Destiny: The Director's Cut - 11
Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Repost of Chapter 11. Serenity is being chased by the Reavers, and is about to be brought down. River might have saved several lives before, but not everyone will leave Shadow alive.


Phoenix Rising

Serenity Valley, Hera Nearly 7 Years Earlier Bendis was dead. Just looking at him told you that. His helmet had failed to stop the bullet that had ended his life, and Mal’s promise had failed to stop the bullet. What was that saying? I’m not worried about the bullet with my name on it. It’s all those that say “anonymous” that keep me on my toes. There was no telling what was on the bullet that ended Bendis. All that Mal knew was that he had made a promise to the Private and he had failed to keep it. Again. How many promises had he made to the soldiers, the boys and girls under his command? And how many of them had died with the realization that Malcolm Reynolds had not kept his promise? Too many. Way too gorram many. He sat in the bunker where the remainder of his squad had made their final stand. The body of Private Daniel Bendis laid beside him, his helmet still on to spare everyone the sight the hole in his head. Mal would have laid a blanket or something over the boy’s body, but they had no blankets to speak of, much less anything else. Gorram Alliance had seen to destroying all their re-supply shipments for the past three weeks. Mal didn’t even know if they had any food or water left. He stood slowly, shakily, to his feet, his head turning from the body of Bendis to the small object cradled in his right hand. The gold cross that his Mother had given him so long ago lay in his palm. The symbol for faith, the token, the good luck charm that he had worn for so many years now; now all it spoke to him was failure and loss. God had broken his promise, too. Mal closed his eyes, remembering… “Take this”, Ma said, handing him a small wooden box, no bigger than his fist. Mal reached out and took the box, giving it a curious look before raising his head and looking at his mother, his eyes glinting with a smile. “Wipe that mischievous look off your face, Malcolm Reynolds,” his mother ordered him, her hands on her hips and a stern look on your face. Then her face softened, and she reached out and put her hand on Mal’s arm. “This will bring you back to me,” she said, her eyes misting up. She looked like she was about to cry. “I’ll come back to you, Ma,” Mal said, his voice soft. “I don’t need no fancy trinket to make me keep that promise.” Ma wiped her eyes with a corner of her sleeve. “That may be so, but me an’ God made a promise of our own, and that there may only be a symbol of that promise, but I want you to know just what it means to me.” Mal stared at her for a moment, not quite sure what she meant. “Wo bu dong?” “Open it,” Ma ordered, and Mal knew better than to disobey Abigail Reynolds, not if you didn’t want your hide so tanned you couldn’t sit for a month. He unhooked the latch and slowly opened the lid to the box, and sucked in a breath when he saw what lay inside. “Good gorram, Ma!” His mother smacked him lightly on the arm. “Language,” she said, wagging her finger. “Well, it’s just,” he couldn’t get his words together. “How much did this cost?” he asked, slowly pulling the chain out of the box until the small gold cross spun free in the air. “It don’t matter none,” Ma replied. “Like I said, me an’ God made a promise, and that’s to remind you.” “But why this? Why not a…I don’t know, we got horseshoes a plenty in the barn. Aren’t they for good luck, too?” Ma reached up and cradled his face in her hands, and instantly Mal shut up. “Now listen here, Malcolm,” she said sternly. “I don’t agree with what you’re going to do. Fighting the Alliance is foolhardy.” Mal started to babble in defense, but Ma cut him off and continued. “If it’s what you believe in, though.” She paused, and a single tear traced its way down her cheek. “If that’s what drives you, then by all means, you have my blessing.” That took Mal by surprise. He hadn’t been looking for her blessing, not even for her permission; but now that he had both, it felt as if something was lifted off of his chest. He smiled at her and she leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. “Be safe,” she whispered. Mal stepped back, and his mother grabbed the cross from his hands and went to place the chain around his neck. “Now, let’s see how this looks on you…” * * * Now As Wash jerked the controls on Serenity, as the magnetic grappler from the Reaver-filled Trans-U screamed towards the Firefly, Mal grabbed onto the unused chair, and with his free hand, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out