Somnambulism - Chapter Eleven
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Wash's Orders, Mal's Revelation, The Other, Captiulation


"Why the slowing down? I don't understand, Zoe?" Wash said.

"Walt's holding back. He let the little bit of information about how two Alliance officers were taken in broad daylight slip. He didn't really mean to let us know that. I just wonder what else he's holding onto. And, the Captain's acting strange."

"So? That's nothing new. This is the same man that didn't think twice about ending a caper with absolutely no clothes on...Remember?" Wash said.

"There's something else here. And, the more he holds back from us, the more dangerous it's like to be. He's done this to us before, and while I trust him, I need to know what's going on. Especially if I'm running this deal solo." Zoe answered.

Wash flipped three switches and turned back to his wife. That something was amiss was obvious. Just what though? Zoe probably wasn't going to tell, and Wash knew better than to ask. He throttled back to a slower cruising speed just as Zoe had asked him to earlier. Zoe squeezed his shoulder once, and left him to talk to Mal.

* * *

In Mal's quarters, an impromptu discussion on the state of River Tam's mind was going down.

"No, no, and no! There's nothing wrong with her that can't be fixed by medicine, and any supposition otherwise is ludicrous!" Simon said, advancing on Jayne Cobb a step.

Jayne eyed the much smaller doctor up and down and stifled a laugh.

"There's nothin' wrong with the girl that can't be fixed with this!" Jayne said, drawing his eight shooter.

Simon's eyes slitted, and he advanced another step. Mal sighed and stepped inbetween the two men. Jayne was already in a mood today. That was nothing new. The odd thing was the hostility the doctor was displaying. Then again, Mal supposed having the sibling that he'd fought so hard to protect suddenly threatened by a caveman like Jayne Cobb was bound to make the Doc testy.

"Why do you keep saying that she's asleep, Simon? We can plainly see her moving and talking, such as her current speech is. How can she be asleep?" Book said. Mal was grateful for the interruption, and certain that is wasn't unintentional.

Simon kept his eyes on Jayne, who smiled and winked at the doctor. "She's sleepwalking. She's somnambulant. Ever since she was a child, she's had problems with it. We all agree that River's special. That she can see and knows things she shouldn't. That she's found her way into our dreams isn't such a stretch to believe in."

Jayne, who had been doing his best into goading the doctor to fight him just so he could clean his clock but good, suddenly was listening very intently to everything Simon had to say.

"She's asleep, I think. Allowing whatever this dormant part of her is to ascend. Given her intuitive nature, and the fact that she might be a transmitter as well as a" and he looked at Mal when he said this "reader, I don't think it's wrong of me to say that sleepwalking, and the loss of control over her own mind that comes with it, is to fault for all that's going wrong with both River, and the crew."

"So, you're sayin'..."Jayne started, and Mal sighed and broke in.

"Is there anyway to stop it?"

"Normally, if a patient was acting the way River is," and he paused when Mal's eyebrows shot up "you would sedate them. River's been sedated since this morning, and with a much higher dose than I normally give her."

Simon hung his head for a moment. Mal waited for the doctor to explain himself. The doctor always did.

"I saw evidence that the story that Jayne told this morning was true."

"HAW!" Jayne whooped, sweeping his gun around the room in a victory pumping of fists that caused Book to duck. Jayne didn't notice.

Simon continued "So, I decided to sedate her for further examination. That's when the trouble began in earnest."

Mal solemnly looked at the doctor. For someone who was so passionate about the safety of his sister, he could seem so cold about her care sometimes. Mal didn't think he could have sedated a sibling for any reason other than to keep them from hurting themselves. Mal chalked it up to Simon and his coming from vastly different backgrounds. Simon, merely saw it as a means to an ends.

Book crossed the room, exchanging a tight glance with Mal that only he caught. Book whispered something in Jayne's ear. Whatever it was, it wasn't pleasant to the big man. Book took the stairs out of Mal's bunk as Jayne, giving the doctor a murderous look, elbowed the steel alloy wall and followed the Shepherd out.

The meaning of this was not lost on Simon. Mal had something to say to Simon that he didn't want the others to hear. How Book knew about it beforehand was one in a well of evergrowing mysteries about the preacher.

Mal advanced on Simon two steps, not too close, but close enough to make the doctor uncomfortable.

"River has caused nothing but mayhem and destruction aboard my ship today. Were we to go back to our original deal, I would be within my rights to shuttle both you, and her out of the nearest airlock..." Simon started to interrupt, Mal overrode him "But, I believe what's happening to your sister right now is not her fault."

Simon, who was on the defensive, blinked in noncomprehension. He had become so used to defending his sister's actions against the Captain that honestly didn't know how to proceed when Mal wasn't outright attacking her or her behavior.

"Who's fault is this then?"

Mal sighed wearily. It was the sigh of a man who has much to do, a short time to do it, and not nearly the energy to succeed.

"Oh, to hazard a guess, the Alliance. They, most likely, are the one's played in her head and made her the way she is. She must have been one hell of a little lady, for you to carry on the way you do for her."

