A/N: All Chinese swearin’ is followed with an English translation with * * on either side.
Disclaimer: Firefly and Buffy both belong to Joss. All hail the Man!...
Please don't sue me, I don't have any money.
“Are we sure about this? Last time we dealt with Badger, Cap’n almost got run through with a sword.” Wash asks his wife Zoe as she snuggles closer into his arms. Zoe pulls the blanket over them tighter as they sit in the pilot’s seat and both look out into the black, Wash keeping an eye on his instruments every so often.
“Cap’n knows what he’s doing. ‘Sides, he made it out alive.” Zoe says closing her eyes. “Well… cut on, but alive.”
“Yeah but Badger?” Wash pauses. “My gut’s a-tingling?”
“Husband?” Zoe says turning to look at him strangely.
“Something bad’s gonna happen.” Wash says looking into her eyes. When her look doesn’t change he continues. “Some people juggle geese, I get a tingling gut.”
“Maybe you should have Simon take a look at that.” Zoe replies moving back into his arms.
“Maybe…” Wash starts.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
“Ta ma de…*Dammit...* Ai ya! Huaile. *Something's wrong.*” Wash exclaims as Zoe jumps to her feet. He straightens up and starts playing with switches. He grabs the comm. “Mal!” No response. “Mal!” Wash yells over the comm again.
“Huh, wha…?” Mal mumbles sitting up having just woke.
“You need to get up here.” Wash commands.
Mal gets up out of bed, walks over to his comm and pushes it. “Comin” Mal puts on his boots, his shirt, grabs his gun belt and climbs up the ladder and out of his bunk. He makes his way to the cockpit as he attaches his gun belt and starts to button up his shirt. That’s when he hears the alarm and starts to run. Mal bounds up the steps and into the cockpit. “What you got?” Mal asks Wash.
“I got nothing.” Wash yells as he continues playing with switches and knobs.
“What ya mean you got nothing?” Mal yells.
“I mean I got nothing, no Navcomm, Cortex, I can’t even turn this boat around. We’re humped.” Wash tells the Captain as he picks up the comm again. “Kaylee!”
“Yeah?” Kaylee’s voice comes over the Comm.
“I got nothing up here, anything down your end?” Wash asks Kaylee.
“Everything’s Shiny!” Kaylee tells them in a cheery voice. “Wait? What do you mean you got nothin’?”
“What the ruttin’ hell is goin on?” Mal yells. “We movin’?”
“Don’t think so Sir.” Zoe says over her shoulder as she fiddles with knobs. Mal turns and runs out of the cockpit, heading to the engine room.
Once Mal reaches the engine room he stops mid step. He can’t believe what he hears. ‘It can’t be’ Mal thinks to himself as he stops at the hatchway and peers in.
“I really hope you all are the ones listening to it. I'll spare you the boring details. I've fallen in with untrustworthy folk.” Tracey’s voice comes out of the recorder in Kaylee’s hands. She’s lying in her hammock staring off into space, tears rolling down her face.
“Mei-mei *Little Sister*, you want to tell me what’s goin on?” Mal asks looking at her from the hatch way.
“Making a bunch of bad calls. All that matters is I expect to be shuffled off... and you two are the only people I trust to get me where I'm going... which is home.” Tracey continues, Kaylee doesn’t move an inch.
“Kaylee? I though we gave that to Tracey’s family.” Mal says pointing at the recorder. She doesn’t move, not acknowledging the Captain. “Kaylee?”
“I'd like my body to be with my folks on St. Albans. We got the family plot there and my mom and dad... well, they deserve to know I died. You know, it's funny. We went to the war never looking to come back... but it's the real world I couldn't survive.” Tracey’s voice comes out of the recorder as Kaylee moves her hand up to her face to rub her tears away.
“Kaylee!” Mal yells as he moves into the engine room. As soon as his foot steps over the threshold she disappears. “Wha…? Kaylee!!!” Mal yells again.
“What? What’s wrong?” Kaylee asks appearing on the other side of the room, Mal jumps around startled, his hand on his gun.
“What the? Kaylee? What’s goin on?”
“What’re you talking ‘bout Cap’n?” Kaylee asks approaching Mal.
“You was lying in your hammock listening to Tracey’s recorder.” Mal says.
“No I weren’t” Kaylee says with a shake of her head. “I was checking Serenity, find out what Wash was yellin’ about. You’re the one who came in here asking ‘bout the recorder.”
