Eidolon (Chapter 33)
Tuesday, August 7, 2012

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


A shudder ran through them, and if Kaylee didn't know better, she'd have thought that the result of the doomsaying instead of the ship. Someone was trying to steal Serenity out from underneath them. She felt the engine object like a skipped heartbeat as they flubbed the start-up sequence, and then she wasn't shaking so much from fear anymore but outrage. The gall of them, touching the helm controls, sitting in Wash's chair, mucking about with the workings. Now they'd gone too far, couldn't just leave them alone.

Zoë waved them back into the passenger commons while she and Jayne covered for them. Their guns glinted, distracting and dangerous. There'll be more shootin' soon, Kaylee thought. River in a jumper dress, Kaylee in her overalls, Inara in silks, Jayne in a t-shirt, Zoë in her usual leather vest, not a stitch of armour and a few pistols and rounds between them against a fully armed SWAT team.

"Please, Zoë. Let me go out there. It will buy you time," Inara argued. Maybe she wasn't thawed out all the way. Kind of bedraggled, wasn't making sense and didn't have all her usual reserve. There was her grace though, all manners and gestures like a storybook princess in golden robes asking help to slay some monster.

Zoë gritted her teeth, frazzled and frizzy-haired and the soldier looking like she was trying to keep her focus and not slap the other woman. "They'll just kill you."

Once the purplebellies had River they were all dead. The shadows cast by the scaffolding and superstructure around the sparse-lit lounge seemed to hide all kinds of trouble. Some of the shapes were moving even, soldiers around the nook at the top of the stairs closing in.

Simon was talking to his sister, soothing, looking kind and handsome and wonderful but River didn't seem all there until she snapped at him. "It'll be all right, Simon!" River said, unconvincingly grumpy, then her face cleared. "Trust me." Kaylee suddenly wanted to fight, if just for Simon and everyone so that all those reassurances would be true. Like when they were facing down the Reavers again, and she'd tapped that same well of determination.

"Kaylee," the first mate called her back before Inara could say any more, nodded to the maintenance ladder down the corridor, tucked in behind the dorms and some old boxes of rags and ammo. "Get up to the engine room and stop the rotors."

"Can't." The mechanic shook her head, riding over the frown Zoë sent her way, "less'n you want us cratered. They'll have us in the air first an' we don't want to blind fire the engine. Gotta retake the helm." And she even had an idea how. "If we get to the access panel we can go right down Serenity's center-line through the crawl space."

Jayne didn't look happy, not that she could blame him. She had to work in there sometimes, in the dust and spiders and space bugs. "Gonna be tight. Ain't exactly twig-like."

Inara just sighed at him. "I haven't heard that one before."

Kaylee tried to smile for them. "Captain did it the once when River sealed herself on the bridge and he had to talk her down. Should be okay, just bring up the back, case you get stuck," she suggested. Jayne wasn't much encouraged.

"May be our best chance for a rescue," Zoë agreed, "if they already sent out a docking request to the Ratched."

A volley of concussive waves burst from around the corner and Zoë ducked back behind the frame, looking for a clear shot. At least they weren't using the PAX-bangs.

"Put me back in that place," River said, "Little bluebird singing in a cage, puppet on broken strings."

Voices muddled the air around them. They had to get Simon and River away first, and Kaylee went to River where the girl had stopped, wide eyed with her head tilted to the side and listening. Kaylee raised her hand to River's shoulder, about to talk her out of her fear. She exchanged a look with Simon who moved to help but River stepped away.

Music, Kaylee realized, underneath all the noise the soldiers were making. A cheerful jingle, something about the Blue Sun corporation's latest imitation coffee blend. The intercoms! "Zoë!" she shouted. Wake up and light the morning, the lyrics chanted. River lashed out in a fan-kick, a blur as she knocked Jayne's carbine aside.

"Gorramn girl!" he snarled and swung a backhand at her. She blocked then somehow she had the barrel of his gun in her hand and brought the stock hard against the side of his head, crumpling him like Jayne sized tin can. Zoë was sweeping her side-arm towards the assassin, who flipped the gun around and Kaylee found herself next to Simon, staring down the sights.

"River," Simon whispered, choked. His sister didn't even waver, in a staring match between herself and Zoë, who carefully dropped her sawn-off to the floor, not about to invite any reprisals. Serenity bucked underneath their feet like an objection, and Zoë lunged forward, hoping to catch the girl off guard but slammed herself into the steel frame. She lay there, dizzily, and two men in suits stepped over her and Jayne, flanking River. Kaylee recoiled, she remembered them, boarding Serenity while the captain and the others had been lead into an ambush, looming over her. They'd died. She was sure of it. But these two, they looked exactly the same as the pair who had attacked her.

