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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal learns that old soldier don't necessarily fade away . . .
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2582 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The Treasure of Lei Fong Wu
ALPHA TEAM: -68:21
Zoe nodded emphatically that she was ready, and as soon as she was certain that everyone was lying perfectly still on the deck, she laid down, her shotgun in her lap.
Motion seekers were among the nastiest of aerial mines. They had been used for hundreds of years, one of the more annoying of the long list of anti-infantry munitions. She’d first encountered them the first year of the war, when she was part of the Browncoat regiment that took Camp Bonewitz on Boros. It was only a supply depot and support base, but it was full of purplebellied Feds who were freaking out because of the revolution that was happening around them. They were scared and trigger happy, and they had whole warehouses full of munitions at their disposal.
Which is why they needed to capture the base intact. That had been her first night op, her first infiltration, and the first time she had cut a man’s throat without making a sound. It was also her first time with aerial mines.
They operated just like any other mine, laying quietly in one place and looking inconspicuous. When they were triggered by proximity, however, they didn’t just explode – any dumb mine could do that. They instead launched a tiny machine into the air that leaped up to the height of a man’s head and did any number of things. Spin wildly while releasing carbon monofilament and decapitating anything in range. Home in on the sound of your boots, or the heat of your body, fly in aggressively and explode. Sometimes the explosions were pure concussion, enough to knock you flat. Sometimes they were shrapnel, sometimes they were filament darts or napalm or acid or other, even nastier things.
This one, she felt, rather than knew, was a Motion Seeker. Move faster than an inch a second and the little metal bird that would sprout out of the door would find you and explode a shaped charge designed to crush your ribcage and liquefy your internal organs with the blast.
“Everyone ready?” she called out confidently. There were murmurs of assent. “On my signal, trip the sensor.” She flexed her shoulders and wiggled the shotgun until she was satisfied. “Okay. Pull!”
The point man tripped the sensor, then went still as a humming erupted out of a concealed recess in the door. It hovered for half a second, then started turning in a 360 degree radius to find a target. Zoe was lying very nearly under it.
She remembered her first time tackling these. A sergeant – she couldn’t remember his name – had warned her about them before the pre-dawn attack. Intel said the purplebellies had a ton of them. There was only one credible defense. You didn’t move. Nothing. Not even blink your eye. The best you could hope for was for someone or something else to make a move before you did, which turned comrades in arms into players of a macabre game of freeze-tag. There was just no defense.
Unless you knew where it was coming from.
She moved her shotgun a fraction of an inch, as slowly as possible, and shot from the hip, one handed. She blew the mine to shards, severing the circuit that would activate the explosive before it could react. A little light shrapnel rained down, and that was that.
That nameless sergeant had shown her, on the perimeter of Camp Bonewitz, what to do in that instance. He had a bird-gun, a tiny little 410 gauge double-barrel, hardly a weapon of war. It looked silly next to the other arms the early Browncoats had been able to gather. But he had picked off six of the things by the time they breached the perimeter. The lesson had served her well in the ensuing years of war. It was one of the reasons she carried a shotgun as a side-arm.
“Excellent shot!” the General said with a wide smile. He came over and helped her to her feet. “Are you sure that there was only one?”
“After the first one, you’d know where they were coming from,” she said, shaking her head and dusting the shards from her armor.
“Curious: how did you know it was a motion seeker?”
“Stands to reason, Sir,” she said, after analyzing the train of thought that had led her to that conclusion. “An aerial mine on a ship would be designed to defend the ship in every circumstance. EMPs would disrupt vital systems. Incendiaries? No one wants a fire in space. A heat seeker would be okay, but if the ship lost pressure and folk were fightin’ in space suits, it’d make tracking hard. A sound seeker would be plumb useless in vacuum. That pretty much left motion. And those little pigeons used nice little shaped charges, high pressure and low shrapnel.”
“Very good, Lieutenant,” the General said, raising his eyebrows.
“Lieutenant, sir?” Zoe asked, eyebrow raised. “Begging the General’s pardon, but I was a corporal.”
“You were mustered out a Lieutenant. And I’ve known plenty of line-of-combat Captains and Majors who wouldn’t have had that kind of common sense. Or daring.”
“With all due respect, General,” Zoe said evenly, “You can call me whatever you want. But I ain’t what you’d rightly call officer material.”
