Title: Eternity
Author: hoshi-tachi
Category: Harry Potter (crossover with Serenity, the movie)
Rating: T
Pairings: Canon movie pairings.
Summary: Can the crew of Serenity help someone caught in the ravages of Fate and his own mind?
Warnings: Violence, profanity.
Distribution: Ask me first, but I'm not likely to say no.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I gain nothing but satisfaction from the writing of this story.

Dr. Philbert Mathias really wished the government inspector would go away.

The work they were doing with the children was incredibly delicate, and having some government goon standing over his shoulder while he and his technicians worked was simply irritating as all get-out. It was a living example of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle- that which is observed is changed by the act of observation. His presence here was tainting the results of their tests. Why can't they just read my reports and be satisfied with that?

Of course, Mathias was not foolish enough to say any of that out loud. One did not even mouth such words in front of a government inspector if one wished to keep one's high-paying government job examining young people with impressive minds.

Right now, they were working on River Tam, who slept in one of the dream chairs, which was in the center of the room in an inclined position. Injector needles had been placed at different parts of Tam's cranium in order to stimulate various areas of her brain. Facing her in another chair was her anchor, young M12-31.

"She's dreaming," Technician Siegal reported from his post at a monitoring station.

Next to him, Technician Waits asked, "Nightmares?"

Siegal nodded. "Off the charts. Scary monsters."

Mathias had to bite back a rebuke at such unscientific terminology. Were the inspector not here, he would have let Siegal have it, but he wanted to create the impression that he ran a tight ship here. "Let's amp it up. Delcium, eight-drop," he ordered, making a notation on his clipboard.

He looked over at the inspector. The man had a pitiless face, showing no emotion whatsoever, and carried an eagle-crested baton that served no purpose he could see except to scare people into thinking the man would use it.

"See," he told the inspector, "most of our best work is done while they're asleep. We can monitor and direct their subconscious, implant suggestions..."

Tam convulsed, and the inspector's eyes widened in the first hint of an expression the doctor had seen, however brief.

Smiling gently as he hid his flash of triumph, Mathias reassured the man. "It's a little startling to see, but the results are spectacular. Especially in this case. River Tam is our star pupil."

The inspector nodded. "I've heard that."

"She's a genius. Her mental capacity is extraordinary, even with the side effects." Mathias was wincing even as the words left his mouth. Mention of the side effects always provoked irrelevant questions about the nature of those side effects, and Mathias was well and truly sick of justifying what was a necessary part of the process.

Sure enough, the inspector made a request. "Tell me about them."

Mathias held in a sigh of annoyance, which would surely have displeased the inspector. "Well, obviously, she's unstable. The neural stripping gives them heightened cognitive reception, but it also destabilizes their own reality matrix. It manifests as borderline schizophrenia, which at this point is the price for being truly psychic."

"What use do we have for a psychic if she's insane?"

Again, Mathias held back the sigh, but this time it was even more of a struggle. He'd already answered this question, more than once, when Parliament had come by to see the "academy students." In fact, the inspector's presence in light of that visit by Parliament was more than a little insulting. "I don't have to tell you the security potential of someone who can read minds. And she has lucid periods– we hope to improve on the– " Oh, the hell with this. "I'm sorry, sir, I have to ask if there's some reason for this inspection."

The inspector turned to look at Mathias with his brutally emotionless gaze. "Am I making you nervous?"

Hell yes! "Key members of Parliament have personally observed this subject. I was told their support of this project was unanimous. The demonstration of her power-"

Turning his back on Mathias, the inspector looked at Tam again. "How is she physically?"

At that, Mathias smiled. This was his favorite part, the one element of the project that had gone beyond expectations. "Like nothing we've ever seen. All our subjects are conditioned for combat, but River– she's a creature of extraordinary grace."

"Yes. She always did love to dance."

Mathias didn't like the sound of that. Up until that last sentence, the inspector had been speaking in an almost-bored monotone. But just then he sounded... wistful?

