Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
A/N: This was originally going to be a part of the previous chapter, but it grew too large, so I split it. Also, the next chapter is written, so you won't be kept waiting too long.
A/N2: I was unhappy with the transcript, and have updated the previous chapter to reflect the actual movie. It is generally the same, though, and you won't miss anything by not re-reading it. Dialogue now reflects the movie rather than the transcript. Except, of course, where I've altered it to suit the story ;)~~~~~
Xander looked out over the planet they were approaching. They were in Haven's atmosphere, and the nervous tension squirming in his gut was making it hard to listen to the others discussing River's find. He looked over to Faith and Dawn, and saw that they were in not much better condition. All too soon they would find out just how effective their warning had been. He sighed, and turned back to the crew.
“How can it be that there's a whole planet called 'Miranda', and none of us knowed that?” Kaylee asked, lost.
“Because there isn't one,” Mal frowned. “It's a blackrock. Uninhabitable. Terraformin' didn't hold, or some such. Few settlers died.”
“Was it right before the war?” Zoë asked.
“I had to show them,” River murmured to Simon. “I didn't know if you were going to make me sleep,” she added in apology.
“You could have asked,” Simon returned, voice hoarse.
Kaylee perked up, looking at the screen. “Wait a tick,” she muttered, “yeah! Some years back, there was call for workers to settle on Miranda. Daddy talked it...”” she trailed off, frowning.
Wash looked up, uncertain. “But there's nothin' about it on the Cortex. History, Astronomy, it's not in there.”
Mal shook his head. “Half of writin' history is hidin' the truth,” he declared. “There's somethin' on that rock the Alliance doesn't want known.”
Inara approached the pilot's station. “That's right on the edge of the Burnham Quadrant, right?” she clarified. “Furthest planet out,” she added, glancing at Mal. “It's not that far from here...”
“Whoah,” Wash protested, straightening in his seat. “No, no...”
“That's a bad notion,” Zoe added as Wash added a plea. She walked to the co-pilot's station. “I got it, baby,” she murmured.
“Show them the bad,” Wash urged.
Zoë tapped in some commands, and expanded the view to put the planet in context. “This is us, at Haven,” she indicated on the screen, “and here's Miranda. All along here, that empty space in between,” she indicated, “that's Reaver territory.”
“They just float out there,” Wash went on, “sending out raiding parties.”
“Nobody ventures there. Not even the Alliance,” Zoë assured them. “You go through that, you're signing up to be a banquet,” she finished in grim warning.
“I'm on board with our standard 'run and hide' scenario,” Wash averred. “And we are just about...” he trailed off as he checked their position and the view. “Wait...”
Xander felt his stomach clench as Serenity
glided around a mountain, bringing Book's settlement into sight.~~~~~
Faith looked around, remembering her dream, of fire and blood. She turned her head, and saw Kaylee, looking at the body on the ground in front of her, Mal, stopping near the cannon, Jayne not far behind. She saw Mal's head come up as he called for Simon, and the medic rushing over. She turned her head further.~~~~~
Dawn ran down the ramp, and called to Faith who was standing there, stunned. With a smooth, underhand movement, she tossed a bag to the older girl.
Faith caught the bag, and recognised it. It was the bag that Dawn had retrieved Book's amulet from, and she remembered that the girl had said Willow had packed some other little gifts in the bag. She looked up, and saw Simon running forward, urged by Jayne, Xander standing near the other two men, looking back at her, urging her to throw the bag. She grinned, and repeated Dawn's throw, though faster and stronger. She watched as Xander caught the bag with an unheard grunt, grin, and turn to run to join the other men.~~~~~
“Don't do anything,” Xander called out as he dropped in beside Simon.
“I'm trying to save him, Xander,” Simon protested. “Let me do my job.”
“Trust me,” Xander shook his head. “This will be much quicker. Book, man, can you hear me?”
The preacher grabbed at him with a bloodied hand. “I'd hate to think how I'd be if this is with the amulet,” he grunted.
