The kick to the ribs woke Zoë, almost pushing her out of bed. She rolled to the side, grabbing her gun from the nightstand as she sprang to her feet. Wash was shaking and mumbling in his sleep, his closed eyes darting from side to side.
"No!" He yelled out at someone in his nightmare, "No, you can't make me! I won't do it." He sat bolt upright, instantly awake. His frightened eyes scanned the room. They stopped when he saw the gun in his wife's hands, and he screamed. He back-pedalled across the room until he hit the ladder. He was up it in an instant, screaming as he ran along the corridor.
The rest of the crew (with the exception of Jayne) where awake by the time Zoë found Wash in the cargo bay, huddled in one corner, rocking back and forth slowly.
"What in the hell is going on here?" Mel asked, looking round, "Zoë?"
"I don't know sir: he was having a bad dream, then woke up and freaked out big time." Zoë knelt back down next to her husband, "Wash, what's going on?"
"I didn't want to do it: they made me." Wash didn't even seem to notice the others, "I didn't even want to be there."
"Doc, any idea what's wrong with him?" Mal turned to the young medic.
"Nothing that would explain this." Simon shook his head, "He came to me the other day complaining of a headache, but apart from that…"
"He's remembering." River said from the catwalk, "They made him forget, but he's remembering."
"What are you talking about River?" Irena asked, "What is he remembering?"
"Bad things." River turned and walked away.
"What could Wash have to remember that that bad?" Kaylee asked.
"I don't know, but I want to find out." Mal rubbed his chin, "Ok, time we where getting up anyway. Kaylee: wake Jayne and tell him to take watch on the bridge. Zoë, Simon: get Wash to the infirmary and see if you can give him something to calm him down enough to so we can find out what's gotten him so spooked." He looked round to see everyone was staring at him, "Today people: like it already happened!!"
"I found traces of a powerfully, and illegal, memory suppressant in Wash's blood." Simon stood at one end off the mess table, looking at the others, "Someone, most likely the Alliance, wanted him to forget something."
"The Alliance?" Mal raised an eyebrow, "What the hell would they want to mess with his memory for?"
"I don't know: but we had to knock him out to keep him from harming himself." For the first time that Mel could remember, Zoë looked scared, "I know he has no great love for them, who here dose, but he's never said anything about being involved with them."
"Maybe he saw something he wasn't meant to?" Kaylee suggested.
"No, the Alliance would just kill him if it was as simple as that." Mal shook his head, trying to think, "It must have been important to them that he lived, but not remember something that happened." He shrugged, "The only person who knows for sure is Wash. Doc, can you wake him enough so that he'd be able to talk without being dangerous?"
"I can try and wake him a little, but it could be dangerous to Wash." Simon looked uneasy, "This is like nothing I've ever seen before, nothing I have any experience with."
"Well, unless we go ask the Alliance what they did to him, you're all we've got." Mal shook his head, "Zoë: it's up to you."
"Let's do it."
Kaylee locked the infirmary door from the outside, leaving Mal, Zoë and Simon alone inside with Wash. They had spent an hour removing anything sharp or dangers from inside. Simon had carefully checked and rechecked the dosage he needed in his medical encyclopaedia before laying it out on a small tray.
"Ok." The doctor looked at Mal and Zoë, "I'm going to start with a low dose, try and bring him out slowly: I use to much, and he could go into shock. I think it's also best if only Zoë talks to him: he trusts her more than anyone else." Simon waited to make sure the others understood, "Ok, here we go." He gently pressed the hypodermic into the vain in Wash's arm and pushed the plunger in slightly.
"Wash, can you hear me?" Zoë asked, her concern clear on her face.
"Yes." Wash turned his head to the side slightly.
"Wash, can you tell me what you where dreaming about?"
"Why where you having a nightmare about the ship."
"Not ship." Wash twitched slight, "Battle."
"Why where you dreaming about the Battle of Serenity?"
"No!" Wash yelled, pulling at his restraints, "No, you can't make me! I won't do it."
"Doc?" Mal looked up.
"The remnant of the memory suppressant is still at work." Simon looked at the EKG readouts, "I'm going to give him a little more stimulant: see if he can work through it."
"Wash, listen to me: you're safe now." Zoë took her husbands hand, "Why where you dreaming about the Battle of Serenity?"
"I didn't want to do it: they made me." Wash seemed to relax a little, "I didn't even want to be there."
"Who Wash, who made you?"
"What did the Alliance do to you?"
"Drafted. Came to the school and said we had to fly for them."
"You where a pilot in the war?"
"Didn't want to: they made us."
"Jesus." Mal looked at Zoë, "Did he ever say anything about this to you?"
