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Antebellum - Book I: Chapter Six
Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The sixth chapter in a Big Damn Sequel series. In this installment: A short introduction to the new defrostees.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1905    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

A/N: First want to say thanks a thousand for your comments, peoples. I had a bit of trouble getting this chapter out, but the next couple should be up and rolling in soon time. Again, you all are awesome, and I'm glad you're readin'. Behold! _________________________________________________

Book One – Chapter Six

2514 – Six years ago

‘UNIFICATION’

The word sent a distinct shiver down River’s shoulders and back. Carved into the stone monument, the word seemed to have been forged there by the gods themselves. Underneath it was the same word in Chinese; underneath that was the word in Arabic.

Green grass. Much greener than the grass on Osiris. These colors seemed to shine their own light, making a beautiful picture of luminescence in the rest of the courtyard. Nothing like this grew on any planet she had ever been to. They didn’t even look like they had been cut. Every blade seemed to grow the exact right length.

River knew that they must have been genetically enhanced, likely using Foxxilin or Neothemia, but they smelt and felt just like natural grass.

She looked up at the stone monument. It was some sort of abstract sculpture of the solar system, with a tablet with the god-like words hanging above it. The stones themselves appeared to be shining.

All around it there were other students, all of them older than she.

“River!”

River turned at her name to see Counselor Ioseph motioning over to her with two other gentlemen, both of them wearing white suits. And striped ties. She obediently made her way over to the three men, smiling shyly.

“River,” Counselor Ioseph said, “I’d like you to meet two of our directors.” He motioned toward the younger of the two. “This is Doctor Samuel Mathias.”

“How do you do?” Mathias barely even looked at her. He seemed to be in a heated discussion with the older man. The older man wasn’t taking part in that discussion.

“I’m well, thank you,” River responded warmly.

“And this,” Ioseph said, motioning to the other gentleman, “is Doctor Jonathon Chen.”

Chen’s smile was infectious on River. “Miss Tam, it is a pleasure to finally meet. You are all moved in, I take it?”

“Yes, I am. Thank you.” She couldn’t help but stare at the white suits the men were wearing. “Are you both professors here?”

Ioseph chuckled quietly at the question, in a way that made River want to crawl under a rock.

Chen, however, kept smiling graciously. “I am the Director of Special Projects here at the Academy. Dr. Mathias here assists me in these projects.”

“Special projects? What are—” River began.

“It is an advanced program. Strictly for our top students,” Dr. Mathias answered coldly.

“It is a very intensive and challenging program,” Chen said. He saw River’s eyes light up at the prospect of a challenge. That had been the main, if not only, reason to enroll in the Academy. “But, in given time, I am near positive that you, yourself, might join these projects.”

“That sounds very interesting.” River was trying hard to keep from giggling like a schoolgirl.

“Oh!” Chen said suddenly. “Where is my head today? Counselor Ioseph, have you introduced Miss Tam to our star pupil?”

“Not yet, Doctor.”

Chen called out to one of the students in the courtyard. “Gabriella!”

The student he was calling to was gorgeous. As she got closer, River understood how much of any understatement that was. She was a bit older. Three, maybe four years older. She had golden hair—not blonde—golden hair. Perfectly composed, slender body. Beautiful green eyes.

“River, I would like you to meet Gabriella,” Chen said.

River smiled at Gabriella, who smiled back. Perfectly.

***

2520 – Six years later

“What do you remember?”

Gabriella looked deep into the white wall. They were hiding. Hiding behind barriers to spy on her. To see in, but not be seen. They were afraid of her.

She didn’t mind though. Fear was interesting. Fear was fun. The mind always made curious sounds and thought curious thoughts when it was afraid. She and her brother held that common bond. Among other things.

“This room,” she said. “I remember this room.”

She remembered every corner of the white room. Every imperfection. The way the wall to her left curved ever so slightly at one portion. She knew the positions of every one of the thirty-five hidden cameras, though they too hid behind the opaque, white walls. The walls so white and so polished she could nearly see her reflection. Her blue, beautiful eyes looking back at her.

She remembered her innumerable sessions she had in the room. From her first day at the Academy to the last. Everyday, answering questions no one explicitly asked her. Telling her dreams; the ones she had while sleeping, but mostly the ones she had while awake. Everyday, forced to squawk in front of that Counselor Ioseph. Until, of course, Ioseph died. Her sister made the Counselor choke. Choke on his own pen. How clumsy.

It wasn’t hard for her to remember the room. She had, after all, been in there just the day before. The room, on the other hand, hadn’t seen Gabriella for three years.

