Serenity After Miranda: Autumn Flower
As the battle ended, things seemed quieter even though, outside Mr. Universe's private fort, broken ships and bodies sometimes fell flaming from the sky.
Inside the building, the Operative had ordered a stand-down. The Reavers were nearly defeated. And a small Alliance transport hovered discreetly behind the Reaver ship, on a level with Serenity's prow. Inside Serenity's shadowy, broken bridge, four nondescript members of an Alliance Blue Team stood around the pilot's impaled body.
Blue4 said, “Think it's Reynolds?”
“Maybe,” said Blue3, a middle-aged woman with a pinched face. “We want the entire crew, dead or
alive. Need to see the Tam girl's effect on them."
not just a reader. She's a sender. So her abilities may have rubbed
off a little.” She held out a pen-like silver wand, and the solid wooden
harpoon through Wash's chest collapsed into carbon dust. “Get him into a
Blue7 objected. “The body is beyond repair.”
“Hardly. It's still warm, just a matter of recirculating fluids and eventually replacing damaged organs. She quoted from the Rescuscitation Manual: 'Given the proper vacuum apparatus, a human body can be drained of blood in 8.4 seconds.'”
“And revived in three
minutes,” added Blue4. They'd all had to memorize it. Part of the
They set to work on Wash's body, and his faintly glowing, pulsating, coffin-like stasis pod was on the Alliance's St. Swithens hospital ship within an hour.
Once the crew was released from the hospital, Zoë received a nice jar of ashes from the Alliance. After the battle, the Alliance had made no attempt to keep the bodies separate in the mass cremations necessary to manage the sheer volume of dead. The ashes of thousands were surreptitiously blended together and blessed by practitioners of the seven major faiths. Not a single speck of ash in that jar had come from Wash, that being on account that Zoë's man was more-or-less alive. But the Alliance felt his fate should be on a need-to-know basis.
"...Soar." What had he just been saying? Wash startled awake to the sound of blaring klaxons. He was in a wheelchair, being pushed at speed down an
antiseptic white hallway. He felt a mild ache in his upper torso, and some
disorientation, but otherwise, pleasantly drugged. Trying to focus, he mumbled, “What
An orderly in blue gloves, with all the warmth of a snake, was pushing his chair. “Be quiet. We're evacuating.”“What is it we're evacuating from?”
“Saint Swithens Hospital Ship. You've been in a crash.” They swept around a corner. People in uniform and hospital scrubs were running past them, and Wash heard screams.
“Crash?" He struggled to
remember, and his expression crumpled in anguish. “Oh, God! Zoë.
Where – have you seen my wife?”
The orderly's face didn't change expression. “The Serenity's
crew was killed by Reavers. You're the only one we were able to
orderly pushed the wheelchair down a hall whose lights were failing.
They heard an explosion in the distance. At the end of the hall, the
door crumpled. The orderly's life depended on getting his charge to
safety. He cursed and did a U-turn, struggling with the chair.
Oblivious to their danger, Wash pressed hands over his face.
“No, no, no, this–this is all wrong. Nothing–I mean nothing
kills Mal. You could throw him into the heart of Blue Sun and
he'd...” the tears came hard. "Kaylee?" he whimpered. "Ah, no." He cursed himself. He'd crashed his
beautiful Serenity, leaving them all sitting ducks to be molested and
slaughtered and turned into fashion statements, and he couldn't help
but picture that happening to each and every one of the crew.
Worse: Perhaps some of them had been turned, like that poor kid who cut himself up and attacked Commander Harken. Jayne? Zoë? Mal? What horrors could they commit, given their skills and strength? God, if River... and then he chuckled miserably, cursing his gallows-humor brain that could make a gorram joke out of anything. “River? Reaver. Reaver? River! How do you do? Rahhhrgghh!”
They turned a hard right. Thundering feet and snarls preceded the
bang of a door flying open. Wash shrank back in his chair as a knot
of Reavers spilled through the entry with a collective snarl, brandishing bloody weapons, preceded by their own appalling stench. The orderly
stopped and pulled a little silver pen out of his pocket.
brandished it, the Reavers all came to an abrupt halt, dropped their weapons, howled in agony, and clutched
ruined faces with obscenely filthy hands. First the blood came, then
their bodies exploded into pulp and bone. But more entered, stumbling
and sliding in the muck, and then more from behind.
many!" Wash whispered. "Here I come, Zoë." He pictured her as he loved her best: in their bed, laughing, naked and loving. "My Autumn Flower," he murmured.
His orderly was taken down, screaming. One of the Reavers turned to Wash with a snarl. A couple of others knocked the wheelchair over. And then their fun really began.
Hours later – and whether it was three or a thousand, he didn't
know or care – what was left of Hoban Washburne staggered into the
Saint Swithens' bridge. He wore nothing but a sort of sarong he'd
made out of a tropical-print hospital scrub, and carried a gun in
each hand. There was a female Reaver pilot already at the hospital ship's helm, preparing to split off from the Reaver transport that had overtaken
the St. Swithens.
It's hard to talk with a split tongue. Wash growled at her: “Get out of my chair.” But it sounded like, “Geth outh ob mai chaiw.”
She snarled at him, and he shot her dead.
He hauled her out of his way. Then he clambered into the pilot
seat, flipped the Three Switches, and spoke into the comm: “Nes' stop
Hopper Thation. Ethra. Fresh mea'.”
His com filled with the roars and screams of his Reaver
compatriots. Nobody came to kill him, so he figured they were all
right with that. After they left atmo, he sat back and looked at the still-itchy scar
on his bare, blood-spattered chest. The scar was wide as his hand, and circular, radiating out from a central point, almost like petals.
autumn flower." He tried to say it, but his mouth wouldn't form
Then he rummaged in a tool box for a metal file, and set to work, sharpening his teeth.
Six months later, River and Mal stood
hidden in snowy pine woods. The Captain and his pilot/ninja ballerina were disguised as Reavers, wearing filthy rags, their faces smeared with dirt and fake blood, and Mal's normally impeccable hair was hidden under a makeshift wig made of yak dreadlocks. They looked up at the cloudy sky, watching a Firefly Class One hovering over a
tiny landing field in a clearing. It was belching radioactive exhaust, had been fully and fearsomely Reaverified, and the name
"Lily Belle" on its side had been nearly obscured with red
paint. The ship hovered, then landed light-as-a-feather despite the Firefly One's standard rickety stabilizers and the the
close-set trees. A moment later the cargo bay opened. From their hiding place, Mal and River watched the
Reaver crew run out into the snow to the west, armed to the teeth, low to the ground, bent on ruin.
River said, "They wont see the trap until it's already killed them."
Mal gestured to the horrific hulk of a once-sweet cargo vessel. He said, "Now all that needs doing is..." He put the hull-piercing rocket launcher to
his shoulder, but River stopped him.
"Can't. Not yet."
There was an odd smile on her face. He could tell she was watching
movies in her head again.
"Well, why-ever not, girl?"
"Pilot's still in there."
"Wouldn't it be simpler blowin' it all up in one fell swoop?"
"Pilot's still alive." Eyes bright, she fished a tranquilizer gun out of her big pocket and, staying low, slunk toward the open cargo bay. "But he won't be much trouble. Not too much."
"You sure you know what you're doin',
little bird?" She always did. It drove him a bit crazy.
She didn't turn, so he didn't catch her
murmured response. "We're looking for an autumn flower."