Eidolon (Chapter 7)
Sunday, July 3, 2011

The power grid had shut down some time ago, shortly before Alliance command had called for a complete quarantine, and since they had come down to investigate, they had heard nothing. No local chatter, no response even from the teams they had sent out. No noise, from a city of millions, in the middle of the day. (Interruption)


Fire sputtered among the wreckage in the road, barely enough to make out ruined walls and architectural shells. The clear sky seemed to be siphoning the heat from the desert into the black, and crouching behind the makeshift barricades was shivering misery.

One of the two teens, tall, thin, and swarthy, crossed his arms and pulled his tan linen robe tighter. He shifted, trying to hold in some warmth and to find some position against the junk pile that wouldn't give him tetanus. His brown eyes were staring, short black hair hidden by keffiyeh. "Have they gone?" He muttered out of the side of his mouth, gritting his teeth.

The other peeked out over the top of their cover, looking like his companion but for a broader nose, firmer jaw, and stockier build. A few deadly crimson beams sought them out, and his partner dragged him back down. "Ittakil al Allah!" he yelled, "Go away! I need to piss and I want to sleep!"

Renewed laserfire answered him. "You forgot hungry," his friend observed wearily.

A flurry of bombs and shuttles had descended on the cityscape hours ago, timed to the second that the Georgian sun dropped below the horizon. Like clockwork, colouring everything twilight purple.

The space port had been entirely cleared, except, it seemed, for them. Once the invaders secured the area, they started building, scurrying around to set up some of the largest mounted guns either of them had ever seen. Glittering black-scaled cables radiated from the complicated-looking newtech like a forest of vile trees taking root.

"You think your little brother found a way through?" The outfit patrolling the streets were numerous, well-trained, and well-armed.

Some strange cross between wistful, proud, and grim, bitter memories of slavery and helplessness raged behind the cheeky reply. "Just fine. Niska's best greaseman, years of experience, and the ghabi haiwan don't have half a brain between them."

The quieter of the two had his doubts; if the tiny boy was as good as claimed for sneaking and getting in and out of tight places, why had he never escaped? But then their little scout was sidling up beside them, panting from exertion and adrenalin. The eleven year old was almost skeletally thin and dressed in rags. "Hey Roach," his brother greeted, "found us an out?"

The answer, as ever, the boy simply padded away silently instead, and they followed.

From its very earliest days, New Jerusalem had centered around the activity of its docks, major roads growing outward like a spider web, radiating in lines and everything tightly packed together. After sneaking away from the junk pile and making their way through a maze of evacuated homes and blocky sand-coloured buildings, their pathfinder lead them up onto the rooftops.

Now and then, the lightning flare of a flashbomb from the streets below and to the sides warned of new prisoners, and prompted them onwards, over, under, through. Down into the back alleys, into fluttering white sheets hung on a clothesline.

A couple bullets tore through the linen, barely missing them, followed by a carbine attached to a blonde foreigner in an indigo choli and lehnga, her midrift bare except for gossamer and her hair pulled back except for bangs. She stared at them, then sighed and lowered the gun barrel. "Inside. Now."

Her twin sister in green ushered them through a doorway off to their side. The shop within was part lounge and part general store; a cushion scattered sitting area for business, surrounded by shelves stacked with strange, glittering wares pawned from off-worlders, with patterned woven fabrics and rugs for sale covering wood-and-paper paneling.

A small girl behind the counter looked up, her almond eyes widening and chin-length black bob-cut swishing as she ran off into the kitchens to fetch their boss.

The woman who emerged after a short time was a giant of local colour, head scarf and smoky narrowed eyes and a rounded, matronly face and body. Despite her apparent love of food, she looked like she could break anyone who crossed her in half. She was equally suited for her ankle-length skirt and apron as well as the professional looking waistcoat she wore over both, and her overpowering perfume, mixed with the smell of cooking spices that seemed to hang around her, permeated the store and declared it hers.

She dropped into the largest of her velveteen chairs without ceremony and flicked one bangled wrist for them to join her, picking up an ornate glass pipe with her other hand. "Busy out there tonight," she commented, her low voice more casual than the topic would suggest, and she took and released a thoughtful puff of smoke. "And only rumours and speculation about who exactly all my refugees are running from."

"Shoshenk, it has to be," grumbled one of the blondes, "He and his Niska loyalists are harassing everyone, trying to reestablish their crumbling empire."

The larger woman's shook her head, silencing with a look before they heard another tirade. "He's ambitious enough," she conceded, "but the slavers couldn't shut down the docks like this if they wanted to. This is someone else." The boss returned her attention to the three boys. "So, any ideas?"

- - - - - Deep in the Burnham Quadrant, furthest planet out in the Blue Sun system, one wouldn't expect to find such a brilliant, glittering, civilized world. Blue Sun the company had invested in its eponymous solar system for almost as long as there had been terraforming activities, and here was their crown jewel, a place where their executives could retire with their families, little known and unaffected by the politics of the Core, which also made it perfect for their research and development divisions. Anyone who came here could be certain of being able to find a job, land, and a home, if they managed to hear about it first.

As close as the planet was to the helioformed brown dwarf it orbited (in fact the very first to undergo such a procedure, also courtesy of Blue Sun), the light was almost harsh, ten times the brightness of the sun from Earth-that-Was. Stark shadows, and at the same time, no where to hide. For anyone who had never lived there, it took some time for the eyes to adjust.

His communications officer kept blinking distractingly, eyes watering whenever he looked out from the bridge of their sleek, top of the line Iskellian patrol boat. The brown-haired captain wasn't sure if it was the light bothering the man's paler eyes, or if the man was concerned for his family. The power grid had shut down some time ago, shortly before Alliance command had called for a complete quarantine, and since they had come down to investigate, they had heard nothing. No local chatter, no response even from the teams they had sent out. No noise, from a city of millions, in the middle of the day.

