Not my characters. In fact, this isn't even my fanfic premise, originally anyway. The wonderful voodoobuddha wrote the following opening passage and, uninterested in continuing the story, offered it to anyone who wanted to. I have decided to be that person rather than begging for more.
What is in bold was not written by me.
It was one of those rare night where nothing happened; no rogue weevils to track down or invading aliens to stop. Owen was bored. He was so bored in fact, that he'd taken to watching a random couple arguing outside on the surveillance camera. It was like a bad soap opera that he couldn't bring himself to shut off. Of course, if he hadn't been watching he'd never have seen the young woman suddenly appear.
"Jack," he beaconed his boss over, "I think you ought to see this."
"Has your mystery couple come to blows?" Jack asked as he stepped up behind the smaller man, "Who's the girl?"
"Don't know, but look at this," Owen rewound the picture so Jack could see the girl's appearance.
"Now that is interesting."
"Right out of thin air," Tosh commented, "Do you think she's alien?"
"It's possible," Jack shoved his hands in his pockets and walked towards the lift, "I'm going to greet out guest and find out for sure."
Owen turned up the volume on his monitor so he and Tosh could lean back and watch.
This was no city River had ever seen. The building before her could have easily belonged on any Core world, but the rest of it was too dense and dirty. A border planet then. Unfortunately there wasn't one with just a single unterraformed moon.
She looked around, trying to get her bearings. Jayne had been right next to her only a moment ago. They'd been fighting over the last slice of real cake Kaylee had made for Simon's birthday and now she was here.
Suddenly, she felt something behind her; a barely perceptible vibration and a stray thought about long, wavy hair. She spun on the balls of her feet towards the source.
'A dancer. Nice,'came the thought again. River knew there was someone in front of her, but she couldn't see them. She began muttering to herself about invisibility and the methods by which it might be achieved. When she started speaking about bent light waves a man appeared before her.
"Well now, that's an interesting theory, but no cigar I'm afraid," the man grinned, "Think of it as a SEP field if you like."
"Somebody Else's Problem field. Imagined by Douglas Adams for the starship Bistromathics in his novel'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', but inaccurate. Invisibility actually leeched from the Chameleon Circuit of a time ship," the man's grin faded, "I do not like cigars." She added as an afterthought.
"How did you know that?" It took River a moment to realize he wasn't asking about her dislike of tobacco.
"Unimportant," she told him, "Who are you?"
"Captain Jack Harkness," the man frowned, "And you?"
"Not the name you were born to, but it will do. I am River Tam, pilot of the Firefly class mid-bulk transport vessel Serenity."
Jack's eyes widened in surprise then narrowed, "What year?"
"2519," she answered absently as she looked around her surroundings, "Where am I?"
"Cardiff, Wales, Earth, early twenty-first century," he answered stonily, "Why don't you come with me?" Jack beaconed her over, "It's warmer inside."
"And you have questions," River smiled suddenly, "I like you better than my other hallucinations, even with your lascivious thoughts." Jack could only stare at her as they stepped onto the lift.
"We don't have room for another one of your strays," Owen yelled at Jack as the lift descended.
"Don't worry," Jack laughed, good cheer back in place, "We're hallucinations. Didn't you know?" he turned to River, "I forgot to ask. Why don't you think we're real?"
"The side affects of the procedure which removed my amygdala manifest as paranoid schizophrenia," she stated matter-of-factly. Jack and Owen blanched.
"You had your amygdala removed?" Owen nearly screamed.
Tosh looked between the man next to her and the two figures on the lift, "What's an amygdala?"
"It's an emotion filter," Jack answered staring at the girl in shock, "The part of the brain that limits what and how much you feel."
"Didn't choose," River whimpered, suddenly close to tears, "Procedure was forced. Showed too much promise."
Jack framed her face in his hands and forced her to look at him through watery eyes, "What kind of promise? Who did it?"
"Too intelligent. Too agile," she sobbed, "Alliance desired the perfect assassin and the Azure Star was only too willing to comply."
There was a moment of tense silence as an impossibly old man contemplated a half-remembered atrocity committed simultaneously far in his future and farther in his past, two scientists tried to make sense of what they'd just heard, and one very damaged young woman futilely attempted to battle unseen forces and return to her accepted reality. The moment was broken by the sound of leathery wings flapping high above. River looked up at the sound and started to scream.
"I've got her sedated and she's sleeping it off in your office." Owen told Jack forty minutes later as he entered what passed for a conference room.
"Good. Anything else?"
"Her blood pressure's through the roof, but that's to be expected after meeting your first pterodactyl, and she's a bit underweight. Other than that, she seems to be in good nic. I'll have to do a physical to really know anymore."
"Tomorrow, then, if she's up for it," Jack leaned back in his chair.
"So," Tosh leaned over the table towards her boss, "Are you going to tell us?"
"Tell you what?"
"Who she is? Where she came from? How she got here?"
"Any of the above?" Owen added.
"She says her name is River Tam and that she's from about 500 years in the future."
"And you believe her?" Owen asked, derisively.
"She did admit to being schizophrenic," Tosh said.
Jack gestured vaguely towards the roof, "There is a rift in space/timeoutside." he lowered his hand towards the table, "But just in case, Tosh? I want you to do a search for missing persons in the morning," standing up, he looked to his subordinates, "Now, why don't you two go home and get some sleep."
