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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
An open-ended adventure.
The previously unaired pilot is finally available, as we look back at the events which led up to everything we have seen so far and everything we have yet to see.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1106 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The voices came through muddled, like trying to listen to the conversations of underwater people. She was even wet, but that was just a thin layer of sweat that had encased her body.
“… I have no idea! She was fine before. I mean, she has this condition, I have a prescription for her medication, but I’ve never seen her like this.”
“Has she been without her medication during your trip here?”
“I only had some of the basic remedies on my shuttle…”
“Holy *God*, look at that list. Enough to straighten out half an asylum.”
“… but her brother said—”
“He’s a doctor. *Her* doctor.”
Too busy swimming, River ignored the voices. She wasn’t swimming in water, though. She was swimming through her own head. It was OK to ignore the voices. They weren’t relevant—River was even pretty sure that none of it had happened yet. There was a lot leading up to this.
Before coming here, she first had to sneak off the ship. Run away from home. It was the second time she would do that. But the first time she had run away she had run to school, and her parents had let her. The second time, she would be running to stay *away* from school, and the only parents she had left were her brother and a grumpy space captain.
Parents were like a reverse version of the torment of Tantalus. The less you saw of them, the more you wanted them. It wasn’t their fault, though. Not always. Sometimes you just had bad thoughts that made it better to be away from them. But better for who?
When the voices returned, they were shrill, and they knocked River’s thoughts all atumble. It wasn’t so bad, though. Happened all the time, and usually, she did it herself, by accident. One of the voices she knew—it was telling her to hold on, that she would feel better soon.
She tried to hold on to the voice, because she remembered that she liked it, but she got distracted when she heard another voice years and years—a lifetime—earlier. That voice, she knew she liked even better. She couldn’t remember it well enough to make out what was saying at first. Was it calling her name? No, wait…
“What?” Shaken from her train of thought by her brother’s joyous call, River looked up.
Simon grinned back at her, dropping a heavy bag of books and notes onto the couch. “It’s summer, River. No more school for two months.”
As she turned back to the brochure, River couldn’t help but smile. “You’ll be bored to tears by day eight. And that’s a 95% certainty. I calculated probabilities from previous experience and the weather prediction. All you’ve wanted to do for twenty-two years and four months is fix people up. Maybe twenty-three and one. I wouldn’t put it past you to want to save the other spermatozoids right after having fertilized the ovum.”
Simon was quiet for a moment as he contemplated that. Then he said, “I’m studying to be a doctor, and even I find this line of conversation highly disturbing.”
“If you come to my dance class performance on Friday, I’ll trip Nancy Dorman. You could play doctor with her.”
“Nancy Dorman? She’s in your dance class?” His entire voice was different as he spoke that name. You’d think he’d get over his high school crush, but not Simon. He’d never told Nancy, and without resolution, he couldn’t let go. Simon was like that—he cropped up his emotions. He had never even said anything to his little sister, right up until she’d become so sick of pretending she couldn’t tell and had just confronted him about it. River had understood the biological process of propagation—both the physical and the instinctual—since she was eight, but she dreaded a time when she would start to like boys.
Softly shaking her head at her brother’s reaction, River turned her page. “Just joined,” she said. “Could actually use a doctor at the performance. Nancy usually doesn’t need my help to trip up.”
Simon stood behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. “If this is your way of asking me to come watch you dance, I’d love to.” He paused. “And not because Nancy’ll be there.”
“Sure,” River said, trying not to laugh.
Her brother leaned forward. His presence as he read her brochure over her shoulder felt good, familiar. She missed her brother. Even with him home most weekends, the school year had been hard for her.
“What’s this, then, that you’re reading?” he asked.
Somewhat disturbingly, River observed much of the same reaction in her own body language as Simon had displayed at the mention of Nancy Dorman. “Ooh! It’s a brochure! For an exclusive academy, and they want me to enroll! It’s all the way on Londinum, but I think mother and father will let me go!”
“A government academy, huh?” Simon mumbled, reaching down to leaf through the pages. “I don’t know. Aren’t you still a bit young for that sort of thing?”
“*Simooon!* Besides, it’s not until next year. This year I’m doing high school.”
He kissed the top of her head and turned away. “Well, I’m sure you’ll tell me about it all summer long. Right now, I’m gonna catch a shower before dinner.” River had already turned back to her page. She’d read the whole thing front to back before, as soon as it had arrived, but her perfect memory didn’t replicate the excitement of the moment. At the door, Simon paused. “You really want to go to this place, don’t you?”
Without looking up, she nodded eagerly. The door closed behind her brother, and she whispered, “Anything that gets me out of this house.”
Famous last words, River thought years later. Of course they hadn’t been her last, but the River she was then was hardly the River she was now.
