Sailing Beyond the Sunset, pt 10
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

River opens the box from Book, revealing the secrets contained therein.


with apologies to Robert Heinlein for the bastardization of one of his titles…

previous story segments: pt 01,pt 02,pt 03,pt 04,pt 05,pt 06,pt 07,pt 08,pt 09

Several story elements were initially based off of stories from other writers. The stories that were used are Jubal’s New Bounty by AINTWEJUST and Journey Home and Journey Home, chapter 1, both by Rielpryn. If you have not read them, I recommend them, both because they are good stories and they will help to make my stories to make sense.

- - - - -

There has to be a more efficient way of tracking these guys than following a trail of horrifically murdered people. It seemed like these guys didn’t bother interrogating their victims, they just wanted anyone who had any contact with the crew of Serenity to cease living. This had made tracking them harder, as dead bodies are much harder to question than restrained accomplices. If he only knew where Serenity was going, he could get a step ahead of these guys, maybe catch them unawares.

Tracking Serenity had led Jubal to Persephone, again. He was headed to have a bit of a sit down with a fellow called Badger, if he could find him, who was known to some to have been involved with Malcolm Reynolds in a business venture or two.

He turned and walked up the crowded main street, hand always near his finely crafted instrument of a gun. - - -

“We’ll be here for eight hours,” Monty said, stretching and breathing deeply. “If you prefer to continue on to GreenLeaf and wherever else we may end up going, please be back here by the departure time. Sometimes we get sensitive cargo and we need to leave in a timely manner. If you folks decide not to keep traveling with us, well, it’s been a pleasure having you on the ship.”

He reached out his massive hand to shake Gates’, winking at Grace before heading off with some of the crew and several large crates.

The pair stood for a minute, looking at the crowded streets before them. Steeling herself, Grace slowly walked into and joined the crowd, Gates managing to stay by her side.

“Do you think we can find out anything about any of those ships here?” Gates asked, his applied accent more pronounced than it should be.

“Well, I really want to stick with Monty and this ship as long as possible, but with the eight hours we have I should be able to eliminate a few on our list.”

She didn’t tell him about the feeling she had in the back of her mind, that even though there were still almost twenty ships on the list, Serenity was going to be where they would find the Tam children, or at least the next part of the trail. Staying with Monty and learning more about Mal and the rest of his crew was their best shot of reaching their goal.

“Do you want me to come with you, or would I just be in the way?” Gates asked, sincerity in his voice. “I want to do whatever I can to help them, even if it means sitting on the sidelines and letting you do what you’re good at.”

“Honestly, I could probably do it more quickly and more quietly being alone. Do you think that you can manage on your own for a few hours?”

“I need to learn sometime, and it seems to me that I would be welcome to return to the ship if I needed to, since we intend to continue on with them anyway.”

“Ok, then I will meet you back there in a few hours, and let you know what I have found.”

She squeezed his arm and swiftly departed into the crowds. Gates couldn’t keep his eyes on her for more than fifteen seconds before she had just become another part of the massive throng of people in this main thoroughfare. He slowly walked along the edge of the path, half lost in his own convoluted thoughts but keeping his hands stuffed into his pockets, clenched tightly to his money.

He passed an open grill, smelling the scent of roasting meat. As he looked up at the sign, his face turned from a warm smile to a sea of sickly green, his lips pursed tightly. Three months ago, he would have vomited on site, but he was forced to control himself now, making himself half smile at the double meaning of ‘Good Dogs’ as he crossed to the other side of the street.

Taking a deep breath, he stepped inside a relatively uncrowded café, sitting at a table by the wall which let him see the entire room. Grace had been incredibly helpful in teaching him how to act and sound, showing him ten different ways someone could try to pick his pockets, and making sure he always had a good view of his surroundings.

A waitress brought him a bowl of soup and a plastic teapot, steam rising from both. As far as he could tell, everyone in the place was having the same thing, which led him to believe that was all there was. He paid her, tipping a little but not being as overly gracious as he used to be. He tried the soup, which tasted like it might have some real broccoli in it, then poured a cup of tea to sip on.

