Disclaimer: Firefly and Serenity belong to Joss Whedon. And rightly so.
Description: Writing challenge at Universal's official Serenity site.
Summary: You are the only journalist who has witnessed the first documented Reaver attack in the history of the 'verse. What was once considered only a campfire story is now indisputably real. File a dispatch on what you have seen and what the implications of the confirmed existence of Reavers have for the future.
REAVER HIT NOT MYTH
by Marcus Li, reporter for The Antenna, Ariel's leading Cortex newscast
No one will want to believe this story.
I know I would not, if I were reading this from the safety of my home in Ariel City. I know our brave soldiers, sitting in their barracks rooms out in the worlds of our great Alliance, will scoff and mock these words as they do with every other rumour.
But what I saw was also seen by those upstanding citizens of the Core that survived, and by the soldiers that fought to protect them. And by the many dead, who were killed or gave their lives so that we might live to tell the tale.
It was the third week visiting the Border World holdings of Lord Richmond. I had been invited to accompany him on his tour as part of his campaign for election to the Governor's staff, and no doubt many of those accessing this will have read my earlier, funnier reports, especially the one regarding his bodyguard, Quigley.
In light of recent events, I wish I had been kinder to that courageous man.
The final stop on the world of Lucia was a small factory that Lord Richmond had acquired in a particularly shrewd financial manoeuvre from one of his rivals several years before. Richmond had just finished interviewing the foreman, an employee he had not met before that day, when an alarm started to ring loudly through the factory.
To say that the man's face went pale barely describes the fear I saw in his face. The simple ringing of a bell was enough to make the foreman utterly terrified. When he was asked what the problem was, he uttered one simple word.
Like any sensible person would, we laughed this pronouncement, but allowed ourselves to be hurried out of his tiny office and towards the double doors at the entrance to the factory. We thought we were merely humouring the man, but all around us workers were downing tools and running as if their lives depended on it. Some picked up weapons, mostly knives and larger tools like crowbars; some even had firearms. How the safety regulations for this factory allowed such things to be kept in a place of work was beyond me. Perhaps the place was too backward for such things. Little did I know that it was for reasons of safety of another form entirely.
Richmond sent his secretary, Janice, ahead to get his aircar ready. But no sooner had she turned the corner of the factory than we heard the sound of her screams, her voice raised in terror and then pain. I could only imagine what was happening to her, though later I would see at close range the exact horrors that were being inflicted on the denizens of the factory township.
Then... her attackers came around the corner.
I had envisioned many possible assailants terrible enough to make use of the Reaver Myth to make their task easier. Bandits, pirates, Independents still fighting their failed war of aggression, all of them wearing the mask of a fiend from bedtime stories all across the worlds to strike fear into their victims. Nothing prepared me for the reality, that what I was seeing was no mask, no masquerade.
Men covered in the red stain of the blood of their victims, their faces cut and scarred and twisted by whatever darkness within drove them, their bodies swathed in the leathery material that they were famous for. They were not actors, or uncivilised men playing a part for effect. They were like death in human form, they WERE death.
They were Reavers.
I could not move, so stunned I was by the sight of these creatures out of nightmare. I think Lord Richmond was as frozen as I. Only Quigley, reliable Quigley, had the presence of mind enough to pull us away as some of the factory workers stepped forward to contest the invasion of their world. Shots were fired as the bodyguard dragged us towards the gates of the compound.
I did not see those men again.
By the time we had passed through the gates, Lord Richmond and I had regained enough presence of mind to move under our own power, stumbling down the main road towards the landing field where Richmond's transport awaited us. Safety was only six hundred metres away. Between us and safety lay a vision of Hell almost impossible to describe.
Three ships hung over the centre of town, ugly things that looked as if they had been rescued from a junk heap. From them dropped people – Reavers – on ropes, landing amongst the screaming townsfolk like jungle cats on a flock of waterfowl. Around us people ran or were set upon by the disfigured raiders. We could hear shots here and there as the populace sought to repel the attack.
We saw few bodies, and to begin with I could not understand why. Those we did see looked as if they had been brutally butchered, slain by vicious hands and hacked into pieces, limbs and vital parts missing. Only as we moved on did I come to realise that the reason we had seen so few bodies was that the Reavers were taking them away with them.
