BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA

JACQUI

Adam's Rib: Cradle to the Grave: Ch 1
Friday, February 17, 2006

Just when they thought the Academy couldn't hurt them anymore...


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2895    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Well, I did say there wouldn't be a sequel unless there was a story worth telling for these characters.

Apparently, there is.

I'd be really interested to know if anyone even cares about a sequel anymore.

This is set four years after River and the rest of Serenity's crew rescued the other children from the Academy. Not much to know, other than Zoe/Wash and Kaylee/River are still together, the rest of the crew are as per usual. Book no longer travels with Serenity (nor is he staying with the children on Haven), but he is alive and well. Inara left as well, for the same reasons she did before the movie.

If you're all very good boys and girls, they might just reappear before the fic is through.

Disclaimer: All official Firefly/Serenity characters belong to Joss, Fox, Universal and other people richer than me. The hangers on are mine (Oh, Jonah, how I've missed you).

Rating: This part: G.

Comments: This (SHORT) chapter is more back story, introduction and set up than it is furthering the plot, but that will come.

Feedback: Comment here (it's easy, really, type the words and press the button) or email: wily_one24@yahoo.com.au

***

Previous chapters (because, really, it's been four months even if you have read them and, if you haven't, you won't have one frilly heck of an idea who these people are):

- Ch 1: Timely. - Ch 2: Green In Red. - Ch 3: Submerged. - Ch 4: Retreat. - Ch 5: Bridges Burned. - Ch 6: Awakenings. - Ch 7: Sanguine. - Ch 8: Inroads. - Ch 9: Reclamation. - Ch 10: Frying Pans and Fires. - Ch 11: A Stitch In Time. Series Final.

***

Here goes...

***

She walked, head bowed down to the ground, eyes picking out the stones laid down on the path. Seven hundred and sixty two individual and slightly off center rocks that had been placed there, cemented in with care. Her feet rose and fell slowly over them.

Counting.

"There." River pointed, though she didn't really need to. "That one."

Her eyes could pick it out of the others, small and indistinguishable but for the memory in her head and the knowledge of it deep in her core. Hands came around her waist, soft and warm, and a chin rested on her shoulder.

"You don't gotta keep pointing it out, bao bei." Kaylee chuckled. "I know it as well as you do."

For a second they both looked down at the little brown stone and River remembered a sunny day, skin sheening with sweat, the sound of labor all around as everyone worked on building the house that stood tall now. Busy people, building walls and lives and hives for lives without walls.

And a moment, just a blink of an eye, when her hand touched Kaylee's and they planted the stone into the mix of the others, pushed it down into the drying cement and the soft flesh of her thumb split, spilling blood like a drop, a stain to the new structure.

The color of it was gone, but the sting of it lingered.

"C'mon you two." Mal's hand came out of nowhere and tapped Kaylee across the back of the head. "You got a bunk for that kinda thing."

"That ain't fair, Cap'n." Kaylee scowled and was gone from River's side, the two of them walking past and leaving her alone, gone but for the trail of a hand over her hip. Her neck rolled along the wave of it. "We was just lookin'."

"We gave up a perfectly good, well paying job to come here, mei mei." Mal answered. "I don't expect Jonah would ask that of us if there wasn't a good reason."

She let their voices drift onwards, up the steps, one, two, three, to the porch and to the door. The stone, hidden under a drop of blood and the tears that flowed, stayed there with her.

"We stayin' long?" Wash barreled past, his foot coming perilously close. "'Cause if we are, can Zo and I take some time...?"

"Don't rightly know." Was the quick reply, bitten off. "That message we got didn't exactly inspire confidence. I suspect there's a reasoning for the urgency and that reasoning isn't makin' me comfortable."

"Nor any of us, Sir." Zoe strode by, her steps were tempered, gentler than the norm.

"We just gonna stand out here starin' at the wood planks then?" Jayne huffed past. "You think there's any chance Beth's made that pie again? A man'd starve if the ship never came here."

