Last Act
Monday, November 7, 2005

Serenity on the auction block


Post-BDM. Really Post-BDM. Some spoilers. This is my first fanfic. Any feedback is appreciated. If there is interest, I will be glad to post more.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the sole item in tonight's auction: the Firefly-class vessel Serenity."

The crowd that had been enjoying cocktails and gossip immediately took their seats. A holographic projection of a huge scarlet curtain had been hiding the ship from all potential buyers in the outdoor amphitheater. The auctioneer, a portly man of middle years who seemed to be enjoying himself a little too much, activated the curtain's control with a flourish. The curtain lowered slowly, revealing Serenity to the well-dressed crowd.

River Tam felt a pang of sadness at seeing Serenity on display. The ship had been first her escape, then her refuge, then her home for years. She remembered the first time she had flown her out of atmo, on this very moon. She looked down at her hands, going through the steps for takeoff from pure muscle memory, and was torn between a laugh and a sob.

Then the curtain disappeared entirely, and River was shocked and nearly overwhelmed by the emotions of the crowd. Greed, envy and acquisitiveness were there, as they were everywhere people competed for something. But the respect, the love, the...River could only describe it as awe...nearly broke through her defenses and washed her away. No Member of Parliament had ever commanded such adoration, or deserved it as much. Looking out from the stage, River could not help but smile at that thought.

Serenity was as beautiful tonight as River could ever remember seeing her, even with total recall and the memories of a dozen people to draw upon. The Firefly had been preened and polished, inside and out. Her metal skin gleamed under the diffuse light of the ion cloud. Her insignia looked as if it had been painted that morning. River knew the interior had been restored to its original condition as well, down to the flowers Kaylee had painted on the galley walls. The internal surfaces of Serenity's engines were spotless as well, River had seen to that. Kaylee's girl was in a shape the mechanic would have given anything to see, better than the first day she had launched from dry dock. River thought of her best friend, her sister-in-law, and sighed. She wished Kaylee could have been here to see it. She automatically looked for Cassandra Kaywinnitt Tam, found her standing near the rear of the amphitheater with the security personnel. She was excited, but not concerned. River was glad; Cassandra had inherited her grandfather's tendency to worry, but also her grandmother's optimism and common sense.

The auctioneer began to speak again. "Currently owned by the Tam Foundation, Serenity is being offered for public display. Your catalogs contain her technical specifications, as well as articles on her more, shall we say, unquantifiable significance. All proceeds from this auction will be donated to the Osiris Reclamation Project, with a matching donation by the Foundation. Before we begin, I would invite our hosts to say a few words. Dr. Tam, Ambassador, would you please?"

River turned to her oldest living friend. Ambassador-at-large Zoe Washburne tilted her head slightly in River's direction and gave a wink. Zoe still commanded attention at the age of ninety-three. Her posture in her chair was perfectly straight; her eyes sharp and clear. A subtle gesture commanded her chair to move forward to where the crowd could hear her.

"I would like to thank each and every one of you personally for attending. I can truthfully say that I always thought Serenity would one day be auctioned. However, I always imagined the proceeds would go to pay for the crew's defense." The crowd laughed. "I am humbled by your interest, by all of this. The only thing I have to add is the advice a good man gave me when I first set foot on his boat. 'Treat her right', he said, "and she'll be with you forever.' Times have changed, and Serenity is apparently a symbol now as much as a ship. That advice still holds true, though. Treat her right. Respect her, her memory, her meaning, and she'll fly true forever. Not just for her owners, but for whoever needs her. Now, enough listening to me ramble. Good luck, and bid like you mean it!"

Zoe slid back to allow River to step forward. She was dressed in a black evening gown, her silver hair taken up for the occasion, barefoot even at seventy-seven. "The starboard thrusters have a annoying tendency to overrun at full burn by .2 seconds on certain maneuvers. I'll be happy to show the winner how to compensate. Oh, and thank you all very much for coming tonight. I hope she brings you half joy and memories she brought me." River turned to the auctioneer, "Fyoder, I think we can begin." River stepped back to polite applause.

Fyoder took his place at the podium and took up the traditional wooden gavel. "Ladies and gentlemen, shall we start bidding at twenty-five million, please? Yes, twenty-five million from the representative from Sihnon. May I see twenty-seven? Twenty-seven? Yes, Twenty-seven million from New Shadow. We have twenty-seven, may I see thirty?"

River sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. She didn't need to see who was raising their paddle to bid, she could feel the excitement build, and pick out the thrill of whoever had made the last bid. Reaching out with her mind, she felt for the ones she had taken an interest in. Senator Joshua Serra was there, of course, with the rest of the New Shadow representatives. His emotions were running high, and understandably so. He was literally bidding on his birthplace. New Shadow's citizens claimed Malcolm Reynolds as their own hero, and felt Serenity should be theirs by right. River remembered seeing the bronze statue unveiled after Mal's funeral, with the inscriptions "Every man ever got a statue made was one sort of son of a bitch or another" and "Aim to Misbehave" at the base.

The Core Union representatives were equally determined to claim Serenity. Much of it was simple pride. Even with the Alliance now a chapter in the history programs, the people of the core worlds considered themselves the pinnacle of civilization. For an object of historic value to be located on the Rim was unthinkable. There were other reasons, too. The romance of Inara Serra and Malcolm Reynolds was the subject of dozens of books, plays, and waves, from the dark and sensual opera performed on Sihnon to the wildly inaccurate romantic comedy that made Kerra Zhao a household name. And of course, the people of Sihnon desired the ship that Captain Reynolds had piloted to save the planet from the same weapon that had laid waste to Osiris. Malcolm Reynolds, the renegade who had thumbed his nose at the Alliance for years, had fought to protect its grandest world. Sihnon and Serenity had survived, Captain Reynolds hadn't. The people of Sihnon had never forgotten.

River could feel the disappointment of the bidder from Haven as the price exceeded his funds. He hadn't really had a chance, but felt the need to try to bring Serenity back to her second home. Likewise the bidder from Cobb's Moon was left out of the running. River almost laughed out loud remembering the day they had all heard the news of the Mudder's revolt. Jayne had been on the other side of the 'verse when it happened, but they named him the hero of the revolution anyway. Jayne had retreated to his bunk in stunned silence and stayed there five solid days. Simon had walked calmly to the infirmary, bolted the door, and then caught up on a lifetime's worth of swearing. Even Zoe had laughed, that day.

Jayne. Whenever River thought of the big mercenary, she thought of another night, years after, when he settled his score with Jubal Early once and for all. Months of pursuit and cat-and-mouse games had come to an end in the mines on Paquin. Jayne had gone in with a white-hot rage against the bounty hunter for what he had done. He came out of the tunnels nearly dead, but with a finely crafted firearm and a savage grin. "Made gorram sure this time, mei-mei" he had said to River as he handed her the gun and collapsed.

"One hundred million. Do I hear one hundred-ten?" Fyoder's challenge broke River from her revelry. Miranda University's representative shook her head. Bidding was now between the representatives of New Shadow and Sihnon. River crossed her fingers, then crossed her toes. The gavel pounded a few heartbeats later. "Sold to the bidder from New Shadow!" Fyoder barked while the crowd erupted with applause. River exhaled, then heard Zoe do the same. The auction had been their idea, and any one of the bidders would have given Serenity a good home. But River had been rooting for Josh.

After the auction most of the bidders stayed to congratulate the winner and socialize. Well-wishers and hangers-on congregated around Josh. River found the whole thing as boring as ever, and sent her mind out in search of Zoe. She found Zoe exactly where she was afraid she would, at the "family plot". Mr. Universe's Planet, now known as Signal, had been home to the Tam Foundation ever since Osiris had been made uninhabitable. Twenty-five thousand people lived and sometimes died there, but one piece of ground was sacred. The original plot where Wash, Book, and Mr. Universe were laid to rest now sheltered most of the crew of Serenity and their families. Simon and Kaylee, and their children. Jayne, whose headstone showed him at his wedding. Inara Serra, eternally radiating a smile that was serene and sensual all at once. Malcolm Reynolds. Te Jian Chan. Sierra.

River walked her body to the entrance in the stone wall surrounding the tiny cemetery. Zoe sat in her chair in front of her husband's headstone, silent as always. River shielded her mind from Zoe's thoughts, but they were so loud River was sure a normal human would have picked them up. "I miss you Wash. Gorramit, how can I still miss you this much after all these years,” Zoe thought, "Mal and me and the whole crew, we did good, you know. You would have been proud. But it wasn't worth it. Not without you. Not by a gorram long shot. I miss you." Wash shot back a floppy grin in an endless loop.

