Eidolon (Chapter 1)
Friday, May 13, 2011

They hit atmo hard as the shuttles flew away. With grav screening gone, there was nothing to keep him in the air but lift, drag, and the thrusters mounted on the wings. (Fire)


Establishing battle lines wasn't unfamiliar territory. Push a man too far, and he pushes back. Sometimes you had nice electronic maps in a cushy command center, sometimes you had a stick and some sand drenched in blood. End result was the same. You drew a line, then you dared the universe to cross it. Oftentimes the universe was all too eager to oblige.

Back at the start of the war, Ezra had been administered by a council of the richest landowners, and unlike the armies mustering elsewhere, they had welcomed their new governor as a liaison to the more developed core worlds. He had died unexpectedly just before the war ended, and the resulting power vacuum and influx of refugees sent the planet into a downward spiral.

In the midst of increasing lawlessness, Adelai Niska retired from his position on the council to move in to the former governor's brand new orbiting skyplex and become a full time crimelord, ruling over the planet below while the Alliance bureaucracy dragged its feet trying to find a replacement appointee. As it turned out, none of their candidates would take the job, and Niska remained uncontested: the kindly looking old man in round spectacles had a reputation for ruthlessness. He considered the Chinese poet and statesman Shan Yu a mentor of sorts, inspired by legends of a warlord who had purged corruption and complacency from his homeland by terrorizing his fellow countrymen, starting World War III, and precipitating the Exodus from Earth-That-Was.

Most honest rimward smugglers and traders tried to stay clear of Niska, but Captain Malcolm Reynolds had the misfortune of having crossed the sadist three times, who was currently detailing each separate incidence: firstly returning some stolen medicine to some ailing folk in Paradiso, then being rescued from Niska's wrath by his crew, and now, apparently, just breathing.

The crimelord rose from his swivel chair, striding impressively out from behind the real cherry wood desk between them and smoothing non-existent wrinkles from his business suit. He lingered a moment to look out the view from his office towards the station reactor core. Big moment, building suspense, Mal supposed, as the four guards in black armour currently training semi-automatics his way tensed for action. "So I am surprised," Niska continued, turning back towards his prisoner. "This visit, your ship landing on my world, most unexpected! And now, you come by yourself. Truly, there is no fear in you?"

He shrugged, blue eyes intent on his adversary, a brown leather duster shifting over his shoulders as he finally worked the bindings on his wrists open behind his back. "Score of your men says I got no reason for it." Twenty men whose families, according to Niska, had been killed, simply because the hun dan saw failure in his service as a betrayal.

Niska shook his head with a small smile, not without some admiration. "Zajímavýjší. It is shame you cross me. Good business we once could make." He waved to his minions, the two who grabbed him by the arms and he had to force himself not to fight off (too many right now, bide your time, the strategic part of his brain warned), and two more standing who slid open the panel to the adjacent torture room and closed it behind them.

"Stay away!" a frightened voice shouted from within, chock full of determination all the same, "Say all the scary you want, I ain't gonna… Cap'n!" The girl brightened to something more like her usual upbeat setting, her shoulder length chestnut hair bouncing as she sat up hopeful. Niska hadn't even bothered to restrain her. Her expression changed to one of horror as she realized what was going on, and she shrank back against the polymer splash guard spread over the austere space-station grey wall. "Cap'n, no, no, you can't…"

"Kaylee," he answered, curtly, taking in the dust on her pink sweater and her cover-alls, the obvious signs of a scuffle from her abduction. Seemed like they hadn't done more than intimidate her just yet, but best to be sure. "You hurt?"

The crimelord chuckled as he stepped among them, and the little mechanic shot the man a look of fear and anger. "Fine, she is fine! What would be said, that Niska, he tortures harmless little girls? What scorn!" He smiled at her, looking like someone's grandpa, and she recoiled. "No, is much better that she is witness. When Malcolm Reynolds is dead, they will know what she says is truth."

- - - - - The mood on the bridge was somber, and Jayne Cobb was engaged in an activity most who knew him wouldn't credit him for: thinking hard. Only three things could reasonably be expected of a man his size in his line of work, which were being big, being strong, and looking out for himself. But here he was, just sitting, tapping meaty fingers against one of his guns, and the expression in his blue eyes, and the other hand passing over the goatee on his chin were thoughtful.