"Not a thing Sir." The first mate shook her head, "He always said he didn't graduate till after the war ended."
"Must be part of what they blocked." Mal felt his mouth go dry, "Ask him about the battle."
"Wash." Zoë knelt down closer to her husband, "What do you remember about the Battle of Serenity?"
"Transport. More troops." Wash sounded slightly euphoric as the drugs stared to affect his mind, "General said it would all be over soon. That we could all go home." His face fell, "Then he said we had to fire as we landed."
"Oh my god." Mal's eyes went wide as he remembered the last few hours of the battle, "He was there."
"Wash, what happened?" Zoë asked, wanting to know how involved her husband had been.
"I couldn't do it." Wash shook his head, "Told the General I wouldn't. He had them arrest me; did it himself."
"Oh thank god for that." Mal rubbed his eyes.
"I think that's enough for now." Simon looked at the others, "I think we all need some rest."
"Wash was a conscript?" Irena looked shocked at what the others had told her, "I can't believe it."
"Believe it: he was only, what, 17-years old? And they made him fly combat missions." Mal looked angry, "I can't believe they'd do something like that to someone like Wash: he's got to be one of the kindest people I've ever met."
"No way he would have done it through choice." Zoë looked ready to kill someone, "Why did they block out the memory?"
"There was a major public outcry after the battle about the fact that Alliance waited so long before sending in hospital ships." Simon sat down, physically and mentally drained, "There was said to be a cover up as to who was responsible for it. They must have wanted to keep Wash on as a pilot, but not have to worry about him mouthing off about what he saw. Block out the memories, then offer him a commission."
"He tells them he's not interested, and disappears off their radar." Mal nodded, "I guess they figured that he's not a threat to them. Maybe they didn't know that the drugs would ware off."
"Maybe." Zoë looked round, "But what if they did?"
"I was wondering how long it would be before you sort me out." Shepard Book sat on the edge of a crate in the cargo bay, reading from his Bible.
"I figure we've got a lot to talk about." Wash stepped from the shadows, gun in hand, "Don't you, General?"
"That we do." Book sat the Bible down, "Are you going to shoot me yourself, or hand me over to Mal and Zoë?"
"I was planning on doing it myself." Wash cocked the hammer on the revolver, "But not until after you tell me WHY you stole my memories!"
"I could tell you that it was to cover up for what I did, and at the time that was probably as true as any other reason. I could tell you that it was because I thought you where an excellent pilot with a bright future in front of you, and that would likewise be true." Book clasped his hands together, "Or I could tell you the truth: that I was so appalled by what I had done, by what the war had turned me into, that I wanted to run as far away from it as I could. I knew the rest of the bridge crew would keep quite, and not wanting another death on my hands, I told the doctors to take your memories away."
"You have my thanks."
"I resigned from the military two days after the war ended, and took holy orders in an attempt to find redemption for what I had done. I spent eight years in the monastery, praying, meditating, and seeking forgiveness. Then I realised that by locking myself away I had turned my back on the things I'd done. So I decided to become a missionary. I packed my things and headed for the spaceport to find a ship heading away from the core."
"I will admit that I felt it a little strange to travel on a ship named Serenity, but then I saw you: despite what you may think of me, I take my religion very seriously, and I knew that there was no way the Lord would have brought us back together without good reason. So I decided to stay, hoping that I could find a way to make up for what I'd done."
"Like that'll ever happen."
"You think so? Tell me; have you ever wondered how we're able to slip past the Alliance, time and again? Why the just let us go that time we where caught taking salvage off that ship the Reveres hit? Why Simon and River are still free? I might not like the fact that the Alliance considers me a war hero; the only person on this ship that deserves that title is the Captain, but I can use who I am to do good."
"You think that's enough to make up for what you did?"
"No; I never will. But I do have the right to at lest try."
"What's to stop me telling Mal and Zoë?"
"Nothing." Book shrugged, "I'm sure that they will kill me the moment they find out. I doubt the others will even try and stop them. But killing me now would be different to killing me during the war: Mal and Zoë may be killers, but they're not murderous, and neither are you."
"Maybe." Wash released the hammer, gently putting it back into the resting position, "But I'll be watching you." He turned and left."
"So will I." River said from the catwalk. She turned to go, then hesitated, "And thank you."
"I merely do what I feel I must." Book looked up at her, arms held open, "For what I must atone for. For what we all must atone for."
This story is really two ideas' I've had for a while now: The first was a back-story that would explain why Wash doesn't talk about his past that much, and why such a hotshot pilot ended up on a ship like Serenity to start with. The second story was a Shepard Book back-story that would explain the 'odd' things he knows, and why the Alliance helped him when he was shot in Safe.