Eidolon (Chapter 3)
Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Sleeping beauty," she murmured, like from far away, then her eyes shot open again. "No, resist the spell!" She wasn't looking at him, more off into some distance or future. He couldn't tell whether she was talking to him or to herself. "You have to save the princess." (The unknown)


Here, on the thirteenth floor, the only light was from the cold dim glow of machines. Officially, none of it existed. None of them existed. But they weren't as invisible as they thought. They, all of them, had names, doctors promoted to their positions and test subjects stolen from the lower wards alike.

Someone had been watching this time. And he, nameless, darkness within darkness, remained unnoticed among them until metal sang from scabbard.

They looked up from their helpless victims as one; from their monitors, their syringes, their charts, from silver wires running through flesh and skull. They looked at him, these butchers, or maybe at his unsheathed steel, and blanched.

Not so long ago, he had respected ones such as them, the good works they were doing, making improvements in the lives of citizens in exchange for the glorious sacrifices of the few. Now, he saw only atrocity, felt only shame and pity for these unknown martyrs of relentless control, for those whose lives had been destroyed in the name of progress. "Ariel," he mused, his voice soft and his eyes traveling over shadows and blinking lights, "who watched over Miranda. This is where it began."

One of the researchers approached nervously, the rest continued to watch, frightened. Did they know then? Did they know what retribution looked like? This one was young, pretty, a blonde with green eyes. She might have family, he realized sadly. "Sir? Sir, you can't be here. This is a restricted area."

The arc of a blade was art, a loathsome skill he had learned for viler purpose. They scattered like mice before she even hit the floor, blood staining her white coat. The alarms they ran for never sounded; he had disabled them. No cameras caught the massacre; no one wanted recorded what went on in these rooms.

Worse than this was the mercy he dealt afterward with the same instrument. Revenge would not be long coming, the tiny white and blue clues left for him revealed his next target. But, he supposed, returning the katana to his side, he had time for a brief detour.

- - - - - Awareness and unease were coming gradual. Even figuring out he was drugged was slow, but the main clue was the creeping wakefulness as the sedatives gave him up; he was a light sleeper by necessity. He couldn't hear that electric hum, ever present even when the engine wasn't running. Serenity's song had settled his life and raw nerves many times, a lullaby that made the dreams go away. It told him he knew who he was still, knew where he was, and if he was unsettled, he needed only to feel it through the metal against his hand to ground himself.

He had to find her again. Tensing for action, he prepared to roll off the mattress and either get his gun or come up swinging, but his plan ended up more of a surprised jolt. Dark hair and intense staring eyes were inches away from his face, and it took his brain several moments to catch up to the present. River.

When she finally came into focus, she was wearing one of her frocks in purple, the one Inara gave her before leaving. Her eyelids drifted shut. "They're all asleep. There's a briar patch, all around them, but they can't see, they can't wake up, not until she does."

Couldn't process that, still too hazy even if her words weren't like fog. "Who?"

"Sleeping beauty," she murmured, like from far away, then her eyes shot open again. "No, resist the spell!" She wasn't looking at him, more off into some distance or future. He couldn't tell whether she was talking to him or to herself. "You have to save the princess."

Maybe he was dreaming. Reality usually made some amount of sense by now. He sat up, pulling the blankets around himself and slowly took in his surroundings, looking for someone he wouldn't find. A slab counter covered in medical supplies running along the opposite dusty earthen wall, daylight and a breeze from an inlaid arch and firing slit on his left. Like a tomb, he realized.

River patted the top of his head sympathetically. "The ivory tower has stairs and she waits in the heart. You mustn't be scared, the thorns will flower and open the way for you. But ask nicely."

He sighed and ran a hand through his brown hair, then stopped and frowned at the girl. "What've I told you...?"

She rolled her eyes. "Don't touch," she repeated teasingly, reaching out and mussing it up again, "Captainly pride to think of." After a few entertaining moments of batting at each other's hands, the reader stiffened on the little bedside tuffet, listening to something only she could hear. She broke into a bright smile, the likes of which were rare to see on her troubled features but increasingly common. "They're back!" she declared, bounding out of the room.

They'd gotten the hovermule patched up enough that his mechanic didn't think they'd have a breakdown, and Zoë, Jayne, and Kaylee had gone into the capital city. Couldn't remember the specifics, but he had a pretty good idea why he wasn't with them. He scowled, spotting his clothes. Nowhere was completely safe in the post-Niska tumult, even with Council control and private security forces.

He was just shrugging on his coat when his medic came in, who stood holding open the curtain that served for a door, frowning and furrowing his aristocratic brow in disapproval. "I realize you have difficulty sitting still for more than an hour, but I really have to recommend that you lay back down."

