The Secrets of Serenity
By Michael Weyer
Doctor Who owned by the BBC
Firefly owned by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
This story hit me as an off-shoot of my tale "Survivor's Hearts." It's not totally necessary to read that first but here's the skinny: On a trip to 2009 Los Angeles, the 10th Doctor (post season 4) discovers that Adelle Dewitt (of the series Dollhouse) is actually his old Time Lord rival the Rani. Despite their issues (mainly the Rani's past as an amoral geneticist) the two last Time Lords decide to travel together. And before you write this off as just another Who/Firefly crossover….well, at least read all the way through.
The familiar grinding and whining sound echoed through the otherwise empty cargo hold, a wind kicking up from nowhere as the blue box slowly came to be in physical space. There was a pause for a moment before the door opened to reveal the Doctor. He was clad in his usual suit, brown this time out, with dark tire, bright tennis shoes and long coat, his dark hair framing his handsome face as he looked about. "All clear," he called out.
The Rani stepped out as well, her own short dark hair framing a face of beauty but also an intensity. She was clad in dark slacks and a stylish blazer with a ruffled top and a scarf around her throat. She adjusted it as she looked about. "Was it really necessary to do a full scan first?"
"I learned the hard way to always make sure what is right outside the TARDIS before I open the doors," the Doctor replied with a shudder.
The Rani glanced about. "Yet, you haven't been able to figure out more than immediate area. Because this does not look like Organo IV during the Tri-Moon."
The Doctor frowned as he looked about. "Huh. Interesting." He calmly paced about taking in what appeared to be the cargo hold of a ship of some sort. "Wonder if this has anything to do with that shake-up we felt coming in?"
"I simply wrote that up to your usual lack of flying skills," the Rani stated as she followed him carefully and studied the ship's interior. "Earth design. Humans always have the most mundane construction for their ships. Never understood that."
"Well, we can't all enjoy the design work of Gallifrey," the Doctor stated. He let a finger trail over one of the crates inside as he continued to pace. "Huh, rather quiet here. You'd think they'd have someone on standby in case-"
A familiar clicking sound froze them in place. They both looked up to see a heavyset man with five o'clock shadow aiming a large rifle at them. He was wearing jeans and a greasy shirt, the large gun in his hands an odd contrast to the rather odd-looking hat on his head. "Don't be trying anything, wangbadan!"
The Doctor raised his hands as he leaned in to the Rani. "Word of advice. When a man dares to wear a hat like that in public, it's best to do what he says."
"Good point," the Rani conceded, also holding up her hands. They watched as the man carefully moved down, his rifle never leaving them. "How'd you get on board?" he growled
"Ah, that," the Doctor nodded to the TARDIS behind them. The man looked at it in confusion and back at the duo. "I'm assuming you're not the man in charge?"
"If he says 'take me to your leader,' I'd advise shooting him just on the principle of the thing," the Rani flatly stated.
The man narrowed his eyes before gesturing with the rifle. "Ahead, hands up, move and I blow you ai ya head off." The two Time Lords moved and allowed him to push them forward. "Interesting to hear Chinese spoken this far," the Doctor mused as they made their way out of the hold and down a long passageway. They had gone a few steps when a door opened to reveal an attractive young woman, grease standing her overalls and dark brown hair but still not hiding her looks. "Hey, Jayne, we…" She started as she saw the two held at gunpoint. "Where did they come from?"
"What I'm about to find out," Jayne remarked. "Just get back, Kaylee, might get a bit messy."
The girl named Kaylee backed up as Jayne continued to nudge the two forward at gunpoint. They were soon entering the cockpit of the ship, which was just as run-down as the rest of it. At the controls was a handsome young man with short blond hair, dressed in light slacks and a shirt. Standing nearby was a tall and athletic black woman, strikingly beautiful but clearly a fighter by the way she grabbed a pistol out of a hip holster at the sight of the entrants. Her long curly hair framed her cool features, wearing men's pants and a vest. The final member of this group was clad in a dark brown shirt with suspenders and matching pants, a long brown coat over them with boots and was rather handsome with light brown hair, his eyebrows widening at the sight of the trio. "Shensheng de gaowan, where the hell did you two come from?"