"Do you ever think about anyone else?" Simon followed behind. "I'm serious, is it a deficiency with you? Didn't you hear everyone worry about there being a problem?"

She frowned, her eyes seeing red seep up from the ground, bubbling up and pooling together, threatening to overflow and stream across the land they all held in reverence.

"I heard. An' I'm always ready for a fight." Jayne grunted. "Don't stop the hunger, though. Does it?"

"That was fast!" A familiar voice, warm and happy.

We're not ready, they're not back yet.

The thought wasn't.

"Well, hey, Bethany." Mal slapped her shoulder, friendly. "Came as fast as we could, the others here are they?"

Soft murmurs, handshakes and hugs, pleasantries and hushed gasps of welcome and worry. People had lost weight. People had gained weight. Other people looked tired. Children had grown. How fast. It'd been too long since they were last here. It was always too long.

The words of it washed over her and she stood, staring down at the current that no one else saw.

"River." Kaylee poked her head around the door, looking back out into the front yard. "You comin' in or what?"

She stood alone in the yard, the chaos of the arrival had settled around her. River stared down for a second longer, forcing the image, the thought, the memory, forced the imagination of the overflow down, forced it to soak back into the earth and away from sight. The toes of her shoe had just barely escaped being covered in it.

"Of course I am." She looked up and made her smile almost as bright as the eyes that watched her. "Can't stay away for long."

***

“Georges!” The small girl ran through her house, slamming the front door open and into the wall. She was breathless with excitement. “Georges, Serenity’s come to land again!”

Her brother looked up from his work with a gleam to his eye, but before he could answer, a softer, calmer voice broke in.

“Now, now.” Their mother came to stand between them. “Did they land in town or out by the homestead?”

Georges watched his sister’s shoulders droop a little.

“Homestead.” She answered, disappointed.

“Well then.” A voice tempered with understanding, but still firm. “You best give them space to catch up, wait for them to come out before you swarm ‘em. You know the routine.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

Of course they knew the routine, Georges thought with a sullen frown, everyone with half a brain knew it. Serenity was a beacon for everyone in town, they bought supplies, trade, fresh produce, and they always had friendly faces. Everybody in the town loved the ship, even if they didn’t love every person on it.

Georges was ten years old, but he could still remember when the ship had first come to land.

He wasn’t allowed to go near them, none of the kids were, warned away from the strange, haggard looking group of people, some no more than kids themselves. Not only were they strangers, but they were strange to boot.

They’d come with a Sheppard, word from a man of God was pretty much the only reason they’d found shelter here at all. That’s what everyone had said, whispered behind hands and in small groups as they all watched a house being built, slowly taking shape, but never offering to help.

The ship flew away, taking the Sheppard with it, but seven of them remained.

It was a scandal, Georges could remember it well enough, leaving seven children to fend for themselves. Some of them weren’t really children, but some of them were. Only one had come to the school.

He could still remember the small, shy girl. All the kids had watched her, wide eyed, waiting for her to be as strange as the others from the house sometimes were. But she’d obviously been more patient than anyone at the school, ‘cause she didn’t do anything other than try her hardest to fit in, even if she sometimes knew things she shouldn’t, and waited them out until they stopped talking about and started talking to her.

Georges had always silently figured people were nicer to her, anyway, ‘cause of how weak and injured she’d been.

Slowly, but surely, they’d wormed their way into the town. The real change had come when two of the older boys had stood up to the town Sheriff, a man who’d been slowly ripping them all to shreds for years. Now they ran the local law and Haven hadn’t ever felt as safe as it did after that. They were fair, too, and always seemed to know when someone was lying. There weren’t ever any crimes that didn’t get solved and, half the time, didn’t get stopped before they even happened.