A cold twinge in his gut made him look around, startled. Through the semi-clean window he could see two men outside that clearly didn’t belong in this part of the city, or even on this planet. The men were both wearing black suits, perfectly pressed, with matching ties. These men also wore bright blue nitrile gloves on their hands. One of the men stopped, turning to look at Gabriel. He got the same feeling that he did whenever Thomas looked at him aboard the War Horse. He felt like the man was looking straight through him, and that he knew exactly who Gabriel was.

The men walked on, not breaking stride, nor slowing or speeding their pace at all. Gates watched them until he could no longer see them, his soup and tea going cold from negligence. Keeping his eyes roving to watch for any possible threats, he exited, leaving the majority of his food, and headed straight for the ship, staying in the open the entire way.

- - -









- - -

River continued to stare silently at the shiny metal box with her name on it. The rest of the crew had moved closer, looking into the box to see what had caused such a reaction in both River and Mal. They stood, silently, as Mal retrieved it from the bottom of the crate and handed it to River. She ran her hands over the smooth surface of the box, tracing the letters of her name and the Chinese characters of the Blue Sun logo absentmindedly as she stared at it, seemingly transfixed by the box.

She sat down on a smaller crate, every pair of eyes on her. Slowly, she opened a metal latch and lifted the lid, an audible gasp again escaping her trembling lips. Simon rushed over to her, putting his arms around her as she pulled a framed picture from inside the box.

It was a picture of a much younger Shepherd Book.

He was clothed in an immaculate and stylish black suit.

He had bright blue nitrile gloves on his hands.

River didn’t know what to think. Seeing the man she had sat down to meals with, had disjointed religious conversations with, and even come to respect as a very educated person dressed in this fashion was almost too much for her. She had only associated hatred with the image she saw before her, yet Book’s younger face seemed to fit the uniform perfectly.

This made no sense. Why was Book dressed like that? How old was this picture? River’s head was spinning, and she sat back down on the crate, her shoulders slumped over. Simon supported her as she half-heartedly picked through the box, pulling out a thick folded piece of parchment. She unfolded it, reading over the page with a speed and intensity that caused several members of the crew to stare. She finished reading, thrusting the note into Simon’s hand, and pulled her legs to her chest, rocking slightly.

Simon took the page, one hand still on River’s shoulder. He had begun reading, his eyes widening, when Mal interrupted.

“Why don’t you read it aloud, doc? Save us some time on passing it around.”

Simon looked at Mal with a cold glare, then looked down, catching River’s eyes. She nodded slightly at him, then looked back down at the floor, still rocking in place. Simon brought the letter up to where he could see it and began reading:

“River, if you are reading this letter then I have died. Whether you knew that or not, I have no idea, though I have a feeling that you did. I felt that I owed you this explanation, and I apologize for being too much of a coward to tell you in person.

As is evident by the enclosed picture, I used to be a part of a top-secret government collaborative project with the Blue Sun Corporation. I was the first in a very small group of elite Alliance officials, and I was very proud of the coveted position I was appointed to. I worked alone at first, adding a partner after a few months of preliminary work.

The main focus of the program was to find young minds that showed promise for psychic activity, then modify and cultivate these minds to shape them into powerful weapons. Subjects were given a wide range of skills subconsciously, everything from hand-to-hand combat, weapons training, stealth tactics, and psychic attacks and espionage. We had doctors of the highest skill to manipulate the subjects’ brains, even opening their skulls and making cuts into them. The idea was to create spies and assassins, agents that could be controlled and used for only the most discreet operations. We had neurologists and psychologists and every specialist imaginable that we thought could even remotely improve or diagnose the subjects’ abilities.

There were two young men, very promising. We tried something with them that had never been tried before, and hasn’t been tried since to my knowledge. Through a mixture of surgeries, transplants, and some very specialized biotechnology, these two young men became psychically connected, making the experiment a success. These two men are now performing the job that I started off performing, and I am sure that you have firsthand knowledge of these men.

They will stop at nothing to get you back. They are amazing at identifying psychic signatures, even hours or days after a person has left a place. They have psychic weapons that there are no ways to block. If they can’t re-capture you, they will kill you, and anyone else around you. The only way that you will ever get rid of them will be to kill them before they can get to you.