“My dear, being a good officer has little to do with your background and education,” he soothed. “It has everything to do with your coolness under fire, instincts, and command skills. You have pockets full of each.”
“You misunderstand,” she explained. “Ain’t my schoolin’ that’s at issue, nor my socio-economic status. I seen worse’n me wearin’ bars and clusters. Ain’t that at all. I ain’t officer material ‘cause I work for a livin’.” She walked by the general, replacing the shotgun round she had spent and slipping it back into its sheath on her thigh. “Let’s keep going,” she said, resolutely. “We wasted maybe ten minutes here that we won’t get back. Map says the next section is Fire Control.”
“She is remarkable,” Master Lei said admirably after she had passed by. “Were all of the Browncoats so dedicated?”
“More than you’d think. And less than they needed,” he said, stroking his beard. “Fighting spirit was never their shortfall. Warm bodies, ships and guns: if they’d had just a bit more of each, we would all be saying ‘ain’t’ and square-dancing right now.”
BETA TEAM -64:54
“Well what we got, here?” Jayne asked casually as they came to a wide doorway. Within was a dark chamber that felt big, even if the far edges couldn’t be glimpsed.
“I believe we have the infantry training center,” Campbell said, nodding towards a big sign on the door that said INFANTRY TRAINING CENTER in Chinese, repeated in English in small letters at the bottom.
“Oh.” Jayne said, a little taken aback. He peered inside, where two of the men had already entered and were searching with torches to activate the lights while the others covered them from the doorway. From the distance they had already gotten, the place was as big as he’d imagined. “We gotta go through here?”
“Yes,” Campbell said, simply. “The alternative is to backtrack, go down two decks, and come up on the other side. Or we can walk through here.”
“I vote for walkin’,” Jayne said.
“It isn’t up for a vote, but I appreciate your input.”
“I thought we were in the Ad-min section?”
“We left that about ten minutes ago. We’re now in the infantry crew quarters. Past this center is a dining hall and kitchens, then the regimental dorms.”
“So where is the computer core?”
“Another six hours away. We go through the dorms, up a level to Ordinance, then aft through crew quarters, Armor, and Logistics.”
“It’s a gorram flyin’ military base!” Jayne said in wonder. “Be even more impressive if we could find the whorehouse. Or a light switch.”
As if in response to Jayne’s comment, overhead lights came on. There was a half-hearted cheer. Then they all realized just how big the room was.
It was easily three times the size of any gymnasium Jayne had ever seen. For men who spent months or even years in cramped living quarters of spaceships it produced a mild agoraphobia, it was so big. There was room on the floor for two football games to run simultaneously, with room left over for officials and beer tent. Around the edges of the room was stacked exercise equipment and practice weapons. At the far end were stacked things that looked like modular obstacles, things that could be used to improvise terrain in training simulations. In the middle left there was more advanced training equipment. And there was ample room between them.
“Nah mei guan-shee!” Jayne said, shaking his head at the sight. “Okay, I’m slightly more impressed.”
“You could train an army in here,” Campbell acknowledged, a tone of wonder creeping into his voice. “From Basic up through special operations, I’m guessing. Look: firing ranges through there, and over there are the training robots.” Clustered in the center of the room was a neatly organized variety of machines that looked fairly deadly, except when you noticed all the padding that had been added. Then it looked like a bunch of washing machines having a pillow fight with an assembly line.
“Warbots?” Jayne scoffed. “Who uses warbots any more?”
“They don’t . . . anymore. Battlefield robotics is too expensive for most rebel groups, to easy to EMP or otherwise disarm, and the Alliance doesn’t often need them with the manpower they have. In the war the Factions couldn’t afford them, and few of the battles ran where they would be more help than hindrance. But they were commonly used back in Lei Fong Wu’s day, and to great effect.
In fact, one of the more brilliant invasion strategies that he came up with when he was the Tyrant’s Prime Minister – and de facto war minister – was to allow the Xiao commerce raiders on Pen Wan moon to capture six cargo containers of simple remote infantry drones. The pirates hauled them back to their fortified base and prepared to reprogram them. Before they could, a Yuanese intelligence agent planted a relay antenna that allowed a robotics detachment to activate and arm them. They took the moon without a single Yuanese casualty.”
“Fascinatin’,” Jayne said disinterestedly. Whenever a story started sounding too much like history, his mind went elsewhere. This one was dangerously close.
