Story [Doctor Who/Firefly] The Man With No Name (Now Complete!!!!)

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  1. GamorreanGirl Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 5, 2009
  2. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    Sorry 'bout the long delay. Had to move from Wyoming to California, and it was a loooong drive. But now I'm settled, and can start the serious business of job-hunting...*sigh*

    Still, hooray! I get to live with my brain-twin! :D

    ______________________________________________________________

    Chapter Seven: Underfoot

    The night is drawing on but all the strain not told on him
    And he won?t fall into the sleep of the just.
    To be a tumbler or a lonesome intruder,
    He is as good as gold and searching for trust...
    ?Edenbridge, ?Shine?

    ?Jayne says we?re gonna heist an alien.? Kaylee slid into the chair across from Mal. ?That true, Cap?n??

    Mal rubbed his forehead. Barely broke atmo an hour ago, and already he was wishin? he?d never heard of this shiang jing ping job. ?That?s the story, little Kaylee.?

    ?You think it might really be an alien??

    ?I seriously doubt it,? interrupted Simon, busy in the kitchen. From the smell of it, he was doing something criminal to foodstuffs again. Mal?d always thought a doctor had to know chemistry to do his job?and wasn?t cooking chemistry? ?Aliens don?t exist.?

    ?Frankly, I don?t care if it?s a pickled cow. Badger?s offerin? good coin for us to bring it back, and we sorely need the work. And it?s better than Jayne?s idea of a job.?

    Kaylee frowned. ?But, Cap?n?what if it is an alien??

    ?What if it is??

    ?Well...wouldn?t we be, sorta, kidnappin? it?? She wrapped a lock of brown-gold hair around one finger. ?An? even if it ain?t, whatever it is, it?s alive, ain?t it??

    ?What?re you gettin? at, meimei?? Mal had a fairly good idea where she was going with this, and he didn?t like the look of it.

    ?It ain?t right to steal it just so?s some rich huen dahn can stick it in a cage for folks to stare at. What if it was human??

    ?What if it isn?t??

    They all jumped. The Doctor stood in the galley door. He?d shed the long brown overcoat and loosened his tie and had made a futile attempt to smooth down his hair.

    Mal scowled. ?What?re you doin? up here??

    ?Well, I was feeling a bit peckish....? The Doctor half-smiled. ?I?m very curious, though?what if it really was an alien, alive and clever as you and me?? He considered. ?Well, clever as you, anyway. What would you do then? Would you steal it from one ?collector? just to turn it over to another? Just because it isn?t human? Or would that matter??

    Mal folded his arms and leaned the chair back. He couldn?t deny he?d wrestled with that same question?well, maybe not the ?what if it?s real? part, that was ridiculous?but if it were a sideshow freak or somethin?. A person, not a pickled cow.

    What he didn?t like was this over-curious stranger strollin? in and asking the same questions. ?Job?s crew business,? he said. ?Not yours.?

    ?Sorry, I couldn?t help but overhear. Couldn?t really avoid it. This isn?t all that big a ship.? The Doctor moved to pull a chair out from the table and slouch carelessly into it. ?Call it a...philosophical interest.?

    ?Well, I ain?t interested,? Mal snapped, getting up. ?There?s a job to be done.? He fixed Kaylee with a stern look. ?Right??

    ?Sure, Cap?n,? she said reluctantly.

    He sighed. ?Look??til I know better, I?m gonna operate on the idea that the ?verse didn?t suddenly turn upside down on us. Aliens ain?t real?and the one we?ve been hired to ?pick up?? he shot a look at the Doctor, ?ain?t nothin? but a hoax. If it turns out it ain?t, or if it?s some poor soul?well, we?ll face that when we get there. Dohn ma??

    She nodded, looking somewhat happier.

    ?And don?t go blabbin? everything to our nosy guest, huh? He don?t need to know everything.?

    ?Oi! I?m sitting right here,? the Doctor protested.

    Mal ignored him and ducked through the door into the fore deck, making for the stairs leading up to the bridge.

    River was curled up in the pilot?s seat, watching the black. ?You shouldn?t be rude,? she remarked.

    ?That?s my job. Well, all right, it?s Jayne?s job, but he?s elsewhere right now.? Mal sank into the other chair
  3. Fanficfan Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2005
    star 3
    WOOT!!!! The Doctor is in!

    River and Mal's conversation was fantastic, I'm really liking the way you're writing everyone here but River especially stands out for me.
    And I really loved that last line.

    "?What is that?? he asked. ?It smells dreadful.? [face_laugh]

    Poor Simon. I am fairly confident that you wouldn't do anything so nasty as take Kaylee away from him though. And I can't see the Doctor taking to her that way regardless. Losing Rose is still to painful for him I would think.

    Glad to hear you've gotten yourself settled in to your new place. I'll be moving soon too, not quite so far though and it definitely will notinterfere with my enjoyment of this fic [face_peace]
  4. Lilith Demodae Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 1999
    star 4
    Yay, another postie!

    It was a long drive. Running out of gas and getting pulled over by a complete knob of a nevada highway patrolman wasn't any fun, but we got through it. :D

  5. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    Okay, I'm bad. I keep getting distracted by a million other things, and forgetting that I'm still posting this. I swear, I'm not gonna let it die! :p

    _____________________________________________________

    Chapter Eight: Outcasts and Outsiders

    ?A thousand years, a thousand more,
    A thousand times a million doors to eternity
    I may have lived a thousand lives, a thousand times
    An endless turning stairway climbs
    To a tower of souls
    If it takes another thousand years, a thousand wars,
    The towers rise to numberless floors in space
    I could shed another million tears, a million breaths,
    A million names but only one truth to face?
    ?Sting, ?A Thousand Years?

    It was two weeks to Paquin, taking a route that would keep Serenity more or less unobtrusive in official eyes and give the crew plenty of time to plan their heist. One stop was planned, on a small border moon called Three Hills to pick up remaining supplies and refuel. Mal ran an efficient ship, with the end result that there was a fair amount of downtime between normal duties.

    The Doctor, trying his best to be unobtrusive (for the moment, at any rate), spent the first couple of days staying out of Mal?s way. This involved a lot of time in his ?quarters??which, for a man used to the breathing room of the TARDIS, drove him fair starkers. It was when he started using his sonic screwdriver to do light shows on the walls midway through the third day that he decided he?d rather get decked in the face again than spend another minute in the tiny cabin.

