Eidolon (Chapter 19)
Friday, October 7, 2011

Almost from a distance, he heard the retort of gun fire, felt the searing pain along his spine. It occurred to him, with sudden clarity, that he was about to die. (Trap)


The array lit up like Christmas when Captain Reynolds got the ignition sequence right, then immediately stuttered off. He tried all the toggles again, insulting the zá zhǒng wáng bā dàn machine, the factory line that birthed it, the wǎng fù xián zhū shǒu of a father donated the seed, to no effect.

"Chù -sheng!" he ground out, slapping his palm into the control panel, then sagged against it. He couldn't hear her anymore. Radio cut out, or more like she'd switched off just to spite him. No more goddamn banter, not even some flippancy about his performance with the shuttle. Just... "Tā māde," he cursed, pushing down the part of him certain that she was dead long enough to think.

The shuttle had not just suddenly developed a will of its own refusing to start up. Another landlock maybe, courtesy of Inara's good friend, and not the official kind that came flashing over the Cortex trumpets and claxons blaring. Something transmitting from this estate they could shut down. Kaylee would have a work-around, have to wait for them to get back before they could take off anyhow, which meant he was going on foot. Couldn't fly out to her, he sure as hell could bring her back.

She'd be expecting the shuttle so he'd find her either on the roof or out on the terrace. Satisfied with his plan, he shrugged on his trustworthy coat - risk though it was, no way he was going without it - then checked his side-arm, shoved it back into his holster, and dusted out.

- - - - Zoë crouched down, deep brown eyes scanning the landscape and not for the flowers, just a routine habit to occupy her time while her thoughts wandered. The ever-alert tension, always ready for action, was something that was part of her, an undercurrent running beneath her conscious thoughts that she couldn't ever turn off.

There was some armed security about twenty yards down the garden pathway, shifting and jangling gear giving away a telling lack of discipline as they stood on guard. Not Alliance, no, she could pick out one of them in her sleep. The man hadn't the foggiest notion anyone was nearby, thanks to the night and the leafy growth between them, but even if he'd eaten a frilly fern seed and turned invisible, Zoë would've known. She always did. There were times Mal used to tell the new recruits that her abilities bordered on the nigh supernatural, and sometimes she wondered if he believed it himself. She let them have their ideas about her; if it comforted the mind to know she was out there somewhere, slitting throats, then at least that was something real they could hold on to.

Strange, the number of times they'd been on watch together like this, sergeant and corporal, and later on Serenity's bridge looking out at the stippled black. They'd spent so much time operating on the same wavelength, only to find themselves in such different places now, him in the shuttle with Inara, her out here. With a dead husband and a child that would never know a father, and a girl heartbroke over a shǎ guā doctor.

She glanced back her, working mechanically at an open circuit box off a substation, the usual joy of getting to play with something and ply her trade muted. It was hard to stay angry with Kaylee, and it tugged on her more than it should but she couldn't stand watching them all just keep losing.

Her hand ran self-consciously over the slight bulge at her middle.

They'd given Inara long enough, time for them all to get. "Now," Zoë directed, and Kaylee threw the breaker, which obliged with a crackle of electricity. On the other side of the estate, the lights darkened to a nervous murmur of party guests. The other woman would know it was them, and have enough sense to take advantage of the situation.

As they crept back to the shuttle, the former soldier put out her arm and stopped Kaylee, warning her with a look to keep hush. She drew her mare's leg and cast a quick look inside, then a longer one. With a long sigh, she stood up fully and waved the other girl in.

Kaylee surveyed the cabin, like the captain might jump out from behind a bolt or nail to surprise them. She eventually returned her attention to Zoë, her expression confused and curious. An explosion rocked the night air some distance away from the direction of the manor. Well, that was one mystery solved. Only inevitable, she supposed, and locked her her exasperation at the captain and Inara down behind a flick of hard eyes and a grim look.

There were few times that Zoë had her loyalty and sense of duty tested, or torn between two courses of action. Sometimes, when it was personal, couldn't blame a body for acting only in the way to be expected of them. When something was theirs, beyond the chain of command. She had chosen Wash over Mal when she could, and never regretted it. Ultimately there was an understanding, that she did what she had to do sometimes, and it was for her alone.

Mal had made his choices, same as her, and just like on Niska's skyplex that time, when she'd had to walk away from him, she knew what he expected of her. To take care of the crew and everything else. One here and two back with the ship, and Jayne nowhere to be found but plenty sure he was off with the hovermule. Two off in the mansion in sure danger, and her acutely aware of a second heartbeat. It was up to them.

- - - - They'd caught her soon after they found the first guard. Seven of them, mercenaries who had broken the Jayne Cobb standards of excellence in the worst ways possible. Verminous, grubby, hirsute, porcine, and all of them capable of even more unwholesome countenance. They surrounded her and caught hold of her upper arm, as though she couldn't merely shrug them off, then, more seriously, thrust the muzzle of an automatic rifle against her temple.

