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Antebellum - Book I: Chapter Fourteen
Friday, June 16, 2006

The fourteenth chapter in a Big Damn Sequel series. In this installment: Michael plays with Andrew and argues with Gabriella.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1440    RATING: 8    SERIES: FIREFLY

Book One – Chapter Fourteen _______________________________________________________________

Michael never put much stock into Nietzsche. On the whole, he was just rhetoric.

When he was much, much younger, Michael would read Nietzsche for fun. He also enjoyed Machiavelli, Shan Yu, and the Mongrel Artemis Kuran. This bizarre penchant for such literature worried his parents at the time, though Michael could never figure out why. Nevertheless, they would often try to hide the books from him, and every time he would find them. At the time, they had no idea of what their son was capable of or of the lengths he would go to find what he wanted. Michael often questioned whether they ever really did appreciate his skills they way they should have.

Typically, he would read a chapter or two from the book, then place it in an area of the house where his mother or father would see it, so they could hide it again and repeat the cycle. The simple intake of knowledge soon became his reward for solving the puzzles and challenges set before him.

Needless to say, when Michael arrived at the Academy for the first time, and was instructed to read volumes of texts—texts believed to be far beyond his intellectual grasp—Michael was a bit confused. On a few occasions Michael refused to do any such studying, believing that his new Teachers were mocking him.

Michael’s counselor, Dr. Theo Dorn, saw this sort of stubbornness as more evidence of a heightened level of mental fortitude. That was how Michael was accepted into the Oracle Program.

‘What does not destroy me, makes me stronger,’ says Friedrich Nietzsche.

Please, Michael thought. It was a clever idea, with interesting inspiration, but ultimately flawed. Michael worked hard to prove this theory of imperfection ever since he first read that passage. His theory, so far, had gone mostly unchallenged.

In the end, all philosophy is made rhetorical.

In reflecting on the state in which he left Hathwald Fuller, Michael could not see any truth in Nietzsche’s theory. That man was not destroyed, but he certainly could not be considered any stronger for that mercy. Michael saw to that personally. Just as he did with Dr. Theo Dorn.

He did, of course, let Fuller live. Michael could be described as many things, but he was not a monster. He was told by his “subordinates” that he should have killed, or at least arrested, the man who aided the Serenity terrorists on Three Hills. They called Fuller a traitor, a label that did not fit the stocky, bearded man at all.

Michael understood the confusion. Most men had nothing but actions to judge people by. So if a man looked to be a traitor, it was inconceivable that that man should be anything else. Michael, on the other hand, had an advantage. He had more than mere actions to work from. He could see clearly that Fuller was not a traitor. Misguided in his ideals, certainly. But that wasn’t a death sentence. Not yet anyway. He wouldn’t betray his friends. Even with the prospect of his own death, Michael had to glean the truth from him. Even at the prospect of his son’s death.

Fuller was a good, honest man. Michael would not feel right killing such a gentleman.

He did, however, have to cut off Fuller’s hand. Spare the rod, spoil the child.

But Michael liked to imagine that he had handled the impromptu surgery with care and compassion, regardless to how Fuller responded. Michael had even bestowed his medical knowledge on the poor man by cleaning and sewing up the wound for him.

After all, he was not a monster.

He had kept the hand. Those with him saw this as being unusual behavior. He could hear them whispering. But of course they didn’t have the same advantage that he had. They could only see his actions and judge him solely hence. And label him as “crazy.” But he knew better. That was his burden, to be able to Read but not be read.

Michael sat in the clean white room where Andrew was kept in his glass cage. Andrew did as he always did, jumping around his confines and ramming his shoulders against the walls. Every time, Andrew did this, the metal shards stuck in his shoulders dug deeper and deeper into his flesh. Although, most of the pieces had gone in as far as they could go a long time ago. Occasionally he would stop his bouts around the cage to stare at Michael, clicking his tongue wildly from behind his broken, splintered teeth.

Michael often wondered if Andrew was trying to communicate with him by the clicking of his tongue. Ordinarily Michael was able to understand any kind of communication by simply Reading. With Andrew, however, it was different. All his thoughts were so slashed and torn, he doubted if even Andrew could decipher them.

Michael knew that Andrew was unhappy though. He saw to that.

Michael had tied Fuller’s hand to a short tether, tightly around where the wrist used to be. He gingerly placed the hand in the small hatch on the cage. The hatch where Andrew’s food was presented to him. Since Andrew’s arms were bound up against his body, Michael always found amusing seeing how he would manage eating, using only his teeth to hold the food.

But today Michael had another kind of amusement planned. With the hand placed in the cage, Andrew would charge the hatch, hoping for his weekly meal. As the mangled man leapt for his food, Michael would tug back on the attached tether, sending the meal out of his reach, and sending poor Andrew into the wall of his glass cage.