“And they still make good training aids.”
“Bunch o’ junk, y’ask me. Ain’t manly to fight like that.”
“I like knowing what’s in here,” Campbell said, approvingly. “I’m truly amazed. We have yet to find so much as a thin half-credit, and the treasures we’ve found aboard this ship are already priceless.”
“I prefer money.”
“I had no doubt. Let’s move – what--?”
The Colonel was interrupted by a sudden fury activity among the training machines. Everyone looked to see what was happening.
They had all suddenly activated, running lights blinking as they powered up. Then they started to move.
“Oh, crap!” Jayne said. “We’re humped!”
“Easy, now, they’re just trainers. No live weapons, remember?” Campbell assured. One of the training machines, a hand-to-hand simulator with four foam rubber tipped clubs for arms, began lumbering their way, swinging its arms menacingly. Jayne grinned. The thing looked like it was brandishing a couple of over-sized cotton swabs. One of those hitting you might hurt, but there was no danger of real injury. “See?” Campbell added, pointing at it. “Nothing to worry about.”
Just then the foam rubber pads erupted, growing sharp, curved scythes protruding from their arms.
“I stand corrected,” Campbell murmured, raising his rifle to fire at the robot. The high-powered battlefield rounds didn’t have much effect. Jayne didn’t waste much time seeing just how much would be enough: he took his best shot, putting two HE rounds from Vera into the thing’s thorax, where it obligingly exploded and stopped moving much.
But it was far from being the only one. All around them the other men were firing at the robots as they aggressively approached. All of them seemed to be activated, armed, and aggressively pursuing the men. “Find cover!” the Colonel ordered, moving around to an exercise machine he could hide behind while he fired. “Careful not to hit each other!”
Jayne growled as he jumped over a pile of exercise mats and sought out a target. It didn’t take long. A barrel-shaped practice drone seemed to be tracking him. He didn’t like that at all – he hated machines that fought. A squadron of dummy seekers went by, wrapped in foam so that they could mimic an attack by bludgeoning their target. At least the damn things weren’t seriously armed.
That illusion was dispelled the moment the barrel drone flipped open two compartments and started hammering live rounds at everything in sight.
“Sonofabitch!” Jayne howled, trying to make himself as small as possible behind the mats. As soon as he was sure the drone was aiming elsewhere, he popped up and used Vera to remove that annoying obstacle.
He was almost out of the expensive HE rounds, now, and would soon have to resort to slugs. He cursed as he slammed them into the short cartridge. When he looked over the top again, he saw that even though he had destroyed the barrel drone, two hatches at the bottom opened and revealed two neat spider probes.
“Oh, ain’t that interestin’!” he muttered.
They began unfolding their articulated legs. He had read about these tiny machines, no more than a foot across, that were used to scout over rough terrain or in urban combat. They were usually recon, he remembered. Someone forgot to mention that to these two: they clearly had explosive charges on their backs. Jayne spared each of them an HE round, and to his chagrin he missed both times. The spiders were just too fast. And they were headed right for him. He wasn’t partial to spiders, metal or otherwise.
Moving without thinking, Jayne sprang to his feet and leapt over the foam rubber mats and straight at the aggressive little machines. His sudden movement caused one to pause for half a second, long enough for his booted heel came down on it, snapping off some legs and crushing its plastic carapace before it could detonate the grenade it carried. He didn’t stop to assess the damage. A large multi-footed machine, currently battling Colonel Campbell, had blocked the way he came in. Instead he sprinted for the nearest open doorway. As he passed a huge, menacing cyclopean wardroid he emptied Vera’s magazine into it, to no great effect. Instead it tracked him, and before he knew it there were seven or eight machines chasing him, none of which he recognized – not that he stuck around long enough to examine them closely.
Jayne Cobb was in trouble. All around him men were hammering away with their guns, calling for assistance, and doing their best to escape their situation. One man was being held by a long armed grappler that had reached over and picked him up, pinning his arms to his sides with its enormous metal claw while it lifted him over its “head”. To his credit the man – Miller, he noticed – wasn’t panicking. He was struggling, though, and he struggled all the more when the other long arm appeared, then sprouted blades at the tips of its fingers.
