Firefly/Sarah Connor Chronicles

Mal Reynolds, River Tam, Cameron "Cam" Phillips

Gift fic for a scifiland challenge.

Mal is looking for River in a marketplace – but finds Cam instead

Mal was ready to leave the market but River had slipped out of sight. Kaylee was always to be found buying fruit or looking at dresses; Jayne and Zoë were most likely to be haggling over weaponry; and Simon and Inara were drinking tea at the cantina. But where the hell should he look for River? Maybe, he thought, if he just waited, she'd telepathically pick up on his desire for her to come back to the ship and head home of her own accord.

Then he saw her – though she'd been clothes shopping, he realised. Instead of the blue dress and knee high boots she'd been sporting when they'd left the ship, River was now dressed in faded blue demins over heeled boots, a white blouse, and a leather jacket. Her hair looked shorter, straighter – maybe lighter, but Mal was aware he wasn't much of a judge on such things.

"River," he called, heading over to her, and grabbing at her sleeve. "Time to go. Nice makeover, though."

The look in her eyes wasn't one of confusion. River's often unfocussed gaze through her warm brown eyes wasn't what he saw. Instead a cold intelligence assessed him, and the woman tipped her head slightly to one side. She glanced at his fingers on her arm and Mal instinctively moved back slowly. This, he knew, was not River.


He turned. River was there, his River, looking scared yet determined. He took a step towards her, gesturing to the impostor.

"No harm done," he said hopefully.

"There she is," someone yelled close behind her. Several armed and angry men ran towards the not-River; without blinking an eyelid, she drew her gun and turned. She calmly shot each one in the head, holstering the weapon before the last body hit the floor, and returning her attention to Mal.

Mal swore in Chinese. "What are you?" he asked. "A clone?" He'd seen what River could do and the resemblance was surely not a coincidence.

"Not a clone. Not human," River babbled, tugging desperately at Mal, trying to make him move further away.

"Not human," the not-River repeated. "No. I am a cyborg. You look like me."

"Yes," River said. "River Tam. Psychic. Weapon."

"Cam," the other woman said, pointing to herself. "Weapon. Protector." She looked up. "The sun is wrong. This place is wrong. This time is wrong."

"Cyborg," Mal said in surprise. He looked to River for confirmation. She nodded. "Well ain't that grand. She's a little more advanced than most. Then again, those Lovebots aren't exactly programmed with much personality in mind."

"Lovebot?" Cam asked, one eyebrow raised.

"Not you, darling," Mal assured her. "We'll just be on our way."

"I need to get back to Earth," Cam told him. "I must protect John Connor."

"Earth? I, er, can't help you with that," Mal said. He wasn't about to explain to the dangerous robot that she was probably several centuries too late to save anyone.

Cam looked at the sky again with what looked like sadness, though maybe Mal was just imagining that. "I need to get back."

River took Mal's hand. "Maybe we can help. Time travel is impossible, but not all truths are fact."

Unwilling to try to understand her meaning, Mal simply asked, "What do you want me to do?"

"I know a place where time and space do not obey the physical rules," River said. "We could help her."

"You're the one explaining this to Simon," Mal said, knowing that once River had set her mind to something it was a fool's errand to try changing it. They were going to do this foolhardy thing. "And I suppose this trip is going to be dangerous?"

"Very." River waved to Cam. "Come with us if you want to get back to John Connor."

This, Mal thought, was going to be a very difficult journey.