He blamed the captain, that was for gorramn sure. Scrimping again on repairs, so they'd had to go planetside for parts, and all the heroics was why they were bad with Niska. Made him ask why in the hell they were going to get Mal and get all killed.

But they were going towards their other crewmate too, and if Jayne was honest (which didn't happen often), the one good thing about Mal was he'd do just about anything for his crew. Kaylee being who she was it made some kind of sense why Mal had taken Shuttle Two and gone after her. The mercenary might have considered it himself, if the scenery were different. Maybe.

Besides, he thought, remembering the reasoning he'd used to justify the last time he'd helped save Mal's sorry pi gu, dying by torture was a sight more manly way to go than getting blown out an airlock, and Zoë wasn't ever gonna hesitate.

"We dress ourselves for darkness," Crazy Girl whispered from the pilot seat. She stared at him, all unsettling shadowy eyes, her little hands moving with a will of their own as she began firing thrusters in sequence. "Your turn."

Jayne bristled. Partially because he'd never taken well to threats, perceived or otherwise, and when Moonbrain started talking eerie was when things went wrong. But also partially because ever since that jīng shén cuò luán on Miranda, he kept thinking maybe he was safe here, and that was dangerous thinking. If he didn't catch himself, sometimes he felt like a guard dog, proudly chasing off squirrels, and Jayne Cobb was nobody's guard dog. Hell, even the gorramn prissy Doc and his nutty sis actually were seeming more and more like could stand sharing space with them, and that was proof he'd stuck around too long with the same crew.

So he was working on something to snap at her, maybe about her keeping her turn 'cause she had all the supply on crazy around here, but then there was Zoë, silent as a cat looking between them with that soldier's caution of hers. "Jayne," the first mate spoke, cutting into the tension with her no-nonsense attitude, "get suited up for EVA." She was pulling her curly chocolate hair into a pony-tail and looked troubled. Like as not because this was her sergeant from the war that Niska had his grubby paws on, and there was a relationship Jayne couldn't figure for the life of him.

Crazy was looking smug. "Ruttin' know-it-all," he grumbled, getting up to follow as Zoë then turned briskly on her heel to go oversee other preparations.

- - - - - One of the guards kept a gun pointed at Mal's head, while the other rolled the heavy table out to the center of the room. Ominous, right down to the sheet covering the surface and that one incessant squeaking wheel liable to drive a person crazy all on its own. The harsh interrogation light shining down from the ceiling over the suggestive drain in the floor had been extinguished, the room dimmer without it.

The sadist oversaw the changes with a scholarly sort of pleasure, like some Paquin stage director. "I think the table looked better where it was," Mal opined, "better feng shui. And where are the candles?"

Kaylee was openly staring at him, begging him to be quiet. Antagonizing people who wanted to torture you generally wasn't the smartest plan ever, just the same he'd always figured he might as well. They often didn't expect it, might make things go quicker, and in the very least, he'd have one last bit of satisfaction before he went.

Niska merely sighed, already acquainted with his particular brand of shuă zuǐ pí. The crimelord gestured, and the sheet was removed with a flourish. A man was still strapped to it, or what passed for one before all the bruising and missing pieces.

His little mechanic had gasped, her hands clamped over her mouth and her eyes wide, fixed on the mutilated corpse. He called her name, took a couple of times but she looked at him again. "Gonna be okay, Kaylee," he told her, or tried to, then he was slammed hard by the butt of an assault rifle and forced to be quiet. Hardly calmed by this, she curled into a ball on the floor and closed her hazel eyes tight.

"You are speaking of the inevitable arrival of your crew, yes?" Niska asked. "They will not be in time to interrupt, I think." He snapped his fingers at his current gofer, pointed towards some electrical wires hanging from a sharp looking hook.

"Mr. Niska?" The employee started, sounding confused as he reached for the cables, "These look tampered…"

After the lights stopped flickering and the crackle of electricity faded, three of the remaining people in the room stared blankly at the still twitching victim of electrocution, while Kaylee was somewhere on the verge of tears.

Then the captain smashed a fist into the other guard's jaw and knocked the thug's head against the torture table. Niska was already almost to the door, shouting for guards in some unpronounceable language before the former sergeant tackled the old man and pinned him to the wall.