There is no way I can apologize to you for the horrors that have been inflicted upon you. I realized long ago the errors of my ways, which is why I left and became a Shepherd. If I had any sense, and hadn’t let power and money get in my way, I would have had the program terminated. My greatest shame is that I let the program continue, and I can only hope that God will forgive me for it.

The items inside the box are for you alone, and when the time comes you will know what to do with them. Give my regards to the rest of the crew, and share this with them if you feel that they should know.

Shepherd Derria Book

As Simon finished reading, his last words echoing through the cargo bay, the entire crew turned their focus to River, who was still clutching her legs and rocking. Simon folded up the letter, handing it back to her. River took the letter, shoving it into the metal box and slamming it shut. She clutched the box to her chest and ran out of the room, headed for her bunk in the passenger dorms.

The crew watched her leave, still shocked into silence from the revelation. Mal looked around, then headed toward the bridge, thin package and pistol still in hand. They had to get off of this rock, get moving again and keep moving. Book’s letter only confirmed Mal’s fears, and the last thing Mal wanted was to die by drowning in his own blood.

Within minutes, he had Serenity off of the ground and headed into space, studying star charts to plot a possible course. Where, he didn’t know. They just had to keep moving.

- - -

Inara returned to her shuttle, locking the door behind her. She needed a few moments to completely understand everything she had just heard. She sat on her plush bed and took a deep breath, distractedly playing with the hem of her sleeve.

Her mind wandered to the first day Shepherd Book set foot on the ship. She remembered him coming to her after the killing of the federal agent, and him talking to her of being on the wrong ship. He had given her the second box that night, telling her not to open it until she was in possession of all five. She had buried the small white box in a hidden compartment in the back of her bottom drawer.

Her mind returning to the present, she reached inside her sleeve. She withdrew a small white box, bringing it up to eye level to examine it. It was a small white box, exactly like the other 3 in the drawer. The temptation to open it was almost overwhelming, her curiosity increased considerably by the information she had just received.

She thought back again, remembering a day long before her time on Serenity, when Book had come to her with the first little box. She didn’t know why, but there was a familiarity to him, and though she didn’t understand it, she trusted him. She had kept that box for more than a year, and when she saw Book on board Serenity, she hadn’t recognized him until that night in her shuttle.

What could be in these boxes?

Opening the drawer, she pulled out the panel that concealed the hidden compartment. She pulled out the larger box that contained the others, opening it slowly. She placed the newest one next to three others exactly like it. As she let go of the box, she could swear that she heard a faint humming, just like the last time she had gotten a new one, though she couldn’t tell if the humming was an actual sound or just an echo in her mind.

The space station had been crowded and dirty. There was a loud man proclaiming to have evidence of alien life, and the semi-argument with Mal about fencing the Lassiter. She had comforted Kaylee when Simon bumbled another attempt at romance, and that was when she saw it. On top of the crate, beside the small package for Jayne, was another small white box. Book wouldn’t look her in the eye, pretending to be distracted with teaching River to eat the ice planet. She had deftly palmed the box as Jayne donned his new hat, then laughed along with everyone else, sliding the box deep into her sleeve.

She looked at the four little white boxes one more time, then returned them to their hiding place, making sure that they would not be found. She kneeled at the foot of her bed, collecting the bowl and sponge she used to bathe herself. She needed to clear her mind so she could think about the plethora of things that were muddling her brain.

- - -

Mal sat on the bridge, lost in his own thoughts as he stared out into the Black. He had set a course for nowhere in particular, just continual motion to avoid pursuit. He turned his attention to the flat package from Book, the pistol sitting neglected beside it. Opening the package, a thin capture fell out. Mal flipped it over, activating the screen.

Shepherd Book’s face appeared on the screen, as solemn as Mal had ever seen him. His eyes seemed to look directly into Mal’s soul as he opened his mouth to speak.