To give credit where it was due, there'd been no explanation about the necessities of bed rest, or mending broken bones, or stitches, or bandages again. Still. He tugged on the lapels one last time, keeping Simon in the corner of his eye. "Dope me again, son, and you're spendin' a few weeks on that bed yourself."

The doctor gave that sigh, the one that members of the medical persuasion reserved for particularly stubborn patients. He'd had that annoyance directed at him plenty in his life, and more times than he cared for from someone under his protection. "Where are we going then?" the boy asked, turning sideways to let him by, or maybe so as not to get pushed over, then falling into step at a pace leisurely enough to accommodate his injuries. Gorramn ship crash harnesses. The ribs had healed, but the fractured shoulder was going slower, mostly because Simon claimed he kept moving too much. This was going to get aggravating, quick.

"Crew's back from getting supplies." The captain winced at the sound of a backfiring engine outside the dingy hallway and rough beige walls that confirmed it, wondering if they had a functioning mule after all.

Simon considered this, blue eyes and expression skeptical. "I'm sorry, but doesn't that normally require money?"

One of the surest bits of proof that someone was Corebred: boy was with a bunch of crooks, and never once thought of the obvious first. He almost smiled at that. But, no, not this time, and not ever little Kaylee. "Don't need coin. Mechanic shops'll trade parts for skill, port like that can always use some extra hands."

The younger man had stopped, he continued on a step or so before he realized and glanced back, finding an unreadable expression as the doctor studied him. "Do you think that will really be enough?"

He turned fully. "Speak plain."

Simon debated for a few moments more, then his blue eyes blazed, determined. "Inara. She could help." The boy's voice hardened with accusation. "She should be here."

He closed his own eyes against the pain and covered with annoyance. "Well, she ain't," he retorted, with clear warning. Storming off wasn't exactly possible, but he made the attempt anyway, done with the conversation.

There was respect between them; leaving a posh life in the core for a sister who sometimes didn't recognize her own brother couldn't have been too easy, and while Simon didn't understand Mal, he understood Simon. And Simon at least appreciated the choice the captain made, risking the Alliance by taking him and his sister back on after they had taken their leave once. Sometimes they even almost got along. Didn't make the boy any less of an uptight self-righteous yă pí shì all other times.

The genius made the mistake of continuing. "And why is that?" Ignored the growl from behind gritted teeth, the white knuckled fists he was making as he tried to march away. "Something happened to her, didn't it."

Couldn't hide his reaction that time, the way his pace slowed completely, the way he had to turn to the rough wall for support, head down because his shoulders couldn't support the weight of his emotions anymore. Just for a second, he gathered himself.

And then he spun and advanced, dangerous. "You'd know, wouldn't you." The two of them, always with their gorramn secrets. He tried to hold onto that, onto the anger, but his voice was sounding hoarse.

"No," his medic replied, calming, "because you never told us." A pause. "Were you ever going to?"

Something broke again inside, something not a rib, but he buried the vulnerability before it showed and refused to look away. When he spoke, it came out low and quiet. "Would you've wanted me to?" he countered. Didn't appease. "Look, I know you were…" he groped around for the right words; truth be told, he didn't know what they had been, and it'd been no small source of hurt for him. "You were something," he settled on, "and if I had the words to say, they would've been said."

Simon slowly nodded, accepting that as the best apology he was going to get. "If you see my sister, could you tell her I've been looking for her?" he asked, back to business, swallowing some kind of unwelcome pity. "I need to administer her injections."

All of the crew had some sport with Simon now and then; there was never a more honest and more gullible person born in all the worlds, and if River enjoyed worrying her brother, it was hard to deny her that fun. "Depends on if she wants you to find her."

He left the boy to prepare his sister's medications, cutting off the objections, and stepped out onto the dusty road leading away from the little makeshift hospital. The overgrown shrub to the right of him rustled. She would pick up on it, take it into her fragile soul, and he rode down on the ache. "Doc's looking for you."

Time once was, he'd have found talking to vegetation more than a little odd, but then River stepped out from her hiding spot and made a face at him, twigs in her hair, and skipped off ahead of him.

A small collection of similar bullet-ridden hardened mud-sand igloos laid before them, poor but decorated in hand made crafts and flowerboxes, with clotheslines strung up from eyelets and vegetable gardens out front. Block script was carved into two boulders at the town entrance, and beyond, a sea of grass waved underneath dry hills in the far distance. Jordan.

Few people were out in the midday at high summer; a woman draped in oppressively heavy looking fabric, arm wrapped around a vase of water she'd obviously carried some distance; another woman, older, resting under some shade of an awning on some kind of cushion, a veil over her head. Three giggling children and a dog were watching Jayne stomp around the hovermule through a shroud of unwholesome smelling smoke and Chinese swearing. Zoë was kneeling by Kaylee's side, holding a bundle of wires while the girl was shoulder deep inside an open panel. Both of them were dripping from the heat, Zoë's normally curly sienna mane almost straight.