“Only the living feel pain,” Xander grinned as he sorted through the bag. “Well, you know, in general, anyway.”
“The dead feel pain?” Book asked, distracted.
“Only the annoying, sucky ones,” Xander nodded, working the cork out of a small vial. He positioned it over Book's mouth. “Bottoms up,” he murmured.
Book grimaced as he swallowed the thick, bitter, green liquid. He sighed, and dropped back against Mal. After a moment, he opened his eyes again. “Perhaps if someone could get me somewhere … less uncomfortable? There's much I need to say, much to do. Most of the men are dead, and I think the women and children will need to be resettled.” He pushed up, but was restrained by Mal's arm swiftly snaking around him.
“Ah, no there, preacher,” Mal warned. “We just got you back from the dead, by means I like to know more about,” he added in an aside to Xander, “and I don't mean to let you go kill yourself by walking just now.”~~~~~
A little more than an hour later, Book was resting quietly in the infirmary, having given the all clear to the hidden settlers. Mal looked at the older man, and noticed the signs of someone descending into a brood. “Shouldn't have been you,” he frowned. “Alliance should've hit us. Should've hit me,” he declared.
“That crossed my mind,” Book retorted. He looked away. “I shot him down...”
“Yeah. I saw,” Mal offered.
“I killed the ship … that tried to kill us. Not very Christian of me,” Book mourned.
“You did what's right,” Mal consoled.
Book gave him a sardonic look. “Coming from you, that means … almost nothing.” He stared into space for a moment, then went on. “I nearly died today. We nearly lost everything.”
“And how did that not happen?” Mal asked. “You can't have known he was coming.”
“Seems River isn't the only one to know things she has no right to know,” Book frowned. “But more than that I really can't say.”
“Them kids is very different,” Mal considered. “They gave you a amulet?”
“That they did,” Book nodded. “Said they weren't even sure it would work, but if it did, it could save my life, which it did. More than that, they gave us the chance to hide our people. Sure, we lost men today, but we would have lost everything. Simply for being decent, charitable people.”
“And this is the government we got. You said they would come at me sideways. Did you stop to think you would be 'sideways'?”
“No. To be honest, I did not consider that. Just like I never considered magic could be real, and yet here we are.”
“Here we are,” Mal agreed, frowning.~~~~~
Xander sat back and stared into space. “It's Spring,” he announced to no one. “Somewhere in this place it's Spring time.”
Wash looked at him oddly. So much had happened in the last few days, from River's fit at Maidenhead, to rescuing Inara, River having another fit and showing them Miranda – and hadn't Mal been furious at Xander for helping her in that – and arriving at Haven to that bloodied mess of an assault that left none of the attackers alive, bar a single dying man (handily dispatched by Mal.) “Well, yeah,” he agreed. “There's bound to be some place where's it's Spring. Why do you say it like that?”
“That's when this shit always happens,” the younger man shrugged. “It's always during the Spring. I figure evil hates the Spring, so that's when they do their worst.”
Wash blinked. They were flying a wounded vessel (Kaylee had wept at that necessity) covered with paint, an old cannon lashed down, and (wo de tian a!
) bodies tied to Serenity's
hull. They were headed into Reaver space to a blackrock that had been abandoned years previously, all because of a little girl who didn't even weigh one hundred pounds soaking wet, yet could drop their biggest fighter without breaking a sweat (and thereby breaking the hundred pound mark.) “Spring time, huh?”
“Yeah.” Xander murmured, and looked down at his hands.
Wash watched old and terrible memories flit across the boy's face. The pain on his face made Wash feel both old and useless. It was one thing for seasoned veterans like Mal or his wife to look like that, but this boy was barely older than River, herself. Maybe twenty years old. Too young to look like that. “So how many Spring-times have you faced?”