“Mal, I think you are in more trouble than you realize. We implanted all of the test subjects with sub-dermal trackers, bio-linked to their brain should any of their thoughts be focused on their lives before the academy. An example of this could be something to do with her parents, or anything from her past, possibly in close enough proximity for River to sense. If this is activated, then men looking for you will be upon you more quickly than you can imagine. There is a way to find and deactivate the device, but it is complicated, and it will take all of Simon’s skills as a surgeon. The main thing to remember is…”

Mal caught only a slight glimpse of the ship, its purple thruster flames a hazy blur in front of Serenity. Before he could grab the controls and change direction, an impact rocked the boat and knocked him to the floor. Looking at an external camera capture, he could see where the strange ship had attached to his with giant pincers, pulling itself into contact with the airlock on his cargo bay door.

- - - - -

pt 11

- - - - -


Wednesday, May 17, 2006 9:17 AM


AUGH!!! oh no... why is? What the? who in the? Book was a who's it now what? I think my brain just melted.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006 7:17 PM


It seemed like these guys didn’t bother interrogating their victims, they just wanted anyone who had any contact with the crew of Serenity to cease living. This had made tracking them harder, as dead bodies are much harder to question than restrained accomplices.~LOL at the lead up and then that last line...excellent.

I'm too lonely, tired and small in spirit to give this the attention it deserves so will review the rest of this chapter once my head's on straight.

Thursday, May 18, 2006 4:40 PM


LOL @ tie-in with a great FF scene: "He passed an open grill, smelling the scent of roasting meat. As he looked up at the sign, his face turned from a warm smile to a sea of sickly green, his lips pursed tightly. Three months ago, he would have vomited on site, but he was forced to control himself now, making himself half smile at the double meaning of ‘Good Dogs’ as he crossed to the other side of the street."

I actually gasped at this bit: "Simon rushed over to her, putting his arms around her as she pulled a framed picture from inside the box.
It was a picture of a much younger Shepherd Book. He was clothed in an immaculate and stylish black suit.
He had bright blue nitrile gloves on his hands."

And omg @ River reminiscing over dinner with the shepherd, chatting about religion, and then her having to agree that his younger self truly seemed to fit with that uniform. *shivers.* What an objective Riverish comment. Niiiiice.

Okay, RiverIsMyGoddess: This fic is...all that and a gorram truckload of chips. I'm with the other reviewers, Young Book about rocks my face off the floor, LOVE the backstory, and I can totally buy it.

Voices of all our BDH's, especially considering you spoke most of their dialogue as coming from inside their heads (which is harder to do than having them interact verbally with each other) is splendid.

Loved Book's trying to give Mal a way out, and the bit about the solution being such that it will try even the brilliant Simon's best skills. More, please? Ya know we all want you...ummm, I mean we all want more of your story. Yeah. That's right. *kiss*

Thursday, May 18, 2006 7:47 PM


(whistles)....things have gone mighty ca-ca on Serenity cuz of you, River....;)

Just hope the BDHs can repell the HoBs ASAP, cuz anything resembling a drawn-out fight will end bad:(


Tuesday, May 23, 2006 4:28 AM


I'm a fan of Book River, and I like the fact that you are weaving him back into the story. Especially this way..


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From Bad to Worse, chapters 1-10 (COMPLETE)
This is a re-post from before the BSR got hit a few weeks ago.

The story takes place in between ‘The Train Job’ and ‘Bushwhacked.’ According to Inara, there is a three-ish month gap here, so I thought it would be perfect for this little story and its epilogue.

From Bad to Worse, pt 10
Thrilling heroics ensue.

From Bad to Worse, pt 09
Mal, Zoe, and Jayne come to the rescue, and backup from the engine room arrives.

From Bad to Worse, pt 08
Claire is put to the ropes, though the cavalry is on the way.

From Bad to Worse, pt 07
Mal, Jayne, and Zoe make their way back to Serenity, and Claire and her posse run into even more troubles.

From Bad to Worse, pt 06
The fighting is ended for now, though revenge is on more than one person's mind.

From Bad to Worse, pt 05
The feds arrive, a shootout involving the BDHs and Claire's posse ensues.

From Bad to Worse, pt 04
The gold is recovered, and a getaway is planned.

Sailing Beyond the Sunset, pt 17
Several crew members dwell on things past while one reunion is made and a wave from an old aquaintence is received.

From Bad to Worse, pt 03
The crews search the wreckage for their valuable treasure as Wash and Book attempt some thrilling heriocs.