"Secure them." The purplebellies rushed in around River.

- - - - - Simon had never liked flying, not when their chauffer was navigating through the floating twilight traffic of Osiris Capital, and he liked it even less when a crushing vacuum surrounded them. As time went on, he'd gotten used to spending weeks off solid ground, long trips out of their way to avoid the common trade routes and patrols.

The five minute transit between Ezra and the Ratched was starting to look like the worst flight of his entire life.

The soldiers searched Jayne first without much trouble, one scanning his muscular bulk with a handheld x-ray device while three others held him down, apparently concerned that he might try to throw them off while unconscious. Not that their concerns were entirely unwarranted; Simon had often found Jayne an irritable and uncontrollable patient, and the ox-like mercenary was certainly strong enough. They methodically removed all contraband, accumulating an impressive pile of explosives in all sizes, the harsh-looking hand gun, an impossibly well-hidden back-up pistol, a knife, and an assortment of stolen food and medical supplies.

Zoë, however, could put up a fight even while dazed. She lashed out at the first woman that tried to handle her - the Alliance was good enough to process them by gender, but not enough to let them go, Simon thought wryly - a vicious strike at the guard's throat with the edge of her hand that left the other woman gasping on the floor. It took two more to wrestle Zoe to the ground and get her switchblade away from her, and Zoe only stopped struggling when they fired a stun rifle point blank at her. As her doctor, he tried to protest, but without any success. He'd have to perform a check-up later on the mother-to-be and the unborn child.

Their two best remaining fighters were down, and River wasn't in any condition to help them. He did not resist further, and Kaylee and Inara both submitted quietly to the search, giving up a pocket screwdriver, then a syringe. Once they were bound, numbing bands around their wrists and ankles, and the remaining guns and rifles were gathered, they were half-escorted-half-dragged out to the cargo bay and forced to kneel. More troops lined the walkways, ready to fire down on them.

Were they going to be executed before they even arrived? The last time they had been ordered to dock with an Alliance cruiser, the crew suited Simon and his sister up for EVA so they wouldn't be found. He spent the entire time clinging to the hull in a desperate panic, knowing that one slip and he would either be floating, or worse, discovered. The experience left something to be desired. River, though, had been delighted. His sister, the scientific genius, looking out into the unknown. The six year old who once redid his eighth grade math homework, the ten year old who inventoried the microbiology of the servant's quarters for the pun of it, the twelve year old who still skipped everywhere. She had beamed back at the stars, in a way he hadn't seen since she'd gone away to the Academy and the tortures they had inflicted on her.

The girl who he'd given up his life to save, restore, and protect, she was gone. No sign of her playfulness or intelligence or eccentricity or profundity. Just an automaton following orders, holding him at gunpoint without any recognition or familiarity. No hiding under Serenity's wings this time, or seeking shelter with criminals, or a dubious settlement with an even more shadowy and inexplicable chaplain.

She stood with her two captors as they studied them. The ship connected with the Ratched's airlock, the metal objecting to the impact like rolling thunder. No one moved. Waiting. Simon knew where this was going. Their previous arrest had ended with the Alliance slagging a derelict that had been hit by a Reaver attack. No one was to know what had happened on that ship. No one would have believed it.

He grabbed Kaylee's hand, fingers tangled with hers.

One of the two men in black suits gestured, and the soldiers pulled them to their feet, broke his connection with Kaylee. He tried to turn to see her, saw one of the agents brush his hand across River's forehead, like a father and child, and then she collapsed. The code phrase - Eta kuram na smekh.

His brother's instinct rebelled at the danger, even as a marine jabbed a rifle into his ribs. "What do you want with her?" he demanded, refusing to be bullied. Hadn't they done enough to her? To them? The soldiers pushed him away, down the docking bridge tunnel, but the inhumanly cold and menacing stares followed him.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012 11:17 AM


Okay, I'm puzzled. Why didn't Simon give the code phrase when River went into fighting mode against her own people? I'm all manner of worried now about what is going to happen not only to River but to the rest of the crew. Gorramit, where is the Big Damn Rescue when you need one? Great stuff, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 11:20 AM


My explanation is that he was too shocked that River would actually hold HIM at gun point. Also by the time they caught on to what was happening, the damage was mostly already done.

But I encourage speculation.


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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)