the gold cross. He didn’t have any time for indecision; so he unhooked the ends of the chain and quickly clasped them back together around his neck. Okay God, you’ve got one more chance. * * * Inara’s shuttle passed over the town and out through the clouds of smoke. Tark was at the controls, having relieved River. Jayne stood just behind him. The curtain was closed, but Jayne could still hear the Doctor’s frantic efforts to keep Inara alive. Other than that, the shuttle was silent. Jayne stared out the front window, but he wasn’t really looking at anything. His mind was stuck on the fact that his life had just been saved by River Tam, despite the fact that she knew what he had done back on Ariel. When he had approached her after Tark took over the controls, she had looked at him with a solemn face. “Family isn’t family unless it’s whole,” was all she had said. Then she went and sat down next to Elise’s body and closed her eyes. “So…” Tark glanced up at Jayne. “Who exactly is that girl that was flying this thing, and why didn’t I see her on your ship earlier?” Jayne shrugged. He didn’t think he should be telling anyone about the Tam’s, not after what happened the last time. He trusted someone, granted it was for the wrong reasons, but that trust had been broken. Well, it’s not like Mal trusts you now, either. “She’s just some passenger we picked up a ways back. The Doc’s her brother.” Tark nodded, but Jayne could tell that he wasn’t completely satisfied by the answer. “She saved our lives,” Tark said. “I somehow doubt that ‘some passenger’ would have done that.” Jayne shook his head. “Ain’t my place to be tellin’ their story.” Tark thought about that for a moment. “Fair enough,” he said. “Do I at least get to know their names?” Should I? “The girl’s River. Her brother’s Simon.” Something in what he had just said must have shook Tark, because the merc jerked the controls and the shuttle dropped. Tark quickly evened out his flying, but he seemed shook. “What the gorram did ya do that for?” Jayne yelped. “Simon and River,” Tark stated. He paused. “Simon and River Tam?” Jayne’s eyes widened. He tried to pass it off. “Not sure,” he said. “They never told me their last name.” Then he thought about it. “Why’d you ask?” “Back on Whitefall, Etris got shot by some liumang. I took him out, and found some sort of computer thing in his jacket. Rian deciphered it, but all it had on it was two pictures and two names. She never showed the pictures, but she told me the names.” He glanced back at the closed curtain. “Simon Tam. River Tam.” “Gorram…” Jayne said. “So your Cap’n got shot by some guy lookin’ for the Tam’s, and now you’re here with us, and them…” “So they are Simon and River Tam,” Tark said, more of a statement than a question. Jayne gulped. Then he nodded slowly. Tark had proved himself as far as he was concerned. “Yup,” he confirmed. It was silent for a minute while the two men tried to digest what they had each just discovered. Then Tark: “Wode ma!” His head hung, Jayne responded without looking up. “Ain’t that big of a thing.” “No,” Tark said, his voice shaking. “Look!” Jayne lifted his head slowly and looked to where Tark was pointing. “Tzao gao!” he cried. Just through the smoke ahead of them, Serenity screamed through the air, racing from the magnetic grappler that the Trans-U had just fired at them. Serenity was moving fast, but the grappler was moving faster. Oh, God! Then something else caught Jayne’s eye: from above, dropping like a brick, Destiny roared towards Serenity, her engines red hot. * * * Hesh pushed Destiny to her limit. The rest of the crew were racing to the remaining shuttle with as many personal effects as they could carry. Only moments before, Etris had given the order, the order that would save Serenity while sacrificing Destiny, and Hesh had followed his order without a second thought. Hesh had even volunteered to be the one to fly Destiny in her moment of glory, so the Captain wouldn’t have to go down with his ship. To his surprise, Etris had simply laid a hand on his shoulder and nodded. “I thought you would,” he said. Destiny flew straight and true, just like she always had for Hesh. He didn’t quite understand the reasoning behind what they were doing; but something had happened between Etris and Malcolm Reynolds, something that had created an instant bond. The only explanation Etris had given was: “He already lost Serenity once. He won’t survive losing Serenity again.” Again, Hesh didn’t understand it, but he sure knew how to follow orders. He had done it flying for the Alliance. He had done it at home on Ariel. He would do it now. He had a chance to save a life, to save many lives, to make Elise’s death not be in