Then there were the twins, who started up a daycare of sorts. Made it easier for lots of the mining families, made it so that both parents could work in the day and be home at night, instead of one at a time. And there’d never been happier, smarter kids than that came out of that daycare.

He was only ten, but Georges knew people were happier now than they had been before. Knew, like the whole town knew, that even though the people in that house were strange, they made everything work, they made the crops more productive, halved costs of produce and stock, made the smallest little things more pleasant.

And they kept bringing Serenity back.

Haven didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

It was a sign, though, if the ship landed in the docks, then it was welcome for one and all and everyone always came out, even from the mines, to say howdy and hello. The kids always came out, ‘cause there was a higher than none chance that there’d be presents of a kind.

But if the ship landed out by the house, then there was sure to be secret dealings before the rest of the town got to say hello.

***

Bethany hadn't grown any taller, but she'd grown fuller, fleshed out and curved, Kaylee could feel strong arms surrounding her in a fierce hug. Four years out of the Academy had done the girl wonders. She was strong, forceful and ran the house stricter than the Captain had ever dared run Serenity. Eighteen and the biggest mother hen Kaylee had ever seen.

A smaller figure, shy and reluctant to step forward, watched and waited from the sidelines.

Kaylee spun out of Bethany's hands and reached out to pull Alex into a hug. She had to blink twice. At sixteen, the girl had grown straight, slender and pale, like a willow. Her dark hair was streaked liberally with shining silver and her pale gray eyes were still the most striking thing about her.

"So?" She said over the girl's shoulder. "Where are the boys?"

"They left." As usual, Bethany was precise and to the point. "They were going to try and get back before you got here."

She finished her rounds by throwing her arms around the twins and hugging them close. They had never been the most physically affectionate, but Kaylee always managed to squeeze herself in.

"Left where?" Mal said as he idly picked up a small figurine from the mantle. "We got a wave tellin' us to get here soon as possible, seems a mite rude to be up an' leaving like that."

"Gambling." They all turned to see River step inside the door.

"They what?" Mal sputtered and turned to look back at Bethany. "They went where?"

It wasn't as jarring as it used to be, but Kaylee could still see the signs of them all talking without sound, between them. Habit made them speak out loud when Serenity's crew were around, but it couldn't stop the looks, the small twists of a head towards another.

"Jonah took Sebastian and Daniel." Bethany refused to be swayed from her calm. "He said we needed money and we needed it fast."

"Oh, right." He answered. "So they just flew off to go place a few bets while we sit here and twiddle our thumbs?"

“Cap’n!” Kaylee glared.

“Needed large amounts of money.” River supplied again. “And no criminal ties. Small bets, larger wins. Separate, not connected. To the power of three. Amounts expounded, tripled, grown.”

“Couldn’t they just, I dunno, rob a bank or somethin’?”

“Yes, Jayne.” Zoe smiled. “Because that certainly has no criminal ties at all.”

“Why?” River looked to Bethany. “Why does Jonah want money?”

“He didn’t say.”

Kaylee looked between River and Bethany, the question and its answer had surprised her. River didn’t know, because Bethany didn’t know and neither of them knew because Jonah hadn’t told them.

He had taught River, over the years, to control it, to use it to her advantage, to block it out when she needed to, but he was still the only one out of them all that could completely shut the others out.

“He left this for you.” Bethany held out her hand to River, it held a small disc. “Said you’d know what it meant.”

Kaylee watched as River gently placed the disc in the small player, twisting until there was an audible click throughout the room. Eleven people held their breaths as an image flickered to life.

***

River felt her chest close up. She didn't need to be told where the image had been captured, the cold, clinical walls and colorless schematics screamed Alliance, screamed Academy all through her veins. Except that it wasn't the building they'd all been held in.

"April 12. 2522." A man's voice filled the room. "Subject Nine has shown great promise and aptitude, far exceeding any expectations for her age. The subject is accelerated in all fields, including IQ, rationale, reasoning, analysis, spatial awareness, physicality, motor skills and emotional stability."

