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CHECK MATE: Defending the black rook. (3/22)
Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Wash dreams of being a war hero ... but was it really just a dream?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2342    RATING: 8    SERIES: FIREFLY

Disclaimer: Firefly and most of these characters belong to Joss Whedon. Love him.

~ For Wash, who wanted to be the hero of a crappy town. And for Alan Tudyk who wanted Wash to have flown a few sorties in the War.

* * * * *

CHECK MATE: Defending the black rook.

* * * * *

2518 Late December.

“Need to jump. Now!”

Her husband's urgent voice roused Zoe from sleep. She smiled with deep satisfaction as she processed his words. “Again, honey? Ain't you tired yet?” She rolled over luxuriously and scooped him towards her with a long, muscular arm. Well, she was awake now and it would be a shame not to make the most of his enthusiasm.

He struggled a bit against her tightening embrace but the low moan that issued from his lips reassured her he hadn't changed his mind. She was leaning over him, nibbling and licking her way down his throat and onto his chest, when he suddenly yelled, “Gonna get humped hard!” and flung her backwards across the bed.

In a flash she was back on top of him, straddling him and pinning him down by the wrists. “You been takin' lessons in seduction from Jayne?” she asked coolly but determined to nip this little game in the bud. Zoe was no prude but she wasn't going to start role-playing the submissive for anyone. It just wasn't in her nature.

“Huh?” Wash mumbled. A light came on in his eyes and they widened with alarm as he registered his wife looming over him, looking less than amourous. It didn't help to realize that she had in some sort of unbreakable hold. “Is there a problem, lamby-toes?”

She realized he'd only been dreaming and released her grip a little, only to tighten it harder still when she began picturing the kind of dream he'd likely been having.

“Ow!” Wash was bleary with sleep and was having difficulty in making sense of his wife's mood.

“Bad dream, sweet cakes?” she asked in a tone that was far from soothing.

He thought back. “Yeah, I think it was. I was flying...”

“How Freudian.”

“I was flying in the war. Me! In the war! Can you imagine that? They were shooting at us. There was a little guy. We had to jump.” She raised an eyebrow. “With parachutes.”

“Oh.” With that Zoe released his hands and rolled off him. He thought she looked a little embarassed, but decided not to push his luck. As she cocooned herself inside the quilt and turned onto her side, Wash risked snaking an arm around her waist and kissed her hair. “Sleep well, my autumn flower.”

* * * * *

2510 – Early March.

“Purple Angel Five. Purple Angel Five. This is Purple Heaven. Do you read me?”

“Purple Heaven, this is Purple Angel Five. Reading you loud and clear. What's up, you old....?” The pilot broke off abruptly as the very air he was flying through trembled with the violence of the explosion unleashed beneath them. “Tzao gao! What in the diyu was that?”

“Browncoat scum managed to snatch a cargo of full yield mag drops. Latest issue, upgraded to carry a heavier payload.”

“Glad you waited until now to tell me that, Purple Heaven. 'Cos surprises are always fun. Go se, there goes another.”

“Well, that's the beauty of fighting for the Independents. Low-life don't have to pay for decent ordnance. They just steal ours. Get the hell out of there Purple Angel Five. There's a whole swarm of the flyin' piss-ants on your tail. Forget the target. Don't want to lose another kite. Over.”

“Sorry Purple Heaven, you're breaking up. Can't hear you.” The pilot flicked off the radio with a conspiratorial grin at his bombadier. “Can't go running home yet. Not when the big boys have come out to play. Hang on tight, bombadier. It's gonna be a bumpy ride!”

Bombadier Davie Tanaka had heard rumours the pilot he'd just been assigned to loved nothing better than a dogfight but his continued breathing seemed proof positive they were untrue. Now he gave the pilot an anxious look. The man was wearing a gleeful expression without the slightest trace of fear. His pale brows and lashes gave his eyes a wild, dangerous aspect peculiarly at odds with his casual dress of sandals, shorts and a bright orange floral shirt. He was almost lounging in his seat, completely at ease with himself and his mission. He looked up and caught Tanaka's eye.