A smile flitted across Simon's face. Mal crossed to his bunk and groggily sat, his head still cottony from the painkiller the doctor gave him earlier.

"Doc, I'm about to tell you something I haven't ever told another living soul. There are parts of it, for my sake, that I'd ask you to keep to yourself from now on. But, mostly what I want to tell you is that the behavior your sister is diplaying is not new to me. I've seen it before. On Hera."

"Hera? During the war?"

"Yes, but more to the point, during the Skirmish at the Rusty Hinge."

Simon, who had been in high school on Osiris when the war for independence was being fought blinked uncomprehendingly. It sounded like something he should know.

"You see, we're headed to the Rusty Hinge right now, and there's something there that acts a whole lot like your mei mei's acting."

And with that, Mal talked to Simon, for the most part, man to man. A courtesy he didn't normally afford the doctor. There was a lot at stake here, and Mal needed Simon to understand both who Rudd was, what he was, and just how River fit into the picture.

"I need River. She's connected to this closer than we are. She's demonstrated that she's a threat to anyone, and I'd like her to be a threat to Rudd in this case. Of course, we'll need to talk to her, if she's able. But, if you're right about her being a transmitter and all, she may just be the lynch pin we need here."

Simon's eyebrows knitted together in deep thought. Normally, he would never consider what Mal was proposing. These were deperate times, however.

"Okay. We talk to River. But, Captain, I can't let you place her in danger."

Mal's eyes slitted, and Simon couldn't tell if it was fatigue or ire. Mal rose, adjusted his suspenders, and gestured for the doctor to precede him out of his bunk.

"Well, one way or t'other, there's a bottom to this, and we might find it soon. Let's talk to River."

* * *

In the cargo hold, things weren't going well. Inara and Kaylee were held to their spots, unable to move as River, also unable to move because of her bonds, spoke to them.

"I have changed. I do change. River Tam is within me, that much is certain. The Mark is also within me, and it is the mixture of these things that makes me something else entirely."

"Why can't I move?" Kaylee said, dangerously on the verge of hysterics.

"Kaylee, honey, just hold tight. I don't think River is going to hurt us." Inara said soothingly. She was as frightened and mystified as Kaylee was.

"That may be so, Inara Serra, were it River you were talking to."

"I can plainly see that you're River Tam!" Inara suddenly shouted, trying a different tact with the creature trussed up in the hold.

"I may look like her on the outside, but, I am The Other. River Tam made me in the academy to deal with the things that she couldn't"

"What?" Kaylee said, but Inara grasped the concept immediately.

"So, you're not of one mind, then." Inara said.

"I...", and for a split second, Inara could move. She took a step towards Kaylee, as Kaylee took a step towards her. It didn't last long.

"NO!", and this time, the voice was plainly River's. And then calmly "Yes.", also from River, but, in a strange voice. Her eyes flashed red for an instant, and the women were again rooted to the spot.

"Tricky whore." The Other said with a grin. "It would not be wise to continue this line of dialogue. I can wrest control from River whenver I want it, but, there is something else at work here. Some conditioning from the academy. You see, before River was rescued, she had already been activated for her first field assignment. She was to hunt down and kill crewmember from a ship that was attacked ten years ago. The very first ship that was ever set upon by Reavers. They left one man alive, not much more than a boy, really."

"Inara..." Kaylee began, but stopped as soon as she realized that Inara was listening intently to The Other.

"No one really knows why Reavers sometimes leave one member of a party they attack alive. The result is almost always the same. They turn into pseudoReavers themselves. And, this man on Hera is exceptionally good at what he does. He outlasted the war that devastated the planet. The closer we get to him, the more that one of the side effects of the academy takes hold of River Tam."

"Is that what happened to her earlier?" Inara asked.

"I don't know what happened to her earlier. It must have been bad, if I'm here. I can feel some of the changes that her body has gone through, and her own body seems to be trying to work some of the changes out itself. There is some retinal bleeding, and when I use the part of River's mind that has been augmented for deep, deep empathy, her eyes seem to bleed internally. Her DNA seems to be rewriting itself to match the man she's going to be hunting. That was a side effect of the tampering in her brain done by the Alliance. But, there's more at work here. It would appear that some of the meds that Simon has been administering to her has caused her control to slip a bit."

Inara and Kaylee, who were facing each other, both looked at each other in a vaguely shocked way. If Simon knew he had done this to River, it would kill him.

"And, what are you here for?" Kaylee asked.

"I am River's coping mechanism. Granted, I haven't needed to be called on in sometime. Since she was broken out of the academy, actually. Things were so bad in there that River created me out of necessity. A detached part of her fractured psyche that she could channel most of her fear and agression and pain into."

Silence fell for a moment.

"Why can't we move?" Kaylee asked timidly.

"Motor function is simply a matter of bioelectrical impulses sent from the brain, down neural pathways to your muscles. I am simply denying your muscles the messages from the brain."