“Do you remember your name?” The voice came from all sides of her.

“My name is Gabriella. I was born in Crystal, the capital city on the moon Ariel, January 14, 2496. I am a Reader, a genetically altered human person. I am currently in the service of the Anglo-Sino Alliance Military and Defense Program, division code: 009KT. Code name: The Academy.”

The voice disappeared back into hiding to regroup.

“Do you recognize this voice?”

Gabriella couldn’t help but roll her eyes. “Yes.”

“Do you remember my name, Gabriella?”

“Doctor Jonathon Reginald Chen. Born in Capital City on the planet Osiris, April 3, 2450. The Director of Special Programs for the Anglo-Sino Alliance Military and Defense Program, division code—”

“Thank you.”

The voice went to regroup again.

Gabriella could hear their whispers from behind the width of steel they looked at her from. Whispers to themselves, not to each other. They never said anything constructive; nothing she could use. Mostly just nonsense, which was exactly what she expected from them.

“Do you have any family?”

She paused. She cursed herself silently to know that they picked up on it.

“I have one sister. I…” Another pause. “I had two brothers. One died. The other is alive and in the same service as I am.”

“What is your brother’s name?”

“Michael.”

***

Chen looked over the thirty-five screens showing every possible angle of Michael. He sat straight in the chair in the center of the room, just as Gabriella had. He was absolutely still, except for the moments where he ran his hand through his reddish-brown hair. When he was done with his hair care, his hands returned, folded in his lap.

He had the same behavior as the other, Gabriella. Looking at the walls. No—looking through the walls. Chen was so proud of the boy. He could see through every obstacle anyone placed before him.

Agent Oren was making his rounds through the control room. Peeking over the technicians’ shoulders, asking ridiculous questions, and doing pretty much everything to be a nuisance to Chen and his people. Chen was thankful that Nicolas wasn’t in the room. He probably would have tried attacking the federal agent by now. Nicolas had a problem with his temper.

Chen looked into the largest of the monitors that was aimed directly at the redheaded man. Slowly, Michael’s solid blue eyes matched up with Chen’s precisely, sending electricity through Chen’s body.

“What do you remember?” Chen asked through the microphone before him.

“I…” Michael’s voice came through in full audio. The technicians went to work, analyzing his inflection, body language, and vital statistics. “I remember my sisters.”

“Why do you ask them these questions?” The Agent near shouted over to Chen.

Chen chose not to disguise his frustration as he turned off the microphone.

“One of the preliminary side-effects of the neural stripping was memory lost. Commonly, it was short-term, but occasionally subjects would forget weeks to a month at a time. Some of our subjects would get so lost in their own deliria, it was impossible for them to obtain a single recollection.”

Chen leaned toward the microphone again.

“Do you have any family?”

Michael smiled fondly through the wall. “I have two sisters.” His smile faded. “My brother is dead.”

“He’s getting excited,” a technician warned. Oren looked over at the technician’s screen and saw that several bar scales were in the red.

“What does that mean?” the Agent asked. “Why’s he excited?”

Chen sighed. “He was not fond of his brother.”

“I thought that after the treatments were administered, the subjects weren’t allowed to see each other.”

“They were still aware of each other, Agent Oren. Very aware.”

“I see,” the Agent said, though not meaning it at all. He consulted a small, palm-sized sheet of video paper. “The fourth. They’re talking about ‘J. Thorn,’ correct?”

“Yes, that is correct.”

“Do I need to consult his records?”

“I don’t see what ‘need’ you have anywhere in this facility, Agent Oren.”

“You be kind to me, Doctor, or I’m not going to ask for a second date. Do I need to see J. Thorn’s records?”

“I shouldn’t think so, unless you’d prefer some light reading.”

“Who conducted the sessions for him?”

“I did.”

Agent Oren blinked in surprise. “Personally?”

Chen sighed again. “Yes, personally.”

“And who was the medical practitioner?” He looked down at his notes again. “Dr. Mathias?”

“Yes.”

“When do I get to speak to him?”

Chen looked over at the Agent with amusement in his eyes. Was it possible this agent didn’t know about the last operative Parliament sent over?

“Agent Oren, Dr. Mathias is dead.”

“Dead? How?”

“Fell on a sword,” said Michael. His laughing voice came over the speakers and made Oren jump. “How clumsy.”

Chen could help but laugh at the Agent, who was struggling to regain his composure.

“I thought you said they couldn’t hear us!” the visibly shaken Agent shouted.