"Are you sure you want us to go?" Tosh asked.
Jack looked at the Japanese woman and smiled, "I think I can handleonesedated teenage girl."
"She did say something about being an assassin," Owen donned his jacket, "Not to mention insane."
"Alright," Jack ginned, amused, "I think I can handle one sedated and crazy teenage assassin."
After Own and a reluctant Toshiko had been ushered out, Jack made his way to his office and stared at the young woman sleeping deeply on his cot.
She awoke only two hours later. He'd been checking something in one of his private journals that he kept under lock and key. "You have too many years in your head, Captain," she said softly before sitting up.
Jack put his hands over his eyes and took a deep breath. "Sorry. I'm not used to your level of psychic ability around me. I'll do my best to shield." He imagined his mind as a building with many rooms, and he stuffed the rooms full, slamming and locking each door as he went.
Slow relief spread over her face. "Thank you. Now it's just stray leaking. You're even more lost that I."
"Yeah, well, I've got good people here."
When she rose from the bed, her dress was a soft ripple amidst the harsh technology and lights. "Can I make my apologies to Myfanwy?"
Jack decided to stop being disturbed by her somehow knowing things. He smiled and put his work aside. "Very well, young lady."
She took in the Hub with large, dark eyes, her bare feet padding gently on the floor. "Blood of different colors here. Sex and sweat and love. My ship is a family like yours. Less random rutting, though, which is silly because we're the ones with a Companion."
"I hope the Doctor never finds out what 'Companion' means in the Lost Colonies of the Blue Sun System of your time. I think he'd have a stroke."
"You've been to a time even he hasn't? And what do you mean, 'Lost'?"
Myfanwy was proving elusive. He gently took River's hand and steered her towards the nest. "Back when I did that sort of thing, I ran into your time and people on assignment. You're called 'Lost' because your civil war managed to obliterate all records and ability to contact the other human colonies, giving the impression that Earth was no more and that you were the only ones. And you stopped believing in aliens just cause there weren't any native to your system."
"You're being very nice to me. I won't bed you, in case you're fishing."
He let go of her hand. "I'm in a relationship, actually. Sort of. It's just…"
She smiled and pirouetted, her dress unfurling. "I actually don't know what you're going to say. It's a pleasant feeling."
"I'm kind of…super-powered, I guess you could say. And I didn't want it either."
"Anything to eat? Myfanwy is reluctant to commune." She skipped over to where the team generally had lunch.
"We could order a pizza, or go out," Jack suggested, following her. "As long as you promise to blend in. I remember provisions on ships were pretty awful."
"Will there be strawberries? Kaylee will be jealous." Then her face fell. "I wish I could get her strawberries."
"The mechanic. She's sweet on my brother. He's the doctor. Not The Doctor Oncoming Storm Doctor, just my doctor. Simon."
"Wait, you know the Doctor?"
She sprang away from him, twirling about. "Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey, Captain. Need-to-know for the Face of Boe. I need my boots. And we will go to dinner. If my Captain knew your ways you'd have a gun trained on you, but as long as there's no oatey bars nobody dies tonight."
It was then that Jack realized that her powers gave her the appearance of paranoid schizophrenia, but that everything she said was a clue. "What kind of food do you like, sweetheart?"
River selected a high-end Chinese place and made her order in eccentric but understandable Mandarin. Then she turned and asked Jack, "Could we maybe go to a grocery and buy some apples? They're very expensive on the border planets."
"You seem really relaxed about all this," Jack replied, arching an eyebrow.
"I killed some hundred Reavers with two axes. No Reavers or Hands-of-Blue neither, Earth-That-Was. And your friend is mightily perplexed outside. Why did you bring him back when you wished the Bad Wolf let you be?"
Jack saw Owen sitting at an outside table and surreptitiously looking through the window. "Could you excuse me for a minute, River?"
"What will be, will be."
"I'll take that as a 'yes'."
Owen was pretending to read a newspaper when Jack approached him. "Why are you even sitting out here?"
Owen glared. "Sometimes I like to gaze longingly at people eating, since staring at people shagging means I'd get arrested again. You got a problem with that?"
"You've obviously got a problem with me taking River out. You said she was underweight yourself."
This provoked the most angry display of newspaper folding Jack had ever seen. "Why do you trust her, Jack? And the last time I noticed, you didn't go after teenagers."
"It's nothing like that." Jack imagined iron bars over the locked doors in his mind, and then poured concrete on them for good measure. He sat and whispered to Owen what he was willing for River to glean. "In her personal future, she meets me in my personal past. When I was mortal. She's going to have saved my life."
"That means she's gotta get back to her time though, right?"
"She seems to know the Doctor. I think I should try to contact him."
Owen sat back and cracked his knuckles. Jack winced, afraid he would break his fingers but feeling too guilty to stop him. "Well, it might be a laugh to get a look at the man you abandoned us for. Is he handsome?"
Meanwhile, River had borrowed a pen from a waitress and was writing the same message over and over on a napkin, tracing over the same lines and muttering them as she went. "Another River for you, Doctor. Cardiff, May, 2008." And then the Chinese characters for bad wolf.