vain. He didn’t know how just yet, but he would bring that Trans-U down. * * * They watched from the cockpit of Inara’s shuttle: Tark, Jayne, Simon and River. The flames and the smoke danced around them, but they only saw Serenity, and Destiny. The latter vessel dropped below Serenity, and then turned and rocketed skyward. Serenity passed overhead the other Firefly, and Destiny roared upward, just as the magnetic grappler screamed in and- * * * Destiny shook violently, screaming in pain, threatening to throw Hesh from his chair. He snatched at the intercom. “Get out of here!” he shouted. * * * Etris took one last look at the interior of his ship before slapping the door controls and sealing the shuttle. “Go!” he screamed. At the controls, Togan hit the correct buttons, and the shuttle slid out of Destiny, and then was free. * * * Destiny still climbed through the air, despite the fact that the grappler was jammed into her belly, sucking the life from her. The starboard shuttle detached from it’s mounting, turned, and soared away. * * * “What in the diyu…?” Mal asked incredulously. He had been waiting for the impact, for the grappler to lay claim on his ship; but the impact never came. “What happened?” Zoe asked. Wash looked over at the radar screen. “Oh, God! It’s Destiny. She’s… they’re…” “…Saving us,” Book finished as he stepped onto the bridge. He was staring at one of the screens, which showed the view behind Serenity. The view of Destiny’s sacrifice. Mal’s jaw dropped. Book looked over at Mal, and upon seeing the gold cross, he arched his eyebrow and smiled. * * * Etris leaned over Togan as the engineer tried his best to pilot the shuttle. The shuttle was vibrating more than it usually would have, but Etris was just thankful that Togan could fly the thing at all. He would have flown it himself, but his arm was still practically useless. Harvey and Gretta were crowded into the doorway behind him, while Rian sat alone on the small bench by the hatch. He wanted to go and talk to her, but that would have to wait until later. The intercom crackled, and Hesh’s voice came across. “How far away are you?” he asked. “A good distance,” Etris replied. “Why?” “’Cause I know how I’m going to do this.” Hesh paused. “Just stay away. It’s gonna be pretty impressive.” Etris squeezed the mike. “Always the best, Hesh.” “Only ‘cause I serve under the best,” Destiny’s pilot replied. Hesh was saying goodbye. “Elise would be proud,” Destiny’s Captain said. “I am, too.” There was a pause. “Thank you,” Hesh said. Etris lowered the intercom mike. “Goodbye,” he whispered. “Godspeed.” * * * Tark watched as his home for the past several years rose up into the sky with the Reaver’s grappler in her belly. He watched the shuttle detach from the ship, and after a brief radio communication, he was relieved to know that everyone was on board. Everyone, that is, except Hesh. “Godspeed,” Tark whispered, unknowingly echoing his Captain. * * * Destiny reached the apex of her climb and began to nose over. By now she was several hundred feet above the Trans-U, and the stress of all the crazy maneuvers combined with the power fluxes from the grappler finally got the better of her. Destiny’s port engine exploded, and the Firefly began to drop. Directly towards the Trans-U. Only moments later, her starboard engine exploded, too. She wasn’t done yet, though. * * * Hesh reached to his right and opened the panel that him and Togan had installed six months back. It was a simple lever, but it was set up in the event that they had to get away fast and no one was in the engine room. Well, he wasn’t trying to get away, but what the lever did would ensure that Destiny ended the Trans-U. Hesh grabbed the lever and smiled, praying that it would work, that the grappler hadn’t ruined the connection. “Going for full burn!” he yelled, and yanked the lever. * * * The lever worked. Just like it was supposed to. * * * Jayne watched out of Inara’s shuttle as Destiny plummeted towards the Trans-U. The ruptured fuel lines on either side of the Firefly were feeding the flames that roared out like wings. Then Destiny went to full burn, and for an instant, the Firefly looked like some sort of bird, with flaming wings and a flaming tail, almost like a…a…what was it called? “Phoenix,” River said simply. * * * It was like she had finally come alive. The phoenix had awakened inside her. Destiny raced towards the Trans-U, flames billowing as the full burn pushed her faster, faster, faster… * * * Hesh closed his eyes. Elise! * * * The explosion was massive, as Destiny slammed into the Trans-U just aft of the larger ship’s control room. The Trans-U’s armor shattered under the intensity of the impact, and Destiny