“Look, I just saw you…” Mal starts as a giant bang is heard coming from the cargo bay. “Oh, juh jen sh guh kwai luh duh jean jan...*Oh, this is a happy development...*” Mal says as he and Kaylee move off towards the sound.
Inara looks on from the catwalk high above the cargo bay floor as the two men who appeared out of nowhere struggle with each other to try and get to a gun that lies on the floor not two feet away from them. She’s frozen in place, she can’t move, can’t fathom what is happening. They just appeared. She was making her way from her shuttle to the mess, just to get a little snack to tire the hunger after spending the day packing, when she looked down at the cargo floor, saw nothing, kept walking and then glanced back in time to see them bang into a stack of crates that weren’t there a second ago.
‘But how can it be?’ She wonders.
She recognized one of the men right away. One was Simon, the way he looked a year ago when he first arrived on Serenity. The other she didn’t or at least not straight away. She now knows him to be Dobson. The Alliance Fed who tried to arrest Simon and River when they first got on board. As Inara looks on in disbelief Mal and Kaylee enter the bay in time to see Simon pointing a gun at Dobson. They look like they have been in a tussle. Simon cocks the gun as Dobson reaches for another on the ground.
“No, don’t. Don’t move.” Simon yells, stopping Dobson in his tracks.
“Doc, what in the hell?” Mal yells as him and Kaylee come running down the stairs and to a stop at the landing above the workout area. Mal reaches for his gun, pulls it out and points it at the both of them. “I thought he was dead? He ain’t dead. How come he ain’t dead? And how’d he get on my gorram boat?”
“What Cap’n?” Simon asks coming through the hatchway from the common room. He stops dead as he takes in the scene in front of him.
“Simon! How’d you get there, when you’re over there?” Kaylee asks pointing between the two Simons.
“You can do that?” Dobson asks the Simon with the gun. “You’re gonna kill a lawman in cold blood?”
“What’s all the yellin’?” Jayne asks appearing from the hatchway behind Simon. “What the ruttin’ hell?”
“I think I’m loosing my mind” Simon says as he looks at himself with the gun.
“Witch!” Jayne yells as he jumps back and pulls a knife out of his belt, pointing it at Simon who gives him a strange look.
“Who’s a Witch?” Wash asks as him and Zoe come down the stairs. They stop near Inara and follow her gaze to the cargo floor. “Ah Aaaah!” Wash yells as he spots Dobson. “I thought he was dead? Mal didn’t you shoot him? Zoe isn’t he meant to be dead?”
“I know what you did for your sister. I understand. It doesn’t make you a killer” Dobson says. “I don’t want to hurt anybody. I have a job to do...”
“Sir?” Zoe asks as she pulls out her gun and takes aim.
“I don’t rightly know?” Mal says.
“To uphold the law, that’s what we’re talking about here. There’s nowhere you can take her the law won’t find. Nobody is going to hurt her…” Dobson says looking around the cargo bay and then back to Simon.
“I’ve had enough of this.” Mal says. “The Doc can’t shoot a man in cold blood but I can, especially when he harms one of my crew.” Mal yells cocking his gun and firing at Dobson.
But nothing happens.
“Nobody is going to hurt her…unless you hurt me.” Dobson says as the bullet passes through him. He eyes the gun on the floor again and makes a move toward it.
Mal shoots for a second time and once again nothing happens. He shoots again. And again. And again. And again until his gun is empty.
“I said don’t, don’t move.” Simon with the gun yells.
“It’s your call.” Dobson says.
They pause, look at each other and then Simon looks behind him at something behind the airlock, that’s when Dobson finds his chance, picks up the gun and fires at the Doc. As soon as the shot is heard they disappear. The cargo bay is quiet, the only sound to be heard is the low hum of Serenity’s engines.
“That was a might unsettling” Simon says.
“I don’t know what the hell that was, but I want some gorram answers” Mal yells as they all make their way towards the area the confrontation took place. “Simon?”
“I… I…” Simon stutters. “I can’t explain it?”
“Well one of ya better!” Mal says as they all look at each other.
“Looked like Dobson Sir.” Zoe says as she holsters her weapon.
“I know it looked like Dobson, what I want to know is, why did it look like Dobson. And why was there two Docs’?” Mal asks the group.
