An Altered Perception - Chapter 4
Sunday, August 21, 2005

The reavers are coming!!!! run away!! (little earlier than scheduled, but since you were all v v nice and gave me top ratingy things, here it is!)


Chapter 4

Zoë gasps, stepping forward to take her husband’s hand. “Reavers? What are they doin’ this far in? Are you sure it’s them?” Mal’s hands tighten on the railing. “How far out are they?” “They shouldn’t have picked us up yet, but they’re pretty near to doing just tha-” There is the sound of running feet on the grating outside and Juliet bursts into the bridge. “Shut it all down! Everything but the air!” she gasps. “Quickly!” “Mal?” Wash asks, eyes on Juliet. He hardly needs to think. The terror on Juliet’s face for some reason makes him trust her explicitly. “Do it now!” Wash grabs the intercom. “Kaylee! Go to blackout!” “Goin’ dark,” she replies, and they are plunged into semi darkness. Mal takes the com from him. “Nobody move.” Then suddenly his head is filled with voices, screaming voices, shouting voices, hungry, starving, scratching, wanting, needing, smelling prey. Emptiness. Nothingness. Wanting to fill it up. Spreading it out to lessen it. He screams. There’s something else though. Two more melodies, running through the madness, different to it, yet somehow the same. They’re familiar to him. Juliet and River, obscuring the voices of the crew, letting the emptiness cover the ship. Simply not being there. The screaming gets louder, the pain of a thousand deaths piling in on them all. Mal lies on the floor, hands over his head, screaming out, trying to block it all out. And somehow he can hear, all over the ship, the crew doing the exact same thing, crying out in pain. Except Juliet and River. They stand, still as statues, Juliet on the bridge, River in the cargo bay, eyes unblinking, following the source of the pain as it passes them by, the trails of pain pulling memories to the surface, painful memories. He can feel the grating below him as though it were the ground of his own home, the place he thought he could protect, but never did. It feels like the dirt on countless planets as he loses men and women that he couldn’t get to in time. Now he can feel Zoë and Washs’ love for each other, their undying loyalty to each other, their commitment to each other. He can feel raindrops on his face as Juliet’s home burns to the ground around her, everyone dead. He can feel the sense of confusion, betrayal and hurt as Inara leaves the House on Sihnon. He can feel Jayne’s longing for love and compassion, a beautiful smile from a pretty mechanic. He can feel Kaylee wishing for someone to protect her, someone to love her, someone to be her hero. He can feel needles in his skin as blue hands slide across River’s skin. He can feel Simon’s rage at the one who tried to turn his sister in. He can feel the guilt Book feels as he ties up a young girl. He can’t take any more. It stops. And Juliet and River fall unconscious to the floor. A few minutes pass before Mal can get up. Even as he does, he staggers slightly, disorientation making him grab the railing for support. Zoë and Wash are holding each other, eyes closed, breath coming raggedly. He presses the switch to restore the lights. Realizing he should probably check on the rest of the crew, he picks Juliet up in his arms to take her to infirmary on his way through the ship. In the dining room Inara is kneeling up, one hand clutching a chair back to support herself. She hardly glances at him, but when she does, he can see the grey tinge of her face and the fear in her eyes. Jayne is standing up, but holding the sideboard to keep himself up. “Jayne,” Mal says, surprised at how steady his voice sounds, despite the fact that he feels like a quivering mess. “Go check on Kaylee in the engine room.” “What was that, Mal?” Jayne asks him, voice shaking slightly, like the rest of his body. Mal can see this, and knows that the answer to his question will only make it far worse. “Reavers.” Indeed, Jayne’s face gets, if possible, whiter, as he walks unsteadily off toward the engine room. Mal takes Juliet downstairs to the infirmary, finding Simon lying on the floor there, breathing evenly but not getting up. Trust the doctor to be neat and orderly, even at a time like this. “Hello, captain.” And formal too. How long out here in the ass end of the galaxy did it take to pull that out of a person, Mal wondered. He gently places Juliet on the bed at the side, arranging her comfortably. “Mornin’ doc. Might wanna check on your sister.” He walks back out, finding Shepherd Book curled up on the floor of the corridor between the passenger rooms. He too is awake, breathing and looking scared. There’s a clumping of boots behind Mal and Jayne appears, carrying Kaylee in his arms. “She hit ‘er head. Think she’s ok, but doc should probably look at her to make sure.” Jayne is talking fast, betraying the fact that he’s still as scared now as he was in the dining area. “Put her in