Xander looked up, and smiled tiredly. “The first was the one where Buffy died. Just for a few moments,” he added. “CPR's a wonderful thing. We were sixteen. The next Spring,” he shuddered. “She left us for a while. It was bad. She had to...” He shook himself, and went on. “Uh. Then there was Graduation. Then last year was Adam. That was … freaky,” he mused, smiling slightly. “Bad dreams,” he added. “And this year was Glory's turn. Which is why we're here. Dawn was in danger, so Faith and I were taking her away so she could be safe.” He looked around, and laughed mirthlessly. “'Cause flying through Reaver space is safe,” he added.
“So you're, what?” Wash frowned, calculating, “Twenty-one?”
“Yep. Me and Faith are twenty-one, and Dawnie's fifteen.”
Wash shook his head. “Too young,” he objected.
Xander shrugged. “Evil doesn't wait for you to grow up.”~~~~~
They were all gathered in the cockpit as they passed by the Reaver fleet. Jayne was hugging his gun, and Xander could see the sense of that. He and Faith had taken to wearing their M16s slung across their bodies, just in case they needed them immediately, not to mention all the other weapons they had tucked away on their bodies. Conspicuous (and hidden) weapons seemed to be expected in this reality (or time, whichever) and he and Faith had taken to being constantly armed like ducks to water. Going home was going to take some getting used to. If they ever got there. Even Dawn had a pistol in a holster at the back of her belt. Currently, he was considering naming his rifle. Anything to keep his mind of the horrors he could see on the other ships, the screams Wash had silenced.
Finally, they were through, and heading towards Miranda. Faith, Xander and Dawn wandered forward to watch the pristine-looking planet grow in the cockpit windows. None of them had seen a planet from this distance before, not having been allowed up here any time they'd landed.
Dawn reached out to the window, awestruck. “Beautiful,” she whispered.~~~~~
They landed in a small city, having passed at least ten other cities, but even they could see the place was abandoned. Once Mal, Zoë and Jayne had ascertained it was safe, they joined them outside. The group of them walked slowly through the empty city, those used to fighting guarding the rest of the group. Xander and Faith stayed closer to Dawn, while Mal, Zoë and Jayne ranged further.
They came across the first body, old, skeletonised, but it hadn't been scavenged by anything larger than an insect, a fact that seriously disturbed Xander. Jayne found another one in a small vehicle that was just lying on the ground. It hadn't crashed, and it looked as though it should be functional, but the body was just lying there. Someone moved close enough to a sensor, and some advertising started up automatically. Xander huffed in grim laughter. Some things never changed.
“This the place?” he murmured to Faith.
“From my dream?” she asked. “Yeah. This place gives me the serious wiggins,” she added.
“You and me, too,” Xander grunted. He heard a scream, then, and spun to see Kaylee backing away from a window. The other side, pressed up against a glass, was a body. This one was mummified, and Mal was explaining that the room must have sealed itself hermetically when the power had gone. Simon began to diagnose, but couldn't figure it out. Mal offered the answer of painless poisons. Inara, perhaps in argument, observed that no one had fallen, but rather lain down.
Not unexpectedly, River began talking. She started off in their undecipherable (to the Sunnydale trio) Chinese, then went on. “Make them stop. They're everywhere. Every city, every... Every house, every room, they're all inside me. I can hear them all, and they're saying nothing!” Falling to her knees, she urged them to get up, and Simon reached her, trying to comfort her. “Please, God, make me a stone,” she begged, face raised.
Oddly enough, it was Jayne that came out in agreement. The planet was dead, and there was no sane reason for it to be so. ~~~~~
They found the beacon. Or rather, where it was emanating from. A Research and Rescue vehicle had crashed into the side of a building, and Wash assured them it was the source of the beacon. They all filed in, and River headed straight for a position at the centre station. She twisted something into place, which triggered a hologram. A woman, infinitely sad, giving what turned out to be her final report. River moved to face the woman, and Xander could see the similarities and differences. Similar height, different dress, but both, it seemed, with the same memories.
“It's the Pax,” she said, and Xander jerked his head around to look at Faith. 'Peace and violent death,' Faith had said. The woman went on. The Pax … the chemical they had used … had worked. The population had calmed, become so calm they had calmly lain down and died. Thirty million people, gone. Except, not all gone. Some thirty thousand became Reavers. They had made the Reavers.