All of a sudden, it occurred to her that one of her eyes was open. *She* hadn’t opened it, so it must have been the fingertip pulling on her eyelid that had done it. And the fingertip must have belonged to the person who was shining a light into her eye to measure the dilation of her pupil.
“She’s responding well to the medication in her file, but I had to take some drastic…” The light went out, and River squeezed her eye shut again. Wouldn’t want to let what was in her head escape. It wasn’t safe.
“Tell Mistress Inara that the fever is going down,” the voice went on. “If the girl continues to stabilize, I’ll be able to run some tests soon, and find out what happened.”
River laughed, or she imagined she did. The woman had called her a girl. But River had never been much of a girl, and the bits of her that were had been painstakingly taken out. That had happened before this, she was sure of it. Now she couldn’t tell if she was laughing or crying. Or if she was really doing either at all…
It was her own fault that she didn’t know. She’d wanted so badly to go someplace where people were different, where she would be different. Nobody had told her what they would do to her to change her, or what they would try to change her into, but did that really matter? She’d been so happy to get to the Academy.
She was smiling broadly, inescapably as she dragged her suitcase out of the trunk of the cab. And she had tried to escape the smile—for perhaps the first time in her life, she wanted to look every bit as intelligent as she was, maybe more. Home was in the back of her head, an irritating knot of unresolved feelings. She left it where it was, ignoring it as best she could, and telling herself that time and distance were the best remedy.
“Yes!” She turned quickly, dragging her suitcase along with her. It slipped from the edge of the trunk it had been leaning on, and it took both her gymnastics and dancing lessons to save her the embarrassment of falling on her face as the weight of the suitcase suddenly pulled on her arm. “Yes, that’s me.”
“I’m Mr. Wallace, Vice-President of Acquisitions. Welcome to the Academy.” He held out his hand. River put down her suitcase and shook it. He wore spotless, white gloves, which seemed a bit weird, but she liked his grip. Firm, as if ignoring her youth and her frail appearance, and respectful but not intimidated, unlike most people who’d learned to disregard her age.
“Acquisitions?” she asked, unable to contain her curiosity. The brochures and study guides she had been sent had told her very little of the actual inner workings of the Academy.
“Yes,” Mr. Wallace said. “Do you need help with that?” He indicated her suitcase.
“No thanks,” said River. “It’s fully automatic.” She uncovered a switch and flipped it. Small wheels extended themselves, and the suitcase followed the two as the walked off the landing pad.
“It is my task to locate suitable candidates for our program,” Mr. Wallace continued, “and to convince them to attend. As you’re aware, there are very few candidates who meet with our standards. Less than one for every world we have colonized, in fact.”
“So every one of the students here is like me?” she asked, smiling again.
“Oh, I think you’ll find that you’re still rather an outstanding student. You were quite the catch for me. But yes, the margin between you and your peers has decreased dramatically.”
River was so excited that she barely noticed how Mr. Wallace kept glancing at her. Under other circumstances, she would have recognized it as the look one would give a dangerous animal that might shake loose its leash at any moment. She was so distracted that had the thought even occurred to her then, she would have dismissed it as being stupid. But of course, she was hardly stupid.
As it was, her suspicions weren’t raised until the arrived at the door to the Academy building, and it took Mr. Wallace a hand scan and voice recognition to open it. Even then, because she was hardly expecting any hostility from the people who had tried so hard to persuade her and her parents to let her come to them, she dismissed it.
The raw electricity released from the tasers to either side of the door shot through her body like the cold, painful shock of unpleasant reality settling in.
Her muscles convulsed, dropping her to the ground as her legs suddenly refused to support her. Still, somehow, she managed to get out a scream. And still the electricity ran through her. It didn’t stop until there were four men by her side, and as soon as it was safe for them to touch her, they did so, roughly strapping her limp arms and legs to a stretcher. Without a word or a glance to River, they started to roll her away.
Mr. Wallace gestured curtly, and they paused. He looked down at her with what looked a lot like regret. Her muscles still twitching from false commands sent by the excess energy in her nervous system, River had to struggle to hold onto consciousness. Only one thought was strong enough in her mind to form—*why?* It must have been clear to read in her eyes.
“Pity,” said Mr. Wallace. “I would so have liked to see some preliminary studies on your behavior as is. But what sham of a school could we have held before you that your magnificent brain would not have seen through within days? No, better to take no risks with a prodigy like this.”
Years later, lying unconscious in a hospital bed in the New Canaan Chapterhouse of the Companions’ Guild, it would occur to River that for a moment there at the Academy, she’d been as normal as anyone in the ‘Verse. All she’d wanted was her mother and father and brother.
It was a small comfort. But then, she had to take what little she could get.
New chapters (almost) weekly--now read the second part of the unaired pilot! 'Normal Consciousness Will Be Resumed, Pt.2,' at www.BattleOfSerenity.tk
Sunday, August 28, 2005 7:25 AM
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