operative left and returned to his shuttle that was connected to the Firefly. He went to the bridge and ordered everyone off the bridge while he contacted Shin.

“I’m in position to head out and seek Serenity. Any last orders?”

“You find it, destroy it, but I want Reynolds alive.”

“Alive? This is not wise, sir. He should be killed on sight.”

“No. I need to show him to the people, to prove he exists, that he is a rebel. He must be taken alive.”

“As you wish,” the Operative said and made his goodbyes. This was a mistake. Getting Reynolds alive meant they would have to assault Serenity. People would die, needlessly.

Twenty minutes later they were in the skies over Mr. Universe’s ion moon.

**************************************

“No, don’t hurt her. Please,” Mr. Universe begged and the Operative just shook his head. Batty, from the ion field.

“Turn it off,” he told his men and one of them found the switch and turned off the love bot. A tear rolled down Mr. Universe right cheek.

“She’s dead, dead I say. Assassins.”

The Operative pulled out his sword and lay the point on Mr. Universe neck. “You have a lot to answer for, my talented friend. Wave and Cortex piracy for one. Operating a broadcasting facility without a license. And then there is the matter of that broadwave by Justin Powers.”

“Wasn’t me.”

“Was you. We are not as stupid as you think we are. Adam Cutter was looking for you for years. That broadwave was just long enough to pick out a weak signal and we traced it back. Millions of dead ends and back channels and blind alleys you set up for us, but we have many supercomputers at out disposal. A few hours and we had you.”

“A victory for technology,” Mr. Universe said. “Bravo for you. What do you want for my freedom?”

“You want a deal?”

“You offering one?”

Maybe not so batty after all. “Everything you know about Serenity and Reynolds. And then you help us trace them and track them.”

************************************

“Wash, we’re still hooked up to the Cricket?” Mal asked quickly as he stared out at the Firefly, armed to the teeth.

“Yes, Mal,” Wash said and knew they couldn’t run in this position and they had to act fast. Mal took the mic for the ship's intercom.

“We got trouble, a missile ship off our port bow, demanding we surrender. Jonathan get to the Cricket. Get detached ASAP. Zoe, sent up defenses in the….”

But he never finished as Wash yelled. “EMP bolt!”

The electric blue bolt of EMP shot out from the cannon of the Firefly and hit Serenity dead on left side, right above shuttle two. The electricity surged through the ship, blowing fuses, knocking out lights, blowing the Cortex screen in the dining room, flashing across Wash’s control panels, sending sparks flying, bringing darkness to the ship.

*******************************************

“This one is Derek’s,” River said as she looked at the damage her bullet caused to his brain.

“Yes,’ Simon said as he examined it on a tray under a bright light. He looked at his sister. “You don’t have to help me if you don’t want to. I know…I know what he meant to you.”

River looked a little sad. “He meant something to me, for a brief time. That time is over.”

“River…I’m sorry. It must be hard. I know he was your first lover.”

She shook her head as she helped adjust the light as Simon cut into the brain. “No, not the first.”

He stopped cutting. “Oh? Was there another man?”

“No,” River said. “Not a man.”

“Not a man….,” Simon said in slight surprise and then he knew. “Oh. Her.”

“Yes, Janice. The Alliance officer I kidnapped to escape from Paquin. We made love.”

The way she said it, so open and honest, it made Simon feel a bit embarrassed. He finally accepted that his sister was a woman who had sexual urges. So what if it was with another woman? It didn’t matter. Still, he felt a bit embarrassed. “You don’t have to tell me. It’s not my business.”

“I wanted to tell you, didn’t know how,” River said and then she saw something, in the brain. Something metallic, deep in the center, in the core of the brain. “Simon, what’s that?”

He reached in with a pair of tweezers and pulled out a small metal capsule of some type. They both looked at it in awe. “It’s…I don’t know.” Simon said at last. Then he looked at his sister and she knew what he was thinking.

“On Ariel, you didn’t see anything like this in my head on the scans.”

“No, not then, not in the many times I examined them since. Maybe it is something new. It’s been five years since the Alliance had you.”

“Or maybe it's something a scanner can’t detect,’ River said and as Simon was about to reply Mal’s voice came over the intercom. River’s eyes widened and then she grabbed her brother and pulled him away from the bright light seconds before the electric charge surged through the ship and the light exploded, sending glass fragments through the air.

Simon and River hit the floor and lay still. “EMP,” River said matter of factly.

“I lost the capsule, the metal capsule,” Simon said as he frantically pawed the floor in the darkness.

“That’s not important now,’ River said. “We must get ready.”

“Ready? For what?”