The sentries posted outside were sliding open the panel, there was the whine of charging weapons from them, then a two handed pair of machine guns and a sawn off shotgun made several good arguments against their inclinations.

Mal dragged Niska back into his office, past Jayne, who had stowed one of his guns in a holster behind his back to search the dead. Zoë handed him his Independent's issue service pistol and he slung the crimelord to the ground, looming over him. Niska's courage wasn't much improved with a firearm leveled at him. "Don't you come after us again. Don't you send anyone after us. And don't you EVER abduct any of my crew."

"Yes!" the cowering man begged, "yes, yes, please! Anything!"

The spark of gunpowder sealed the promise.

"Gorrammit Mal, the hell's takin' ya so long?" the mercenary asked, frowning in confusion as his employer crouched down beside the older man. "Whole station's gonna come down on us like stink on mă féi!"

The pulse under his hand faded as the red pool on the floor grew. The immediate danger dealt with, the captain began trying to coax Kaylee out of the torture chamber. Her first steps were hesitant, then she came running, and he pulled her into a hug as she buried her tear-streaked face into his coat.

"I knew you was gonna come 'n get me." Her voice was tremulous and filled with interjected sobs and hiccups. She hugged her captain tighter, a few more tears spilling down her cheeks. "Was scared you was…"

He was stroking her hair and tried to shush her gently as he could, which he knew wasn't much, not him, not after the war. But she calmed some, and was listening to his reassurances. "You did good, Kaylee-girl. Kept your head, and it was right smart you tinkerin' with the wiring."

The girl sniffled. "Lost the replacement actuator when I got took, so Serenity ain't gonna get so quick," she confessed, sounding guilty.

"Only but a thing. Don't matter s'long as we can still get," he told her, stepping back, his hands on her shoulders to anchor her to the here and now. "Now stay close, and don't get hit. Serenity don't run at all without her mechanic." She nodded, bravely uncertain, and he pulled her by her pink sweater over to his first mate and mercenary, who were covering them from either side of the open blast doors. "Zoë?"

"Came in through a maintenance hatch from the outside, dropped our suits there. Won't be able to get out the same way," the soldier woman reported, chambering a cartridge into one of her back-up 9mms with an emphatic click-clack. "Gonna have to get to the shuttle as brought you, sir." Jayne laid down some cover fire as she slipped out into the hallway and took up a position at the next chokepoint.

He exchanged nods with his mercenary, and they pivoted out into the hallway at the same time, firing. Jayne took cover from a crate, and Kaylee squeaked a little, shaking, as he tugged her behind a prominent metal rib, two rounds coming slightly too close to his head.

Battle paralysis. The former Independent sergeant knew it well enough, had seen it plenty of times in the trenches during the war; only way to fight it was to fight for the poor soul until they felt safe enough to get themselves back together. He hated to see it in Kaylee. Hated himself a little more for her being involved at all.

Jayne smeared one against the wall; two more were running for their position, Mal's target jerked backwards, and Zoë clotheslined hers, finishing them off with a few bullets on the way down. The amazon waved them in, stepped around her cover, and fired point blank into the guard that had been trying to sneak up on her.

Two more sentries guarding the bay, and they were there, right at the threshold of their berth. The captain fired a few times through the window at dock control, taking out the operator, which seemed to attract the attention of every guard that had been posted by his shuttle. He covered Kaylee as the glass above their heads shattered outward on top of them.

"Hell with this," grunted his merc, pulling out a couple of grenades. Too late, the projectiles were already in the air, sailing towards the airlock, and he threw a couple of flashbangs for good measure.

When the smoke cleared, Zoë was standing over the big man, looking particularly fierce. "We lob explosives towards ventable parts of a skyplex now, Jayne?" Her eyes flashed dangerously as she seethed.

"You do since you run with Jayne Cobb," he muttered as she began checking for survivors.

The captain was helping his mechanic into the breached control room now that they were in the clear. Obligingly, with a little prompting, she got to work on the docking control systems. "Kaylee? How's it look?"

Alarms began blaring. "Oops. Well, got us ready to disengage," she chirped sheepishly.

They boarded and detached with all due haste. And in the long minutes they would spend hurrying back for Serenity, he thought about just why recently he liked to avoid the shuttle.

