Those Left Behind Ch4
Monday, May 3, 2004



See Ch1 for Disclaimers. Thanks to my beta reader, Neroli.

Warning: This one is actually a little darker than the previous -- no actual blood and gore, but it will be disturbing.

Chapter 4: Realizations

"What do you mean he's no longer useful?" the suited man demanded.

The technician gulped as he tried to swallow down his fear. "I can't explain it sir. He's stopped responding to any stimuli. We've run multiple tests, but there doesn't appear to be a physiological reason for his catatonia."

The suited man turned to his partner. "What do you think? Should this project be terminated?"

His double paused before answering as he rubbed his chin with his blue-gloved hand. "No, not yet. We'll learn more from the dissection if he's still alive."


Simon jerked awake to the sound of his sister screaming. He quickly changed his position so that he was kneeling beside her bed. "River! River, calm down! Your safe, it's okay, mei mei!" His shouts had no effect; in fact her screams seemed to be getting louder. When he reached out to reassure her, River began to struggle and fight against him without pausing for a breath.

"Doctor! Is she okay?" Book asked loudly from the doorway.

"I don't know. I can't calm her down. I need a sedative."

"The Captain is bringing one." Simon nodded absently as he managed to get underneath his sister and pin her into position on top of him. By holding her immobile in a sitting position, he could at least assure himself that she wouldn't accidentally injure either one of them.

Book stepped further into the room when heard footsteps in the corridor. River was totally incoherent; her eyes were wide open, but apparently blind to the familiar surroundings. Her screams brought back memories of the sounds of wounded men who knew the end was near, but that much more pain awaited them before their final release. As Mal entered the room, the Shepherd bowed his head in prayer for whatever suffering the young girl was undergoing.

"Will her normal dosage be enough?" Mal asked Simon as he loaded the syringe gun.

Simon winced as River began to thrash her head. "I'm not sure, but it is safest to start with it." Mal nodded and approached the bed. Simon could tell that he was unsure as to where to attempt to inject her. "Her arm will be fine," he instructed the Captain.

River renewed her struggles against the restraints when she felt the metal bite into her arm. The pain from the previous cuts seared her nerves and her brain ached where her skull had been removed. This cut was different though, after the initial pain she felt a relaxation. Was the story ending? Slowly she realized that the room was dark instead of bright and that there was a high pitched noise coming from somewhere. When she heard her brother's voice softly speaking calming words into her ear, she realized the noise was her. Her screams suddenly changed into body racking sobs as the smoother forced her tense and intact muscles to relax. "Simon?!" she begged.

"I'm here mei mei. I'm here. You're safe, it's okay. It was just a dream," he reassured her.

"No, not a dream! It just wasn't me," she struggled to say through her tears. Simon continued to hold her tight as he looked up at the Captain with questioning eyes. Mal just looked back with an expression of sadness and barely controlled fury.


A short time later, Mal found himself standing outside of Inara's shuttle. River had woken everyone on the ship and he found himself in no mood to deal with Kaylee's pleading eyes or Zoe's questioning stares. However, he was uncertain that he would find any comfort within the shuttle either. His choice was taken away when the door suddenly opened.

"Mal," Inara stated in surprise as she stepped back slightly.

Mal took her movement as an invitation and slid past her into the interior. Sighing, he sank onto his customary couch and leaned his head back.

"Is she okay?"

Mal snorted. "Has she ever been okay since we've known her?" he asked seriously. Poor kid, he thought, after surviving what she had while her parents refused to accept that anything was wrong, the last thing she deserved was to still feel the tortures of that place.

Inara sat down beside him. "Are you okay?"

Mal sat up and rested his head in his hands as he considered her question. "No, but I suppose I'm better than she is." Inara waited, sensing that there was more he wished to say. "At least now, Simon is beginning to understand what's going on."

"Is that what you've been waiting for?"

Mal stood and began to pace. This situation wearied his heart and soul, but it also awoke his hatred which kept him from being able to enjoy the peace offered by his ship. He was beginning to feel that maybe that peace had only been an illusion anyway. "If we hope to do anything, we'll need his help with the planning. I doubted he'd be eager to help while he was still skeptical that River was still connected to those still left in that place."

"I think you greatly underestimate Simon's character Mal."

"And you tend to think the best of folk. Fact is, the boy would be pretty unwilling to help in anything that exposed his sis to the feds unless she has something to gain. I bet that as soon as she's sleeping, he'll be demanding I go and lay siege to that rutting place."

"It is what you've been waiting for, so why do you look like you are facing the firing squad instead?"

"Because it isn't a game or a storybook, Inara. What we'll be going up against and trying to do, we'll be fighting a war. And I'm not too eager considering the fact that the odds are about the same as the last battle I fought. Only this time, the people I risk losing are . . . They're not trained for it. We don't stand a gorram chance in hell of accomplishing anything."

Inara stood and forced him to stop pacing. "Are you telling me that you don't know any former soldiers who might be eager for a re-enactment?"

Mal shook his head and stepped back a pace. "We'll still be outnumbered, outgunned, and if we're right about what River is, then they might just be expecting us."

"If that were true, then the men who got River out would never have succeeded," Inara pointed out.

"Fine! Say we do succeed, what then 'Nara? How do you propose to hide twenty or thirty insane kids from the next Alliance patrol that stops us for inspection?"

Inara allowed herself a momentary smile. Finally, she would be able to remove his last excuse. "Book and I have already made some inquiries. We've found suitable places that would easily be able to conceal up to fifty injured children," she explained.

"How? You two can't afford to be linked to this no how."

"Mal, please. We care about River as well and know a good number of people who would sympathize with others in her condition."

Mal considered her words. "Exactly how long have you and Book been planning this little operation?"

"How long have you been considering what would be required to assault the Academy?" she countered.

*** TBC in Chapter 5: Allies and Confrontations


Monday, May 3, 2004 4:55 AM


Bit of a vocabulary nitpick. IIRC, dissection is done on something dead. If it's alive, the term is vivisection. Still a great job. Keep it up.

Monday, May 3, 2004 8:50 AM


Wonderful story developing here. Gotta post more faster, though!

Monday, May 3, 2004 9:53 AM


Keep up the excellent work, either make the chapters longer or put 'em up faster cos I need more!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2004 2:09 PM


I am enjoying this story very much. Once all the pieces are in place, I think you may want to collapse it into a story without chapters. But for now, I will take the short chapters.



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