    Time was an elusive thing on a ship like Serenity. Planet-bound creatures measured their days with things like sunrise and sunset, and marked out their calendars with holidays and such. On board a ship, everything sort of blurred together into another sort of time, a much more fluid kind that could be bent to almost any shape. So, although the clocks said it was midday when the Doctor emerged from his cabin, the ship immediately around him was very quiet and bustle-free.

    He padded through Serenity?s corridors, headed for the galley, wondering if he could convince someone to let him do something, anything around the ship before he went mad with boredom. Or loneliness.

    Laughter and voices from the galley cheered him a bit, and he quickened his pace. The galley was quite his favorite place aboard Serenity, with its cheery yellow walls and painted vines, the big wooden table with its mismatched chairs radiating a sense of home and family. It was very domestic, but he liked it nonetheless.

    Most of the crew were seated in those chairs now, with cards and bits of paper strewn on the table?s surface. Kaylee was perched in Simon?s lap, her arm slung around his neck. Zoe, sitting next to them, leaned back in her chair with both hands on the curve of her stomach, smiling slightly as she watched Mal and Jayne laugh over something. Inara was there, as well, chuckling quietly, though there was still a bit of coolness in her gaze when it met Mal?s. The only person missing was River.

    The Doctor became aware of the unusual sensation of being an intruder. It was not a feeling he was accustomed to; whether or not he actually was intruding, he usually barged in without a care in the world and simply made himself at home. Or in charge, at the very least. But here, confronted with this unusual family, he felt...very alone. An outsider. These people had been through something tremendous together. He didn?t know what it was, but he could see it like threads of shadow and light between them. Something that had forged bonds that were all but unbreakable.

    He was familiar with bonds like that. And their breaking.

    They hadn?t seen him, there in the shadows of the doorway. He drew away, suddenly feeling every minute of his nine-hundred-odd years. Some days, he thought he?d give his soul for a little bit of normal...

    ?They?re lucky,? said a soft voice.

    It was an effort not to jump right out of his skin, but the Doctor managed it with a modicum of grace, before looking down to see River, tucked
  6. Fanficfan Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2005
    star 3
    Now that was absolutely beautiful. There were a couple of moments in earlier scenes where I wondered if you had a good enough grasp on the Doctors character, that scene right there blew away any doubts I had and I apologise profusely for even thinking it. And your grasp on River is, as always, perfect.
    Give me a moment to read it again...
    ...
    Yep, still beautiful.
    Please don't leave us hanging that long again, I was starting to suffer withdrawals...
  7. Lilith Demodae Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 1999
    star 4
    That scene is still as touching and beautiful as the first time I read it. And I really enjoy the fact that River unnerves him just a little...

  8. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    Greetings again, ye faithful few!


    _______________________

    Chapter Nine: Coercion

    Queen of Light took her bow, And then she turned to go,
    The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom, And walked the night alone.
    Oh, dance in the dark of night, Sing to the morning light.
    The dark Lord rides in force tonight, And time will tell us all.
    ?Led Zeppelin, ?The Battle of Evermore?

    Mal wasn?t sure quite what to think when River came into the galley hand-in-hand with their passenger. Well, that wasn?t quite true. His first thought was mostly incoherent rage at the idea that, maybe, the reason ?the Doctor? hadn?t shown much interest in Inara was because he preferred ?em younger?but then his brain caught up with his eyeballs. Even if the man had disreputable intentions, River was more than capable of plastering him all over the nearest wall. And it wasn?t as if he was River?s brother. Or father. Or anything else but her captain. But she was crew, and it was his job to be concerned...

    Then the Doctor released River?s hand and ruffled her hair, and the moment of worry passed. He turned a wide grin on the rest of them. ?Hello!?

    River sat down at Mal?s elbow and gave him a Look. Always was a bit of a bother, worryin? over a girl when she could pick the thoughts right out of your brainpan...Mal wasn?t about to apologize for it, and settled for raising his eyebrows at her instead. ?Gettin? a bit friendly, there, aren?t you, little one?? he said quietly.

    River rolled her eyes. ?Lost puppies have to stick together.?

    ?Uh...okay.? Mal sighed. He hated it when she got all elliptical on him. He never really knew what to say, and he knew demanding clarification only resulted in further ellipses. ?So...not too friendly, then??

    ?He?s too old for me,? she said seriously. ?Really too old.?

    Well, that was a relief. Sort of. Made him feel old, too, though, since he was about the Doctor?s age. He could still remember when thirty-something looked absolutely ancient from the ripe old perspective of seventeen.

    At the other end of the table, Kaylee was fussing over the Doctor. She?d jumped up from Simon?s lap and was rushing about, telling the newcomer to sit down and offering to get him some tea. He responded to the prospect of tea with delight, and took a seat next to Jayne, who shot him a look fair drenched with contempt. Jayne wasn?t one to hold with them as used their heads rather than their fists. He?d only recently developed a tolerance for Simon. Mal wondered if he ought to start taking bets among the rest of the crew as to when the mercenary was going to start tormenting the new doctor.

    Kaylee was chattering away fit to fry a man?s ear. ??was gettin? real worried when you didn?t come outta your cabin. I thought you might be sick?sometimes folks get a bit queasy, breakin? atmo after a long spell dirtside. But Simon,? she shot her lover a frown, ?said you was fine and there was no need to bother.?

    ?Oh, there wasn?t,? replied the Doctor, smiling and accepting the mug of tea Kaylee handed him. ?I?m fine, really. Just a bit tired, is all, and I didn?t want to be tripping people up.? He lifted an eyebrow at Mal. Then he took a swallow of the tea and his face froze. It was with some difficulty that he swallowed. ?Nice tea,? he said weakly.

    Kaylee beamed at him, and resumed her place on Simon?s lap. The young doctor, whose face had darkened the moment Kaylee started playing hostess, looked a mite happier. Beside Mal, River muttered something not entirely complimentary about her brother. Mal hid his smile in his own tea.

    Jayne frowned at the Doctor. ?What sorta doctor are you, anyway?? He turned his frown toward Mal. ?And how come we need another one? Simon?s bad enough we gotta have another fancy suit around??

    Jayne the public relations specialist, Mal thought sourly. He himself was hardly polite, most days, but Jayne took the concept of ?speaking one?s mind? to whole new levels. ?He?s a payin? passenger, Jayne. Reason enough for me.?

