Eidolon (Chapter 35)
Monday, October 1, 2012

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


"Clear," River announced, and Kaylee ripped the control panel off the wall in a shower of sparks.

- - - - - The Alleyne family tradition was one of stealth and survival and a hierarchy of command. She'd been raised like that. Yes ma'am, yes sir, right away. Only let her guard down a few times in her life. First time had been an early mission with a posse chasing some fugitive horse thieves, her before even her monthlies, but tall, showing signs of the woman she'd grow into. They'd been getting close, made their camp. Then one of the men with her had gotten some ideas. That'd been her first kill, and she hadn't thought much of it. Ended another man the next day when they found their targets, brought back enough of the bounty for some supplies before they left the world. Just regular life on the rim.

Zoë was alert or else. Even with Wash, at first. He was a flyboy, seemed to know everyone in every bar, a girl in every port, and if not he could make friends fast enough anyway. Took her a six months to notice his glances instead of the bushy mustache and the messy blond hair and the floozies, realize he was serious about her. After they started getting together, she slowly eased into trust, went back and forth on whether to be hard with him or soft. Soft won out most of the time. The man got under her armor like no one else, with his combination of jokes and silly sweet talk. Her wedding night with Wash, they'd both been drinking some, she'd been the most carefree she'd ever feel in her whole life.

Then Wash had been skewered by Reavers and a blood-splattered harpoon big around as the tree trunk it'd been carved from, because she hadn't been paying enough attention.

Life had taught her how to be ready for anything, even waking up with a concussion, or in this case, a concussion, hormones, and a bad taste slicking her tongue. Like finding out she was pregnant had somehow made it real, and now her body was catching up with a vengeance on what maternity was supposed to be like. Then again, maybe it was where she was, locked up in the brig, on this ship, that had her rolling out off the bunk before ever her eyes were open, sickened and steeled for a fight. Smelled like the Alliance, and that would have her on edge in her sleep.

Weren't any purple or grey in all this blank white, but they'd be around any time. She remembered how it was, ever-present from the time they loaded the remnants of the last stand onto a dropship like cattle, sick and injured and dying along with the healthy, all the way to when the prisoners were discharged as a show of amnesty. Only half of the POWs even made it to the camp.

Hera hadn't gotten ruined like Shadow, but the bombardment had played with the climate some. The protostar blazed down on its closest world as near a thousand combatants and sympathizers lined up single file at the gate for processing. Survive heatstroke, and they were given a number, pushed into a stall, then stripped and hit with itchy delousing powder. The officers and the troublemakers were then singled out for further interrogation. Some were killed resisting, those thinking the Alliance were intending worse and those with their minds too far gone to understand. Everyone else got two sets of prison orange to alternate days and were assigned to a work group. Guards and overseers were there for every roll-call and random search, inspection, and beating.

So her opportunity would come around to check on her soon, and then she'd catch them by surprise. Zoë slid along the bulk head, searching - no obvious seams, but her best guess would be opposite the bare frame pallet. She crouched, coiled for the first strike.


The question was indistinct and muffled, but unmistakeable. "Kaylee?" she wondered. Must be in the next cell over. That was handy; the little mechanic couldn't fight, but she could spring Serenity from the lockdown. Just had to free herself first, then Kaylee, and find the others.

She heard the panel workings open with a hiss and focused again, tensing, when the girl leaned into the cell like a daisy after the sun, head turning and hair bouncing until Kaylee spotted her. "There you are."

Her headache wasn't near so bad as concussion dreams about an unarmed flower-child waltzing through a gorramn fortress and legionnaires alike to her rescue. Reality had taken a whimsical turn. She pushed herself upright; no time for disbelief. "How'd you get out?"

"Hotwired the door open," the girl said, a marvel of engineering prowess distilled down to pure blithe and off-hand, a brave front to hide the note of anxiety. Kaylee was the only person in the verse who could still be cheerful even when nervous and hurried and every reason to be.

Zoë just nodded. Carefully. "Any alarms?" Shake of the head, hesitant but negative as she stepped through to the hallway.

A few Alliance harpies were just laying out there around an electronic console, purplebellies and faces to the floor. Eerie and motionless except for breathing. Almost like they were sleeping. "Somethin' wrong with 'em," Kaylee said, hugging her arms around her uneasily. "They're all like that. Every one." The girl looked to Zoë for her experience, for assurance. "Is it the Pax?"

She spotted some of their contraband scattered around the keyboard and moved towards the guard station at a brisk pace, searching while trying not to disturb the bodies or the glossies. "We ain't stayin' long enough to find out," she answered, and tightened her gunbelt.

Laughter rose around them, tinny with reverb. "They wanted to play." River and intercoms. Last couple times that hadn't exactly been an encouraging combination. They'd already be dead if River were hunting them, Zoë supposed. Alliance had just played the teenager's shattered mind like galanty, and her own skull like percussion. Was the girl recovered? She might not be herself. Scarier than that, a sleeper agent could be activated or influenced and even River wouldn't know until the trap closed around them. "Queen of Hearts, double or nothing. Two down."

