Blue Sun Down
A AU Star Wars/AU Firefly Crossover
27-19 BBY Star Wars
2518 CE Firefly
Quinlan Vos, Jedi Master,
Cast and Crew of Firefly 3 weeks after Serenity.
AU Wash and Book were both severely injured, BUT LIVED (because I wanted them to).
Former Operative (Character's name is Samhael Afolabi [Yoruba for Born Into Wealth)
New Operative (Code Name: Walsingham).
Prologue: A Ghost of Memory
Serenity moved as a shadow in the black, drifting with minimal power through the endless void of space.
Within this shadow of a ship moved a shadow of a person, almost transparent in her slimness, ethereal in her silence. She skimmed barefoot through the gantries above Serenity's cargo hold, listening; observing. Healing. She was a creature of darkness, with large, expressive eyes that sucked in the meager illumination of the ship's sleep cycle and peered with vision beyond that of her fellow crewmates.
Three weeks ago, they were on Mr. Universe. Three weeks ago, she wielded a chipped axe and a bent sword made from an atmospheric propeller against at least eighty Reavers. She remembered the feeling of exhilaration that coursed through her veins as everything in her life, all the pain and anguish and memories that were never hers coalesced into that one, brilliant moment of purpose.
Three weeks ago, River Tam realized she was a killer.
There were other killers on this ship, men and women capable of and willing to take life. She could hear them now—sense, perhaps was the better word. The captain was talking to Inara on the flight deck. Since their brush with the Operative, Inara had elected to remain on board. Each night for the past three weeks, she had tended to the captain's many hurts, obtained in his fight with the Alliance's most deadly assassin.
"Did I show you where he stabbed me?" Mal said for the tenth time that evening.
"Yes, Mal," Inara said. River could hear the smile on the Companion's lips; she could feel the love there that neither Mal nor Inara could quite conceal any longer.
On the other side of the ship, in the Infirmary, she could hear Zoe reading to her husband. Wash nearly died on Mr. Universe, pierced through his stomach by a Reaver grapple. It was a stroke of luck bordering on the miraculous that the grapple itself stopped the internal bleeding, and even more so that it missed both the heart and the lungs. There were three cracked vertebrae, but the spinal cord was not damaged.
Simon, who was not in very good shape himself after the fight with the Reavers, was able to remove the grapple with the help of the Alliance medical personnel on loan from an oddly recalcitrant Operative. With state of the art facilities on an Alliance cruiser, Simon managed to salvage much of Wash's stomach and intestines, save for four feet of large intestine that suffered the worst of the damage. That section of Wash's digestive track now rested in a large jar filled with preserving gel under the pilot's panel on the flight deck, right next to his plastic dinosaurs.
She could hear Wash now, interrupting Zoe. "Honey, I'm hungry. Could you get me something to eat…oh, that's right. My stomach's gone. Never mind."
Zoe chuckled and kissed her husband passionately. "I'm glad you're not dead, Honey."
"Me too, Honey," Wash said. It was not a joke, and neither laughed.
"Yes, my beautiful warrior woman?"
"You're not a leaf on the wind."
A pained snort of breath. "Now you tell me." A moment later, Zoe continued reading.
Simon was in Kaylee's room. Neither were killers. In fact, they were the only two truly innocent people on the ship, despite Simon's beliefs about her. If she were anyone else, River would have blushed at what she sensed. Consummation. Passion. Heat. Simon was happy with Kaylee. Happy in Kaylee. He was relieved to be free of River, if only for a night.
River padded on through the ship. She could sense Jayne in his cabin, doing Jayne things while looking at dirty pictures. Jayne was a killer. Like her, simple in his purpose, though less complex in execution. He liked looking at women without clothes. River ran a hand over her body like the women in his magazines. Would he like her if she were naked and moved that way?
She giggled like the newly turned 18-year-old girl she was.
Then, there was Book. He knew too much, but nothing at all. Normally she did not have to try to read thoughts. She tried with Book. Tried and failed. He was a blank spot to her, which was why he frightened her so much when she first met him.
When they reached Haven, before the journey to Miranda and Mr. Universe, they found all of their friends there dead, even the children. Book, however, the Operative left alive but injured to ensure that Mal and the rest got the message.