    ?How do we know he ain?t a fed?? demand
  9. Lilith Demodae Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 1999
    star 4


    Too funny! The eternal male conumdrum: to buy or not to buy, in public, female necessities.

  10. Raphire Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 19, 2008
    star 4
    Ok so you had me hooked at firefly. And then again with Nightwish and then again with your amazing portrayal of River and then with Dr. Who.

    Please put me on the Pm list
  11. Mar17swgirl Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 26, 2000
    star 7
    Hi, Frostfyre! :) You probably don't remember me, but I read your SW/Sherlock Holmes crossover way back (ages ago, wasn't it? :p) and totally loved it.

    I've stumbled upon this fic by chance (I don't visit NSWFF board too often), but had to check, because a) it was Doctor Who and b) written by you. :p And while I'm not familiar with Firefly at all, I'm really liking the story so far. Of course, you captured the Doctor spot-on - and I love the little references to his past incarnations.

    So please continue with this fic as it's very interesting, and if it's not too much trouble, please include me in the PM list. :)
  12. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    And once again I apologize for a totally unnecessary lapse in posting. I really haven't got a good excuse, heh...well, other than...maybe...nope, I got nothin'.

    ________________________________________________

    Chapter Ten: Helltown

    ?Stand up when no one else is willing
    Act not in hatred or in spite
    Be to this world as a perfect knight
    Even if it means your life?
    ?The Cruxshadows, ?Sophia?


    A few minutes later, the Doctor was not so enthusiastic. ?I always forget how big they are,? he muttered, eyeing his assigned horse dubiously.

    ?You can ride, can?t you?? asked Mal, swinging up into the saddle of his own barrel-chested roan.

    ?Well, yeah,? admitted the Doctor. ?Well enough to stay in the saddle under most circumstances. It?s just, I don?t exactly make a habit of horseback riding...?

    ?Ain?t hard,? said Jayne, who invariably tried to steer a horse as though it were a hovercraft and sat in the saddle like a bag of potatoes.

    ?We?ll be leavin? them outside the woods,? Mal said, turning his horse as it tried to sidle. He hadn?t been on a horse in a good long while?he preferred spaceships these days?but some things you just didn?t forget. Old Bill?s lessons on how to handle a horse was one of them. ?I don?t want to deal with several tons of panicked horse if we do run into Reavers.?

    ?I dunno,? said Jayne thoughtfully. ?Maybe the Reavers?d go after the horses first.?

    Mal shot him a glare, then shifted his weight to start his horse moving, urging it into a slow canter. The Doctor was close behind. Jayne, after a brief argument with his horse (who looked to be more than its share of stubborn) followed.

    The first part of the ride passed in relative silence, broken only by occasional bouts of cursing from Jayne whenever his horse decided to try its own navigation. The Doctor offered advice from time to time, which Jayne soundly ignored. Mal ignored both of them, too busy wondering just what the hell he was thinking, agreeing to go hunt maybe-Reavers of unspecified numbers with just him, Jayne, and a skinny weirdo in a pinstriped suit. He wished hard he could have Zoe with him, someone he could trust to have his back no matter what happened. But that was an impossibility, since he wouldn?t have her out here in her condition and he wouldn?t wish her un-pregnant for the worlds, not when it made her happy like he?d never seen her.

    The sky overhead was a hot, cloudless blue, the air around them tongue-parching dry. Little puffs of dust rose from their horses? hooves as they crossed the open grassland between Zeke?s station and Helltown. Sweat soon ran freely down the three men?s faces, trickling past collars and soaking shirts. Jayne, in his usual t-shirt, was the only one of them remotely comfortable. Mal and the Doctor, in their long coats, were quickly in a state of acute misery. Mal managed to struggle out of his coat without being forced to stop and dismount. The Doctor, whose coat was far longer and far more fitted than Mal?s, had no such option. He finally pulled off his necktie and tied it round his head, then unearthed a pair of solar lenses from somewhere inside his coat. The effect was utterly absurd, but this did not seem to bother the Doctor.

    They reached Helltown, which lay midway between the station and their destination, a couple of hours past noon. By then, both horses and men were in fair desperate need of water and a rest, so Mal called a halt.

    Despite its name, Helltown looked to be a nice little community, especially compared to most of its border moon counterparts. It was a little shabby, with several of the buildings in need of some painting, but it had a general law-abidin? look. A boring, peaceful sort of town.

    ?It?s all very ?Tombstone,? isn?t it?? observed the Doctor as they dismounted and led their horses to a water trough. ?I mean, I keep expecting Doc Holliday or Wyatt Earp to come round the corner any minute.? He turned to find Mal and Jayne staring blankly at him.

    ?Who?re they?? Jayne demanded. ?Ain?t never heard of ?em.?

    The Doctor cleared his
  13. Fanficfan Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2005
    star 3
    Why you!... You got a lot o' nerve showing your face around here. After what you pulled.... [face_chicken]

    Nah just kidding. Great to see a new update. Especially curious to see what sort (if any) trouble the townsfolk intend. And I'll just bet that kid ends up saving some lives...

    Please don't make us (is it just me now?) wait so long for the next update. I had very nearly given up hope...
  14. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    Heh, yeah, I do have a lot of nerve... Apologies, apologies...

    ________________________________________

    Chapter Eleven: The Monsters in the Woods

    ?There is no fact that cannot be challenged
    No course of fate we cannot repair
    The means to an end is in the beginning
    Strength to endure comes out of despair
    Where there is love, there is life
    And where there is life, there is hope
    And in hope we find the sight to see
    The essence of divinity.?
    ?The Cruxshadows, ?Defender?

    Inara gently blew out the flame and set the smoldering incense stick into its holder. Growing up, she?d always enjoyed the rituals of her faith. It was a beautiful concept, the idea of prayers going up to heaven on a cloud of fragrant smoke. It was not until she left the sheltered life of Sihnon and met a highly unpredictable man by the name of Malcolm Reynolds that her beliefs took on a more immediate, practical meaning. For the first time in her life, she?d discovered she truly had something to pray for.

    Mostly, that the idiot wouldn?t get himself killed and leave her to pick up the pieces.

    Had Mal truly been the selfish, cold-hearted criminal he liked to think he was, she wouldn?t have half so many worries. It wasn?t his dubious choice of work that was the problem?it was that streak of morality three miles wide that he liked to pretend (most of the time) didn?t exist.