“They can’t hear our voices, Agent Oren. But they are always stretching their powers to overcome… obstacles.”

“Glad to hear it, but I’m still not satisfied, Dr. Chen.”

Chen walked over to Oren and stared angrily into his face. “And what would satisfy you, Agent Oren? Remember, that it was not my will to bring these children back.”

“Nor was it mine, Doctor,” Oren countered. “I answer to the same people as you do.”

Chen smirked condescendingly. “Don’t kid yourself, Agent Oren.”

Oren wasn’t entirely sure on how to take that comment. He knew for a fact that he was assigned to this case by the seven chairpersons of the Parliament themselves. Chen’s facility was government-run. Oren pushed his thoughts aside.

“Are they dangerous?”

“To whom? I believe it’s quite obvious from Miss Tam’s performance that they—”

“Are they dangerous to me, is what I’m asking. Loose cannons are entertaining to watch, but only from a distance. If you let these monsters out onto Alliance soil, what guarantee do I have they won’t try a—what’s the phrase? —Coup d’état?”

The words hit Chen right through to the back of his skull. The probability of such an event wasn’t gone from his fears.

Oren repeated his question. “Are they dangerous?”

“All of our subjects have experienced certain… homocidal tendencies.”

The Agent cocked his head. “How many did you lose?”

“Nine orderlies and… ten students.”

“Nineteen. Quite a hit.”

Chen gritted his teeth. “Quite.”

“So the question on everyone’s minds: Can they be controlled?”

“They have conditioned safe words, of course. Their loyalties are secure, however, so countermeasures will not be needed. They will serve the Alliance to the best of their abilities.”

Oren looked Chen square in the eye, then adjusted his striped tie. “Do you trust them.”

Chen didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”

“But you’re not telling me something. I think you know the answers to some of the questions in my mind.”

“I’m sorry, Agent Oren. I don’t have time to educate you.”

“What does ‘Antebellum’ mean?”

“Surely you know Latin.”

“I know what it translates to. What does it mean, Dr. Chen?”

Chen’s face didn’t shift as he remained completely silent.

“Dr. Chen, what logical purpose is served by placing ‘dead or alive’ warrants on the crew of Serenity, but bringing out two psychics from stasis with the sole purpose of killing Malcolm Reynolds? Why do my orders from Parliament go only so far to kill a single terrorist?”

Chen’s dry lips curled into a smile. “Wheels within wheels, Agent Oren.”

He didn’t even bother to turn to the microphone to speak to Michael. He simply spoke aloud. “Michael?”

“Yes, Doctor,” came Michael’s response.

“Are you clear on your mission?”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“Do you understand why?”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“Say it to me.”

“Kill Captain Malcolm Reynolds. For peace.”

“And then?”

“Then… I can play with the others… We’ll be great friends…” A smile pushed itself onto Michael’s face, and Agent Oren felt sick. Physically sick in his stomach. “Kaywinnit Lee… Inara… Zoe…” Michael’s eyes flickered.

“And River. When can I start?”

COMMENTS

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 4:28 PM

ANA


Okay, now I'm gettin' a little creeped out here. Alright, maybe more than a little. This is something that Joss, poor man, never had a chance to get into with the show. Glad to see you're doing a wonderful job filling in the not-inconsiderable blanks. Looking forward to the rest!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 9:22 PM

AMDOBELL


Wow, utterly creepifying. Not sure I am going to survive this story let alone anyone on the ship. Gulp! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 3:26 AM

AGENTROUKA


Brrrr, chilling! In the best way! Most excited. I like the quiet but deadly inevitability that hangs over the entire chapter, and I adore Agent Oren.

More soon?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 5:11 PM

OENONE


Very spine tingling, love it. I just picked up on this story but it's quickly becoming a favorite! Please post more soon.

Saturday, January 21, 2006 7:18 AM

BELLONA


that is one creepy family...

b

Saturday, May 6, 2006 6:37 AM

LEIASKY


Wow, creepy. This is really very good! Can't wait to see what happens!

That Michael....he better not be touchin' Serenity's girls!

One thing though...6 years ago Gabriella had green eyes. 6 years later she has blue eyes. Oversight or disguised plot point?

Saturday, May 6, 2006 10:39 PM

LEIGHKOHL


Yep, Micheal totally creeped me out! And I am curious about J. Thorn , the dead brother. Did Micheal kill him? And I wonder if River can feel their presence when they awaken, them being related and all! Wow, just can't stop reading!!!


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