drove into the ship, spilling fuel and flames as she went. The Trans-U couldn’t handle the stress and the huge ship cracked down the middle, folding over on itself. The two ships began to fall. Finally, the engines of the Reaver-filled ship couldn’t take any more, and with a blinding light and a horrendous roar, the Trans-U exploded. Destiny had made her sacrifice. Serenity had been saved. Hesh had gotten his revenge. * * * Thirty Minutes Later The hatch on Inara’s shuttle opened and Tark stepped out into the fading light. He saw Gretta running for him and he scooped her up, holding her close. “Oh God, Spooky,” she whispered as tears streamed down her face. Over Gretta’s shoulder, Tark could see Serenity resting on one of the few clear patches of tarmac, Destiny’s other shuttle sitting beside the Firefly. Gathered out in front was Serenity’s crew, as well as what remained of Destiny’s crew. Captain Reynolds and the Shepherd were racing towards Inara’s shuttle with a stretcher. Jayne was carrying Elise’s limp body over to Etris. Rian, Harvey and Zoe had their guns out and were patrolling the area around the ships, watching for any remaining Reavers. Kaylee and Togan stood at the bottom of Serenity’s loading ramp. No one was speaking. So much had happened over the last several days. Especially over the last several hours. People were dead. Friends were dead. Destiny was gone. Tark let go of Gretta and turned around to watch Captain Reynolds and the Shepherd carrying the stretcher with Inara on it. The Captain’s face was white as he grilled Simon on what had happened. They ran as fast as they safely could towards Serenity. River was the last person out of the shuttle. The girl that had saved him not two hours earlier. He wanted to say something to her, to say thank you; but before he could, River threw her hands over her ears and began to scream. Across the tarmac, Kaylee began to scream as well. * * * Anne walked slowly out onto the tarmac. Behind her, the Exitor, their stealth ship, stood, its port hatch open. In front of her, Volk had Serenity’s mechanic by her throat, a revolver pressed to her temple. Anne smiled as a horrified look crossed the faces of both crews. Guns were drawn and aimed in their direction, but she knew that they wouldn’t shoot, not when their precious mechanic Kaylee would be one of the casualties. In her right hand, she held Volk’s Wand. In her left hand was Ketter’s. They had found it next to his dead body. Her mind was powerful enough without the wands, but with them, not even River Tam could stop her. Speaking of River, the girl had collapsed onto the ground, her eyes screwed shut in pain. Helpless. Someone stepped towards her. It was Malcolm Reynolds. Now this could be fun! * * * Mal had his gun out as he walked towards the girl. The man with the blue gloves had a gun of his own to Kaylee’s head, and that in itself was enough to drive his anger. “Let her go,” he ordered through clenched teeth. Zoe stepped up beside him. “No,” the girl said. “Give us River Tam.” Mal could hear River screaming behind them, but trading River for Kaylee was not an option. He wasn’t about to let the tamade hundan take any of his crew. “I’ll kill you first,” he said. flash Mal stepped back in shock as he realized that he was aiming his gun at his mother. “You wouldn’t shoot your own mother, would you?” Lowering his gun, Mal shook his head. “What are you doing?” Zoe hissed. Mal turned to look at her. “That’s my ma. I can’t shoot her.” Zoe stared at him. “She’s not your mother.” flash Mal turned back to find the girl smiling at him. “Now wasn’t that fun?” she asked. “See, I can make you believe anything, Malcolm Reynolds.” Everything fell into place then. Destiny had been the bait. Inara had been the bait. The blue gloves on the man holding Kaylee. Two by two, hands of blue. The girl had made him believe that his Ma was still alive. The Reavers. All to catch River. “Son of a bitch!” Mal hissed. He raised his gun. Before he could do anything, though, a sharp pain ripped through his head, and he collapsed to the ground. He could see Zoe beside him, struggling to stand, but she managed to raise her gun and aim it towards the girl. As she did, though, the man with the blue gloves threw Kaylee down violently and swung his gun around. Right at Zoe. He fired three quick shots. The first hit Zoe in her right shoulder, and her gun flew out of her hand. The second shot hit her in the chest, and she started to fall. The third bullet… The third bullet was aimed for her head. Zoe went down, collapsing to the tarmac like a sack of potatoes, and Mal screamed. “No!” He tried to push himself up, tried to go for his gun, but the pain in his head was too intense. He