    She thought she?d understood him, what drove him. But it was so much more than a desire to spit in the Alliance?s eye, to scream defiance at his oppressors. The horror of war and its bitter aftermath had broken Mal Reynolds?but it hadn?t killed his desire to protect the weak and the voiceless, his determination to cling to his convictions whatever the cost.

    ?I start fightin? a war, I guarantee you?ll see somethin? new.?

    And oh, she had. She?d seen something terrifying in a man she?d thought of as an honorable but slightly bumbling fool. She?d seen then the reason why so many had followed him to death in battle, and why some, like Zoe, followed him still. Why he still stood and fought, even when he?d lost everything to the war, and stood to lose it again to the Operative and his masters. And it had cost them. Wash, Shepherd Book, nearly all Serenity?s friends and allies on the border planets. All dead, slaughtered by Reavers or the hand of the Alliance assassin and his men. And still Mal fought. Had been willing to sacrifice them all?even her?for the sake of a shattered child and a planet of voiceless dead. For the human beings the Reavers once had been.

    Because it was the right thing to do. Because no one else was willing. Because he could.

    She?d walked away from Serenity once before. She?d felt other things were more important than her feelings for Malcolm Reynolds. But she?d come back. And stayed. Some days she still wasn?t sure why she was here, on a transport run by petty criminals, when she ought to be somewhere repairing her relations with the Guild and getting on with her own life.

    And then he pulled something like today, risking his own life for the sake of others, and she remembered why she stayed. Why she couldn?t leave. Oh, he?d protested, and thrown a fit?but she knew him well enough by now to know that, if it were something he was truly dead-set against doing he?d find a way out. He?d agreed to go because there was something out there he could fight that the people of Three Hills could not. The fact that he was willing to do such a thing, despite everything that had happened and might yet, was the reason she knew she could not leave him or the odd, broken family he?d built ever again.

    And the best she could do to help him was to pray for his safe return.


    ***

    This was not shaping up to be the best day ever. Mal eyed the crowd uneasily. No one seemed to be armed, but he wasn?t gonna make assumptions at this point. Then he spotted Ricky, at the front of the crowd. The boy stood next to a much older man, who had one hand planted firmly on the kid?s shoulder and was scowling fit to turn folk to stone. Mal suddenly ha
  15. Mar17swgirl Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 26, 2000
    star 7
    Great posts! :D I love the dialogue - I can literally hear David Tennant when I'm reading the Doctor's lines.

    And I have a sneaky suspicion that Mal & co. will be asking the Doctor a lot more questions now - namely how can he know what's too advanced for their time... [face_whistling]

    Can't wait for more! :D
  16. Lilith Demodae Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 1999
    star 4
  17. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    *blushes* Lilith reminded me (again) that I haven't posted here in AGES. To avoid further embarrassment, I'm gonna post the rest of the fic and stop torturing you all. :D


    _________________________

    Chapter Eleven: The Monsters in the Woods

    ?There is no fact that cannot be challenged
    No course of fate we cannot repair
    The means to an end is in the beginning
    Strength to endure comes out of despair
    Where there is love, there is life
    And where there is life, there is hope
    And in hope we find the sight to see
    The essence of divinity.?
    ?The Cruxshadows, ?Defender?

    Inara gently blew out the flame and set the smoldering incense stick into its holder. Growing up, she?d always enjoyed the rituals of her faith. It was a beautiful concept, the idea of prayers going up to heaven on a cloud of fragrant smoke. It was not until she left the sheltered life of Sihnon and met a highly unpredictable man by the name of Malcolm Reynolds that her beliefs took on a more immediate, practical meaning. For the first time in her life, she?d discovered she truly had something to pray for.

    Mostly, that the idiot wouldn?t get himself killed and leave her to pick up the pieces.
    Had Mal truly been the selfish, cold-hearted criminal he liked to think he was, she wouldn?t have half so many worries. It wasn?t his dubious choice of work that was the problem?it was that streak of morality three miles wide that he liked to pretend (most of the time) didn?t exist.

    She thought she?d understood him, what drove him. But it was so much more than a desire to spit in the Alliance?s eye, to scream defiance at his oppressors. The horror of war and its bitter aftermath had broken Mal Reynolds?but it hadn?t killed his desire to protect the weak and the voiceless, his determination to cling to his convictions whatever the cost.

    ?I start fightin? a war, I guarantee you?ll see somethin? new.?

    And oh, she had. She?d seen something terrifying in a man she?d thought of as an honorable but slightly bumbling fool. She?d seen then the reason why so many had followed him to death in battle, and why some, like Zoe, followed him still. Why he still stood and fought, even when he?d lost everything to the war, and stood to lose it again to the Operative and his masters. And it had cost them. Wash, Shepherd Book, nearly all Serenity?s friends and allies on the border planets. All dead, slaughtered by Reavers or the hand of the Alliance assassin and his men. And still Mal fought. Had been willing to sacrifice them all?even her?for the sake of a shattered child and a planet of voiceless dead. For the human beings the Reavers once had been.

    Because it was the right thing to do. Because no one else was willing. Because he could.

    She?d walked away from Serenity once before. She?d felt other things were more important than her feelings for Malcolm Reynolds. But she?d come back. And stayed. Some days she still wasn?t sure why she was here, on a transport run by petty criminals, when she ought to be somewhere repairing her relations with the Guild and getting on with her own life.

    And then he pulled something like today, risking his own life for the sake of others, and she remembered why she stayed. Why she couldn?t leave. Oh, he?d protested, and thrown a fit?but she knew him well enough by now to know that, if it were something he was truly dead-set against doing he?d find a way out. He?d agreed to go because there was something out there he could fight that the people of Three Hills could not. The fact that he was willing to do such a thing, despite everything that had happened and might yet, was the reason she knew she could not leave him or the odd, broken family he?d built ever again.

    And the best she could do to help him was to pray for his safe return.

    ***
    This was not shaping up to be the best day ever. Mal eyed the crowd uneasily. No one seemed to be armed, but he wasn?t gonna make assumptions at this point. Then he spotted Ricky, at the front of the crowd. The boy stood next to a much older man, who had one hand plante
  18. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    Heh. Ironically, I have now moved *back* to Wyoming from California...

    And I love your siggy, Mar17. Sherlock is awesome!!!!


    ______________________________

    Chapter Twelve: A Little Bit of Trust

    I believe in what I fight for
    And I have paid for it with pain
    I am here because my contributions
    May help turn this fate away...
    -The Cruxshadows, ?Eye of the Storm?

