Then everything goes quiet and bright. Wash is perplexed. Shouldn't the power be out? Shouldn't they be running on the auxiliary…
"Nice job," the voice says. A young woman. Not any of the Serenity crew.
He looks around his chair and realizes that all of them are gone. He's alone on the bridge again – except for this woman.
She is the palest girl he's ever seen, but still has a smile sunny as Kaylee's, even wearing all black with some kind of shiny silver symbol hanging 'round her neck. She is standing near the door and comes closer. She picks up one of his toy dinosaurs. "I think playfulness is highly underrated. I should get some of these for my living room. Make guests feel more at home. I don't have guests often, but it's nice, you know?"
"What's going on? Where am I?"
"Think about it for a sec."
He stands up and sees his body in the chair, gored through with a Reaver harpoon. "Si le?" [Dead?]
She nods. "Dui." [Yeah.]
"Wo si le?" [I'm dead?] The question is redundant but he's still processing the information.
"Si le he suan le." [Dead and definitely over.]
It dawns on him. "Ni shi…?" [You are…?]
"Wo shi." [I am.]
"Well, you're much cuter than I expected. Not meaning anything by that, of course, I'm a married man. Hey, are they holdin' out all right?"
"I haven't taken any of them. You landed it true, Hoban Washburne. Never saw a pilot quite like you, and I've met a sizeable number."
He laughs – what else can he do? – and scratches his head. "Thanks. Hey, Reavers didn't get me. Well, they did, but not like the…with the torturing and the raping and the eating…not to mention the mutilation…or the eating…or the torturing…got off easy. Moment of triumph and all that."
"Exactly, sweetie. Not bad at all."
"Is Zoe going to be okay?"
"She's strong. And, um, I don't do this a lot, but given what you've done for this 'verse you live in…" She bends to his ear and whispers, "It's a girl."
Wash shouts and hugs her. "I wasn't so keen on that before, but now that I'm…I mean…she'll at least…when will she know?"
"So what happens now?"
"Take my hand, and see how I soar."
Her hand is cool but soft. And there is the beating of mighty wings.