“Oh, hell,” Jayne grunted, letting the autolock swing by its lanyard as he struggled to bring his carbine into play. As soon as he got it clear he sprayed the body of the large machine, but it didn’t do much. The thing seemed all arms and legs and not enough brains and guts. He was forced to shift his attack to the two perimeter defense machines that were approaching him and demanding his identification in Chinese. The weapons pods on top of them swiveled to cover him, and all of a sudden Jayne needed to be elsewhere.
He glanced around and saw a small door. He might just make it before the stunners on the perimeter robots got him and he was subsequently trampled to death or otherwise killed. He raised the carbine and squeezed the trigger and didn’t let go as he ran. He fired off every round in the magazine at them while he backed up to the door, then grabbed a random grenade from his belt, tossed it, and leapt inside and slammed the door shut.
The room was dark, and very quiet compared to the mayhem that was happening outside – including the nearby blast from his grenade. Fearful of another attack in the dark, he pulled a lightstick from his pocket and struck it. A flare of white light blazed brightly, and would for the next five minutes. He looked around, chest heaving and pulse racing, realizing that even if there was danger here, he was holding two empty guns. But there was nothing. Just a little cashier’s window next to a strong steel door. Confused, he looked around for a sign of where he was, and then it hit him. The unmistakable aroma of gun oil and cosmoline. To Jayne Cobb, it was as welcome as the scent of fresh baked apple pie.
Intrigued, he went to the window and peered through it. All he could see were dark shapes – the light stick wasn’t bright enough to penetrate the gloom through the window. He went immediately to the door, noted with satisfaction the sign on it, and pushed it open. He nearly tip-toed in, cautiously. There was a light switch handy, and he tagged it, but not before drawing his big black revolver in case of an unpleasant surprise.
The surprise was entirely pleasant as the lights came on. Laid out before him were rows and rows of racks of weapons. All sorts of weapons. From a shelf full of sleek automatic combat pistols to neatly ordered rows of assault rifles – the Sun Turtle precursor to the Dragon, he noted professionally – to an entire wall of heavy infantry weapons: Chi Yu Recoiless Rifles, Manticore multibarrels, flamers, lasers, and many he couldn’t readily identify.
He suddenly had the most outrageous boner.
Clearing his throat reverently, he grinned like an idiot.
“Well hello, ladies . . . !”
GAMMA TEAM -64.29
“Nothin’ to report, Wash,” Mal said glumly. “Just mile after mile of empty corridor and menacing storage rooms. Tell Kaylee we found a machine shop that will dampen her panties. How are the others making out?”
“Zoe said they ran into a little mine action, nothing they couldn’t cope with. Campbell’s team . . . well, I think they hit some trouble, but the Colonel said he could handle it.”
“Great. We’ll call back in an hour. Back to the walking tour.”
“Which way now, Cap?” Johnny asked. They were at the Deck Eight Canteen, a little snack shop that was, regrettably, empty of food and drink. But it had a bathroom.
“Well, according to the deckplan, if we go right here we go to the Combat Armor Repair Facility, which might be fun, and if we go left here we find ourselves in Defensive Fire Control Station Three, but since the lasers ain’t workin’ yet it would probably be boring.”
“And straight ahead?” Inara asked. She was looking a little grumpy.
“That brings us to the magical land of Strategic Infantry Reserve Storage Bay Four, and I’d give two bits and a shot of liquor to know what the hell that was. But it’s on the way to the Engine Room, it looks like. A sunny day’s walk, it looks like.”
“Doesn’t it bother you that we haven’t encountered any kind of resistance yet?” Johnny asked as he sipped from his canteen.
“A little,” admitted Mal. “But what bothers me more is the complete lack of gold and platinum lying around in easy-to-carry bags, ready to be loaded on Serenity. That concerns me. But seein’ as how only one door in ten is gonna open afore the main computer is on, I think its safe to say we have a fair bit of exploration to do. And that’s likely where we’ll find the defenses.”
“What if there is no treasure, Mal?” Inara asked.
“’Course there’s a treasure,” he assured. “Look, that crazy old coot – no offense to your ancestor, mind –”
“Non taken,” agreed Johnny.
“He went to an awful lot of trouble to put this monster down a deep well and make sure it stayed safe. That demonstrates a powerful amount o’ forethought. So he wouldn’t of gone to all that trouble lest he also made provision for supportin’ her. I’m guessin’ he stashed a pretty penny somewhere here, and I aim to find it.”
Book came out of the men’s room right then.
“You think there’s a treasure, Shepherd?” Johnny asked.