Before he could say anything, the inspector's focus shifted. "And the boy?"

"M12-31. No known identity. He was picked up on Londinium, after several witnesses described strange things happening around him. If there was anything useable there, though, the neural stripping destroyed it." Amazing. Mathias was actually getting better at reading the inspector's nearly-nonexistent expressions. That one was definitely displeasure. "It does occasionally happen," he rushed on defensively. "There's no way to tell beforehand who will or will not respond to the treatment."

The other man studied the sleeping boy. "If he's not psychic, why is he here?"

Mathias was suddenly aware of the boy's wasted appearance, all the more apparent next to Tam's physical perfection. He hadn't started out like that, merely thinner than was normal, but after nearly a year of being constantly drugged into unconsciousness with little exercise, he looked like nothing more than skin stretched over bones. "We were about to dispose of him, when one of our technicians discovered something surprising. When Number 31 and River are nearby River's test results are much better than when they are apart. The increase can be as much as three hundred percent."

The inspector's eyebrow inched ever so microscopically skyward. "What causes it?" he asked.

"I mentioned River's reality matrix is unstable. As far as we can tell, she uses him as a kind of anchor, something that helps her, well, find her way back to herself. She's a bit more lucid when he's in the same room, even."

"I see..." The inspector's face went even blanker than before. "The plan will have to change a bit, then."

The doctor blinked. "Plan, what plan?" he would have asked, except that the inspector was already moving. He dropped to one knee and slammed his eagle baton on the floor.

One and a half seconds later, Mathias's world went dark.


Thank you, Garcia, Simon thought as the bouncing betty disguised as an eagle exploded, sending a wave of energy through the room at about neck level. It rendered Mathias and his two flunkies unconscious in an instant, just as Garcia had promised.

He rushed to the massive chair in which River lay sleeping.

It had taken all of Simon's self-control to keep himself from reacting to seeing River for the first time in over two years– and worse, to see her full of tubes and needles, like someone who had just had a brain operation. For all he knew, she had; based on what Mathias told him, he wouldn't put anything past these butchers. He hadn't had the chance to discover the extent of what they'd done to her, and now he wouldn't, as his window of opportunity to get himself, River, and now their mysterious third member out of there was closing rapidly. And the boy was going to complicate things; Simon wasn't at all sure he could get all three of them out with the plan he and Garcia had concocted, but it seemed River needed him to even function.

But he had to try. Besides, leaving a child in these bastards' hands stuck in his craw, and he imagined Garcia and the others would be thrilled to see two freed instead of just one. They'd said if Simon provided the money, they'd do the rest, and they had. Simon had no idea whose uniform he was wearing, or whose credentials had let him in the door, but they were good enough to enable him to see Dr. Mathias on the pretense of a surprise inspection.

Gently removing the probes from River's head, he then reached into his briefcase and pulled out some cotton swabs to stop the bleeding. "River," he whispered. "Wake up. Please, it's Simon. River. It's your brother. Wake up!"

Miraculously, she began to stir. Satisfied with that, and that the bleeding from the tiny cuts made by the probes had stopped, Simon turned towards the other chair, removing his inspector's uniform as he went to reveal an orderly's tunic like the two technicians on the ground were wearing. He bent over the skeletal child. There were no restraints, but none were needed; Simon could smell the drugs on his breath. He pulled off the simple electrodes ringing the boy's head.


At that, Simon almost jumped out of his skin. River was standing behind him, without his having heard her move. True, she had always moved quietly before, and her feet were bare now, but still…

"They know you've come," she said, with more certainty than he'd ever heard from her before as she moved to the boy's side. One hand went out to touch his cheek. "Is the little feather going home with us?"