Now and then, when the ache got unbearable, he lit a stick of incense as to a shrine, just to remember, like he'd ever forget. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine her unique scent still, that sweet spice underneath all her expensive delicate perfumes that men might cross a desert for, all of her things back in the shuttle where they rightfully belonged. Sometimes it even seemed like he'd turn around, and there she would be, wrapped in her silks and annoyed by his intrusion.

And then he would turn around, and the shuttle walls would be bare and grey instead of pretending to be the lavish bedchambers of some Sihonese princess, and she would still be gone. And that ache would start to feel more like a black hole.

So when they finally docked, River guiding them in with an eerie chant of 'Lady bug, lady bug, fly away home,' he couldn't get out of there fast enough, and almost bowled Simon over as the doctor stood waiting outside. "Captain," the younger man greeted formally, frowning at the near collision then immediately going to Kaylee.

The captain tried not to feel too irritated that his mechanic had just abandoned every thought of the ship for the dark haired, blue eyed medic, who had himself just abandoned every thought of checking the rest of the crew for injuries. "All right people, not out of this yet," he cautioned, and almost in agreement, their proximity alarm answered him. He bit out a curse. "Simon, you can examine her later. And don't forget the disinfectant," he called, clomping up the scaffolds and metal stairway, past the crew quarters and onto the bridge, Zoë right behind him.

"Buzzards," their pilot explained cryptically, without preamble. He took one glance at their sensors and knew just what she meant: Niska had beefed up defenses since last time with a couple of short range fighters. They chose that moment to introduce themselves, and the ship rocked from the explosion, River twisting just so in a corkscrew that the missiles that had locked onto their trajectory ran together.

He gave her a proud smile, that she returned, when he felt the shudder from the engines, and the gut sinking sensation of his feet lifting off from the deck. "Captains worry too much," River murmured, pointing a thin finger to the ceiling as they made a pass underneath the skyplex. "Timing is everything."

"Then it better be quick," he retorted, "because both of 'em got two more shots and you can't out-manuever a floatin' rock without grav." He managed to push off from the console over to the com, explaining the situation (apart from the obvious g-field failure, even Jayne could figure that one out) to the rest of the crew.

His psychic just sighed at him, sounding very much like the petulant teenager just barely grown that she was.

Above them, the skyplex opened up and emptied its garbage and waste onto their hapless pursuit. He returned to their sensors, puzzled out what had just happened. "We get them?" Zoë asked.

Another explosion, and for the first time since they'd gotten there, River looked nervous. "No. They're angry now."

- - - - - - As Simon watched his sister ran her hands along the bulkheads, her dark sundress billowing behind her with each dainty dancer's step, he surprised himself with the regret he felt. He had risked so much for her, to save her from the government scientists who had been cutting into her brain, only to find the safest place for them was hardly safe at all. And yet, as frustrated as he had become by that fact, as angry as he was sometimes at the captain, at Jayne the man ape, at being top three at MedAcad and still being unable to help River, at his situation, and at all he had given up, this old junkpile of a ship had at some point become home.

If he thought about it, he knew he could pinpoint the exact moment when; the entire crew, gathered around the table, having taken up his cause, deciding to send out one last message to tell all the worlds what the alliance had done. Or maybe, he thought, as Kaylee made her own last goodbyes, almost a mirror image of River, the two girls sharing heartbroken looks, maybe Serenity first became home when Kaylee had first smiled at him, and he just kept forgetting.

His sister patted his arm as he passed, looking sympathetic, then Zoë joined them, a blank expression on her face like she was just holding together, but ready to protect them. Like the entire crew had, months before, not about to let their sacrifices be for nothing. Kaylee gave him a long look over her shoulder as she crossed over to the twin shuttle on the other side of the cargo bay, watching each other and the increasing distance between them.

She looked around for a moment, and he heard her ask Jayne where the captain was, not quite willing yet to let go of the hope, to realize he wasn't coming. Zoë's silence was even louder than it had been before. Jayne, to his credit, didn't burst Kaylee's bubble, but grumbled and told her to get in the shuttle already.

The doctor nodded at the big man, and Jayne shrugged in return. Coming from very different backgrounds, where Simon might have five different spoons at the dinner table and Jayne just licked everything off a knife, they hadn't gotten along from the very beginning. Those were the only pleasantries required between them.