A small group of men backed out of the nearby drinking house, wielding an assortment of hand weapons with varying degrees of proficiency. The slowest were cut down by the Reavers at the front of the gang they were fighting with. A family were dragged into an alley close by, the children yelling shrilly as the bogymen they had never really believed in devoured their father before their eyes.
Then, striding into the centre of the madness, a squad of Alliance soldiers.
I had never been so happy to see armed men before. They could have sprung up from the ground and the sight of them could not have been more surprising to behold. They took firing stances and began to pick off Reavers wherever they saw them, and for a brief time it looked as if everything would be okay. People began to move towards them, looking for the protection they offered. Lord Richmond himself was weeping with joy upon seeing them.
Then a shadow passed overhead and metal spikes, like harpoons, fell among them like deadly rain. Men fell and terror began to grip us all again.
For his part, bolstered no doubt by the bloodshed and horror around him, Richmond rallied everyone to him and began to lead the way to the flat field such a short distance away, where his transport awaited us. I could see it begin to move slightly as it's engines began to power up, and by some miracle it remained as yet unmolested.
Like a phalanx of troops from the ancient days of Earth-That-Was, we kept the young and the injured in our centre as those armed and able to protect them kept the enemy at bay. With every metre our foes fell around us, their deaths paid with the loss of more and more of our valiant defenders.
The landing field became a killing ground. With no buildings around us the Reavers were able to come at us from all sides. Every step to the ship was paid for in blood. More lives were lost as Lord Richmond harangued his pilot into lowering the ramp, his voice filled with desperation as he endeavoured to save all our lives, not just his own.
But it was my life Quigley saved as a Reaver dropped out of the sky like a stooping falcon, knives and teeth ready and eager to rend my flesh. I could clearly see the madness in his eyes, the blood on his face, and the marking I recognised as a tattoo on the skin of his ragged tunic. Quick as a flash, the bodyguard pushed me aside and met the attack with his fists, his pistol long since empty. As the ramp lowered behind me the two of them wrestled on the ground, growling like hounds fighting over scraps. Richmond grabbed my arm and exhorted me to follow him into the ship where we would be safe.
I staggered back as townsfolk scrambled past me into the passenger section, watching the two men – if man the Reaver truly was – fought. Almost unbelievably, it was Quigley who prevailed, pulling himself to his feet to stand, victorious, over his fallen foe. As he turned, one of those vicious, barbed harpoons entered him, jutting out of his chest, slick with blood.
My last view of him, before I was pulled into the ship, was of the bodyguard staggering, his expression one of confusion, before he crumpled to the ground.
I write this now as our ship leaves Lucia far behind us, heading for a rendezvous with an Alliance cruiser. The personnel carrier the few soldiers that survived landed in is long lost, but it was sent out by that ship, the Nuremberg, to investigate reports of raiders operating in the area.
Reports, as it turned out, of Reavers at work.
The men and women around me, bloodied survivors of the Hell that had been their home, weep and curse. The soldiers keep to themselves, their own brand of talk harsh with words of vengeance. And Richmond thinks not of the factory he has lost, nor of the harm it may cause to his livelihood, but of the horrors he has seen and the lives that were lost because no one believed the stories were real.
How will the population of Ariel receive this news? How will they react to the incontrovertible truth that Reavers are real? I can only guess. I hope they won't dismiss the reports and newscasts that will soon be hitting the Cortex as hoaxes or the tales of uneducated bumpkins. When Lord Richmond adds his voice and his reputation to the rest I can not believe that the good citizens of the Alliance will disregard it so easily. And when the official military reports become available, and the press conferences start, no one will be able to doubt the truth.
Once the truth is out, the Alliance will have to act to defend it's citizens from this terrible, inhuman threat. No government as moral and as dedicated to justice as ours could stand by and allow another child to be cruelly murdered when it could be stopped. There will be a new war, and it will be fought even more ardently than the War For Unification, for this time we will stand not against our misguided brothers and sisters but against the darkness itself, the darkness that exists within us all, waiting now at the edge of space.
The weeping has lessened now as the good folk of Lucia bring each other comfort. I only hope we reach the Nuremberg before the most severely injured amongst us succumb to their wounds.
This is Marcus Li, signing off.
REPORT SUPPRESSED BY ORDER OF THE ALLIANCE
PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE FOR PUBLIC SAFETY