“Wouldn’t be here if I didn’t,” Book decided. “When you all started this damnfool quest, I’ll be honest with you: I expected it to crap out pretty quickly. I was going to let myself off on one of these stops, maybe come back later, maybe not. But the more we got into it, and the more I saw that there was here, the more I realized that the Almighty had once again put me where I was most needed. If nothing else, seeing this ship was worth the ride. She’s a marvel. But I’m sure I’ll have some helpful role to play before all is said in done.”
“That’s a fairly philosophical attitude,” noted Inara appreciatively.
“Makes as much sense as any other,” agreed Mal. “Everybody bleed their lizard? Inara? I’ll go warm up the seat if you’d like.”
“Thank you, no.”
“Fine. Let’s keep going. Cho and Hwong take the forward position, Johnny in the rear, us gentlefolk in the center.”
They quickly formed up and started down the corridor again. It was a steady pace, slowed only as much as they needed to when it was necessary to examine a doorway or other anomaly for traps. They passed through some sort of medical clinic, including a fifty-bed infirmary, and kept going. A couple of repair shops, some offices and an hour later, they came to a wide blast door with a single shadowy figure in front of it. The men were wise enough not to shoot first, Mal noted with relief, for once glad that Jayne wasn’t with them.
The men held the darkened figure at gun point, and Mal found his torch. Holding his carbine in one hand, stock folded back, he approached. The figure didn’t move. He paused and observed carefully. No movement whatsoever. No swaying, no breathing, no twitch. And whatever it was was behind some sort of barrier . . .
Mal took a deep breath and strode forward, shining the light directly where the face of a sentry would be and raising his gun to cover it.
Through bulletproof carbon glass aggregate the unmoving, unearthly gaze of a statue peered out.
“Someone find a light switch,” he called. “And an art history major would be nice. We got statuary.”
“What is it? Johnny asked. “Don’t touch it!”
“Thank you Mr. Super Soldier Sir, I’ll try not to make a gorram rookie mistake,” Mal shot back. The lights came on. “Thank you!” he called to whomever had found it.
The light revealed a curious study that took their breath away. They had so recently been on Athens that most of them had forgotten sculpture could come in any other color but white marble. The piece in front of them was reddish brown, about five feet tall. And wearing armor from some ancient period of history. Its eyes showed resolve, loyalty, and stoic acceptance. It was completely encased in carbon glass.
“Ye su!” Johnny yelped.
“Wuo de ma,” Book countered.
“Oh, my God,” Inara said breathlessly.
“What, y’all like this? He’s too short! Looks like somethin’ a bachelor would keep around for a conversation piece. A very lonely bachelor.”
“Son,” breathed Book, “You wouldn’t know that thing from the Mona Lisa, would you?”
“What’s the Mona Lisa?”
“Mal,” explained Inara, “That is what’s known as a Terra Cotta Warrior.”
“Sounds like a bad football team. What’s a ‘Terra cotta warrior?”
“Around 221 B.C., Emperor Chin Shi Huang of the Chin dynasty had a huge burial pyramid built. When he died, as was the custom of the time he was buried with all that he would need in the afterlife. For Chin, that included an army. So he had over 7,000 terracotta statues built, infantry, cavalry, officers, horses . . . each one exact, each one different. An army for hell. Most were lost in the Occupation, but a few hundred survived. Of those only around fifty made it through the Exodus. Mal, what you’re looking at is not just from Earth-That-Was . . . it’s one of the oldest man-made objects in existence. It’s worth a thousand times what the Lassiter is. More.”
“You wanted a treasure, Captain,” Book pointed out. “Will this do as a start?”
Mal studied the warrior a moment. Proud eyes. Dutiful, but strong. A man Mal might enjoy a drink with. “All right, the man’s worth some coin. I’m starting to feel better about this now!”
“Uh, why is he here?” Johnny asked. One of the men motioned to him to come to the blast door.
“It’s a fair question,” Book agreed. “Seems like an unlikely place for a gallery.”
“It’s a symbol,” Hwang said. “Begging your pardon, Sir, but the Chin Warriors represented all the great martial values of the ancient Chinese people. When our ancestors left Sihnon, they took most of the warriors as their proper cultural birthright. Most were returned to Sihnon after the Empire collapsed, but apparently some escaped.” He grinned. “It’s as if there was a real, tangible link to tradition.”