The top of a table came into focus. Several blocks with numbers and letters sat scattered, with a line of them spelling out a mathematical problem.

"Unfortunately, without precedence, the subject appears to have reached a plateau of sorts. The subject is unable, or refuses to, complete the problem set before her. It has remained untouched for two days."

The view came down to focus on the back of a child's head. She had long, curling brown hair.

"Nine." The voice said calmly. "The problem is to be solved as quickly as possible."

"There is no problem." The small lilt of her voice was unmistakable. "Numbers are meaningless."

"Solve the problem." The voice ordered again.

"There is no problem." The child insisted quietly. "It doesn't make sense."

"This is a formula that has..."

"You laid it out wrong." The child interrupted. A small hand reached out, forward, across to the line of blocks. "Misplaced the structure."

The hand was quick and sure, the skin a dark, chocolate brown as small fingers rearranged the placement order of the blocks.

"There." Came the little voice. "Volume of a sphere is always determined as four thirds of pi times radius cubed or one sixth of pi times diameter cubed. Now it makes sense."

A little flourish as another block was placed in the line.

"And the answer is eight."

"That is correct." If the voice had been surprised by its own error, it didn't show it. "Proceed to room five."

River swallowed, closing her eyes, she didn't need for the child to stand up, didn't need to see her turn around. She knew already what they'd done, had known it the second the image had started.

"Subject Nine continues to impress the Operatives at each turn." The voice spoke again as the little girl stood up, she couldn't have been more than three years old. "All reports indicate the subject far outstrips any achievements of either biological source at this stage of their development."

Subject Nine, the little girl without a name, turned and walked away from the table. Her face showed for less than a second, but it was enough to see that although she had her father's coloring, her features belonged to nobody but her mother.

"River?" It was Kaylee standing next to her, soft and warm and knowing. Kaylee had known when the girl had spoken, had seen the similarities. "Are you okay?"

"No." She said it tightly. "I don't... I can't... it's not..."

"Mei mei." Simon was soft, too, standing at her other side. He'd known, the only person in the room to have known how close the girl came. He'd seen her at that age. "It's going to be okay."

"How?" Was all that she managed to say. "How is it going to be okay?"

Nobody had an answer for her, but she hadn't expected one. River reached a hand out, shaking and unsure, reached it out far enough to almost touch the frozen image of her daughter's face.

*** Cradle to the Grave: ch 2 coming soon. ***

COMMENTS

Friday, February 17, 2006 7:59 PM

SHINYGEEKET


Loved this opening chapter, I can't wait to read what happens next. Good job! :-)

Friday, February 17, 2006 7:59 PM

CHRONICLURKER


"I'd be really interested to know if anyone even cares about a sequel anymore."

...uh, YES PLEASE!!

This is a great start, you must continue it.

Saturday, February 18, 2006 12:45 AM

AMDOBELL


Excellent start. Poor River, what is going to happen next? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, February 18, 2006 8:58 AM

IMALEAF


YEAH, oooo more please?

Saturday, February 18, 2006 1:00 PM

AGENTROUKA


Huh.

Now that is one hell of a cruel twist! A daughter... Oh dear.


I'm very happy to see this continued. The first series was great, especially since there are so very few longer stories out there that deal with a pairing like River/Kaylee. Excellent!


Now, define "very good girl" because I'd love see see Inara return! *g*

Sunday, February 19, 2006 8:20 AM

CASUALTY


Oh my goodness! Do you have any idea how excited I got when I read there was more to Adam's Rib?

Thank you. I can't wait for more! But don't write too fast, once it's over I'll get very upset!

Alison

Monday, March 6, 2006 11:24 AM

BURNANDBOIL


Yes! :D Awesome. I'm so so glad Alex is OK!

Monday, October 20, 2008 3:55 AM

RIVERRED


oh wow a sequal to the first one thanks for posting this.


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