    ?Controlling?? Mal stared at the Doctor. He wanted to call the man crazy?but there was nothing but sincerity in those big brown eyes. ?You mean, controlling Reavers??

    The Doctor?s mouth curved into a wry half-smile. ?Well, seeing as we found it on a Reaver, then I?d say that, yes.?

    ?No way,? said Jayne insistently. ?Ain?t nobody can control a Reaver. Ain?t possible.?

    ?Can?t tell if they succeeded,? admitted the Doctor. ?But you did say they weren?t behaving right. Maybe that was due to this thing?s influence.? He held the disk up to his eye again. ?I wonder...? He reached inside his suit jacket with his free hand and tugged out a thin silvery cylinder-thing with a little blue bulb on top. He flipped it over in his hand, pointing it down at the piece of metal. A high pitched hum made Mal?s eardrums buzz, and blue light spilled from the object?s end. After a moment, the Doctor lifted the strange little tool up, still activated, and waved it around. He frowned. ?Ooh, this probably isn?t good,? he said.

    ?What??

    The Doctor cocked a worried eye at him. ?There?s another power signature like this one somewhere nearby.?

    Meaning there was another gorram Reaver nearby. But why hadn?t it attacked them yet? The Doctor, damn him, was right. There was something really off about these Reavers? behavior?and no reason Mal could see for it. Reavers didn?t change their behavior all on their own. At the moment, the hows and whys of the Doctor?s strange tool and his even stranger remarks a few minutes earlier faded in the light of imminent danger. One more Reaver they could probably handle, but if there were any more out there, they would be in serious f?n zse. ?I don?t suppose that metal thingy of yours can tell if it?s more than one??

    ?There?s only one signal, so I can definitely say there?s only one Reaver wearing a tag. There might be others who aren?t tagged, though.? The Doctor switched off his device and frowned at Mal. ?And it isn?t a ?thingy,? it?s a sonic screwdriver. Most useful tool in the universe.? He tucked it back into his jacket.

    Moving past the obvious question?how could a screwdriver pick up signals, sonic or not?Mal said, ?Jayne, better get the grenades ready.?

    The Doctor started to climb to his feet, but wobbled so badly that Mal jumped up to grab his arm. ?Thanks,? said the other man. ?Feel like I?ve been hit by a train.? He brushed at the leaves and twigs clinging to his clothing, then looked down to where the Reaver?s blood stained his shirt and jacket. His face wrinkled with distaste. ?And I look as though I?ve been through a slaughterhouse.?

    ?Can you tell what direction the other Reaver is?? Mal demanded. ?Be useful for somethin? other than Reaver bait??

    The Doctor glowered, but did not argue the point. ?That way,? he said, pointing west. ?But I think if we just wait here for a??

    Jayne let out a howl of pain just as a loud crack split the air. The big merc clutched his side with one hand and staggered backwards. Blood welled between his fingers. A second shot rang out, then a third, kicking up bits of shattered leaves and dirt from the forest floor. There came the sound of heavy bodies moving at speed through the underbrush, and then two more Reavers were upon them.

    The first headed right for Jayne, who was struggling to bring his gun up. His fingers were slick with blood, and he fumbled with the weapon. The second ignored Mal and the Doctor in favor of Ricky, who stood frozen with terror.

    Mal dove forward, dropping his shoulder and ramming into the Reaver attacking Ricky. He hoped to knock it down, give him a chance to put a bullet in its brainpa
  19. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    Chapter Thirteen: Pockets

    ?I have wandered, I have rambled
    I have crossed this crowded sphere,
    And I've seen a mass of problems
    That I long to disappear.
    Now, all I have's this anguished heart,
    For you have vanished too.
    Oh, my girl, my girl, my precious girl,
    Just what is this man to do??
    ?Murray Gold, ?Love Don?t Roam?


    When a job was done, and the world was saved (at least until the next time) the Doctor really preferred to leave as quickly and quietly as he could. Saved a lot of fuss and extended goodbyes. And parties. He didn?t really like parties. Loved people, and interacting with them, but not at parties. They always seemed to go wrong, somehow. And someone was always trying to get him to dance when he didn?t want to.

    But there was no slipping off from Three Hills. For one, Mal wasn?t about to leave before he got paid for risking lives and limbs. And then people from the nearby towns began pouring into the station, bringing food and coming to have a look at the heroes. Ricky, as a local, achieved special status almost immediately?which Mal seemed content to let him have so long as the food kept coming. The Doctor noticed that the captain was awfully good at making sure that a steady stream of the stuff got tucked away on the ship without being obvious about it, especially things made up with vegetables and fruit. A clever way of making sure his crew stayed well-fed on something other than protein extracts. The Doctor silently applauded Mal?s imagination.

    He wasn?t very interested in mingling, though. He didn?t think much of Zeke (who, despite bearing the name Harkness, struck the Doctor as a spineless fish) and as fascinating as the townsfolk probably were (it was still all very Tombstone, from what he could see), the Doctor found that what he really wanted was the TARDIS. And a shower. So he waited until everyone was thoroughly distracted by the impromptu celebration and slipped away into Serenity?s cargo hold, where his own ship sat quietly. It was easy enough to wait until no one was looking to unlock the door and slip inside.

    The lights came up softly as he shut the door behind him, and a gentle hum filled his ears. The presence of the TARDIS, never completely gone from his mind, loomed large and comforting. Much as he ached for his lost planet, as much as he missed it and everything else lost to the War, this was truly home, and had been since the day he stole her and ran away to see the universe. As long as he had the TARDIS, he would be all right.

    Crossing to the center console, he reached out to run his fingers along the curve of it, the Gallifreyan coral inlay he?d installed before the end of the War warm beneath his fingers. ?Hello, old girl,? he said softly. ?Everything all right?? Past companions had accused him of daftness, speaking to the TARDIS as though it were another person. Very few of them ever understood that, to him, she was?and so he tried not to carry on extended conversations with his ship unless he was completely alone with her.

    The ship?s presence flared briefly, a burst of color in his head that told him everything was just fine. Then, oddly, an image of little River Tam?s face appeared, very briefly, followed by something that felt...curious. The TARDIS was intrigued by the strange, broken girl that wandered the ship outside. The Doctor wondered a little at it. The TARDIS usually didn?t acknowledge other beings unless they actually came inside.