"The common question of the day," the Doctor said, engaging in his bright smile. "Pleased to meet you. I'm the Doctor and this is my companion, the Rani."
"Companion?" the man's eyes raked over the Rani and a smirk came to his lips. "Huh, at least you stowaway in style. But that still pertains to my early question."
"Oh, we're just passing through," the Doctor brushed aside. "By the way, can we lower our hands, gets rather tiring, Captain…."
"Mal Reynolds," he answered. "And fine, lower them. But Zoe here will keep you covered." The black woman seemed more than ready to obey her captain. "Now to return to my previous path of inquiry, how the rutting hell did you get on my boat?"
"Oh, just traveling, made a wrong turn, showed up here," the Doctor nonchalantly answered. "Really, didn't expect to pop up here."
"He gets lost rather easily," the Rani stated.
Mal looked the Doctor up and down and nodded in acceptance of that. "So you figured sneaking on board my ship was a good way to haul yourselves?'
"I beg your pardon, I do not sneak anywhere!" the Doctor indignantly said.
"It's true," the Rani added. "Ten thousand versions of 'stealth' in the universe and this man has no concept of any of them."
Mal frowned as he stepped forward. "Now, I'm trying to be all polite-like, as I prefer that over a lot of fighting and bloodshed. However, we've had some…issues in the past with unwanted passengers so I am not mindful to more of the same."
"Captain, I assure you, my companion and myself have no interest in your ship or your crew," the Doctor stated. "Oh, by the way, can you tell me the year?"
A set of matching baffled stares answered him. "What luh-suh is that?" Zoe asked.
Mal shrugged. "2517."
"Hmmmm…" the Doctor mused. "Interesting. Most interesting." He brightened suddenly. "Well, then, thank you for that. Now, I assume you'll be landing somewhere soon, we can just be let off there, go on our way, you go on yours, nice to have that settled, by the way, I'm a tad puckish, you have a kitchen ehre, never mind, I'll find it." With that, he turned, brushing past Jayne and out of the cockpit before anyone could stop him.
The Rani backed up. "His behavior can be…well, you must know." She shrugged as she began to follow the Doctor.
"Hey!" Mal yelled. "You cause any trouble and you're floating out of here, dohn ma?"
As the Rani left, Mal ran a hand through his hair. "This is insane."
"Don't look at me," Wash stated from the pilot's seat. "I don't do security."
"Mal, I checked the damn hold before we took off," Jayne snapped. "They weren't there and neither was that big blue box of theirs."
"Blue box?" Mal frowned deeply. "What blue box?"
The Doctor was whistling as he entered the galley as nonchalantly as if he'd been there a hundred times. That attitude threw the people inside. One was an elderly black man with white hair pulled into a ponytail, a light smile on his face and dressed in black. The second was a young man with a serious-looking face, dark hair and a stylish suit of his own. The third, however, caught the Doctor's interest right off. She was about sixteen, very pretty with dark hair falling about her china-doll face. Her frame was clad in a simple dress but her eyes…the moment the Doctor saw those eyes, he saw something about this girl.
"Hello," he said with a smile. "Sorry to intrude, just looking for something to eat. I'm the Doctor by the way."
"Doctor?" the girl frowned. "Simon is the doctor, the protector of our blood." She cocked her head, studying him. "But you…you are the one of the storms. The lonely man who strides across the stars."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "I am," he quietly said.
"River," the young man stated. "You know this man?"
"It's all right, Simon," the girl stated with a smile. "He's here to help us. To break the bonds of the stars that hold us back in the board."
The Rani entered at that moment to take them in. "A motley assemblage," she couldn't help remarking.
"Ah, yes, this is my companion, the Rani," the Doctor introduced and once again saw those odd looks of understanding.
"Companion?" a smooth voice came from behind. "I didn't expect competition." The two turned as an elegantly beautiful woman stepped into the room. She was clad in a stylish red dress, her face nicely made up to show her beauty with long curly black hair in a braid. "Inara." She extended a hand.
"The Doctor." He took it to kiss it warmly as the Rani rolled her eyes. "We're just passing through."
"Funny way of doing it," the elderly man stated. "Shepherd Book."
"Pleasure," the Doctor nodded. It was at that moment the loudspeaker crackled. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I would ask for an impromptu meeting in the galley right after our…guests are given proper quarters. Thank you very much."