infirmary. Doc!” He goes up into the cargo bay. Simon is bent over River. “She ok?” “Yeah, I don’t, she…” he tails off, looking up at Mal. “It was her and Juliet, wasn’t it? That stopped them finding us?” Mal pauses, watching River’s still form. “I’ll take her to her room. Take a look at Kaylee, she hit her head.” Simon nods, standing back to allow Mal to pick up River. Once she is in her room, Mal returns to the infirmary. Jayne is standing by Kaylee’s head as the doctor places butterfly bandages over her cut. “She gonna be ok?” he asks from the doorway. “It’s just a graze, she’ll be fine.” Mal is sure he sees the concern on Jayne’s face lift a little and a slight smile tug at the corners of his mouth as he watches Kaylee. Looking past them, Mal starts when he sees Juliet’s eyes are wide open. “Hey Jule. Feeling better?” He walks over to her as she sits up. She smiles at him. “Something like that is hard to feel better after. Too similar. Too much screaming.” Her hair has fallen from its bun, strands sliding down across her face. She sighs. “Sometimes I just can’t make sense, can I?” She grins at Mal, jumping down and wandering out. He follows her, walking up to the cargo bay, leaving Jayne and Simon with Kaylee. “Juliet…” “Call me Jule, I like that.” “Jule, you saved us, all of us, but…” They sit down on a large crate. He takes her hand gently. “How I did it was kind of unorthodox?” She squeezes his hand, sending a shiver up his spine. “Had to. Couldn’t let it happen again.” “Again?” Mal watches her, the pain in her voice making him want to just hold her small body in his arms and kiss all the bad things away. “Jule, what happened to you? I mean, when the reavers were here, I saw things, felt things…” “Made you remember the thing that hurts you most.” Jule touches his cheek gently. “The people you couldn’t protect during the war.” “Yeah.” He takes her other hand by his cheek. “But what about you? What happened that made your home burn down around you?” “I told you I’m from Highport, New Seattle?” “That you did.” “You know what happened there, oh, bout fifteen years back?” There are bright tears on her cheeks. “Yeah, had friends there. Town was hit by reavers. Burned it right down.” Then he realizes. “Oh. But didn’t you leave before then? Considering you’re alive an’ all?” “Nope. Still at home. Had three older brothers and a baby sister.” She takes a shuddering breath as Mal feels his heart tighten for her. “They left me alone. Didn’t even seem to see me. Standing the middle of the town as it burned down around me. No survivors. ‘Cept me.” “Sun myon- hu…” he murmurs. “How’d you get…” “Hitched a lift on a scavenger’s ship. My dad had been a mechanic, so I helped with that until I could get off. Never been back.” “I’m sorry.” “It’s ok. Everyone’s running from something.” That sounded oddly familiar. “But how’d you do that?” He waves his arm around to indicate the previous events. “Something at that academy place. ‘Bout a year back, it happened again. Was on one of the border moons at the time, with a friend. Kept us both safe, but the rest of the town… There were too many of them.” Her voice breaks and Mal envelops her in his arms. Inara walks through just in time to see this embrace. She stops dead, emotions rushing in turmoil. River walks through, snapping her out of it. “Just a moment in time. Step aside and let it happen. Why should he love you?” “River… I…” Inara gasps, shocked at the girl’s words. “Big girls don’t cry.” River steps past her, then pauses, turning toward the infirmary, rolling her eyes in frustration. “Get it out in the open, you boob.” Raised voices reach Inara’s ears. “Will you stop hovering? I’m perfectly capable of doing my job without being watched over by a brute like you!” “I’m sorry, didn’t know you pasty-skinned rich boys were so gorram well tetchy.” “Oh, well, normally we’re not. It’s just I have a man-ape thing thumping around me, getting in my way whenever I try to do anything!” “You lily-white hu-dun, you wanna go?” “No, but you can!” “Right, sure, be glad to. I swear, you’re getting’ crazier than that chan wha moon brain sister of yours.” Jayne storms up the stairs and past Inara. She, Mal and Juliet are all watching with open mouths. “HEY!” Jayne turns around as Simon stomps up behind him. Not expecting violence, Jayne doesn’t see Simon’s fist until it hits him on the jaw.


Sunday, August 21, 2005 3:12 AM


Well that last part definitly has me at the edge of my seat.

Stufy and do your tests, but then immediately get back to this, please.

Sunday, August 21, 2005 5:29 AM


This is a most intriguing series! Thanks for creating it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 11:35 AM


Exccellent! That's the best gorram chapter yet. You are really getting into the swing of this and I liked Simon's unexpected punch at the end though I am not sure Kaylee will approve. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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