“Don't worry, son. You and me are gonna be big damn heroes. And d'you know what that means? Women. Loads of 'em. Mine are gonna have lots of black hair, long legs and doe eyes. Think about what yours are gonna look like as you get ready to fire.” He pushed the joystick forwards and the plane went into a rapid descent. “Target acquired. Fire!”

Tanaka pressed the bomb release button by reflex and began counting the seconds until he heard the explosion.

Meanwhile Collins was laughing like a maniac. “Yet another scalp, my friend!”

“They're still behind us, sir, and closing,” Tanaka told him, fighting back the rising panic. He had hoped the enemy would have had more sense than to follow them into that last dive. “What if they try seekers?”

Collins laughed again. The younger man's limited battle experience made him quite entertaining company. “They wouldn't use seekers in the air. That would be plain crazy. And plane crazy. Seekers home in on heat, and their birds are just as hot as this one.....”

But the smile seemed to trickle off Collins' face and he nodded slowly without raising his eyes from the radar screen. “Could be you're right, Tanaka. We got incoming. Time for a bit of fresh air flying! Open the hatch. Need to jump. Now! Or we're gonna get humped hard.”

* * * * *

2511 – early November.

“Do you remember anything?”

The man who used to be Tao Collins opened his eyes and found himself looking up into the pale face of a beautiful young woman.

“No,” he mumbled, his head fuzzy and his mouth dry. Where in the nine hells was he? Had he brought this girl home last night? Who in the 'verse was she?

“Nothing?” she asked in a disappointed tone. “Really?”

An older man appeared beside her and without warning pulled up Collins' eyelids with a blue-gloved hand and shone a pencil torch into his eyes. “Give him time to regain consciousness properly, Amina. The coma, the procedure. It takes time. There, there, son. Take it easy.”

Amina smiled down at the man who used to be Collins. “Are you feeling OK? Would you like some mouthwash?”

He pushed himself up on his elbows and looked around. He seemed to be in a hospital. A private room in a high tech hospital. As well as the girl and the older man, there was a youth. Small build. Dark greasy hair. Familiar somehow.

“Takano!” he said, suddenly certain he knew him.

The others exchanged serious glances and the older man muttered “Tamade” under his breath.

“No, not Takano,” the girl said gently. “Tanaka. D'you remember his first name at all?”

No, he didn't. Then he realized with shock that he didn't even know his own name. “What the hell's going on here? Who are you people? And more importantly, who am I?”

Surprisingly his outburst made everyone smile with ... relief. All of a sudden they were palpably more relaxed. The older man clapped his hands together. “It's worked. Maybe... Now concentrate, son. What do you remember? Anything?”

The man who would soon learn to think of himself as Wash Warren closed his eyes and chased the nebulous forms floating around his brain. “Baby geese. Goslings. A juggler.” He opened his eyes again with a start. “And dinosaurs. Am I insane by any chance? A danger to myself and others?”

“No, not at all. Now tell me, what's your favourite food?”

“What use is this? OK, OK. I like bao. My mother used to make it every Sunday. It was the best...”

“Yes, yes. Good. And your least favourite?”

“Fast food. But only because I was sacked from a fry-cook opportunity once. Can't remember why.”

“It doesn't matter. Or rather, it does. It means it's worked. Now, tell me, what is it you find most attractive in a woman?”

“The legs. Definitely the legs.”

The one called Tanaka groaned and shook his head. “That's bad. I mean, that's right. Aircrew were always joking about it. He even said as much just before...”

The girl interrupted. “It's all right. Some parts of the psyche are too deeply entrenched to be much affected by the reprogramming. You can't hope to eliminate the true persona, just modify it. Make it manageable.” She gave him a reassuring smile.

“Don't worry, you're amongst friends,” her colleague cut her off to address Collins/Warren. “You're a hero. Which makes you a target for any Browncoat hundan looking to make a name for himself.. Which means we need to keep you off the radar. So they don't kill you. Or worse.”