Once again, Simon's expertise saved the good Shepherd. The damage to his body was bad enough, but the wreck on Mr. Universe almost did him in. However, as was the case with Wash, the Operative offered Alliance medical aid, which Mal accepted grudgingly.
The day they lifted off, after completing all their repairs, a shuttle landed and two Alliance soldiers carried Derrial Book to Serenity on a stretcher. He looked thinner than River remembered, but she still recognized the gleam of wisdom and mischief in his eyes as she stood watching at the top of the ramp.
"Your room's ready, Shepherd," Mal said when the older man arrived.
"Bless you, my son."
"No hard feelings about the Operative coming after you instead of us?" Mal asked.
Book made a point of examining the extensive damage to Mal's face, and the outright ginger way he still walked, even after nearly two weeks. "I'd say we're about even," the Shepherd said with a wry smile.
Book was awake now, River knew. She closed her eyes and listened. She could sense knowledge in him, knowledge of things he had no right to know. Things he could not have known and should not have known. But that was all she could get—impressions of secrets like shadows of ice under a cold ocean, hinting at frozen behemoths just under the surface.
She drifted down to him as if caught in a whirlpool. Book sat propped in his bed, reading his Bible like always. It was a revised Blue Catholic Bible, the current and most widespread incarnation of Christianity in the Alliance. He did not look up as she opened his hatch and dropped lightly in, and continued to read as she took a seat on a flimsy chair in the corner. The only decoration was a cross on the wall over his bed.
"How are the new meds holding up?' Book asked while turning a page of the well-worn book with his thumb. He did not look up.
"Better than before, but not as good as Simon hoped."
It was like this every night now. She was drawn by the promise of knowledge he carried in his mind, but stayed because with him alone her mind was not assaulted by other's thoughts.
"So what do you think of the job tomorrow?"
"People will die," she said.
He put the Bible down. "That sounds ominous."
"Ominous," River repeated. "Presaging ill-fortune. Foreshadowing evil or tragic developments. Portents of misfortunes to come. There will be many misfortunes to come."
Book was looking at her now, his warm eyes concerned. "Tell me, River, what do you see?"
"I see a Shepherd reading a Bible," she said, looking back at him. Then her eyes shifted focus from him to something beyond him. Beyond the room. "I see a Shepherd reading a Bible on a world of death. On bodies stacked high like pancakes with bloody syrup on top and giant mouths laughing as they consume the pancakes one bloody bite at a time. Their forks are very large."
She closed her eyes and pressed the heels of her hands against them. "She doesn't want to see any more."
A moment later, River dropped her hands and looked at him with a blank face. "You know who she is, don't you?"
"I know what you were meant to be, River. Not who you are. Only you can say for sure who you really are."
"They mean, I meant, to be mean, to be sent, to kill and slash and destroy events," she said in a sing-song voice. "I am a killer."
"If that is all you are, then you are what they meant you to be," Book said, a touch of sadness hidden in the deep folds of his voice. "But when you jumped into the midst of the Reavers, did you ask yourself why?"
"To save my Brother. To save my friends. To kill."
"To defend. A gun can be used for evil purposes, but the gun itself is not evil. You were created as a weapon, River, but that does not make you evil. Nor does it even mean you have to be a weapon. God gave you Free Will, and no matter how hard the Alliance tried to take it away from you, you have it still."
"She is a ghost," River said. "A memory of someone else. So many memories that aren't hers."
"What do you see when you remember things?"
"Pain. Fear. Flashes of light and red eyes. Two by two, hands of blue." She shuddered and closed her eyes. "You know what she…I am, but I can't see the answer in your head."
Book put the Bible down and stood slowly, as he did everything after being shot. He walked to the girl's side and gently guided her from the chair to the steps leading up from his cabin. "Go to sleep, child. Rest. Everything will look better in the morning."
She turned suddenly and stared at him with intense concentration. "A cyclone is coming. Ragnorak. Armageddon. We're all going to die."
"Is it coming tomorrow?"
She seemed to sink in on herself and yawned. "No, not for a few more weeks."
"Then go to sleep."
She nodded and left his room. When she was gone, Book knelt down before his bunk, looked at the cross, and prayed.