“They are coming and they want to kill us all.” With that she stood and went out of the infirmary and across to her room, instinctively finding it in the dark. She got her pistol and headed directly for the cargo bay.

River felt her way in the dark and went to the airlock controls and made sure the inner door was closed tight. As a precaution the airlock doors were always closed when ships were attached unless someone was actually going back and forth. Every without power it was locked down and in fact could not be open without power to move its metallic latches. The Cricket was blocking the airlock, was still attached, but she knew that wouldn’t last long. She knew they would blow up the Cricket because it was in the way. Her judgment soon proved true as the shock wave of an explosion was felt and River was knocked flat.

***************************************

“Oh God, an EMP,” Kaylee said after everything stop sparking and the lights went out. “I’m in the engine room,” she said to no one in particular and by feel and years of experience she made her way from the dining area to the back hall and down the corridor to her engine room. She groped around and found a flashlight and got it on. The engine looked intact. She heard footsteps and in a second her father was with her.

“What can we do?” he said. “We need juice.”

“I got the batteries rigged for this,” she said. “But take about ten minutes to get them online. Get to the Cricket, Daddy. Get out.”

"Like hell I'm leaving you."

Then they felt a shock wave and the ship shook and trembled. “What was that?” Kaylee asked in fear.

“Sounds like a missile explosion,” Jonathan said, remembering last time he heard one when he almost lost his legs and his life.

“Oh, God if they breached our hull…”

“Don’t fret,” her father said, grasping her hands, reassuring her. “Power, little Kaylee, we need power. Come on, we can do this!”

And the two Fryes got to work and were soon joined by Mary and the three worked as more dramatic events unfolded around them.

***************************************

Zoe and the Tams made their way to the bridge, followed by a very sore Jayne.

“Gorramn Alliance!” he yelled in disgust as he held his shoulder, feeling pain even through all the booze he drank and he was getting madder by the second.

“Sir, where did it come from?’ Zoe asked

“It’s an FTL Firefly with missiles and EMP,’ Mal said and just as he said this a missile flew from the ship and headed right for them. In horror they watched it and thought it was coming for the cockpit but it hit the back of the Cricket and exploded and they all felt the shock wave as it ripped through the ship and knocked those that weren’t sitting to the floor. Jayne let loose a long string of curse words and then Wash yelled.

“The Cricket! It’s sheering away!”

The stricken ship was on fire, briefly, as no fire can last long in the oxygen starved blackness of space. Its smoking remains moved sideways and then the airlock connection snapped and it was gone, tumbling off to the right, the kinetic energy of the missile pushing it clear.

“Here they come!” Zoe said as the Firefly flipped on its back and moved toward them, trying to get in a position to mate with Serenity’s airlock.

“Wash?” Mal asked.

“No power,” the pilot said helplessly. “Kaylee’s on it I’m sure.”

“She and her father and Mary went to the engine room,” Gabriel said.

“Orders, sir,’ Zoe asked, knowing what they would be.

There was only one order Mal could give. He looked at them and took stock. Jayne was hurt and drunk, Mal’s head was killing him, and the Tams were terrified. He had Zoe, his rock, and Wash, who would never leave his wife’s side. He knew Kaylee was doing her job, was where she needed to be and Simon would do the same. Then there was River, his ace in the hole, worth all of them together in a fight.

“Give everyone a gun and Jayne, get as many grenades as you can. And find River. We ain’t going down without a fight.”

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River's Run - Part 19
Things come to a head on Londinium as the plan to win Mal's freedom begins to unravel.

River's Run - Part 18
Mal’s heading for a hangman’s noose. Will a rescue party come in the nick of time?

River's Run - Part 17
As the crew rests and heals, Shin and his confederates take a step closer to power, and Mal faces a new, deadly dilemma.

River's Run - Part 16
As Simon patches up the crew, Mal and his lawyer make plans, and Badger and his cousin have some unexpected visitors.

River's Run - Part 15
Mal finds a new friend on Londinium, his crew makes contact with River and Zoe, and events come to head on Whitefall.

River's Run - Part 14
Battle rages through Serenity as the crew tangles with an Alliance boarding party.

River's Run - Part 13
Shock and a sense of tragedy fill Serenity as the crew struggles to deal with Derek's betrayal. Meanwhile, the Operative comes a step closer to finding Serenity.

River's Run - Part 12
Mal strikes back at the Alliance, a little trip to the bank doesn't go as planned, and the Operative reaches out to River and Derek.

River's Run - Part 11
The Operative makes a plan to trap Serenity, escape plans are made, and those long separated are together once again.

River's Run - Part 10
Inara makes a date with Paulo Chase, Mal gets back his first love, and Shin plans the next move in the galactic chess match.