Prologue

River lay on top of the catwalk on Serenity, listening.

Jayne was drinking in his cabin, Simon was thinking of Kaylee in the infirmary, and Kaylee was thinking of Simon in the engine room. Inara was gone, off with a client, and Mal was dreaming of a life with Inara and their children, a life that he knew would never happen. Wash and Zoe were together in there bunk, and Book was reading his symbol of contradictions and impossibilities in his room.

Everyone was accounted for. River turned her mind outside. They were coming, she knew. Whispers ran like poison through the world underneath, a seething jumble of horror, agony, torture, and blue. So much blue. It made River hurt to see it.

They were coming, she just didn't know when. She didn't know what she was going to do. They could force her to do whatever she wanted. If they had Simon.

Simon was the key, but he didn't know it. No one knew it. It was a secret, one of many that she carried.

They were coming, the blue whispered, they were coming, and coming soon.