Forcing her to move, occasionally jostling her to demonstrate their masculinity and smirking with cruel merriment, they escorted her from the polished decor of the upper hall into the bare stone wall-space of the servants passages. Despite the danger she held herself with as much dignity as possible, careful to keep her own smile off her face.

Of course they were underestimating her. She had happened upon the coat room for the celebration first, which also happened to include weapons confiscated from some of the soldiers.

Then they pushed her through an open panel, wainscotted in imported oak, and her confidence diminished considerably at the first sight of the business man in the room beyond, apparently waiting for her. Very smooth he looked, yet grim; especially because of the knife he was holding on a small child, the girl on tip toes to accommodate her arm pulled to a severe height, fingers clenched into her wrist. Her dark skin looked bruised and lacerated, breath wheezing from her throat, and her wide eyes were terribly unfocused and lost. She hung limply from her captor's grip, like an abused doll.

His well-tailored suit clashed with his dangerously calculating expression, the coarse dressings the councilor had chosen for the room. An insult, she realized; everything around him was torn apart, from the canopy bed to the broken glass on the floor in retaliation. "This is all the they could manage?" he wondered, a voice like rich wine soured. A breeze billowed through the curtains, sweet garden air that carried a slight chill with it. She found herself trying to move to the girl, to help and comfort somehow, and was rudely dragged back to reality by one of the mercenaries. The man, his eyes narrowing, pressed the knife harder against his hostage's neck. "No, that's close enough, I think."

One of his brutes swept the companion's black waves from her shoulders and smelled her, burying his whiskered face into the side of her neck and chuckling when she finally managed to twist away. The tallest mercenary tugged her arm hard towards him, almost wrenching it. "Where do you want her?" he asked gruffly, his attention straying to the mattress.

Their boss rolled his eyes. "Yes, I should bed the would-be-assassin. This is why I didn't hire any of you for your advice." Assassin? The other men laughed as she started to struggle. He appraised her. "I do, however, pay you to kill people," he commented, matter of fact, and their amusement took on a more menacing edge. "Pity the Alliance are here, we have to be on our best behaviour. We can only discipline our workers." He lifted the little girl higher, and she whimpered in pain. "Accidents do happen, though."

Inara quickly calmed herself. He was just trying to get under her skin, toy with her before he followed through on his threat. She stood up to him, resolute and with folded arms and an implacable glare.

He frowned at her in disbelief. "What's this? No impassioned speech for the downtrodden? No desperate plea, 'Oh, please save the children, take me instead'? No list of grievances, about how I killed your family and sold your virginity?" He waited a few moments more, then shrugged and snapped his fingers at his thugs.

The lights cut out, and Inara knew better than to think it was coincidence. Blessed Kaylee! She was going to hug that girl and buy her chocolate covered strawberries every day for the rest of her life.

Confused, the seven guards let her go, like bloodhounds already searching for a new, different threat. "You are the assassin, aren't you?" their boss inquired, sounding less certain, perhaps for the only time in his entire life. There was a high pitched whine and suddenly the men were panicking, something about a sabotage.

Between her and them a brilliance exploded, with wrath like the glare of lightning even through her eyelids, ringing with thunder, like a storm of sunlight. She heard the cries of the girl under their screams and yells and ran for her, rushing amid the clouded splendour to gather her up then turn into the wind for the open window.

"No, but I am," a young, high voice called out behind her, leaping down from some concealment into the fray.

- - - - Gavril flew from the cloth canopy, like the sweep of an eagle's wings and vengeful slashing talons, stabbing downwards with his knives. Even with the help of gravity he couldn't put much force behind the blows, but with the hatred he carried for this man, this tormentor, he hoped he could make up for their difference in size.

He could barely remember a time before his captivity, a bright spot of peace and tranquility, now replaced by the horsewhip scars down his bare back. He'd had a family, once, a mother, a father, sisters. Under the lash, family was what you could make of it, who you could get to look out for you. Always was the terrible threat of loss, of overwork, starvation, dying in torture or being sold off one-by-one. To cope, they resorted to teasing each other, made light of the hell, made up nicknames so they could forget they were each once a person with another life.

And as the light from the flashbang waned, and he saw the wicked calm face of Shoshenk, he saw that same cold emotionless monster watching every rise and fall of the scourge, every electric shock that ripped through his small frame. And he gritted his teeth so hard that one of his molars chipped, and raised his knives again.

Shoshenk gazed down at him a moment, a tiny terror that had suddenly appeared before him, then reached up, over his shoulder, to feel the rivulet down his back, and stare at his red hands. His yla'an bloodstained hands.