He wondered about his own parents and his brother, then quickly pushed the thought aside, not entirely sure whether he wanted to know. They just needed to hear back from Dr. Caron. The woman had set out taking his few remaining men with her, her coppery hair shining in the sun. Full of her usual spunky determination and a smile just for him to quiet his objections, certain she knew just what was going on. Something about suspecting a leak from the chemical plant, and once she shut it down, everything would be fine.

And he had believed her, because she had never been wrong before, and because he needed to believe her. Because there had been something very sad, and very final in the way she had told him to expect them back in a few hours.

"Someone's coming!" His officer sat up eagerly, the growing sense of disquiet and despair that had been hanging around them dissipating as he looked out and saw them. Three men, uniformed and in standard-issue armor, with assault rifles.

"Looks like they've encountered some trouble," he replied, noticing their ripped clothing. Why hadn't they made contact before? Well, he supposed he couldn't complain, finally they might be able to find out what the hell was going on. "Let's give them a hand, Ray," he ordered, already heading down the steps from the bridge, stopping by his sparsely decorated office to fetch his gun while his subordinate grabbed a commpack from the lockers by the console.

Down the stairs past the top airlocks, down the ramp to the cargo bay, into the open. The soldiers ran up, panting. All three of them looked almost wild. Something was wrong, and the captain's hand went to his holster.

"They've gone crazy!" One of them shouted. "All of them! First nothing, then they turned on each other!"

"So much screaming," whispered the guy in the back, twitching, looking from side to side, looking for some threat he could no longer see, staring blankly.

The other soldier was clutching his head with one hand in confusion, unable to comprehend. "They just… What they saw, they just snapped or something… Oh god. What happened here? What happened to everybody?"

"What about Dr. Caron?" the captain demanded, "Is she all right?"

"Dead, dead. She has to be," answered the first soldier.

"So many bodies!" screamed the most shaken of the three, a knife suddenly in his hand, whirling, cutting, stabbing, even as the other two immediately rounded on him. Panicking, their shots missed erratically and the other man pounced, enraged, roaring. Right for the jugular, teeth and claws, tackling the communications officer before his former comrades had even fallen to the ground, his face a bloody mess.

He fired once, as the madman turned from the third corpse, once more when his would-be attacker didn't even slow down, and the captain stepped back, hit the panel for the outer airlock, gun still trained on the cannibal as he leapt. The doors slammed home, the berserker still straining to reach him even while being slowly crushed. Another shot, directly through the helmet, and this time the man went limp.

The captain waited in the darkness, avoiding the one interrupted shaft of silver white light shining like an interrogation, waited for his heartbeat to slow, to be sure the crazed murderer wasn't going to start moving again, to see if the other men would.

He gathered himself, stepped back out and checked them, pulled them off the ramp, the red streaks the only colour in the landscape of black, white, and grey. Only hours before, these men had lives, a past and a future that was more than the dust of a dying world.

The task. Grief and sympathy were dangerous gates to self-pity. The captain recovered the communication officer's headset, crackling with static, then frowned and increased the volume. He amended his assessment: inhuman shrieks definitely weren't static. And the several more nearby that replied didn't sound like a welcoming party.

He double checked that the blastdoors were securely closed before retreating to the bridge, punched in the start-up sequence and set the com station to broadcast all channels. "This is Miranda Orbital Patrol, number 3263827. If anyone out there is NOT a blood-thirsty psychopath, please respond." Were it not for the desperation underlining the request, it might have been comical.

The voices from the headset stopped for a brief, unsettling moment, then came back louder, accompanied by the sound of distant ship engines and thousands of tiny blips appearing on his radar.

- - - - - Rubble crunched under dull black boots, a lonely noise amid distant shouts, familiar in its criticism of the utter waste of combat. Found another one, someone shouted. Half buried, unconscious, still breathing.

Not that it would do the poor bastard much good.

The heavy clomp of a platoon leader approached, gear clinking with every footfall. The naval officer straightened, his grey double-breasted mao uniform worn and tired looking compared to the much younger man's new helmet and armor and eager, earnest expression. Nine years of peace, and all they had to lead the ground forces were fresh faced recruits straight from officer's training. But then, they didn't need veterans for this.

"East perimeter secure," the soldier announced.

He nodded, at the same time monitoring the technicians working on the other half of deployment activity with disinterest. "Reinforcements will relieve your shift at dawn, after which report with your men to the main air-strip to bring your prisoners back to the Ratched. See that your area remains secure until then."

The soldier hesitated, uncertain whether he was dismissed without being told so. "Sir? How long are we going to be on Ezra?"

"How much resistance have you encountered?" the captain of the Tohoku-Class Cruiser asked.

"Minimal, sir." The marine sounded disappointed.

He shrugged. "Then you have your answer. Excuse me, lieutenant. We have peace to restore and a rebellion to end." The man saluted and left him to contemplate the ruins around him. And lucky us, he thought, sarcastically, it's too late for either.


Sunday, July 3, 2011 8:21 AM


Hmm...By the mention of Dr Carron, should I presume this part of the story is set before the events of the movie? Or is the whole series set before the movie and I just missed registering that somehow? (Now it's my turn to feel a bit dense ;-) ) I'm still finding this story quite interesting, mind you, and I'm sure the next part will tie things in with our BDH's a bit more. Especially liked the first section, great scene-setting. You can almost see and taste and smell it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011 12:27 PM


I wondered about the timeline as well. Well written if bleak just as you would expect with the Reavers loose and hungry. Ali D
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, July 3, 2011 1:52 PM


Flashback. I know good authors don't use flashbacks, and try to keep the story moving in a forwards direction, but this was necessary.


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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)