“I think I know what it symbolizes,” Johnny called out, his voice shaky. “That thing was a guardian for the dead, right?” He motioned them over to the slitted windows of carbon glass in the blast door. Wiping away some condensation, he indicated the window. Mal took a peek. “I think he got his old job back.”
On the other side of the window, stacked four high and going back as far as they could see, were hibernation cylinders, yellow with the red Imperial crest emblazoned on them. There had to be hundreds of them. Thousands.
An army of the dead.
DELTA TEAM –63.10
“Think they’re all dead yet?” Simon asked cheerfully as he added some of the meat he had salvaged from Hecate to the stew pot in the kitchen.
“Nah, Cap’n’s too good to go down quiet,” Kaylee observed over her wine. “You’d’ve heard him all over the ship by now.”
“True,” conceded the doctor with a chuckle. “I wonder what mischief Jayne has gotten himself into?”
“I’m curious as to what Inara and Mal are chatting about,” Wash added. “What could possibly occupy their conversation for that long period of time?”
“Well, a military operation is hardly an ideal first date,” Simon decided. “I’m sure Book is keeping them at least a ruler’s length apart.”
“Don’t they realize how bad they got it for each other?” Kaylee said, in her best gossipy voice. “If it were any plainer . . .”
“. . . then they still wouldn’t admit it, or even recognize it,” Wash finished. “Because they’re both stubborn and stupid and entirely too good-looking for their own good. Inara, I can understand. Tools of the trade. But Mal? What business does a guy like that have with a face like his?”
“It’s drippin’ outa every pore,” declared Kaylee. “And they would be so cute together!”
“I suspect it’s more complicated than that, K,” Simon said with the familiarity that is born of alcohol. A tumbler of forty-five year old scotch was at his elbow while he cooked. “What if they did get together? Mal would be a smuggler while he whored his wife out? Or Inara would give up the glamour for a life like this . . . only without all the fun Companioning. Just Mal. Locked on a ship with just Mal.”
“This life ain’t bad!” Kaylee said defensively.
“. . . just Malcolm Reynolds. No hope of escape. . .”
“I take his point, sweetie: you can’t take either one of them away from their career for a little thing like wedded bliss. One would have to stop bein’ what they are to do it. And whoever did would resent the other one for the rest of their lives. Or until they got a timely divorce.”
“ . . . just you and Mal and that overbearing manner of his . . .”
“It ain’t that bad!” Kaylee pouted. “They can work it out! Lotsa relationships get built on compromise!”
“I’m living proof,” admitted Wash. “And it’s a struggle. Zoe an’ me, we’re talkin’ – just talkin’, mind, so no goofy woman-stuff, hear? – we’re talkin’ about starting a family. Only we’ve reached an impasse, and one or both of us has to make a decision.”
“That’s . . . that’s wonderful, Wash!” Then the implication of what he was saying hit. “Oh. Yeah, yeah, that pretty much stinks. Y’all can’t leave! Then it’d just be me an’ Jayne an’ Cap’n – he’d never let her leave.”
“ . . . trapped. Like a rat. A rat in a cat cage . . .”
“He can’t live forever, Kaylee,” Wash said, shaking his head. “One day he’s gonna shoot his mouth off to the wrong thug and end up ended. After the funeral, well, Zoe and I inherit this pretty boat, and we start lookin’ to settle.”
“So y’all can’t have babies ‘till the Cap’n dies?” she asked, alarmed.
“Honey, don’t even worry about it,” soothed Wash. “We’re still workin’ out the details.”
“. . . stuck with Mal . . . ‘’til death do you part’ . . . River?”
Simon interrupted his reverie when he realized his sister was standing in the doorway, a dazed expression on her face. “River? Are you okay?”
“I was sleeping,” she said, intense but dreamily, “I was dreaming about the others, the soldiers. Mal and Jayne and Zoe and the others. They’re in danger.”
“River, I just checked in on them,” Wash assured her. “A couple of little traps. Some crazy machines. Don’t worry, they can handle it. They’re alone out there: no boogie-men.”
“Yes, yes, they are alone,” River said, seizing the point like a dagger’s hilt. “Alone. Alone. Only . . . they’re outnumbered. Alone and outnumbered. They could all die any moment.” She looked around. “Hey, is that stew?”
Tuesday, December 6, 2005 10:41 PM
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