Eidolon (Chapter 20)
Saturday, October 15, 2011

The hard shining lines of steel brace sharpened. Faster now, the pace picking up, blurring, and the future as ever seeable but not knowable. They go to die, or to live, and the house might collapse but for words. They will all go together. (Wandering)


Jayne Cobb had a lot of grit behind him. He'd breathed it as a boy, bounty hunting for varmints around the spaceport where his folks lived, the soot from the old factories thick enough that it fell like snow – in inches. If you weren't strong and didn't watch yourself, or didn't have someone looking after you, way you ended up was shanked behind the speakeasy or conscripted for the ring fights. Kind of place where you grew up fast or died young.

Most people wouldn't think it to look at him, but he had his fetters same as everyone else. Had a kid brother to look after, sickly sort, born wrong on account of the air. His pa used to say both his sons been poisoned, but that made no sense to him.

Never really seen eye to eye, even when he'd caught up in height. The old man had a stubborn and old fashioned streak. Kept him in his nowhere job metalworking, off and on because of his bad arm always flaring up from that old lathe tweaked him the once. Man was well liked, friendly with just about everyone on the docks, but closed off too. Cared for the family in his own way, though they never had much, so Jayne was running with the gangs before he'd gone through the mill. Almost come to blows a few times over his peccancy and mama had to come between them.

Then there came a month they couldn't scrape together for Mattie's medicine. He'd messed up a job trying to earn some cash, and hidden out with some of his girls he'd befriended. Turned out they'd been playing him for a while, knocked him out and tied him up for the thugs to fetch back to the boss. Was his own pa pulled him out of the brothel, and went to settle up on his behalf. Told Jayne to get off world, so he took his money with him and went mercenary. No loyalty to anyone, except when there was.

He was about ready to shake the dust from Ezra off his boots too. Driving over miles of dunes under moonlight, blowing cigar smoke to the wind hadn't eased his temper any over them being stuck and being broke and all the dramatics. The longer they spent here, the worse his brother was getting. Only one of those he had any say in, and, as he flicked away the stub, he thought he was going to enjoy this.

- - - - - An airy stream flowed like an arm reaching down her throat, filling and to clench, in pulses, renewed cardiac rhythm. She pulled back, back to Serenity with life gasping through her, the third eye shuttered tight and the other two opened wide. She'd gone too far, almost followed over into the silent place.

Her shadow stared back into her, standing on the opposite side, and she gave name to her fear. The vultures had taken her aspect, over and over, preyed with peering eyes to unweave the rainbow, until tender illusion melted and left only the other. The flavour of mortality in lies. Take care peeling back the folded layers of a person, lest what you learn comes back to haunt you.

Would she recognize herself now, years later, the girl who had gone willingly into promised greatness? They sliced out too much, made the sieve oversized. A golem made of sand, scattering to the wind. She expected that she would crumble away soon, not enough essence left over to substantiate, and her reflection would wander off without her.

She struck out at the phantom girl, stolen from her, palm and fingers spreading onto the hard barrier. Cool glass under her hand meant to withstand micrometeoroids cut at her, shards of a memory broken by screaming demons. Carefully, fascinated, she traced fracture lines like fate-spun silk thread, repaired like a spider's home. Grief, frosted over by necessity.

"That is my wife you're metaphorizin'." She turned and gazed out from the space, perched on the bridge of Serenity's nose with the transparent shield at her back. The pilot's chair was lounging behind the nav console, plastic dinosaurs like honour guards for the monument. "She does have some fantastic legs, but last I checked, only two of them."

Eyes squinted up at the contradiction. Some structures were stubborn, insisted on the same descriptions when namesakes were no longer applicable. The chair did not contain the pilot anymore. Somehow at the same time nothing was ever empty, not the expanse between worlds, not the quietus of crewmate. All of it, everything breath and movement and sentiment. A stream of consciousness, a river she couldn't tell where she began and it ended. "Arms count," she informed him, factoring in the tiny female growing in his darker half, "number of limbs are sufficient."

"I should hope so," he agreed, like a brush of sunlight and blue skies long gone, and winsome frowns for the missed and missing. "Mal's got Zoë in trouble again." Inevitable, the captain's one true talent. "This seein' all at the same time is a trip, and not the good kind."

Several pasts and futures wavered. "It gets very confusing," she answered. "Black is white and I can't tell where the colours bleed together." She didn't know who or what she was talking about anymore. Time to leave. "They'll be back soon," she told the figment, because it was polite, just in case he was real.