He turned away as Kaylee disappeared into the other shuttle, and followed his sister, the shuttle doors sliding shut after him, hissing as they created an airtight seal.

- - - - - They hit atmo hard as the shuttles flew away. With grav screening gone, there was nothing to keep him in the air but lift, drag, and the thrusters mounted on the wings. All of which were less than useful to deal with the fully-functional and much faster interceptors tailing them, who would be dropping EMP charges on his fleeing crew as soon as they'd dealt with him.

He wasn't about to give the liú máng the chance.

A flick of a few switches, and glowing hot plasma leaked out the main bulb engine on the backside of the ship in the manner that gave the Firefly-class its name. The super-heated material ignited the air and spilled over the viewscreens of the fighters, playing merry havoc with their sensors.

Meanwhile, as the force of acceleration began crushing him into his seat and black began eating into his vision, he was learning the yǐn jiǔ bù xiān xià fá jù way why no one went to hard-burn when grav was down, ever.

"Y'know," Wash said casually, leaning against the mainframe and entirely unaffected, all fuzzy blond hair and eye bleeding tropical shirts, "My wife's gonna be a bit upset if you get yourself all splattered, so you might want to consider pulling up."

Behind him, he was vaguely aware of the impact of the ships chasing him as they plowed into the ground. "O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there is iniquity in my hands; If I have rewarded evil to him that was at peace with me; Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yes, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay my honor in the dust," Book intoned, calm as ever, his bible open to the psalms.

"Soon-ish?" Now maybe?" Wash began to implore.

"It ain't your time, son," the elderly shepherd agreed kindly, warmly, rough old hands the color of deep wood steady on his shoulder.

A pair of dark blue eyes stared into him, defiant and spirited as ever in her eternally young face. "You don't stop fighting, Malcolm, you hear? Don't you ever stop 'til you come back to us."

"Please, Mal…" whispered a pair of red, red lips, right next to his ear.

And then the world ended in fire, like twice before.


Friday, May 13, 2011 2:50 PM


Great opener. Action-packed and exciting. Still, I liked the prologue and would keep it.


Friday, May 13, 2011 2:52 PM


Yeah? People keep telling me this, I guess people see something about it worth keeping. For some reason the prologue chapter seems slow paced to me.

...Maybe it's not that non-representative of the rest of the story after all.

Sunday, May 15, 2011 5:30 PM


Wow. Brilliant!

Sunday, September 25, 2011 12:05 PM




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Eidolon (Epilogue)
Someday, she knew they would visit the graves of Serenity Valley and not hear the howl of the ghosts. Someday, they would walk across the green prairie of a restored world and watch the rain. (Glimpses)

Eidolon (Chapter 40)
Clouds were blossoming in the distance, promising rain for the city later. The crew of Serenity and the badlands around Eavesdown Docks to the south would probably see only a harsh windstorm. Two different worlds, she mused, caught between them. (Deliverance)

Eidolon (Chapter 39)
The question seemed to hit her hard. In the mirrors of her eyes, he saw himself, forced to see her lose more ground every day. Hurt more, because of him. Saw her watching him back as she pulled him out of a nightmare. (Try)

The Gift
They don't have much. But they have each other. (Just a little holiday story from the Firefly verse. Belongs to Joss)

Eidolon (Chapter 38)
The girl processed that response. "He brought the medicine? He saved us?" Inara nodded, considering her own inclusion in the question. (Renewed)

Eidolon (Chapter 37)
A wind clear and sweet stirred the air, humming as a shimmering, ever-shifting blaze of color flashed from one horizon to another. The breeze carried with it a distant song, rising over the hills and through the vales like a soulful hymn from his childhood. (Flight)

Eidolon (Chapter 36)
"I cut the strings. They were never yours anyway.”(Liberation)

Eidolon (Chapter 35)
A few twists of a little turnscrew and the mechanic was stripping wires and rerouting circuits in moments. (Break)

Eidolon (Chapter 34)
Stars scattered in the night, coalesced from the stellar dust from a far away sun and others that came before. A spark, scintillating into a network, a stream, like the lights and streets of a city. (Cascade)

Eidolon (Chapter 33)
"Put me back in that place," River said, "Little bluebird singing in a cage, puppet on broken strings." (Capture)