Chapter One: The Three Hills Job
"Doc, why are we havin' this discussion again?" Mal said loudly. "My boat, my rules. You don't like 'em, get the hell off, dong ma?"
"She's an eighteen-year-old girl," Simon said as the two walked down the gantry toward the waiting mule. "She is not some personal bodyguard or your in-house psychic."
Mal actually stopped. "Did you not see same said girl corpsify a whole gorram army of Reavers all by her lonesome? Did you not see same said girl save your sorry pee-goo? She does not need protecting. Way I see it, if anyone needs protecting, it's us from her." He leaned forward until his nose brushed Simon's. "So, we really gonna have this conversation, again?"
"It's okay, Simon," River said as she drifted past the two men barefoot. "I won't get shot today." She hitched a thumb at Mal. "He will. In the shoulder."
From the mule, Zoe perked up and said, "You're going to get shot today, Sir?"
"Seems so," Mal said, all thought of the doctor falling from his brain. "Zhoa mei mei, how am I going to be shot?"
River climbed into the mule and slipped on a pair of Jayne's old, oversized goggles as the mercenary also climbed in. The look of exasperation she gave him made her look like a mother scolding a slow child. "With a gun, silly."
"Will we make any money?" Jayne said as he climbed in.
The merc shrugged and looked at Mal. "Sounds worth it to me. Let's go."
With a last look at River, Mal climbed into the Mule as Zoe kicked it in gear. As they flew out of the cargo hold, he turned and said, "Which shoulder?"
River leaned forward and poked his left shoulder. "'Least it's not my gun arm," Mal said.
The job was supposed to be a simple transport: a cryo-chest of cattle embryos to be shipped to a rancher on Santo. Plus a security man to ensure no one tampers with it. Because of the questionable nature of shipping agricultural products without proper permits, the seller was willing to pay a lot, since said permits cost even more than that. Geneered livestock capable of moving from world to world while remaining viable was a closely guarded commodity on the core worlds. This, as Mal explained, was why he was charging a lot in the first place.
However, as the mule hovered through the desolate, sparse vegetation that was as much plant life as the moon Three Hills could produce, Mal knew right off that something was not right. The instructions Badger sent to them via Wave said very clearly that there would be no ship. Only a man, a big cryo-tank, and nothing else.
Technically speaking, there wasn't a ship there. What they saw were the remains of a ship. Must have been a sleek one, too, with a smooth white hull from what they could see of the fuselage. The only piece of the ship they could clearly make out was what looked like the fin of a giant white whale turned on its back. The wing or fin rose a good twenty feet into the air from the blackened remains.
"Ho, there!" Mal called.
"We should go," River said.
"You said there's money to be made!" Jayne said.
"This doesn't feel right, Sir," Zoe said, ignoring the large mercenary. "We should go."
Mal stood to examine the wreckage and then turned to look down at River. "If we go, will I still get shot?"
She peered up at him through her goggles. "Three," she said.
"Sir!" Zoe said in warning.
Mal jerked back to his left and tumbled out of the mule, followed a split second later by the distant report of a gun echoing across the small valley where the unknown ship had crashed.
Jayne and Zoe responded instantly, jumping from the mule to a low hillock topped by thin shrugs, where they immediately pointed their weapons to look for a target. Jayne had Vera up and was looking through the scope. "I count two shooters," he said. He pulled the trigger. "Make it one."
"There's two more behind the ship," River said as she casually climbed down from the Mule.
The captain was on the ground cradling his left shoulder and glaring up at her. "Tai-kong suo-yo duh shing-chiouh doh sai-jin wuh duh pee-goo!" he shouted. "Would it have been too much to say, 'Get down'?"
River shrugged and squatted beside him just as the report of the gun reached them and a bullet whizzed over her head to strike the dry, dusty ground a few feet away. "If you got down, it would have hit Zoe in the head," she said.
"Hold it right there!" a gruff male voice said. Mal looked around River at two large men bearing down on them with shotguns.
Zoe turned to face them and saw immediately they had the drop both on her and her captain. "Should I shoot them, Sir?" she called.
"She shoots, you die first," the larger of the men said to Mal.
"Shoot 'em!" Jayne called over his shoulder.