    The moment passed, though, as a burst of concern at the blood on his clothing chased away thoughts of River. The Doctor patted the console. ?Not mine,? he assured the ship. ?Though I?d appreciate it if you?d open up the laundry for me. And the baths. And while I?m there, I want you to hook up to whatever passes for the local databases. I need to do some research, before I really put my foot into it. ?

    A hum of agreement came, and the Doctor was aware of a slight shift from beyond the door at the other end of the control room, opposite the entrance. He sent up a mental thanks, and left the console t
  20. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    Chapter Fourteen: Snares


    ?I watch the heavens but I find no calling
    Something I can do to change what's coming
    Stay close to me while the sky is falling
    Don't wanna be left alone, don't wanna be alone...?
    ?Sarah McLachlan, ?World on Fire?

    The terraforming of Paquin had kicked up a unique atmospheric mix, the end result being a slightly orangish tint to the sky overhead that produced spectacular sunrises and sunsets, which in turned formed the scenic basis for Paquin?s thriving tourist industry. Serenity made planetfall some hours before dawn, and so as the crew prepared to scatter and gather further information regarding the supposed alien and its owner they were just in time to catch one of the famous sunrises.

    The Doctor stood, one hand buried in a coat pocket, the other dancing the disc of metal he?d found in the woods on Three Hills over his knuckles, watching the sunrise over the crowded buildings of the docks. He both loathed and cherished sunrises. He?d seen so many, on thousands of worlds, in thousands of ages, all of them beautiful, but always they told of another day gone, another length of time between himself and everything he?d ever lost. It should have seemed strange, that a single day?s time should mean so much to a man who had seen so many centuries (and only admitted to nine of them out loud) but there it was. He?d given up his claim to being a logical, sensible creature a long time ago.

    The orange sky overhead now plucked more deeply at old hurts, and for a moment he gave into the ache, allowed himself to see?just for a moment?another sky, this one a darker burnt orange, with twin suns overhead and mountains far bigger than any of these humans around him had ever dreamt of stretching into infinity, and there on the edge of sight a great glittering dome full of the promise of enlightenment and company and the threat of confinement and stagnation...

    And he shoved the memories away, with the familiar mix of grief and guilt and turned away from the sky in time to see Kaylee, bright as a tropical flower in her patterned t-shirt, the sleeves of her mechanic?s coveralls tied around her waist. There was, he noticed, a fuzzy teddy bear patch sewn onto one leg of the coveralls. That struck him as very Kaylee.

    She gave him a tentative smile. ?What?s wrong, Doctor??

    ?Why do you ask??

    ?You looked so sad,? she replied, looking sad herself at the thought. ?Standin? there, watchin? the sky.?

    He gave her a smile. It wasn?t a very good one, he feared, being rather small and wistful in light of the thoughts in his head. ?Oh...just remembering.? He looked away. ?It doesn?t matter.? He looked back at her, and produced a better smile. ?I?m fine.? He took in the rest of the crew, standing in scattered groups on the ramp and in the hold, going over the final details of the day?s work. Simon stood a few feet behind Kaylee, talking quietly with his sister, though he shot glances toward the mechanic and the Doctor from time to time. ?Heading off to case the joint?? the Doctor asked her.

    She giggled a little. ?Sorta. There ain?t been much information ?bout this alien on the Cortex, just rumors that some guy named Carson Renier?s got one. Even Badger couldn?t give us much more?n that, so the Cap?n wants us to find out how we might get a closer look at it, ?fore we figure out how to steal it.? She tilted her head, smiling sweetly at him. ?River and me are gonna go look around at some of the sideshows, see what we can learn from the carnies. You wanna come??

    ?I?d love to!? said the Doctor, genuinely pleased. He?d planned to attach himself to one of the groups anyhow, but it was always nicer to get an invite rather than just going. He caught the look on Simon?s face over Kaylee?s head. ?Isn?t Simon coming??

    ?Naw. His turn to stay with the ship, make sure no one steals it or somethin?.?

    The Doctor, still eyeing the expression on the young doctor?s face, felt compelled to add, ?I don?t think your boyfriend likes me very much.?

    Kaylee?s bright brown eyes twinkled. ?That?s ?cause you?re
  21. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    Chapter Fifteen: Dead Man?s Words

    ?Every ghost that calls upon us
    Brings another measure in the mystery
    Death is there
    To keep us honest
    And constantly remind us we are free?
    ?Dan Fogelberg, ?Ghosts?

    Zeke Harkness?s face, streaked with blood and grime, filled the vidscreen. His eyes were wide with terror, but there was a determined set to his jaw that Mal had never seen before. ?...hope y?all get this. Got no idea if I?ll even get it offworld before...? he broke off, swallowing hard, and glanced behind him. The sounds of battle and screaming were clearly audible.

    Mal glanced at the date in the lower corner of the screen. Two days old, recorded just about twenty four hours after Serenity broke atmo on Three Hills.

    ?Listen,? said Zeke urgently into the screen, raising his voice over the sounds of carnage. ?They showed up, outta nowhere. Reavers, a whole two ships full. They caught us by surprise, which ain?t unusual. But...Malcolm, they ain?t actin? right. We got defenses right enough, we?ve stood up to Reaver attacks before. Even caught by surprise, they shouldn?t have been able to take us all. But these?they?re organized. Actin? like gorram soldiers, almost, ?cept for the eating of folk and the rest of it. But I?ve seen battle, just like you, and I know when someone?s obeyin? orders and when they?re just killin?. These Reavers, Malcolm, they?re being told what t?do.

    ?They?ve already wiped out Helltown and most of Guangxi. Everyone that?s left is holed up here at the station, but we ain?t gonna last much longer. We?ve sent out distress calls to the feds, but you can figure on the response.? Zeke wiped his brow with a badly shaking hand. ?It?s a ghost that?s talkin? to you over this wave, Malcolm. I?m sorry. I know how you are about stuff, but don?t you go thinkin? this is your fault. Just...just find out what the hell happened to us, Malcolm Reynolds. Find out why, and kill the gorram sonsabitches that?re behind this. I know I can trust you for that.? He drew an unsteady breath. ?And?and if you could let my sister on Ariel know...don?t tell her how...just...? He was interrupted by an almighty crash, and terrible screams and yells drowned out anything else he might have said. They saw him turn, screaming something incomprehensible, and stagger as a dark shape barreled into him. Blood spattered the vidscreen, then something heavy struck it and the image dissolved, mercifully, into snow.