Simon nodded, a little startled, and leaned over to lift the child in his arms. In the back of his mind, his doctor's voice was already making diagnoses. He appeared to be eleven or twelve, but weighed nearly nothing. Severe muscular atrophy, so severe he had to wonder how rarely the boy wasn't drugged into oblivion; it was fairly obvious as well that while they'd given him the proper nutrition (judging by his skin, extremely pale but healthy) they hadn't given him more than was necessary to maintain the bare minimum of health. That part of his mind was screaming at the butchers who ran this place, and obviously saw no more value in a human being than what he could do for them.

With the boy cradled in his arms, they stepped out into the corridor, which was blissfully empty. The other "students" were nowhere to be found, and to be truthful Simon didn't spend much time looking. He had what he'd come for.

"We can't make it to the surface from inside." Before he could say anything else, footsteps rang out from further down the corridor. That room had to be monitored, so that's probably the guards wondering why the government inspector just knocked out a doctor and two technicians and sprung a couple of students. "Find a–"

Before Simon could finish the instruction, his sister had grabbed the boy from him and scampered over on top of some lab equipment. As he watched, slack-jawed, she jumped up high and did a half-flip that ended with her split legs braced against the walls. She took hold of a sprinkler with one hand for added support, still holding the limp form close to her with the other.

Mathias wasn't kidding about her grace…

The doors then opened to reveal, not guards, but two more doctors, who didn't even acknowledge Simon's presence. Even as a doctor himself, he had never understood the dismissive arrogance that most of his colleagues felt towards medical employees without degrees– which was probably why he tended to get along better with the nurses and medtechs than the other doctors. Right now, though, he was grateful for it, as the pair ignored him and didn't notice River on the ceiling.

Once they were gone, River carefully leapt back down, and Simon took the child back. They headed for the ventilation shaft Garcia had decided was the best way out. Only fifteen feet by fifteen feet, the shaft went all the way up through the various levels of the underground complex to the surface, and down past Simon's ability to see. An awed pat of him wondered if it went all the way to the planet's molten core.

Opening the window that led to the shaft, Simon and River got in. River started to climb up, and the man tried to figure out how to get his passenger up the ladder. As he thought, he wedged the window shut with his baton. It proved to be a wise move, as two guards were running towards them. They fired their lasers towards the fugitives, but the beams didn't penetrate the glass.

Simon touched the remote on his wrist as the guards spoke angrily into their coms. Above them, his little ship hovered into view, and a hatch on the bottom opened and extended down towards them.

Holy hell, were they actually pulling this off?

The panel stopped a foot over River's head. "Get on!" her brother called out, and once she had obeyed handed the boy up to her. The guards were resorting now to pounding on the glass, and brute force was beginning to accomplish what the lasers had not. Simon touched the button again, and the panel rose back up to the ship.

The escape had been accomplished so quickly ships hadn't yet mobilized to stop them, and they were able to lift off into space unhindered. His ship was tiny, meant only for one person, and with three it would be unlivable. It took some fast talking to convince River to climb into the cryo chamber in the little cargo compartment; only the knowledge that her "little feather" would be going in with her was persuasion enough.

Simon was worried about the boy. It had been a few hours since their escape, but he still showed no signs of waking up; he would have to go into cryo still drugged to the gills, which went against every medical instinct Simon had, but there was no other choice.

Carefully, he lay the boy down next to his sister, who curled around him protectively. His last sight of them before closing the chamber was of River placing a gentle kiss on the zigzagging scar on the child's forehead, and then they'd been locked away, to sleep their way to safety.

He hoped.

A/N: Please, please don't get on my case about another new story. Choir Regionals start tomorrow, and saying I'm all nerves right now would be an understatement. I needed to relax a bit, and working on my established stories was just making me tenser.

Obviously, this is an AU of Serenity, but HP is canon at least up until HBP. Possibly beyond.

As a sidenote, I have the movie. I have the book based on the movie. I have not, however, ever seen a complete episode of Firefly. Blame any lapses in my canon knowledge on that.

26 January 2006