An admission, maybe, for knocking out Jayne and attacking her, but no, Kaylee walked over to another set of controls. "Inara?" In here, the answering call. A few twists of a little turnscrew and the mechanic was stripping wires and rerouting circuits in moments. In all of a minute Kaylee had cracked the door security. Their curly haired lodger rushed out in relief and her greeting about lifted Kaylee off the floor. A genteel whisper of thanks, a squeeze, then released.

In the meantime, Zoë located the guard keys and was working on the handcuffs. No easy task on account of the numbing field, but she got them off her, the feeling returning to her fingers like pins and needles. "Let's get your hands free," she suggested.

"Oh! Sorry," Inara exclaimed, her own arms notably unbound, and turned to Kaylee. A flick of the wrist and the manacles dropped.

The girl whistled. "Y'learn that from the cap'n too?" she admired.

She rolled her eyes. "Please. Mal's rather better at getting himself into handcuffs than out of them." Zoë appraised her. "Companion secrets," Inara added primly. As though the Guild was steeped in tricks out of a spy novel and that explained everything, and maybe it did. Surely put off any unwanted and possessive suitors Inara might attract. "Where is everyone else?" she asked, tentative as a deer tip-toeing out onto a frozen lake, and stopping when she saw the unconscious women.

Kaylee looked up at the ceiling. "River?"


All the anger seemed so pointless now, over the war, over Wash. Life was what mattered, what she'd had and the future. Her husband, and her child, and the crew, and the captain, all of them. No matter how much she questioned, Zoë was true to them. Fiercely. Wasn't a blind loyalty, or conflicted. They'd been asked, had the option, whether or not to risk everything to do something right. Wash chose, same as her. She had to do the same again, one more time, she would. For her child. For her friends. "We'll find them," Zoë said.

- - - - - Wham wham wham bam wham. The incessant pounding found its obnoxious match only in the tirade of Chinese cursing and insults issuing from the adjacent cell, and was only exceeded by its source. "Jayne?" Simon shouted.

The commotion paused for much appreciated and all too brief respite, then resumed, louder and and more adamant. "Snake eatin' guī' ér zi! Yán xíng zhòng dian de líng chí next to him!" Jayne bellowed. "Zhòng ni men nòng si!"

The sentiment was entirely mutual. Clearly the guards had a sick and twisted sense of humour. He sighed in aggravation and flopped down on the mattress in his cell, trying to bury his face and his ears.

No such luck. The man left him no recourse but sarcasm. "Maybe they can't hear you!" Simon snapped. The man-ape stopped. Had something happened? He lifted his head cautiously, then sat up when no more invectives were forthcoming. "Jayne?" he tried, his voice small.

"Simon!" Kaylee burst into his room and nearly tackled him. He was almost too shocked to process anything, but he had enough wherewithall to return her enthusiastic hug. Until he realized they were lying on a bed, the rest of the crew looking on in amusement, and they'd had a serious argument not more than a few hours ago. She extricated herself awkwardly, her cheeks flushed and looking embarrassed.

The doctor untangled himself from her embrace and composed himself. "Okay?" he asked her. She nodded quickly. Tiān na, River and the captain were missing. They had all been manhandled if not knocked out, and Zoë was pregnant. He scanned the rest of them, settling on Serenity's first mate for priority triage. He should examine them all later. "Where's River?"

"Diversion." The intercom answered him. "More to save."

- - - - - Kaylee was occupied searching through the logs while Zoe and Jayne looted the guard station. Inara helped free Simon from the handcuffs, then turned away from Jayne's leer, and was the first to see the vast containment chamber, to stand on the stair landing between the two sections.

Light flickered along the edges of the forcefields, glimmering squares refracted like shards of frozen crystal, a transparent maze spread out across the expanse. The tormented denizens of the quarantine eyed the progress of the visitors, prowling along the barriers hungrily. For a moment, she could hear only her own breath, her fears, and the whispers of River's prophecy floating over both. "But fiercely ran the current, swollen high by months of rain..."

The others joined her, cautious as they spotted the prisoners. "Reavers," Zoë confirmed gravely.

Jayne stopped outright, refusing to go any further, but Inara darted down the stairs two at a time, afraid of what she might discover. Her friends tried to call her back, but she had desperation guiding her steps. An urgency like a half-remembered nightmare hurried her, a strange dream becoming all too real. "And fast his blood was flowing, and he was sore in pain..."

She found him amid a streak of red in all the white, where he had collapsed on the far side of the lonely room, staggered footprints crimson around him. Inara pressed her hands against the clear wall between them, a ripple of static crackling over the surface as she reached for him, searched for an opening. Then she was through, scrambling to him, his name a mantra on her lips like a prayer, her eyes stinging.