“Yeah, one’s bad enough without havin two of ‘em” Jayne says poking the Doc with his knife. “This one looks solid enough.”
“Wash? What’s happening with the boat?” Mal asks looking at Wash.
“Nothing, everything’s fine.” Wash tells the captain.
“Come again?” Mal says.
“I don’t know Cap’n. One minute I’m underneath the console and it looks like Saffron’s been at it again fiddling with the wires. Then the next thing I know I blink and everything’s back to normal. All the wiring and everything,” He says laughing. “It was very unnerving. That and it was kind of cool.” Wash says smiling. His smile fades at the looks he gets from members of the crew.
“So we back on course for Persephone?” Mal asks.
“No.” Wash says.
“What? Why?” Mal says. “After what we just witnessed, I wanna land this boat and give her a good overhaul.”
“There’s nothin’ wrong with Serenity.” Kaylee says angrily at Mal.
“I know Mei-mei, I just wanna be certain.” Mal reassures Kaylee.
“Can’t” Wash says sitting on a crate.
“What?” Mal asks stepping toward the pilot.
“Can’t. We’re dead in the water. Controls still aren’t responding.” Wash tells the captain.
“You sure we ain’t all suffering from that tragic Space Dementia you joke ‘bout people havin’ Cap’n?” Jayne asks.
“There’s no such thing” Simon says.
“I’m beginning to think there is Doc.” Mal says putting his hand on Wash’s shoulder. “Who needs a drink?” Mal asks as he makes his way towards the stairs, followed shortly by the others.
“Yeah, but what was that?” Jayne asks everyone as they walk up the stairs.
“Echoes” A small voice says above them.
“River?” Simon says pushing past everyone to get to her. “River, are you OK?”
“Echoes from the past. Come to warn us…” River says.
“Ssshh, Mei-mei.” Simon says putting an arm around his sister.
“They come… They come and I hear them scream.” River says to Simon cowering her head into his chest. “They think their dead but their not. Their lost…” She says moving way from Simon and descending the stairs, she looks to the others as she reaches the cargo floor. “All lost… followed the path through the woods. But then the big bad wolf came and took them away. Their lost… and now they think they found their home, but they’ll always be lost.” River says looking around. “Never get out of the Sunnyhell. Never get out of the city of Angel. Never get out of the Valley…” River says looking at the Captain and Zoe as she finishes. “The Past Echoes, a warning! Got to be ready for when they arrive.”
“What she mean, past echoes?” Kaylee asks.
“I’m not sure, but what I am pretty sure about is that what we just saw happened over a year ago when we first go on board,” Simon tells the crew. “Exactly word for word, at least right before Mal shoot Dobson.” Simon informs everyone.
“We’re about to have visitors.” River says.
Everyone follows Rivers gaze to the other end of the cargo bay in time to see another River running down the stairs. She looks troubled, scared and a little afraid. She walks ten paces from the stairs when she steps on something, stops and bends down to look at it.
“What is…?” Jayne asks
“It’s a branch.” Kaylee says.
Suddenly the entire cargo floor is littered with branches and leaves.
“Oh my!” Inara says as she looks at all the foliage on the floor.
“Ain’t that somethin’” Mal says.
“Ah huh.” Nods Wash.
River picks up the original branch, holds it in her hands and looks it over. “It’s just an object. It doesn’t mean what you think.” River says.
As the crew watch the other River, the branches and leaves vanish from the floor and Simon and Kaylee appear near her, their arms outstretched in caution.
“You know that’s not to be touched.” Simon says approaching her.
“Stay calm. Stop yelling at her.” Inara says appearing above River on the cat walk as Mal appears on the stairs running down to her.
“River, Sweetheart, you want nothin’ to do with that.” Mal says getting to the cargo floor behind River. “Put it down.”
Everyone stands on the stairs watching the scene play out as the branch in River’s hand turns into a hand gun. The gun looks big, powerful and out of place in her hand, as if she was to fall over from the weight of it. River holds it awkwardly, not sure what do with it as everyone talks to her.
“Kaylee” River says as Kaylee starts to back away from her.
“What were you thinking?” Simon asks still approaching his sister. “Where did you get a hold…?”
“Don’t yell at her” Inara says from above.
“It was in my hand.” River tells Simon.