Andrew would immediately spring into another rage-filled outburst around his pen, while Michael sat back observing this behavior. He would then repeat this action until he grew tired.

Michael rarely grew tired of something so fun.

“Why do you do that?”

Michael smiled widely at the voice, but still kept most of his attentions on his tethered toy.

“I felt you coming,” Michael said.

“I assumed you would,” Gabriella responded, moving closer to her brother. He didn’t break his crouching stance to meet her.

“I suppose it’s all I can do.”

It was an odd feeling being around Gabriella. It was slightly similar to being around Andrew, but a lot more complicated. They were unable to read each other. Dr. Chen always said that it was too dangerous to even contemplate. According to him—or rather, according to Chen’s thoughts—the animal test subjects were killed nearly instantly, presumably after attempting to read the other animals’ brains.

A couple hundred chimpanzees with their brains imploded. Michael would have liked to see that.

But they could still sense the other. A brother could sense his sister on the other side of the galaxy, or so the psychiatrists theorized. It was for this theory that Gabriella was a bit dismayed. But, being unable to sense that emotion, Michael ignored her the best he could, and returned to his game.

“You didn’t answer me.”

“You really are a genius, huh?”

“Grow up.”

Michael cocked his head to see behind him, but didn’t try real hard, so he could only see his sister a small bit through the corner of his eye.

“What do you want, Gabriella?”

“Why do you do that to Andrew?”

“It’s fun. Don’t you remember fun things anymore?”

“It hurts him.”

“He’s already hurting. I’m never hurting. It’s a ‘rich get richer, poor get poorer’ sort of thing, I suppose, but it fits my basic need for entertainment.”

He felt his mind starting to wander, but he did no action to try and prevent it from doing so.

“There is a theory, Gabriella, that suggests if the an organism—an animal—suddenly stopped consuming its primary food source, that food source would not grow in abundance, as logic would suggest. Instead, as the theory goes, the food source would inexplicably vanish in a purple-colored cloud of uselessness. You see, it’s conjectured that since so many creatures’ respective purposes hinge on their usefulness as dinner, when that purpose is removed, the universe simply gets rid of them. This theory has gone on to explain the existence—and the necessity—of cannabalism.”

He paused slightly, keeping his back toward his sister. “Are you still here?”

“Yes,” Gabriella said sharply.

“Then what do you want, Gabriella, my sweet?”

“They’re going to Cytherea.”

Michael raised an eyebrow and made it to his feet to face his sister.

“You’re certain?”

“They are.”

Michael smirked contemptuously. “So you’re trusting the scientists, eh? The chimp-killers?”

“Well, they’re the only thing we’ve got going right now, aren’t they?”

Gabriella’s words cut Michael through the heart, but he was unwilling to let her see it. He returned his attention to his friend, Andrew.

“They want us to go there,” Gabriella continued. “They want us to finish it.”

“And then what?”

“What?”

Michael pulled back on his tether and watched Andrew run headfirst, once again, into the glass.

“We kill Malcolm Reynolds. We do what we want with the rest of the crew. What do we do with our darling River?”

“What’s it to you?” Gabriella said, smirking playfully at her brother.

“Just curious, I guess.”

“If it were up to you, Michael, you’d simply kill the poor girl, too.”

Michael couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer accuracy of his sister’s words.

“And who says it’s not up to me? But of course you know, Gabriella, I am extremely incapable of ‘simply’ killing anybody. I find it a pity for such a momentous event to so often occur in a single instant. It’s what we’ve been waiting for since birth. Death… should be a life-changing event.”

“Always the poet,” Gabriella ribbed her brother, but he paid her little attention.

“All deaths, if done right, should be like Andrew’s here.” He paused to gaze at the bloodied face inside the cage, his spread-open face dripping with saliva.

“Everlasting.” He smiled to himself, and then turned back to his sister. “But enough about me. What would you do with her, if it were up to you?”

She felt the condescending tone crawl under her skin. Michael always had a talent at getting to her. That, as far as she was concerned, was his shining, singular gift.

“I would cure her, Michael.”

Her brother tittered with light laughter, as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“’Cure her,’ she says. And how would you do that, my sweet? Cure her from what?”

“Cure her…” Gabriella said slowly, she believed for Michael’s benefit. “…from the mental disease that fate, coupled by a dim-witted doctor who had the nerve to call himself a relative, bestowed upon her.”

“Mmm. And how?”

“By administering the Process. Thereby making her whole again.”

“The Process, you say? You don’t imagine, that by some odd chance, this ‘cure’ will kill her? Like it killed the hundreds before her? Save for us, of course.”

Gabriella couldn’t conjure up an answer. Michael was definitely getting to her. And he could see it.