"That's impossible." said Kaylee, probably a little more off temper than she realized she was.

"No. You and my brother under normal circumstances. That's impossible. This is merely science. You see, this is something I can do, but River can not. River is a psychic, yes, but, that where her development ended. Everything else that her newfound abilities made her capable of, she funneled into me."

"You mean, there's more?" Inara said.

"World's more, Inara. STOP!" The Other cried, and that's when Inara and Kaylee heard Book and Jayne's cries of protest.

A strange thing happened on this, day of strange things. Inara felt The Other's grip on her suddenly loosen. Kaylee must have felt it to, because she began wiggling her hands and fingers, trying to walk again.

She can only spread herself so thin, Inara thought.

Kaylee caught sight of something above her. Zoe had her mare's leg rifle out, and something blinking in her hand. Kaylee, who didn't know much about weapons, but was learning on board Serenity, knew a flash grenade when she saw one.

Zoe, who hadn't been detected by The Other, lobbed the grenade in a slow arc, where it landed right in front of The Other. Kaylee closed her eyes as the flash and shock of the grenade sent Inara sprawling into her. The women landed roughly on the cargo hold floor, though neither one was injured. Zoe, who had been on the level above them all was suddenly right behind River, who was weeping.

Jayne, Book, Mal and Simon came running into the hold, all with looks of vast confusion on their faces.

"Zoe! Stand down." Mal said gently. Zoe had the lever action gun pressed firmly to the back of River's head.

"Simon? Simon!" River's voice, stronger than ever called from the little body of the woman who had caused so much trouble. Her color was on the verge of normal again. Her eyes, deeply bloodshot, were also the coppery brown that everyone recognized. Her gums were pink, like something freshly injured, but on the mend. Her fingernails, however, remained unchanged.

Simon ran to face her. His eyes darted over his sister's face. Before he could stop himself, he threw himself at her, wrapping her in a huge hug. It was a rare show of emotion for the doctor, and would have been more touching had Inara and Kaylee not grabbed him and jerked him backwards roughly. River merely cried silently.

Simon began to balk against the women, who released him.

"Can't you see? She's awake!"

"Bull butter! She's been awake this whole damn time." Jayne said. Withering looks from Mal and Book were lost on him.

Simon fumbled in his pocket for the keys to River's restraints, making everyone but himself vaguely nervous.

There was a short crackle of static as the intercom buzzed. Wash's voice called out, "I have visual on Hera."

Mal reached the intercom panel just as Zoe has fished the squawker from her pocket.

"SLOW DOWN!" they both yelled.

Forgetting to remove his finger from the button, Wash said "Fine...tell me how to fly...I know how to fly!" and Zoe was sure there was more, but Wash racked the mic.

A rough semicircle had formed around River as Simon released her, the red marks on her wrists already fading. She was an inch shorter than her brother. She was, of all things, shrinking.

"Doc, I do believe you're right. She is awake." Mal said "Now, let's put her back to sleep."


Wednesday, October 4, 2006 12:45 PM


Poor River. Why the good gorram are they going to that planet if it only makes River worse and puts everyone in even more danger? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, October 4, 2006 1:03 PM


Amdobell! Thanks so much for the comment...any comment! You've always been very dependable in that respect, and I applaud you for it! And, I promise, all will be revealed...I'm sick of this story, and just want it done...

Wednesday, October 4, 2006 5:14 PM


Sorry to hear that, manwithpez. Definitely never a good thing when the author grows weary of their creation:(

Definitely can't wait to see how you end this eventually:D


Wednesday, October 4, 2006 6:49 PM


Thank you very much, BEB...I'm glad to hear that you want to see this end too! Cause, believe me, so do I! Honestly, I had forgotten just how long I'd been writing on this one...Then again, Shadow War took me about this long to write too, but, I enjoyed writing that one...Although, I do have more ideas...I just think from now on, I'm going to scale them back.

Friday, October 6, 2006 5:31 PM


I like the dialogue, you always have natural dialogue...and this Other is interesting. I'm anxious to see how he plays into things.

But picking on my Kaylee like big meanie.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006 10:16 AM


I wasn't picking on her!



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Somnambulism - Chapter Fourteen
It's back...well, this is actually a reposting of a lost chapter. Hey! I just refound it myself!

Somnambulism - Chapter Thirteen
Trap. Hunt. Enemy. Trap

Somnambulism - Chapter Twelve
The Plan, Negotiation, Landing, Hunt

Somnambulism - Chapter Eleven
Wash's Orders, Mal's Revelation, The Other, Captiulation

Somnambulism - Chapter Ten
Mal's Dream. Walt's Problem. River's Regain.

Somnambulism - Chapter Nine
Safety. Recollection. Explanation.

Somnambulism - Chapter Eight
Simon's Dream, Mal's Choice, River's Verdict

Somnambulism - Chapter Seven
Memory, Atavism, Hera

Somnambulism - Chapter Six
History, Discovery, Purpose

Somnambulism - Chapter Five
Malice, Theory, Opportunity