"Well, guess we should settle in," the Doctor said brightly as the Rani once more wondered at the man's grasp of reality.
"So what do we know?" Mal asked the gathered crew.
"The man is off," Simon stated.
"Tactful analysis as ever, doc."
"I mean it," Simon pressed. "He treats this as nothing more than some game."
"Not sure bout that," Zoe stated. "I don't think he's quite the fool he seems."
"No one could be quite the fool he seems," Simon pointed out.
"He's no fool." All eyes turned to River. The girl was lounging on a table, her head on her knees as she stared out. "No fool at all. He's the lost one who can break the darkness. His friend can aid, with her own dark side to help shine the light at last."
Mal rubbed his temple. "Doc, I know she has her moods but is it possible she's actually on point on something with those two?"
Simon knelt to his sister. "River. River, look at me." She did so, even if her gaze seemed distant. "These two…are they dangerous?"
"Yes," she flatly answered. "But not to us. Only to the one who plays with the pieces of our boards."
Jayne snorted. "Tyen-sah, why are we asking the nutjob anything?"
"Watch it, Jayne," Simon snapped.
"There's also that box of theirs," Mal stated. "The one they somehow managed to get on board without any of us knowing about it. Kaylee?"
The mechanic shrugged from her seat. "I took a look at it like you asked, Cap'n. Just a big box, made of wood, locked pretty tight, can't get to it with just tools. I think it's one of those special locks, needs specific person to open it."
"High-end," Mal noted. "As in possibly Alliance."
"They don't look like Alliance agents," Kaylee said. She frowned. "Although, second thought, that would be the point, wouldn't it?"
"The Companion does seem a bit more intense than the usual sort," Mal noted. "Course, if I was paid to have to be with that fella, I'd be a mite upset as well."
"We'll just have to play it cool," Jayne said. He became aware of the stares being thrown at him. "What?" He wiped at his face to see if something was stuck to it.
Wash coughed. "Ah, I do have to ask how this will pertain to our current job?"
"Fair question," Mal noted. "All right, here's how it works. We land and Kaylee keeps an eye on those two. Simon, you'll stay here with River, Book can help Kaylee while we finish the deal."
"Sounds risky, sir," Zoe stated.
"Risk brings reward, Zoe."
"Then how come we're always broke?"
"Shut up, Wash."
Inara's shuttle was designed to evoke comfort, that was clear. The lush red carpeting and pillowed couches were a far cry from the grime of the ship it was attached to. Inara herself was pouring tea out of a lovely china pot into a pair of matching cups. "Hope you don't mind a slight aftertaste," she stated. "We're not as caught up on supplies so far."
"You seem an odd member of a crew like this," the Doctor noted.
"Oh, I'm not part of the crew," she answered. "Captain Reynolds and I simply have a….business understanding." She smiled at the Rani. "I'm sure you can relate."
The Rani frowned. "I'm not sure I do." She sipped her tea, pausing to nod. "Not too bad."
"I got the recipe from an old volume I found," Inara said as she sipped her own. "It actually came from Earth-That-Was."
"Was what?" the Doctor asked.
Inara frowned. "That was. Before we had to leave."
"Leave?" The Doctor frowned. "Whatever for? I don't recall the last wars being too difficult, not in this time period."
Inara stared at him, baffled. "Ah, I'm talking about how the entire population had to leave centuries ago. The pollution got too much?" She saw the blank look on the Doctor's face. "And we had to terraform planets to survive? The Alliance taking over?"
For once, the Rani had the same confused expression as the Doctor as she looked to the man. "That didn't happen. Even you must know that and you were eight levels behind me in Earth history classes."
"Six," the Doctor off-handedly replied. "Although you are correct on that previous point." He leaned back sipping his tea. "Hmmm….I do believe we may be staying longer than I anticipated."
"You didn't even know we were coming here."
"Precisely my point."
Oddly, this wasn't the most bizarre conversation Inara had ever been witness to. Although that did not fill her with much confidence.