Too late, one too many times. How often did she have to see him sprawled and lifeless? Fool, dear fool, always sacrificing without any thought to himself. She did not crave his chivalry, his suffering; she wanted peace for him, restoration, his warrior soul becalmed and healed. He persisted despite pain and tragedy and gave her spirit enough to fight for the short time she had left, even as she wished to spare him from further losses. Now he was fading, and Mal would take her hopes for him, and for herself, with him. She had killed him, as she feared, and despite his best efforts she would die anyway. A glimpse of his injuries, and she half stumbled, half knelt by his side, stricken herself by the sight.

She laid her palm over his heart. Still warm, pulsing with life, seeping into her fingers. Tears pricked at the corner of her eyes, both relief at his survival and grief at his condition; his face was marked with fresh bruises and burns. "Oh Mal," she whispered, a breath struggling past the tightness in her throat. "What did they do to you?"

Mal jerked and startled at her touch, and for a moment she thought he was having a seizure. She pinned him, devoting her full body to the effort of trying to keep him still, from doing further harm to himself. "And heavy with his armor, and spent with charging blows..." River almost sang.

"Don't you dare!" Inara said, fiercely, trying to hold onto him as he seemed to be shaking himself apart from within.

His eyes were open, wide, shocking blue and almost moreso from the pain, and she stared back, trying, begging for him to focus on her. She saw then, his mouth moving, voiceless, her name - Inara, Inara.

"I'm here," she called back, and cradled his face in her hands, but he recoiled, and she realized then that he couldn't see her, as though trapped in a memory. He wasn't convulsing, he was struggling in his confusion, weak from the blood loss but still almost strong enough to overpower her. "Mal, it's me, I'm here," she insisted.

"Inara," he managed, almost a croak, turning his head to each side trying to find her.

Suddenly she was resolved, she wouldn't leave him forsaken in wherever horrible place his mind couldn't escape. She wrapped her hands around his shoulders and before he could shrug her off, she pressed herself against him, slid herself up to close the distance between them and lay her check to his and murmur in his ear. She wasn't even sure if he could actually hear her, but he slowly stilled, breathing her in, her hair and skin, the jasmine scent of her favourite bath soap heavy in the air around them, soothing him.

She felt his arms enfold her, and she stayed like that a moment, then pulled back, and this time he watched her. A swallow, uncertain. "This real?" he asked, and she nodded. He glanced around, taking in their surroundings, and he didn't like what he saw. "No," he said, shaking his head with renewed horror. "No, not here. Anywhere but here," he pleaded.

Inara blinked at him. "We're going to get you out," she promised.

"Not me!" Mal objected, "You!" He winced, gritting his teeth as he became aware of the pain again. "You shouldn't be here," he rasped, brokenly.

She tried to tell herself she was offended, after all that effort trying to get free and save him and he didn't even want her around. Too bad. "Well I am," she said firmly, desperate to reassure him, but he wasn't listening, or perhaps he couldn't hear her anymore.

She tried to stroke his fringe of brown hair, but someone had her by the arm, and was dragging her away. She resisted, frantic to be by his side. "Move!" Simon demanded, "I need to see!" The entire crew burst into the cell, Kaylee gasping at the blood. Zoë grabbed Inara and held her back, to give the doctor space to work, but Inara could not excuse their interference. They pulled her to the side.

Mal reacted, wild, berserk, and lunged at them, almost faster than they could react. Desperation. As though his dizzying agony and blood loss were forgotten, he saw only that she was threatened and in danger, and that he had to fight off the intruders. Jayne intercepted him with a knock to the jaw. Mal didn't stay down, but bounced back up, turning on the mercenary. "And oft they thought him sinking, but still again he rose."

Only a low thrum from a stun rifle was able to save the two men from each other. The captain fell again, and Inara cried out in alarm, but this time he didn't move, blessedly unconscious. Zoë lowered the muzzle with only the slightest shake to her hands, but all off them looked on, watching him, unnerved. "Best get moving," she said, her voice steady as ever. "Kaylee, you ever figure out where the hangar controls are?" The mechanic nodded, frightened and speechless. "Let's go then," Zoë decided, releasing Inara with a jerk of her head towards the doctor and the captain. Inara moved quickly to gather Mal, then Simon stepped forward to assist. "Take him. We'll tie him down if he acts up again."


Monday, October 1, 2012 1:31 PM


Hey everyone. I'll be posting a few extra chapters this time around because I want to catch up and I'm about to take a break for a month or so. Got some drawing to do. Don't worry, I won't be ending on a cliffhanger.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 1:34 PM


Holy good gorram, they turned Mal into a REAVER? Please tell me it's reversible? Off now poste haste to read the next two chapters, you are spoiling us and it is much appreciated, Bytemite. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 1:36 PM


Well, a Reaver would've attacked Inara. But, this is actually a theme I'm exploring, about what Mal thinks of himself and whether he's as bad as he thinks, and elements of that play into this. Well spotted.


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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)