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Deep Waters Run Deeper, Pilot: Normal Consciousness Will Be Resumed, Pt.2
Tuesday, September 13, 2005

An open-ended adventure. The previously unaired pilot finally concludes, 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: 1515    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“Moooooooooom!” Simon cried. He could be such a baby sometimes. “What is it, sweetie?” Mommy replied distractedly. She was deeply engrossed in the money stuff of the Olympos Grade School parents’ council. Never a good time to bug her. If Simon was so smart, like everybody said he was, then he should know better. “Mother’s a bit busy right now.” “River ruined my book!” “What’s that, sweetie?” Mommy was really distracted. River didn’t know what Simon was making all that fuss about anyway. She hadn’t ruined anything. She’d only wanted to help. Simon had been making those faces like he was thinking really hard and she’d wanted to help. She’d fixed his book for him. It had been pretty hard, too. Simon was just ungrateful. She was never helping that tattletale with anything ever again. She had to give Simon one thing, though. He never let up. It was really, really, really annoying, but he could always get Mommy’s attention. She finally looked at him. “My book of brainteasers that Dad gave me. She scribbled all over it. Every page!” Sighing deeply, Mommy clipped her pen to the folder of papers, and folded it shut. The folder folded. River liked that—it was simple, it did as it should. Not like people. ‘Simon’ was supposed to mean ‘listener’ in some old language. But he never listened to her. Daddy had said that too—Simon wasn’t a listener. He was someone people would listen *to.* Of course, River just meant ‘river.’ What was *she* supposed to do? Flow? That was just stupid. Mommy knelt down by Simon, and took the book from him. Then, inevitably, she gave River a stern look and beckoned her to come over. River did as told, but she stuck out her bottom lip in protest. It wasn’t *fair!* “Regan, children.” “Dad!” Simon and River shouted in unison. River didn’t know why her brother was so glad to see Dad. Dad would know that she hadn’t really done anything wrong. She hoped. He raised an eyebrow. At the scene in front of him, his wife having gathered their children to her. “What’s going on here, then?” “Your daughter apparently drew all over the aptitude test you got for Simon,” Mommy said. “They’re not drawings!” River complained when she saw Dad’s face cloud over before he even took a look at the evidence. Why were they all being such stupidheads? “Come here, River,” Dad said. Walking with tiny steps, drawing out the inevitable as long as possible, River did as he said. She stared at her feet, sulking. “Listen, River, that book was Simon’s—not only that, but it was a special book, that I got especially for him. Are you listening to me?” She refused to respond. She knew she’d only get in worse trouble for it, but she didn’t care. She *hadn’t* done anything *wrong.* “River.” It was clearly a warning. “Dad,” Simon said quickly, “I’m sure River didn’t mean to do—” “Hush, Simon. Let me deal with this.” “Gabriel…” “Just a minute, Regan.” “No, Gabriel…” There was something about Mommy’s voice that made all three of them turn and look at her. She was gripping the book of brainteasers in both hands as if she was afraid it was going to fly away. Her eyes wide, she held it out to Dad almost reluctantly. Looking confused, Dad took the book, and leafed through it. He began turning each page faster than the last, until he finally gave River a wide-eyed look and then rushed from the room. Simon looked at Mommy, searching for some sort of explanation, but Mommy was just watching River. Simon looked at her, too. River stuck out her tongue at him. So there. The taste of blood was on her tongue. Why did blood taste metallic? Was it a cosmic metaphor, that people were just robots? No, River-as-little-girl hadn’t been a robot, and certainly not sweet Simon. Maybe River-now was, but how would the cosmos have seen that coming? River was lying in a bed, the sheets tangled around her legs like boa constrictor wrestling match. She thought she had been asleep, but she couldn’t be sure. There was time missing. And River never missed time in the past, or in the present—only in the future, and it couldn’t be that if it had already happened. She always knew if she had been asleep, or even sedated, and for how long. Not so now. “Where… where am I?” She was scared. Why didn’t she know? Her voice sounded like a bad radio transmission. So hoarse that she was barely more than static. Had someone been using her voice to scream? “Ah, you’re awake? River—that’s your name, right?—don’t be afraid, you’re going to be all right…” The voice was soft, smooth, trained to calm, like someone trying to mollify an animal. River tuned it out. It wasn’t saying anything with meaning, only with intent. Just like the room, River realized. It was colored to calm, not to look pretty. But it didn’t calm her. Her breathing quickened, adrenaline mixed in with her blood, and suddenly felt like hydrochloric acid in her veins. Pain! Everything hurt! River fell back onto her cushion. She felt like an old rubber band, all dried out and cracking up at the slightest movement. “Ooooh,” she moaned. “Hospital…” “Easy, easy.” Soft hands pushed her down onto the bed. “You have to rest, dear. The hospital room blurred around River as teardrops filled her eyes. Why couldn’t she run? Why? A hospital. Was she back at the Academy? Or had she never been gone? And then she woke up. She knew instantly that she’d been sedated, cryogenically, for longer than she’d ever been before. She was in a coolant cargo box, a Statler 71-B, but modified for cryogenic suspension. And she was completely naked, that too. Not relevant—it came with the cryogenic sedation. She could hear a faint voice, and she felt like she should know it, but she didn’t yet. It went, “I'm sorry—was this one for you? Is it true love? 'Cause you seem—” She screamed. Out! She had to get out. All of a sudden, they were all talking to her, and they were saying things about *her* and they weren’t *true!* She clambered out of the box. Had to get away! Someone was shouting her name in her head and she couldn’t make out any of the voices there were so many feelings fear anger confusion worry *anger.* Nan-sheng* bringing his trouble on *my* ship.* *Poor thing. How could anyone…* “River—” *She’s nekkid!