After River had sensed her friend had had enough, she padded over silently and placed a hand on Zoe's shoulder. "When massive trauma occurs resulting in amputation, nerves can be severed too quickly for kinesthesia to adjust. The healing process does not allow for old muscle memory to be re-shaped. Phantom sensations, especially pain, linger for years, sometimes always"

"River honey, you and I both know you can talk like everyone else when you want. You just do that now to get attention"

"Yes. Worked, didn't it?"

Zoe sighed and nodded. "Yeah, honey. And that 'bout describes it, too. Guess I should be getting back, huh? Is anyone still around? Please tell me the politicians all left. If one more person asks my opinion 'off the record'..."

"Fyoder is herding everyone else back to the guest suites. Cassandra and Josh are stepping through the preliminary paperwork to transfer Serenity's title to the Historic Society of the Republic of New Shadow. Actually, they're creating the Historic Society of the Republic of New Shadow while they're at it."

"I was rooting for them, conflict of interest be damned. The eggheads from Miranda University would've crashed her just trying to get her home. Josh and his people'll treat Serenity right. No more tumbling through the Black, though. No more thrilling adventures in poverty and crime and backberth schemes. Ye Soo, I miss them. End of an era, River."

"Not yet. There are still nine hours and thirty-three minutes until New Shadow officially takes ownership of Serenity." River circled around and leaned down to look Zoe in the eye. Her smile was as wicked as it had been when she was a teenager. "Wanna go joyriding?"

Zoe's eyes widened, then her smiled slowly started to match River's "Hell, yeah"


Monday, November 7, 2005 7:50 PM


You know, if FIREFLY came back after the movie and had like a seven year run like BUFFY, I think that would've been a great final episode.

Monday, November 7, 2005 8:02 PM


You've got to write some of the intervening history. That would be fabulous.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005 12:47 AM


WOW, this was excellent but oh my the yearning it left in my heart with that big wide space where all our Big Damn Heroes should be! I loved that Serenity would finally end up not scrapped but kept as a piece of honoured history but also 'in the family' so to speak though my favourite bit was River and Zoe right at the end going to take 'our girl' for one last spin through the Black. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, November 8, 2005 10:33 AM


Neat concept, and well-written.

Am I the only one who thought of the opening to "Phantom of the Opera" while reading this?

Tuesday, November 8, 2005 10:55 AM


No, Cub, I too heard those strains as I started reading, but they quickly faded as the tears started. :)

Beautiful. Delicious. Warm. Yeah, so clearly can see how it all could have ended up...
and the opening strains of the closing theme music as River pulls back on the stick and lifts Serenity into the air, just her and Zoe and all their memories....

Wednesday, November 9, 2005 9:38 AM


heart. empty hole. crew. yeah...that about sums it up *wipes away tears*


Wednesday, November 9, 2005 4:25 PM


Well done!! Perfect ending!! You sure this is your first writing attempt?

Isn't it funny how Firefly inspires?

Wednesday, November 9, 2005 4:54 PM


Wow, folks, thank you for the awesome feedback! I had no idea this story would garner this kind of reception. I'm happy that you all liked it.

Anonymous: Damn right Joshua Serra is Mal and Inara's kid. I have an explanation for the name, too. I am taking Belacgod's suggestion and writing another history story, about the events on Josh's birthday. I'll post it when I'm done. Thank you for the push, Belacgod.

Safeat2nd: Yep. And yes, Firefly surely does.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005 9:33 PM


This story gave me the warm and fuzzies, and now I'm all teary, *sniff*.

Friday, March 24, 2006 5:03 PM


F---in unbelievable man. I ain't cried since I was 2 (tough life). But this is one powerful piece of Dole-mua. Don't take that the wrong way man. his is beutiful. Mal, I will always live by your code (sniff).

Sunday, January 7, 2007 8:08 AM


What a truly beautiful story - particularly the way it hints at history and transition.

Thursday, April 12, 2007 10:32 AM


Honestly thought I had commented on this when it was originally posted...guess I was deluded;)

Still...this was an utterly brilliant and beautiful piece of work, schooner! Like reginaroadie noted all those many months ago, had the series been given BtVS' run, I really think this would have made an utterly fabulous coda to their adventures.

Oh...and River's comments to Zoe about taking the old gal out for one last spin? Laughed my ass off from how spot on it was;D


Friday, May 4, 2007 11:43 PM


This really really rocked, schooner. You managed to hit the spot on all factors and leave people gasping for more. Me included.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007 5:50 AM


It has taken me a long time to read this fic, and now I wish I had read it sooner! This is great!


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