The outside of the ship wasn't much better than the inside. It looked like an old bird of prey, the hull clearly cracked and faltering in various places and the only bright spot the large sun with the word Serenity painted on its side. It was docked in a spaceport with ships that were clearly better supplied and built, the heat of engines adding to that pouring down from the sun above. The air was dusty as the crew of the ship exited, the Doctor and the Rani unable not to notice the arms worn by Mal, Jayne and Zoe.
"All right, folks," Mal announced in a friendly tone. "This is just a brief stopover while we handle a small business deal. Doctor and Rani, you two can tour a bit, Kaylee and Book will make sure you're okay while they get supplies of their own. We'll meet here in an hour or so, should be good." With that, he led Zoe and Jayne off, leaving the others behind.
"Supply run?" The Rani raised an eyebrow as the rest of the group began to walk to the small town outside the dock area. "You honestly think we don't know your little crew are pirates?"
"What?" Kaylee's high-pitched laugh was far too forced. "We're not pirates!"
The Rani stared at her and Kaylee visibly withered in seconds. "We're not. We're more like...smugglers if anything, totally different!"
"Right," the Rani intoned as they kept walking. The town wasn't very large, a series of ramshackle buildings, none over three stories, spread over what would be a few city blocks. People were mingling in a variety of dress, some riding horses, others pulling carts, the ground muddy from a recent rainfall. Kaylee was whistling lightly as they made their way to what appeared to be some sort of general store. "All right, got the list, shouldn't be too hard, hope they have those bars River likes, she gets upset when she's off them."
The Rani was finding her cheeriness more than slightly annoying as Kaylee entered the store. Book was standing by the doorway to study them. "So…Doctor…where are you from?"
"Oh, here and there," the Doctor answered. "You?"
"Much the same," Book replied. He looked the Doctor over, his face growing pensive and yet a slight glint to his eyes. "You…never did explain how you got on board the ship. Much like you seem to not talk much of what you do."
The Doctor looked right back at him with the same expression. "And you don't share how a man of faith obviously had a past as a soldier." Off the reverend's look, he shrugged. "I've been around soldiers enough to know one, no matter how he hides it." His eyes narrowed. "Or is that something your colleagues aren't supposed to know about?"
Book just looked back at him as if understanding in a new way. "Book?" Kaylee's voice called out from the store. "I need some help with these!" Book backed up before entering, but still looking after the Doctor.
The Doctor turned to see the Rani leaning on a saddle post, her gaze sweeping over the town. He moved to join her, also leaning on the post, his hands in his coat pocket. "So….what do we have?"
"2517 and these people believe Earth is an uninhabitable wasteland. No ships with faster-than-light capability yet they are able to find a star system with supposedly hundreds of planets and moons able to handle life. The terraforming process appears to be far more advanced than technology like that should be with a race sans FTL capabilities. People appear to be using old-styled projectile weapons, no lasers or plasma devices and a civilization of the 26th century looks more like the 19th American West."
The Doctor nodded as he took her analysis in. "Rani, my dear, something is most rotten around here."
"From the smells in my nose, quite a few things are rotten around here."
The Doctor ignored that. "I mean it, Rani. Something is quite, quite wrong. And so, I do believe it's time we found out what." With that, he pushed himself off the post and marched confidently down the main street of the town. Sighing, the Rani followed him, once more wishing they had just gone on a trip to a beach planet like she'd suggested.
Kaylee was exiting the store when she stared at the empty spot. "Oh, gao se," she groaned.
In the course of a long career in a dirty business, Mal Reynolds had learned that entering a deal with a friendly smile and a shotgun got you much further than just a friendly smile.
He was putting that philosophy to the test as he, Zoe and Jayne stood before the five men in a dark warehouse, his lips pulled into a smile as he tapped the crate before them. "Now, I know we're a tad late and all but we can still pull your delivery off."
The leader of the men, a short and squat balding mal in an ill-fitting suit, took a drag off a cigar. "I have concerns over the fact you were late."
"Just a few minutes," Mal stated. "Ran into some…delays along the way with unexpected travelers. But we're here now and ready to cart this off."
The man blew out his cloud of smoke. "Reynolds, I was warned hiring you all was a risk. I'm taking a chance but I need to know you're reliable."
"Reliable is my middle name," Mal stated. "Well, it's not but no need to get into my family dynamics right now."
"I do believe he's calling into question our honor, sir," Zoe said.