* *That’s just not right.* She whimpered. It was all too much. And it got worse! Someone grabbed her arms. No! No more tests! Please! “River. It's okay. It's okay. I'm here.” That voice was a key. It opened a door in her mind. It had been so long… She was seeing, but only now did she look. His soft face, the concerned but oh so relieved look in his eyes. “Simon…?” It was only a whisper, but it said so much. It was River’s realization that it was really him, it was her brother who always looked out for her, and if he was here then he was going to take her away, or wait, he already had, oh Simon! And she heard him thinking. I’ve got her back. I’ve got her back. She’s all right and I’ve got her back. Everything, it was worth it for just having her back and having her be all right this one moment. He thought she was the old River, but she wasn’t. River so badly didn’t want to disappoint Simon again, didn’t want to be bad, but she had to tell him, had to try to explain that she wasn’t her anymore no matter *how* badly they both wanted it. “Simon… They talk to me, they want me to… to talk…” She cried, and now Simon was crying too and she didn’t want him to. “They're gone,” he tried to comfort her. “They're gone and we're safe now, we're safe and I'm here.” He didn’t understand. He wanted her back, but there wasn’t a her to get back anymore. River hugged her brother to her. She hadn’t touched another human being in a friendly fashion for seven months and thirteen days. And now she held on for dear life. It was *Simon.* If anyone could fix things and fix her, it was him. It was Simon. Slowly, she became aware of the other people there again, of the loud voices that weren’t important because they weren’t Simon. “What the hell is this?” a gruff voice asked out loud. “This is my sister,” Simon said, defiantly, as if daring anyone to challenge his claim to her. And it was all River wanted to be, now and forever. She woke up again, although to call her awake right then would have been an exaggeration bordering on an outright lie. She was back in the time when she was in the hospital she was before. She realized that she didn’t know where it was. If only Simon was there. He was the only thing good about hospitals. Some time passed. Simon’s comforting voice wasn’t there, neither in her ears nor in her head. Was he maybe mad at her? Was that why he wasn’t there? But of course, he was Simon. He never got very mad. Never enough not to be there for her no matter what she did. He was a good person, and she wished she could be more like him. “How is she doing?” said a voice. “Mistress!” said another, close enough to belong to the person who was poking her and was thinking about muscle relaxants and injections. “You didn’t have to… She’s the same. Slowly recovering from the blow to her system.” “And do you know what caused the attack yet?” “You have to understand, I’m not an expert on the human brain…” The other voice sighed. “We have to get her brother.” Yes. If River had been able to twitch a muscle, she would have smiled. Being away from Simon didn’t work at all. She knew—she’d tried. “River!” Simon had shouted after her, years earlier. She’d kept walking resolutely, not honestly angry anymore—if she’d ever been that—but just wanting to get it all over with. Of course, she couldn’t move faster than her suitcase was rolling along, and she wouldn’t have run anyway. Simon had no such compunctions. He wasn’t going to let her leave on an argument, not when he thought it was all just a silly misunderstanding. The truth was, him coming after her wasn’t going to fix anything—he’d always shown her he cared whenever he could. Might’ve been nice, though, if Mom and Dad had come… Simon grabbed her arm, jerking her to a halt. Her suitcase stopped rolling exactly one foot in front of her. “Ouch!” she said, glaring at her brother more out of spite than pain. Simon drew back his arm like he was a puppy and she’d just kicked him. Immediately, she felt bad. She felt bad a lot. That’s why she was so glad to be leaving. “River…” “Just leave me alone, Simon.” “No! I mean…” River looked away. “You can’t just leave like this, not in the middle of a fight with the people who love you. You didn’t mean any of that, what you said, River. Oh, I believe you’re happy to go to that school—you’ve certainly raved about it enough—but I don’t believe for a second that you’re glad you won’t be around your family. That’s just nerves talking.” “How do *you* know I didn’t mean it?” “Because even though it embarrasses you when I say it, you are the sweetest person to set foot on Osiris since Jerome Wallace first landed his colonial trans-freighter to begin terraformation.” It did embarrass River, but only because it wasn’t true. “That’s stupid,” she said. “River…” “And you know what? *You* are stupid. Mom and Dad? Ten times as stupid as you are. You’re all stupid compared to me. Do you have any idea what it’s like, to run into stupidity every time you try to have a conversation with the people around you? Nobody ever understands what I’m thinking! Nobody ever understands *how* I think! You’re the only one who can even halfway… I don’t mean to think that Mom and Dad or anyone are stupid—I can’t help it. I have to go. It’s better if I’m away from them.” “Mom and Dad love you. Isn’t that enough?” “Yeah,” River bit off, “because we both know they’re so good at showing that.” She wasn’t supposed to be crying. She’d promised herself she wouldn’t cry when she left. If only Simon didn’t look so sad. River turned and hurried away, dragging her suitcase when it didn’t move fast enough on its own. This time, Simon didn’t follow. It really was better that she went away, she told herself. Maybe from a distance measured in lightminutes, only the love would matter—if she hadn’t just ruined that altogether—and she could stop herself from thinking such awful things. Maybe at the Academy, there were people who would consider *her* stupid. Maybe they could help change her—make her better at being a person, and not just being smart. All the way to the transport, River didn’t look back at her brother, but remembering that moment, she recalled thinking that he would probably never want to see her again.

--------------------------------------------------------------- New chapters (almost) weekly--now read Chapter 12, 'Fun, Fun, Fun, in the Sun' right here on FFF.net, and then go on to Chapter 13, 'Black and Blue' at www.BattleOfSerenity.tk

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