The pilot waved at her, or imagination did. She wasn't sure because she didn't look, because he needed to be here, because they were incomplete, and because the thoughts from the bridge were focused on reunion now and were sweaty.

Descent into chaos. The air circulating in Serenity's windpipe was choked with emotion. First were the undaunting opposites, the simple moods of the beast and the optimism of friends and lovers, but from there, complication. Promises like the tie of a leather cord, with racing heart beats and calming whispers from the too-large room on the left almost drowned out by disciplined endurance and fresh anguish. The negatives resonated with the storm from the bleakest quarters, weary determination with silver linings on the wane. She passed quickly through the exigent grey and other possibilities, drawn to the glow of the galley like Titania on her lunescent wings.

Smiles and idyllic recollections rushed in to fill the cold, and not just from honeyed walls with friendly touch in garden stencils. This was where they gathered, for cards and mahjong, for downtime in homely furnished alcove, for bonding over meals. There was warmth in each mismatched chair, ingrained in the wood, the table. The heart and the stomach were one and the same, the chef won over as easily as the diners.

The shepherd man made this his own, flock and field, more even than the old lion's den where the white mane ran feral. Home and family, the first ever in a long life of mistrust and violence. Where he was accepted secrets and all, more even than the abbey, and, he worried, was understood too well.

She joined the levity, aimless chatter and clatter of plates passed around and around. Climbed onto one of the eights pews arranged around the bookkeeper, hands clasped around knees. "In this world you will have tribulation," she intoned, peering through the veil.

The room calmed, settled, and turned attention to her. "You've been reading John," the preacher praised, but she waited and saw the revelation. "Ah. This is one of your riddles." No shrinking or dimming. He was genuine still, despite what he had been before. "But it is through tribulation that we enter the Kingdom of Heaven," he countered, quoting the acts of the horseman instead.

His troubles had brought him and four thousand others only fire. "That's what your book says," she challenged.

"That's because it's true." He spread his arms to embrace the present. "Took some getting used to, but after all I've been through, I never thought I'd end up in a place like this. There's good people here, even if some of them don't know it yet." He'd had to learn himself. Wasn't easy. Or painless. Like a knife, subtle edge cutting through the world.

"This isn't heaven," she told him sadly.

A glimpse of remorse and worry, there and covered. "I know. Ain't sure even how to get there," he admitted. There'd been no cherubim, no amber whirlwind splitting open the sky to light the path. "Or where I'm going from here."

Stuck in limbo, uncertain whether to inferno or to glory. Life indistinguishable from death or fiction, stretching out to anchors just as adrift. Blowing leaves, a gnarled weapon in deadly pale hands, destructive constructs grasping for solace, and never reached. The remnants of an impression scattered. "To gather," she answered, and hoped, because she didn't know either.

Some gratitude followed her, itched along the walls down to the engine room, buzzing with activity before, lonely now and missing mechanics and abandoned by brightness. Have to restore the connection, even if too late.

She turned away, comfort encased in ice, took the back way along the harsh-lit fears, tinted in cold blue. Sorting, always sorting, already chemical-smell and sterile, and the hands grabbed her and pulled back into the operating chair, needles everywhere and minds prodding and only Simon to rescue her. She did not linger in the waiting area, and forayed into the cavern.

Expansive like metal on the colour of stone, cleaned up and packed away the ruins of old lives. Here is where the beginnings were, and endings. Preserve the bodies long enough they could be buried. There was a portal here, between the black and the air that needed opening. The beating of hearts were pounding like drums on the steel wall of Jericho.

She found the gunman instead. "Hey looney," he accosted, insensate but for himself, foot falls ringing like alarm at the entry. "How's the attic?"

"Mothy," she replied. And froze, paralyzing condition as vague malice formed into scheme.

The forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness. When they made their newest monster, it was of upmost importance that they were in control. Their obsession, their motivation. Even when it was spiraling out of their hands, gobbling them all up, the secret biting on their ankles, lizards and snakes harrying these thieves. They'd hooked her, points tearing into her as they strung her up and made her dance. And when they were afraid she might break free of their leash, they sent her back to nightmares with a thought and a sentence, no defense against either.

"Ain't that a gorramn sumbitch," he answered, and watched, then shrugged. Still wrong. "Worth a shot."

Her champion heard the chains unlock. Loyal Simon who hadn't forgotten her, refused to abandon her, gave up everything for her. The unheard command lingered, incomplete, and left her unable to intervene. Yet something was different. The truth would set her free. She was not the weapon. "River? Don't go outside, or let anyone – Jayne." Immediate suspicion. "Where is everyone else? Why are you back already?"