She never finished the report. One of their very own, home-grown Reavers appeared, too quick for her to kill herself. Faith grabbed Dawn, and spun her around, hiding the scene, while Jayne urged someone to turn it off. Wash stepped forward, and the image was gone, but River was already on her knees, purging herself. Simon dropped to her side to comfort her, but she looked up, eyes clear. “I'm all right,” she murmured, as if surprised.~~~~~
They were gathered in the dining room again, Mal pacing as he laid out his thoughts about what had happened on Miranda, and what the Parliament had done, and would do. About his own intentions.
They sat in silence until Jayne dragged his bottle closer. Raising it, he began, “Shepherd, I recall you saying, 'If you can't do somethin' smart,'” he took a swig, “'do somethin' right.'” He glanced at Book, but slid the bottle to Simon.
Without hesitation, Simon took the bottle. “Do we have a plan?” he asked, and Xander nodded at his overt acceptance of the other man.
“Mr Universe,” Mal nodded. “We haven't the equipment to broadwave this code, but he can put it on every screen for thirty worlds. He's pretty damn close, too.”
“We've still got the Reavers, and probably the Alliance, between us and him,” Wash warned.
“That's two armies against our one bitty cannon,” Janye groused.
“It's a fair bet the Alliance knows about Mr Universe,” Zoë frowned. “They're gonna see this comin'.”
“No,” Mal shook his head. “They're not gonna see this comin'.”~~~~~
They caught the attention of one of the Reaver ships, then all the Reaver ships. They led the Reaver fleet into the ion cloud surrounding Mr Universe's moon, and when they came out, led them into the Alliance fleet. Xander spared a moment of pity for the Alliance crews. They had no way of knowing what was about to hit, and it wasn't their fault. Not truly. They were pawns of their masters, and that was all. Then Wash started jinking Serenity
, and the moment was over. They had survived Graduation. Now they had a new battle to survive.~~~~~
Xander cocked his head when Mal's voice came over the comm, instructing everyone to strap in. Simon dashed past, heading for the engine room and Kaylee, while Xander pushed Dawn toward the sitting area off the kitchen, then turned to Faith. “Go up to the cockpit. If all else fails, punch out through the windows. If anyone can do it, you can.”
Faith nodded, and headed up to the cockpit while Xander stayed with Dawn to ensure she was buckled in correctly. When she got there, Mal was already seated in the co-pilot's seat, working the controls to try and give Wash the extra control he needed.
“Where's the back-up?” Mal demanded. “Where's the back-up?”
Faith took a quick look around the cockpit, then positioned herself between the pilot and co-pilot positions, jamming her feet hard against the workspaces. She hung on for grim life as the ship spun violently. She looked over to see Wash struggling to reach a switch. Snarling, she hooked a foot around the base of the station, and leaned forward. “This it?” she asked. When Wash nodded desperately, she flicked the switches, and leaned back to give him some room.
Lights started flicking back on. Zoë checked the readout. “Back-up reads at twenty percent,” she advised the men. She glanced at her husband. “Can you get us down?”
“I'm going to have to glide her in?” Wash frowned.
“Will that work?” Zoë asked, worried, and Faith shook her head in disbelief as they all stared at the too-quickly-approaching landing strip.
Faith gritted her teeth, and jammed her feet harder into the desks. She put her hands on the corners of the desks, and flexed before gripping hard, and grimaced. They were going to hit hard. They did. Faith felt the moment when the landing gear snapped off, and hung on for grim life as they bounced and slid down the landing strip, eventually spinning around to face the way they came. Finally, they stopped, and there was silence for a moment as everyone took a breath, and the red emergency lights came on.
Wash grinned. He'd gotten them down when, by all rights, they should be nothing more than a thin smear on the pavement. He turned to the others. “I am a leaf in the wind. Watch how -”~~~~~Wo de tian a
- Dear God in heaven