    A long, strained silence stretched over the bridge. Mal could feel his nails cutting into his palms, knew that if he looked down he would see bone showing yellow through his skin, his hands were clenched so tight.

    Somewhere out there, there is something terrible happening?something I can stop, or help you stop. The Doctor?s words to him at their meeting came back, echoing in the horrified silences of his mind. And, worse, his more recent words. I?d say this little item charged up with psychic energy isn?t just for tracking, it?s for controlling.

    Had he known about this before? It seemed almost possible, given how swiftly he?d identified that little bit of metal as a ?tag? back on Three Hills. Slow rage built in Mal?s belly, hotter than hellfire and corrosive as acid. Wasn?t right, what happened on Three Hills, to Zeke, to Ricky, to the nameless shopkeep who?d shown them little kindnesses. Wasn?t right when it happened to anyone in this godforsaken ?verse, but they?d already survived a Reaver attack, had faced down the terrors in the woods. They should have been left alone to get on with their lives, not fall prey to the nightmare. If the Doctor had known of this, known of Reavers behaving strangely, and he hadn?t said...then was it his fault?

    Don?t be jumpin? to conclusions, boy. Not until you got all the facts. He could hear the Shepherd?s voice in his head. Or was it his ma?s voice? Funny, how much she and Book had been alike...

    He raised his eyes to Inara?s white face, to Zoe?s hard, steely gaze. Inara had one hand pressed hard over her mouth, the other to h
  22. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
  23. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    Chapter Sixteen: A Little Less Trust

    ?Sometimes, in the night I feel it
    Near as my next breath
    And yet, untouchable
    Silently the past comes stealing
    Like the taste of some forbidden sweet...?
    ?Dan Fogelberg, ?Ghosts?

    River flowed. There seemed hardly intervening steps from lying prone on the park bench to upright and moving fast; one minute she was still, the next a blur of grace and motion. River fisted one hand into Bob?s hair, pulling his head back and using her weight to bear him downwards. With little leverage to control his suddenly bending spine, he was forced to let go of Kaylee to turn and deal with his attacker. He sacrificed some hair and managed to face River, only to receive a kick in his face for his troubles. She let go of him and glided back, as the other thugs, now ignoring the Doctor and Kaylee as non-threats, closed in.

    The Doctor dove forward, hand outstretched to catch the psychic tag as it fell. His fingers closed over it even as his other hand grabbed Kaylee by the collar of her shirt and dragged her back, out of the way of the abruptly furious melee. She stumbled against him, swearing in Chinese. ?Sorry,? he said in her ear, steadying her. ?I think maybe we should leave River to it.?

    There was no doubt the slight girl was holding her own. More than holding it, in fact; the Doctor could not, offhand, recall ever seeing such efficient, ruthless, and above all graceful violence. Even Leela had never quite achieved this level of ease.

    ?Shouldn?t we do something?? asked Kaylee anxiously.

    ?Working on it.? He upended the screwdriver over the tag in his palm and thumbed up the settings. ?Which one, which one,? he muttered. ?C?mon, c?mon...?

    Despite the beating River was handing them, the thugs were not going down. River ducked and whirled, spun and danced and leapt between them, but they were not falling. The Doctor strongly suspected that River might be pulling her punches, so as not to actually kill them, but even so the thugs were proving mightily resilient.

    ?Th-they should be hittin? the dirt,? Kaylee cried. ?This ain?t right, we gotta do somethin?! Doctor!?

    ?Almost got it...?

    A sonic screwdriver, even one as heavily tinkered with as his, would not do much against actual psionic energy. But these tags were, in their most basic components, essentially machines. And as he?d told the woman back on Persephone, the screwdriver could play merry hell with complicated bits of machinery. If he could just work out the frequency...and, of course, provided the four men had similar tags to the Reaver?s, then they might just be in business.

    The tag buzzed in his palm. ?Yes!? He thumbed up the power on the screwdriver and pointed it at the tangled knot of River and thugs. The whine was earsplitting, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Kaylee hastily clap her hands over her ears. The effect upon the thugs was rather more dramatic. Nearly as one they dropped writhing to the torn-up grass. ?How?s that, Kaylee?? he asked happily. ?They hitting the dirt well enough for you now??

    She stared, flabbergasted. He so loved being brilliant. No time to gloat, though. He wrapped the tag in his handkerchief, shoved it back into his pocket, and moved forward to the moaning Bob. Squatting down beside him, he pulled aside the prone man?s shirt collar, fingers probing. ?There has to be...aha! Thought so.? He pulled away a tag very similar to the one in his pocket, wincing a little as tiny filaments slid out of the man?s neck, leaving minute trails of blood. He hoped he wasn?t doing any neurological damage, yanking it out like this.

    ?What is that?? asked Kaylee, edging close enough to see.

    ?Collars,? said River darkly.

    ?Something like that,? the Doctor agreed. ?Check the others, will you?? He thumbed another setting on the screwdriver and held it over the new tag. ?Let?s just disable these nasty little toys.? He took each tag in turn as it was handed to him, and used the screwdriver on them. It might have been easier to simply break the things in half, but it
  24. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    Chapter Seventeen: Making Plans

    ?Remember the day
    When I first set my eyes on you and
    You said the same
    Seemed like everything was right for us
    Endless nights of loving
    All my doubts and fears went away
    So tell me what went wrong
    Now I need you...?
    ?Sarah Brightman, ?Ship of Fools?

    Zoe settled back in the chair, suppressing a weary sigh. Her ankles ached. Funny, that. Her feet had hurt plenty of times?all the running they did, their line of work, it was expected?but she couldn?t recall her ankles ever hurting. They swelled up some, too, when she?d been too long on her feet. It was such a little thing, taken alongside the rest of the changes her body had undergone the past almost-six months, but for some reason it really bothered her.

    Life woke in her belly, roiling and kicking. She rubbed her hand over the swell, murmuring soft, soothing words, fighting against the lump in her throat. Wash, you should be here, gorramit. Who?s gonna hold my hand when the time comes? Mal?d offer, but it ain?t his job, shouldn?t have to be. I?m scared, and Zoe Alleyne Washburn is never scared. It ain?t fair.