They had taught him to be fast; where he could not get by as a slave he learned how thieve on the side. To sneak and hide, and he was good at it, enough that the old bastard used him now and then for his dirty work.

His speed worked for him now. Before Shoshenk could recover, he was on him again, kicking off a knee for leverage, stabbing more, more still into the torso of the slaver boss, staining that so important suit, trying to do as much damage as possible.

Shoshenk, not a strong man or a big man, was still able to send him flying into the floor with a backhand. He willed himself to his feet again, and Shoshenk surged forward, one hand around his throat and crushing him to the unforgiving wall behind him. "They sent a pup to kill me? It was better when I thought they sent a woman."

He still had one knife in his hand, and he drove it into that rotten black heart as deep as he could. For a long moment, the snarl remained on Shoshenk's face, menacing, and he let out a hiss, blood rising to his mouth, even as his arms when slack and they slid to the ground. Gavril kicked him off and stood, triumphant over the body. "That was for my brothers," he said, sure they would be proud of him.

Almost from a distance, he heard the retort of gun fire, felt the searing pain along his spine. It occurred to him, with sudden clarity, that he was about to die. He hadn't lived for very long, had spent most of it not knowing freedom. Now he would never run on the grasslands around his home village again, never have rough house again with Arim or Ras, or play around on the rooftops and make himself a nuisance for the priests.

His only regret was he could only give his life once. He grabbed the single grenade from his belt, and pulled the pin. "And this," he shouted, "is for-!"

"The Bûmelerze," River finished. She blinked and another soul found its way to Serenity, guided by the dark eyes of the three fairy queens. The roar of the fallen lions faded. Everything was quiet and still.

She could hear the people sing.


Friday, October 7, 2011 8:43 PM


Today passes our unsympathetic and complete monster would be crime lord. In between playing the sycophant to a sadist like Niska (emphasis on "sicko") and pimping out five year olds to the worst sort of people, he also liked to drown kittens.

Saturday, October 8, 2011 3:34 AM


Oh my friend! You have to know I was holding my breath through the last several paragraphs of this chapter!

The whole thing was beautifully done. I love your Inara and your Zoe. Zoe was particularly poignant here. And it's so sad these bad guys never catch on that they're in the Whedonverse and how unhealthy it is to underestimate the "girl."

I look forward to more!

Saturday, October 8, 2011 5:22 AM


I particularly like how you delineated Zoe in this part, so true to form and with a great sense of character. I was on my pins when Inara got caught and for one beautiful shining moment I though that Gavril would survive. Great writing, waiting for more! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, October 8, 2011 5:54 AM


Oh, also, I was carried away writing yesterday, I do intend to catch up on reviewing. :)

GR! How's it feel to be back on the ol'

Zoe is struggling, but she keeps it together. At the same time, she's starting to make choices about what direction she wants her life to go in, which should transition to Zoe at the end of the comic Float Out.

Saturday, October 8, 2011 7:29 AM


Feels good, and I agree with Brewster. Your sentences are so well crafted, your words are so very well chosen that this series is a smart, emotional pleasure to read.

Saturday, October 8, 2011 2:24 PM


This calls for a GR archive story crawl both here and on fanfiction dot net. Maybe I'll make a party of it! Platonist and EB don't appear to have made a visit here yet.

Saturday, October 8, 2011 7:42 PM


Arggh. I wrote a lovely review, pressed submit and it disappeared. It's very late here and I've had a long day at work, so let me try to get my head on straight again and think again of what I wrote.
I really liked your last action scene. and the re-appearance of River (been wondering where she got to). Loved Inara as the action hero in the prior scene. I am worried about what's happening with Mal, since he set out on foot. He is sure to run into trouble, I'm thinking.
Very excited to see GillianRose back here. GillianRose, does this mean you might be posting more wonderful fics for us? (ebfiddler asks hopefully)
Bytemite, that GR archive story crawl sounds like good fun. Can I come along too? :-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011 8:43 AM


We'll see some more River next chapter. She does eventually get in on some of the action and making a difference in the direction of the plot, but it's very subtle. After all, if she changes too much, the Python will be reborn and come to eat her, and have to be killed by Apollo.

Yes, join me! I've already commented on one of her stories.

Sunday, October 9, 2011 1:25 PM


Revenge is sweet. Although one may not be able to saver the taste for long.


Sunday, October 9, 2011 3:47 PM


Archive crawl? Awww, you make me blush :)

I have works in progress, but they've been stalled for a long time. Not sure why...

But I'm loving Eidolon and happy to hear there will be more soon :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 5:53 AM


Archive crawl is go. :) To the private messages!

Thursday, January 5, 2012 12:17 PM


You created a villain more horrible than Niska! - bravo! (I think ..... )


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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)