River scrambled around to the back to climb up onto a couple crates they had towed behind them as he checked in with his mechanic. "I think the xiăo láng-zi cān liáng hú xiāng dòu bandits maybe heard that. Don't want your arm in there if the mule explodes, mèi mèi."

"Just babyin' her, is all. She don't like the ground trailer we're haulin'," Kaylee sighed, wiping her free hand across her brow, then giving her usual megawatt smile. "Simon letcha out?"

"Sort of," the captain answered gruffly, distracted by their swag. He stepped around to the back of the mule, running his hands over the boxes. "You earned all this in one day?" Jayne snatched one of the packages away from the pile protectively, and climbed out of reach onto the back of the mule to open it.

"Nope, just the mail, got most of the parts I need already. Just waitin' on that replacement actuator I needed in the first place," Kaylee explained, rummaging through yet more wires deep within the machine. "Mama sent us some goodies after I waved Pa, and we had some other stuff redirected to us." She paused, a bit of worry creeping into her hazel eyes as she looked up at him. "You didn't hurt Simon none, did you?"

"I only threatened a little," he defended himself loudly, and grimaced, reflexively grabbing at his side. "Left him in the same condition you did," he continued, more carefully. Kaylee gave him a funny look, bit her lip, then went back to mothering her machine. Zoë raised an eyebrow at her then at him as Kaylee started asking for more of her tools. He just shook his head, wordlessly exasperated.

Jayne was already munching on some homemade cookies that seemed tiny in his paws, slowly reading a new letter from his mother. Considering how skittish Amnon had been about his postal service after the corrupt Fed had visited, the captain could only imagine how stale Jayne's post was. He looked over the boxes again, and pushed the lid off one of the larger ones that River wasn't sitting on with his good arm.

Stunned surprise slowly turned grim. "Sir?" Zoë questioned, standing, brushing the dirt off her pant legs.

He slammed the crate shut, startling all of them. "Who sent this? Kaylee? Any note?"

Kaylee climbed to her feet as well, looking confused. "It was with the other mail," she answered, "Figgered it was just more foodstuffs my folks sent." She joined Zoë curiously, standing by. "Why? What's in it?"

"She'll sleep for one hundred years before she wakes, but the spell can be broken before then," River intoned, smiling mischievously and kicking her feet off the side.

He narrowed his eyes at the psychic for a long moment, then pulled the lid off again.

The twin monitor displays of a cyrochamber blinked up at them.

Zoë and Kaylee blinked back, eyes wide, the mechanic's mouth a little open, as Jayne craned his head at the crate from above, trying for a better look. "Oh hell no," the mercenary exploded when he saw, swinging down from the back of the mule with a stream of profanity. "Folks in boxes is bad luck, Mal!" Jayne argued, giving the crate an unfriendly sneer. "I say we drop 'er in the desert from a couple hunnert feet an' let the fall sort out the rest."

Watching Kaylee pout angrily and swat at Jayne's bulky arm was like watching a puppy shame a bear. "Not even!" She put her hand out on the container, eyes filling with nigh irresistible Kaylee tears like whenever she tried to get him to take on some sorry mangy critter for a shipboard pet. "Poor thing, all lonely and helpless…"

The captain sighed, pinching at the bridge of his nose to stem off a headache, then crossed his arms to give out orders. "Zoë, go get Simon to open up this pān duō lā mó hé." His first mate turned her wary eye from their newest surprise to him as he warded off both approbation from his soft-hearted little optimist and protests from his hired gun. "Someone knew where to direct all this to us. I want to know who, and I want to know how."

"Oh, yeah," Jayne quickly came around at that explanation, cradling one of his guns with an unsavoury grin. "My interest is particular as to the who."


Saturday, May 28, 2011 11:12 AM


Poor Mal, he doesn't even get to heal from the crash before more mystery lands in his gorram lap. And how much trouble is this other little sleeping angel going to cost him and his crew? Very shiny! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, May 28, 2011 11:27 AM


Well, if he'd stop moving around so much! Simon even managed to find some recalcifiers to inject the fracture areas with, but Mal defeated even that. Tranquilizers were the only option the good doctor had left.

It'll be a while before we find out who sent them the package, but we do find out who's in it pretty soon.

Saturday, June 11, 2011 9:44 AM


Didn't comment adding one now.

The Operative is back! I'm interested to see what you have in mind for him. That section is...creepy and tantalizing. Just what is he up to and why?

And by now we know that something is gonna happen when people arrive aboard Serenity in boxes.

Sunday, June 12, 2011 2:38 PM


the Operative appears sporadically throughout the story, but he ends up being important to the narrative. There's a lot of separate ties I bring in here.

Jayne has the right idea about bad luck, even though I think they'll be very glad they didn't get rid of it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011 12:26 PM


**clicks next chapter** no time to comment....


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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)