The man who was now Warren looked bewildered. He shook his head violently. “No. I may be crazy but I'm not stupid. Alliance, Independents. Who cares? I'm not interested in politics. I'm a commercial pilot.. Long haul between quadrants mainly.” He tried to remember his last job, but the memory was shallow and grey. No colour or texture to it. He felt defeated, lost.

Amina noticed his shoulders begin to sag and placed a gentle hand on them. “Try not to worry. You've been through a lot. Experienced a lot of trauma. We've given you something to help.”

“Like what?” he asked, feeling cornered and helpless, not sure whether to trust these people or not.

Amina and the older man exchanged a look. He shrugged. “Tell him. He'll forget soon enough.”

“We've suppressed the trauma with a chemical implant and given you a whole new identity to stop it resurfacing. I know. It sounds like science fiction! But you're a hero. You've earned this chance at a normal life. No-one wants you to go through.... Anway, once the memories start to bed down, you'll feel a lot better. We programmed in a lot of optimism. It should kick in within a day or two.”

Warren suddenly felt very tired. He wanted to crawl away and hide somewhere. “Then what?” he pleaded.

“Then we'll get you fit again. Teach you the practical stuff. There's no need for concern. We're on your side.”

Tanaka approached the bed. “You're a gorram hero, sir. And you saved my life. I'll be with you every step of the way.”

Xing Harris and Amina Meng withdrew from the room. When they were certain Tanaka was engaging Warren in conversation they began to speak in hushed whispers.

“It does look as though we were successful,” Harris said. “He seems totally stable. Not like the others. We could get a commendation for this. Maybe promotion.”

“I'd feel more confident if I were certain all the reversal serum had been destroyed.”

“The lab took a direct hit,” Harris told her. “The whole lot was vapourized.”

Amina frowned. “Or so they say.”

* * * * *

2512 - November

Davie trudged down the corridor, his mind racing. He really wanted Collins – no, sorry, it was Warren now – to take this job. For two reasons. Firstly, he couldn't live without coin for ever and the Alliance couldn't fund his return to civilian life. It would look too suspicious. Secondly, his father had told him 'Serenity' was owned by a Browncoat. The man had somehow survived the Battle of Serenity Valley, which would make him a great prize when the time came... Davie envisioned himself in a victory parade, dragging Reynolds in chains down the main street of Capital City on Londinium.

“Grr! Argh. Damn your plastic heart. Die you hundan, die!” Seeing Davie enter the mess, Wash finished the battle raging between his toy dinosaurs with a flourish and blood curdling death cry.

Davie took a seat opposite him and the dining table, looking around to see what the other pilots thought of his friend's eccentric behaviour. None of them were paying him any attention and Davie surmised they had either become totally used to it or were doing their best not to encourage him.

“Come to celebrate my spectacular success in the final exam?” Wash asked, raising a glass of cider. “A toast, to me. Only the top scoring candidate of the year!”

Davie smiled with genuine delight. “That's great! So, you're all up to date with your qualifications now? That's good, because I've found you a job. Or at least, my dad has.”

“Oh, thank you.” Wash sounded less than delighted. After all the hard work of studying he had been planning to kick up his heels a while and make the most of the effect telling a woman you were a pilot had on her morals.

“You've got an interview tomorrow. Ship's in the Moonward docks. Serenity. Captain's called Malcolm Reynolds. It's only a bit of a flea-bag operation at the moment, but Dad likes the fella. And at least it's a start.”

No need to tell Warren the plan. Not just yet.

* * * * *

COMMENTS

Wednesday, March 31, 2004 3:33 AM

JEBBYPAL


Nice set up, interested to see if Wash remains the pawn or if the crew figure it out.

Zoe's rxn to Wash's nightmare kinda bothered me. I would have thought that she'd try to get him to talk about it or something. Although I guess she figures he's joking or avoiding it since he says he was flying in the war and the crew thinks he didn't fight

Wednesday, March 31, 2004 3:32 PM

NEROLI


I'm really enjoying this series, definaitly some differant takes on how they all came together. :-)


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