"Now, that's like talking about the dodo. Hard to question something that doesn't exist."
The cigar-smoking man glared at Zoe. "You always let your woman make the talk, Reynolds?"
"First, she's not my woman," Mal said, letting some edge come into his tone. "Second, I can assure you that Zoe is far from the most intimidating woman I have known."
"Beg pardon, sir?"
"Sorry, Zoe, but you never knew my mother."
"Point taken, sir."
The cigar-smoking man coughed as he waved a hand to get their attention. "We need this moved now, Reynolds. We have an agent breathing down our necks to get their hands on this and us in jail. Ship this to Canton and you'll get paid there."
"We'd better," Mal said with the edge in his voice growing. "We don't like double-crosses."
"Relax, Reynolds, as long as things run smoothly, we'll-"
The door to the room burst open as the Doctor waltzed in with a light smile. "Ah, Captain Reynolds, there you are!"
"Qingwa cao de liumang, what are you doing here?!" Mal yelled. The men beside the cigar-smoker had the weapons out but the Doctor didn't seem to notice. The Rani was following him, her senses alert as she took in the situation while the Doctor, as usual, kept his focus on Reynolds. "We have much to talk about."
"Doctor," Mal snapped through gritted teeth. "Kind of in the middle of something here."
"That's all right, it can wait," the Doctor waved off, leaning a hand right on the crate. "I'm most concerned about the state of this galaxy of yours and your history. I think we need to have a long discussion regarding it."
Mal just stared in disbelief before looking at the Rani. "Is this guy cracked?"
"Shattered, in my opinion," the Rani answered, her own eyes never leaving the four men who appeared ready to raise their guns up. "Doctor, I would truly advise trying to hold back that incessant need for attention of yours but this isn't our business."
"It involves time, Rani, that is our business."
"In what possible way is that our business?"
"We're Time Lords."
"Oh, now you want us to live up to our name. After all the tirades in school about the backward mentality and stubborn-headed way they kept to themselves…"
"You had the same concerns."
"That was because of how they limited me, not because-"
"Excuse me!" the cigar-smoking man yelled out. "Reynolds, if this is your way of working a deal-"
"Chalky, trust me, this is just a brief inner hiccup," Mal quickly said. "Believe me, we run our operation far more efficiently than this, give us a job and it'll all be smooth sailing…"
The door was kicked open hard as a figure entered, a large pistol held in each hand. "Everyone, freeze!"
"Oh for the love of…." Mal groaned. One of the men was raising his gun but the figure let out a blast that knocked it away. "I said, don't move!"
"Actually, you said, freeze, that's really a…."
"Shut up, Doctor!" the Rani snapped, raising her hands up.
The figure was moving into the main light of the room, the gun steady and aimed at both sides of the crate. She was a strikingly beautiful woman with dark brown hair cut short to the nape of her neck. Her face was marked with a sharp nose and lovely eyes, beautiful but also intense and professional. She was clad in dark black jeans with matching boots and a top that had a zipper up the front and did little to hide her athletic, yet shapely body. She stepped closer, her eyes going over everyone in front of her. "Now the first one of you wangbadan who tries anything is going to….to…" Her voice trailed off as her eyes fell on Mal, going as wide as her mouth as she froze in place.
Normally, Zoe and Jayne would have taken advantage of this distraction to pull their weapons out. However, they were both too taken aback by the fact that Mal had the exact same look of utter shock on his own face as he stared at the woman. The two were locked in that bizarre match, both trying to work their jaws, Mal's voice rasping out first.
They looked each other over before yelling in unison. "How did YOU get into the future?"
The Rani closed her eyes before leaning in toward Zoe. "Tell me…does the Doctor currently have on his face a smile radiating both triumph and childlike glee?"
"He does, at that."
Tightening her eyes, the Rani's usual calm and cool exterior finally melted. "Ni tama de tianxia suoyou de ren duo gaisi!"
"Now that's a statement of adoration I can get behind," the Doctor smile broadly.
I've seen a dozen fics of the idea with Castle having once been Mal Reynolds. Yet I'm amazed no one has touched on the other obvious idea: What if Mal Reynolds was once Richard Castle? Provided enough interest, answers to come along with more on the secrets of the Firefly universe. All comments welcomed.