“I’m not mad. Just let me….” Mal says as he takes the gun from River’s hand. “Thank you” He says as he proceeds to eject the magazine and checks the gun. “Fully loaded, safety off. This is a recipe for unpleasantness.” Mal says holding up the gun and turning to Simon. “Does she know that?”
“She understands…” River begins. “She doesn’t comprehend.”
“Well, I’m glad we’ve made that distinction.” Mal says to River. “No touching guns, OK?” Mal asks River holding up the one in question.
“No touching.” River says moving to run off.
“River” Simon calls as she passes him.
“It’s getting very, very crowded!” River yells as she runs off and they all disappear.
“She’s not wrong.” River says as everyone looks at each other in amazement.
“Who’s not wrong?” Kaylee asks her.
“That River,” She says pointing to were the crew was just watching. “It is getting crowded.”
“No it’s not Mei-mei.” Simon says walking down the stairs and putting his arm around his sister.
“But it will.” River says as a giant spark explodes in the cargo hold.
The whole cargo bay lights up as everyone but River ducks for cover. When nothing else happens they all open their eyes and get up. The cargo bay is lit up with a shimmering light, as if the sun was reflected off of a pool of water.
“Ai ya. Women wanle *We're in big trouble*.” Zoe exclaims.
“You can say that again.” Mal agrees.
“Ai ya. Women wanle *We're in big trouble*.” Wash repeats.
In the middle of the cargo bay a bright white circle hangs like a street light about fifth-teen feet above the cargo bay floor. The crew start to descend the stairs as they move to inspect the object.
“Zoe!” Mal yells. “Please tell me I don’t got the Space Dementia.”
“I see it too sir” Zoe says looking at Mal with fear in her eyes, her hand on the butt of her gun. “Think this is an echo?”
“Don’t think so, things is missin’” Mal tells Zoe as they both look around the bay, as if they’re searching for someone or something.
“What ya mean things is missin’” Jayne yells at the captain.
“They took him away before his time, before the bullet…” River says as Mal and Zoe just look at her, everyone else looking at the object. “They scream louder now their closer.” River says looking at the object, standing a few feet away from the others. “They’ll go plop and everything will be quiet. Stand back and give them some room, the dance is about to start.” She says as they all look at her then back to the object, everyone but Mal and Zoe taking a few steps back.
“What in the tyen shiao duh *Name of all that's sacred* is that?” Jayne asks no-one.
“What’s it meant to be?” Inara asks.
“You don’t think… Sir?” Zoe says looking at the captain then back to the object.
“Zoe, at this point I don’t think anything.” Mal says pulling out his gun, Zoe taking a leaf from his book and doing the same. “Just want it off my ship. This can’t happen again.”
“What do you mean again” Simon and Wash say in unison.
The words are barely out of their mouths when the object glows brighter, making everyone squint their eyes.
The crew hear four wet thuds as it glows the brightest wite any of them have ever seen. Just as quick as it began, the light fades and everyone looks at the space it occupied. There, lying on the floor are four bodies, three female, one male, all of them naked and covered in a thin sheen of sweat. The three females, a brunette, a red head and a small dirty blonde lie in a row. The male, a tallish dark haired man, on one side of the row of female’s right in front of Mal and Zoe.
“Wuh de ma *Mother of god *” Inara says at the sight of the bodies.
“Their nekkid!” Jayne says pointing with a smile.
“Zoe?” Mal says moving his head to indicate the dark haired man at their feet as the people on the floor start to move.
“I see Sir.” Zoe replies.
“Bad idea... No one listens.” The Brunette asks looking around.
“When did…?” The Red head says looking at the brunette.
“Before we started…” The Brunette says looking at the Red head.
“No you didn’t…” The Red head replies.
“It work?” The Brunette asks before she passes out.
“I can’t… What?” The redhead asks looking at the crew right before her head falls back onto the floor and passes out.
“Get away from me!” The dirty blonde says grabbing her neck. “Huh…Wha… Vampi…” she says as she looks around the cargo bay. “Who are you?” She asks as she hits the floor again.
“Ahhhh!” The dark haired man yells as he grabs his chest. “I’ve been shot! I’ve been…” He starts to say clawing at his shoulder. When he finds no wound he looks at the people around him. “What? Sarge? Zoe?”
“Bendis.” Mal and Zoe say together.
“Where the? Valley…?” He says looking around. “Heaven?” he says with a smile as he passes out.***************************************************