“But you think this Process will ‘make her whole.’ As it made you ‘whole.’”

“Yes.”

“Are you whole?”

The question took Gabriella off guard, and he knew it.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Are you whole? Have you ever considered that you’re… you know, crazy?”

“No.”

“Of course not. Only sane people think they’re crazy. But then we start wandering into Catch-22s, I suppose.”

Gabriella looked deeply at her brother, thankful that she could not read his thoughts, and at the same time thankful that he could not read hers.

“Get ready. We leave in a few hours.” Gabriella turned back toward the door, content in leaving Michael and Andrew alone. But he stopped her.

“She’s nothing special, you know?” He said to her, casually strolling around the room, circling Andrew’s cage, who was getting agitated by his food deprivation.

“To hear Dr. Chen, Dr. Mathias, and Counselor Ioseph talk about her, one would expect her to be the Alliance’s messiah. But then to look at the records, one would see a trembling child, who never appreciated the praise songs sung in her name, and who always thought that she was better than…”

He stopped talking suddenly and looked Gabriella directly in the eye. He wanted his sister to say it.

“Who was she better than, Gabriella?”

A smile spread across her full lips. “Us,” she whispered. “She is better than us, Michael.”

“No. You see, I tend to disagree with that notion.”

“Do you?” she challenged. “And on what do you base this disagreement?”

“Pure, unfiltered bias and ego. You see, while she spends her nights whispering secrets to the invisible gnomes living in her eyelids, I spend my nights sleeping soundly. Healthily. I, then, say that I am better.”

“Then why can’t you find her?”

The question put a blue flame in Michael’s eyes. There were many times in their history in which Michael felt the need to pummel his beautiful sister to the ground with his bare fists, but it was everything he could do to simply keep from acting out the desire now. He could no longer think about anything except to fight against his instinct to destroy that pretty face.

In that instant, he could think of nothing finer.

“Be quiet,” he growled.

“You can’t, can you?”

“I said, be—!”

“I can’t feel her,” Gabriella said, silencing her brother.

It took a moment for him to respond.

“Don’t talk to me about that,” he said dismissively.

“And I don’t think that you can, either.”

“Gabriella, stop it!”

“Which means one of only two things. She’s either dead or someone is keeping us—”

“That is enough!” Michael shouted, unable to restrain himself. His hand flew forward, knocking Gabriella across the jaw.

Gabriella stared up narrowly at her brother, and he quickly lowered his eyes. He knew that if they ever tried to fight each other, he might win, but he would be put in a state that would make his victory less enjoyable. Besides, the odds were against him that he’d win.

“Ghosts don’t exist, Gabriella,” he said softly, backing away slightly to avoid any sort of retribution from his sister.

“And if she’s dead, then?”

“They’re going to Cytherea. Either way, it’ll all be over soon.”

“We’re growing weak, Michael. We have to acknowledge that.”

“Ghosts—”

“I’m not saying that. But we have to know our own weaknesses. In order to protect them.”

Michael took Fuller’s hand by the tether and held it by his side. He was no longer in the mood for games.

“To what purpose? To what end? You don’t believe Chen. Or the Parliament. Or anyone else behind the curtain. The death of Malcolm Reynolds won’t bring peace. Only destruction. Only annihilation. What are you fighting for? What good will come of ‘curing’ River Tam?”

Gabriella’s eyes sparkled as her smile appeared yet again. Gabriella always had a talent for getting to Michael.

“What are you thinking, Gabriella?”

“Figure it out. The conventional way.”

With a smug smirk, she turned to the door, but not before prodding her brother one last time.

“Genius.”

“She’s nothing special, Gabriella!” Michael called to her as she left the room. “She’s a reject! A failure! She’s no Christ. She’s no God. She’s not like us.”

Convinced that she was no longer within earshot, Michael turned back to the glass cage, where Andrew snarled angrily back at him.

“Thank God for cannibals, Andrew,” Michael said, tossing the hand through the feeding hatch. “As long as humans are still someone’s primary food source, we’ll never lose our purpose.”

He smiled fondly as Andrew did his best to shred his small morsel of food, as the inside glass soon became decorated with dull red, anemic streaks of blood.

‘God is dead,’ says Friedrich Nietzsche.

Clearly, Friedrich Nietzsche had never met Michael.

COMMENTS

Friday, June 23, 2006 12:42 AM

AMDOBELL


Miss our crew. And as for that comment at the end, there is no way in *diyu* that Michael is God. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, July 6, 2006 6:30 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


So...is this what River would have become then? Deluded sociopaths warped by attempts to improve the human body and mind? Bet River will mention her joy that she's broken and happy with her life;)

Really wanna beat Michael down. Probably would die a horrible death from injuries sustained, but...gotta go sometime:P

BEB


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