Anger slammed into jaw. Her brother stumbled, time solidifying around them like pitch to swallow dust and dirt laden rays from above. The hard shining lines of steel brace sharpened. Faster now, the pace picking up, blurring, and the future as ever seeable but not knowable. They go to die, or to live, and the house might collapse but for words. They will all go together.


Sunday, October 16, 2011 5:18 AM


Oh dear, sounds like River is getting worse and even less coherent. Why can't things ever go smooth? Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, October 16, 2011 11:58 AM


Love your view of Jayne's background. Industrial grit and grime, and an uncomfortable relationship with his father--just what I imagined for him.
River's thoughts very interesting (and well-conveyed in lucid prose). They are revealing, insightful, confused and confusing all at once. I loved that she took a tour of the ship (no doubt in bare feet--whether the excursion was real or in her mind hardly matters) and communed with the essence of each space within it. I liked how the bridge is pervaded with Wash in River's mind, and I just loved her mental encounter with Book. Glad you brought Book into this--he is such an interesting and enigmatic character, and you seem to have a good handle on him, through River's eyes. Things are about to happen, here on the ship, and we already know the goushi is hitting the fan over at the councillor's estate. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, eh? That's the motto.

Sunday, October 16, 2011 3:26 PM


There's a few things in Jayne's backstory that cause his present and some of his relationships on the ship to make a lot of sense.

And of course Jayne has had it up to here with all the crew dramatics.

This was my chance to really introduce Serenity. There's a hint of giving the layout in the first chapter after the prologue, but you can miss it with all the character introductions and tense rescue mission and get away. No better person than River, who can get into the ship and the emotions that permeate the space.

Book doesn't get a lot of chance to shine in fanfiction, especially post movie, but I like to imagine his memory is always there. Wash too. Just waiting for one of the crew to need that memory, to get them through the hard times.

Monday, October 17, 2011 8:14 AM


I'm going to agree with ebfiddler regarding Jayne's backstory. I wonder if his father still hold that resentment, since he has sent money home in the past.

...perhaps that is for another time.

Monday, October 17, 2011 11:08 AM


I probably won't ever get to exploring Jayne's family close up in this fic or any other, so I'd say my impression is no. I think Jayne's mother is the only one who still talks to Jayne, and has to hide the money Jayne sends home, because his father knows what jobs Jayne is doing for that money.

Thursday, January 5, 2012 12:21 PM


You put so much care and thought into this series, Byte. Getting back to Serenity in the midst of the actiony action shows that. It does make sense that Jayne would stick around for one simple reason, like a sick brother. Especially if life on Serenity is slightly preferable to the one he left behind. 'His Own Bunk!'

Thursday, January 5, 2012 12:27 PM


Yeah. But he still has a fondness for his old family even if they had to chase him off. He kinda gets why, too.


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Eidolon (Epilogue)
Someday, she knew they would visit the graves of Serenity Valley and not hear the howl of the ghosts. Someday, they would walk across the green prairie of a restored world and watch the rain. (Glimpses)

Eidolon (Chapter 40)
Clouds were blossoming in the distance, promising rain for the city later. The crew of Serenity and the badlands around Eavesdown Docks to the south would probably see only a harsh windstorm. Two different worlds, she mused, caught between them. (Deliverance)

Eidolon (Chapter 39)
The question seemed to hit her hard. In the mirrors of her eyes, he saw himself, forced to see her lose more ground every day. Hurt more, because of him. Saw her watching him back as she pulled him out of a nightmare. (Try)

The Gift
They don't have much. But they have each other. (Just a little holiday story from the Firefly verse. Belongs to Joss)

Eidolon (Chapter 38)
The girl processed that response. "He brought the medicine? He saved us?" Inara nodded, considering her own inclusion in the question. (Renewed)

Eidolon (Chapter 37)
A wind clear and sweet stirred the air, humming as a shimmering, ever-shifting blaze of color flashed from one horizon to another. The breeze carried with it a distant song, rising over the hills and through the vales like a soulful hymn from his childhood. (Flight)

Eidolon (Chapter 36)
"I cut the strings. They were never yours anyway.”(Liberation)

Eidolon (Chapter 35)
A few twists of a little turnscrew and the mechanic was stripping wires and rerouting circuits in moments. (Break)

Eidolon (Chapter 34)
Stars scattered in the night, coalesced from the stellar dust from a far away sun and others that came before. A spark, scintillating into a network, a stream, like the lights and streets of a city. (Cascade)

Eidolon (Chapter 33)
"Put me back in that place," River said, "Little bluebird singing in a cage, puppet on broken strings." (Capture)