Title: Writ in Burnished Rows of Steel

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Summary: The Alliance had never destroyed the formula for the Pax. 500 words.

Disclaimer: Whedon's, not mine.

Notes: Challenge fic. The title is a lyric fragment from the "Battle Hymn of the Republic".


"He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself."
--Chinese Proverb


The Alliance had never destroyed the formula for the Pax.

Of course they hadn't: it was too useful, too promising to let it go after one admittedly costly mistake. Several loyal scientists were set to tinker with its workings, ordered to make of it a drug that wouldn't kill, wouldn't enrage. Pacification was their stated goal, as had always been intended.

Their task wasn't even close to complete when men and women began pulling worn brown coats out of their closets and plying their needles to make others. Miranda had been uncovered, and folk already bruised by the Alliance heel had decided they wouldn't take any more. Allied generals high up the food chain, unfamiliar with the details of the project, took one look at the situation and demanded their "new" chemical weapon be deployed in quantity.

It would have been more than the scientists' lives were worth to say they weren't ready. It was more than the Alliance's existence was worth to say they were.

As ever, personal considerations won out over the big picture.

Two weeks after deployment, ninety-five percent of settlers on the border moons were dead. A month after that, what was left of the Independent movement executed a raid on an Alliance facility known only as the Academy where the remaining canisters were held; their genius figurehead and her doctor brother worked out the formula and made supplies of their own. Their leader-- only alive and sane because he'd refused to take up arms again when the call went 'round-- was through trying to live and let live; they'd taken Zoe from him. They'd taken his family in the first war. It was time for the Alliance to pay.

By that time, the outerworld survivors-- fifty times what the original Pax left alive-- had wiped out what was left of the original Reavers and gone hunting for new game. They had more control than the others; the tinkering with the drug had left them that much. They could band together, could divert their incandescent urges, could strategize. But they had no morals left, and they descended on the innerworlds in a swarm.

It was almost a piece of mercy, the day Malcolm Reynolds released the new Pax over Londinium. As an afterthought, he let it waft through his ship as well; going to sleep-- not having to see the new world they'd had a hand in-- sounded better than the alternative.

He should have known better. Serenity's crew was a lot of things, but one attribute they had in common: they didn't never lie down.

Two weeks after that, there was a new King of Londinium with his own shiny hat. His scarred cheeks were carved with Independent symbols, and the young Queen at his side was the deadliest creature in the 'verse. With Zoe come back to him, and Jayne and Inara his enforcers, there weren't anyone could challenge his rule.

He had won the war, at last. If it could be called winning.

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