looked behind him, trying to find anyone with a gun, anyone that could take down the liumang that had just shot Zoe; but everyone else was on the ground, too, writhing in pain. He slowly turned his head back to watch the man with the blue gloves drag Kaylee up the boarding ramp and into the small vessel that Mal had not noticed until now. The man threw Kaylee inside, and was turning back around, calling for the wild-eyed girl to bring him River, when something happened that Mal did not expect. The girl with the wands, the girl that had looked smug and victorious only a moment before now had a look of horror etched across her face. It took only a second for the reason to become clear. A gun went off, and the girl’s chest exploded in a burst of blood. She dropped to the ground, and instantly the pain in Mal’s head disappeared. He leapt to his feet and spun around to see River Tam standing there, blood running from her nose and ears, but with a shotgun in her hands, still smoking. That sight threw him off for a moment, but the sound of a ship starting up snapped him back to the situation at hand. Kaylee! He grabbed his gun off of the tarmac and turned, running for where the man with the blue gloves had been standing. Only the man was gone. And so was the ship. The small vessel was already in the air; its engine’s burning, its trajectory carrying it up into the atmosphere. Then it was gone from sight. Along with Kaylee. Mal dropped to his knees as Simon ran over to where Zoe lay. Mal looked down and saw the cross that he had put around his neck when he thought that they were all going to die. He had given God another chance. God had failed him again. He grabbed the cross and ripped the chain off of his neck. Without a second thought, he threw the cross with all his might, not even bothering to watch where it landed. God. His fists clenched in anger. He looked up into the sky. Kaylee was gone. Behind him, he saw Inara on the stretcher, lying on the ground. She wasn’t moving. And Zoe. Mal looked over to where Simon was frantically trying to stop Zoe’s bleeding, but there was a lot of blood. Too much blood. He had failed them all. God had failed them all. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and for some reason, he knew that it belonged to River. He turned his head as the girl knelt down beside him. “The family is broken,” she said. “You need to put it back together again.” He looked at her, and something in his mind snapped. He did something that he hadn’t done in a long time, something that he thought he had hardened himself to a long time ago. Malcolm Reynolds cried. He cried for Zoe. He cried for Inara. He cried for his mother. He cried for Elise, for Hesh. He cried for Destiny. He cried for Kaylee. Then he stopped. Kaylee was still alive. If the man with the blue hands had gone through this much trouble to take River, then having a live hostage to use as a bargaining chip might make his next attempt easier. Kaylee was still alive. He had no doubt about that. Mal turned and looked around at the two eclectic crews, and then up at Serenity. He knew what he had to do. He would hunt down the hwoon dahn that had taken Kaylee, that had brought all this hell down upon them all, and when he found him… There would be hell to pay. * * * Aboard the Blue Sun Vessel Agamemnon Location: Classified Damon Talos stood at the view port, staring out into the black. He was a bear of a man, almost seven feet tall and bald, with eyes as black as night. His neatly trimmed goatee only furthered the look of menace on his face. The report in his hand from Volk told of that Operative’s failure to retrieve River Tam. That was not what Talos had been expecting. There was good news, though. The report also told of a hostage, someone very near and dear to Malcolm Reynolds’ heart. Talos smiled, his brilliantly white teeth reflecting in the window. Malcolm Reynolds would come for his precious mechanic, and he would bring River Tam with him. He would play right into Talos’ hands. He needed insurance this time, though. Someone who could get on the inside and ensure that River Tam did not get away from him again. Someone who… His smile got bigger. He knew just who to send. He turned to his desk and called in his aide. “Tell General Liang to reactivate the Expendable Project. Tell him to get in touch with the Ankara Penal Colony, that we need for them to wake someone out of cryo-sleep.” He turned back to the window. “Tell them to wake up Operative Soul.” ________________________________________________ Stay tuned, as "Vengeance" approaches, the next title in the "Destiny" series. "Vengeance" is coming soon.



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