"We seem to be having a failure to communicate," Mal drawled as he looked up at the larger man from the ground. "We got no fight with you. We're here to do a job. Far as I can see, job's gone. Let us be about our way and it's yours."
"This ship's already ours," the larger man said. The smaller one simply stared at River, noting the way her loose gown pulled up her calf and back down over the peak of her knee to show the skin of her lower thigh.
"Not a point I care to argue," Mal said. "Don't care what you're about, just care 'bout getting me and mine home."
The larger gunman took a step closer, and it was the last mistake he ever made.
When River moved, it didn't look as if she were actually moving that fast and yet no one could respond fast enough to save themselves when she attacked. She flashed out a hand and grasped the barrel of the large man's shotgun. She pushed it toward the smaller man even as she swung her leg about and swept the first man's feet from underneath him.
The fall jerked his finger and he pulled the trigger. The smaller man turned into a blur of red mist as he fell backward. Jayne, who never actually turned around since he figured Zoe was handling it, kept his eye to the scope as the last sniper out in the fields stood up to see what was happening. He pulled the trigger, and the man when down.
The large gunman, meanwhile, was cursing angrily and trying to bring the shotgun to bear on a target until River spun around almost horizontal to the ground and slammed her elbow into his nose.
The snap of broken bone and cartilage was audible throughout the clearing. When River stood, the large man did not. He stared unblinking into the pale blue sky as blood gushed across his face. "Quiet now," she whispered as she stared down at him. "All quiet."
Zoe stepped over and helped Mal to his feet as they stared at River.
"Zhou mei mei, you right?"
"I'm left," she whispered as she continued to stare down at the man she killed. One of two. One with a gun. One with her own limbs. "I'm left. Never right."
"Sounds normal to me," Jayne said. "Ruttin' moon brain." It should have been an insult, except from Jayne, it came almost as admiration. One professional killer to another.
River dropped to her knees and felt moisture running down her cheeks.
"What'd I say?" Jayne said when Zoe snarled at him and went to try and comfort her.
Mal, realizing there was nothing he could do, stepped past the two women and stared at the ship. Jayne stepped up beside him. "Ever see a ship like that, Mal?" Jayne asked.
"No, he hasn't," River said. She wiped her nose and took a deep breath.
"Mei mei, would you let me talk?" Mal said. He studied the ship for a long moment, noting the unfamiliar lines and the odd fin. "No. I haven't."
"It safe, River?" Zoe asked.
"Safe?" She stared at Zoe like an animal caught in the headlights of the mule. "Never. But no one's out there. No more shooting." She turned and stared at the ship. "Reavers."
Just then Mal also saw the black harpoon sticking from the back of the fuselage. "Looks like," he said darkly. He walked forward with Jayne shadowing him to explore the wreckage.
The ship appeared to have been just under twenty yards long. The entire front end of the ship was gone, as was the entire starboard side. As Mal walked around the underbelly and raised port fin, he was able to see the contents of the strange ship spilled onto the ground. This was what the men must have been digging through when they drove up.
"That look like a cryo-tank to you?"
Jayne stared. "Guess so," he said, having no idea what a cryo-tank looked like.
Mal stepped up to the large, sealed case. It was almost four feet across, three wide, and three feet thick. He tried and confirmed it was just as heavy as it looked.
Nearby the case was the body of a man wearing an odd cut of clothes. He appeared to be in his fifties, with thinning hair. His face was smashed beyond recognition. His hands were covered in thin blue gloves.
Zoe walked around to join them. "Well?"
"Payment was supposed to be half at pick-up, half on delivery."
A large bag of platinum coins fell at his feet. He spun about, then cursed and grabbed his bleeding shoulder as River stepped around the ship. "That was our money," she said airily. "The quiet man had it."
She walked past them, her bare feet picking a debris-free path until she stood next to the large tank. She rested a hand on it, closed her eyes, and swayed. "Lost. Lost. Two by two, hands of blue. Only one, where is two?"
"Better get her away from there," Zoe suggested. "We all know she's a might strange comes to cows."
"He doesn't know what he is," River said. She continued to stare at the tank with wide, startled eyes. "Doesn't know who."
"Don't care, neither," Mal said. "Zoe, how 'bout you bring the mule around. We'll see if we can't get this fei-oo loaded up."