    And that was the worst of it. She missed him?so much?and she ached for his goofy smile and the warmth of his arms around her. And she was angry, so angry, that he?d left her to bear this alone. She was strong enough?she?d always been strong enough?but, gorramit, some days she was sick and tired of having to be strong enough. He was supposed to be here to run and fetch for her, to get her the silly foodstuffs she craved, to put up with her grousing about it being all his fault and getting misty-eyed with her over what they?d created between them. Instead she had to soldier on like always and pretend she was as stoic as ever, for her own sake as much as everyone else?s. And she hated it. For the first time, she hated being the perfect soldier. And she was angry at Wash, and angry at Mal for putting her husband in a position to die, and furious with herself for letting it happen. Angry at feeling vulnerable now that he was gone, when she?d never been vulnerable in her life. Angry at being scared. And now, with Three Hills, there was all kinds of new things to be scared about, in addition to the usual...

    Someone knocked softly on the doorframe, and Zoe looked up to see the Doctor, looking hesitant. It didn?t strike her as an expression that often graced his face. ?Doc. Arrivin? early for the meetin???

    He gestured to the otherwise empty dining room. ?Am I disturbing you??

    ?Captain?s rounding up everyone else,? she said, sidestepping the question. He was disturbing her?she still couldn?t figure him out?but considering the unhappy whirlpool her solitary thoughts were locking into, that wasn?t necessarily a bad thing. ?He told me what happened at the carnival. I?m glad you and the girls are all right.?

    ?Yes. Bit of a disturbance, that. I must say, River?s, ah, talents are remarkable.? He offered her a tentative smile, and sank into a chair. ?How are you feeling??

    ?Like a whale,? said Zoe honestly. He didn?t want to discuss the carnival, she realized. Or Three Hills. Well, neither did she, really. Seemed fair enough; they?d all have to hash it over and over again soon enough. ?But I understand that?s normal. Or so Simon says.?

    ?He?s a gifted doctor.?

    ?He?s a gifted surgeon,? she corrected. ?But I ain?t decided yet if he?s a gifted baby doctor. Far as I know, he?s only ever delivered one baby.? She thought about that a moment, and added, ?Though since he did it in the middle of a god-awful firefight, I suppose that?s somethin?. Just seems t?me that men get more fussed than they ought, when babies are involved.?

    ?Mm.? The Doctor?s dark eyes grew blurred, looking at something far in the past. ?I suppose it?s true enough, that the male half of the species gets more flapped than the female over childbirth. Probably because they can?t do it themselves. I remember when my?? He stopped abruptly, and swallowed hard. The blur in his eyes took on a sheen of
  25. Frostfyre Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 3
    Chapter Nineteen: Before the Chaos

    ?Into the silence will you answer
    Before the chaos will you come??
    ?The Cruxshadows, ?Sophia?

    ?Four hours,? muttered Mal. ?Four hours and seventeen minutes, actually, and we haven?t found out a damn thing.?

    ?Yes, it is getting rather tedious, isn?t it?? the Doctor asked cheerfully. ?You?d think someone would know there murky goings on in the company, but nooo, it?s all petty cheating and skiving off work early. But d?you know what?s really bothering me? There?s absolutely nothing at all in the computers. No secret files, no locked servers?or, at least, nothing that is anything to do with things other than the entertainment industry. Very odd.? He shrugged. ?Or I?m completely wrong and there?s nothing at all sinister going on here.?

    ?You?re not serious?? Inara demanded.

    ?No, I?m not. There?s something going on here, I?m certain of it.?

    ?How?? Mal snapped.

    The Doctor hesitated. ?Well...a hunch? Gut instinct? Woman?s intuition?no, hang on, I can?t claim that, can I?? His eyes gleamed. ?Or how about the fact that, in all the people we?ve pestered, prodded, and interrogated in the last four hours, not a one of them has ever seen or spoken to Carson Renier? And, in fact, when asked about him, wander off the subject as if they had no idea what we?re talking about? You said, before, that Renier is a big name on Paquin. But all the information we?ve found so far indicates this is a fairly new company. It only appeared in the last three or four years.?

    Inara exchanged glances with Mal. ?He?s right,? she said slowly. ?Now that I think about it, no one seems to know who Carson Renier really is.?

    Mal?s eyebrows drew together, and he rubbed the bridge of his nose. He?d pulled off the spectacles two hours earlier, complaining that they were making his nose sore. Inara had the feeling he was self-conscious about them, and found herself wondering if they weren?t really his after all. ?It ain?t bein? cagey, either,? he said. ?It?s almost as if...? He broke off, his frown deepening. ?As if they can?t see him,? he finished in a softer voice.

    ?Perception barrier,? said the Doctor, tucking his own spectacles into his breast pocket. ?Keeps the average person from noticing an object, a person. Even memories or events, or whole planets, if the one building the barrier is good enough.?

    Mal?s eyes narrowed. ?Or a tall blue box, maybe?? he asked pointedly.

    ?Oooh, you are a clever one. Yes, something like that.? The Doctor?s smile seemed a little forced.

    ?Doctor...?

    ?Now is not the time, Captain. All will be made clear in due course, I promise. Or mostly clear, anyway. Well, I say ?clear? but really I suppose if you get down to it I?m never really...No, why don?t we locate the service elevator? Four people have given us four conflicting sets of directions, and I?m starting to get suspicious.? And off he went, hands shoved in his pockets, whistling a jaunty tune.

    ?You aren?t the only one,? growled Mal.

    ?What is it?? Inara asked quietly as they followed the Doctor.

    ?You remember that blue box he brought on board??

    ?Well...yes. What about it??

    ?Aren?t you the least bit curious about it??

    Inara blinked. ?I?I hadn?t really thought about it much. But it?s his box, isn?t it? It?s none of my business...?

    ?Inara, I realize the Guild is all about the discretion thing, but you want to tell me you didn?t wonder about it even a little bit??

    ?I...no, you?re right. I really haven?t thought about it. Like...? She stared at Mal.
    ?Like you couldn?t even see it,? he finished. ?And he,? he jerked his chin at the Doctor several feet ahead, ?as much as admitted that there?s one of those perception whatsits on it. On a plain blue box? Why? And how is it he?s capable of doin? something like that??

    ?You think he?s connected to this situation??

    ?He?s connected to something,? said Mal grimly. ?And the trust he got on Three Hills is rapidly runnin? out.?

    ?You might be interested to know,? said the Doctor, ?I can hear every word you?re saying, as
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