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Unfinished: Firefly/TOC Files

OK, normally I'd write a little bit about where I was going, where this came from, but I already did when sending this to someone for help.



Alan (with Ryan?) sent to minor far-flung outpost to retrieve important information (papers/ documents) as his form of transportation is the quickest. Arrives only to find it a major port/ destination. When trying to figure out what happened, they put it down to magnetic interference causing them to go to the wrong planet but they soon realize it’s the right planet but the wrong time –200 years in the future! They hear screaming and rush to help where they see two young women being accosted by police and a young man fighting them off. They join in the fight. The police run off. In gratitude, they are taken to their ship, Serenity.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds returns to Serenity with his first mate, Zoë and her husband, Wash, the pilot. As they are loading the provisions, he sees Kaylee, the ship’s mechanic, running towards the ship followed by Simon, Serenity’s doctor and his sister, River. Two men in some kind of uniform were chasing after them and Mal pulls out his gun. Kaylee tells him the two men helped them against the Feds but reinforcements were now on the way. Mal orders Wash to start up the ship while they finish loading the provisions. The two men introduce themselves but Mal is suspicious, feeling that they’re hiding something and shares his thoughts with Zoë (and Jayne?)

Ryan and Alan try to milk the others for information while in the mess. Simon offers a change of clothes. Alan or Ryan makes a comment that the others are not familiar with and they say it’s popular back on Earth which leads to “Earth That Was” conversation. Kaylee says that they must be familiar with ETW and asks for stories. Ryan volunteers the story of _______. Inara, Book, and Wash show up and listen. Jayne is drawn in by the storytelling as well. Mal and Zoë stay on the outskirts.
River comments that Alan and Ryan are more than they appear to be. She has an “episode” and Alan, using telepathy, helps her through it and she takes a liking to him, trusting him, which amazes Simon,

The crew is preparing a job but are at something of a loss as to how to go about it. Ryan volunteers his expertise to help them devise a plan. It comes off perfect, but when they try to complete a pre-arranged bargain, Feds show up. Ryan and Alan are taken.

The Feds run tests on the unconscious prisoners and are perplexed when the computer contradicts itself regarding the DNA scans and a possible match. Clearance is given and they learn that the two men are legendary Alliance heroes from the past. They contact Central HQ and word comes back that be escorted back to be feted. Alan and Ryan try to escape restraints but are caught.

Serenity’s crew convince Mal to rescue them. Mal, Jayne, and Zoë get them but are surrounded. Ryan and Alan get Mal to give them the ship’s coordinates and they escape.


OK this is as far as I got and it was done a number of months ago. I know you won’t mind fleshing out the plotline. My stories with Alan and his brother are located at FictionPress.Com under “TOC Files”. http://www.fictionpress.com/read.php?storyid=4277

What started me on this was the fact that in the world of the TOC, there is an Alliance as well, this one much more beneficial and less tyrannical. So either we can make the Alliance of FF a degenerated version of the one from the TOC or it could have been created and named in an attempt to recreate what had gone before. How it fell apart can be dealt with later. Either way, the Kelly brothers will be considered something mythical. I’m not sure who on Serenity will figure it out first.

This also can be placed during the series or after the film. If after the film, Alan can fill in as the pilot at some point.




Col. Alan Kelly was relaxing in his rooms when he received a call from Gen. McGuire, the Base Commander—and his godfather. “Alan, I need to ask you a favor.”

Generals asking favors did not always bode well. “Is that a new way to send me on a mission?”

“Not exactly. We have information that needs to get to Persephone before the storms start. I figured you were the quickest way.”

“When did I become a courier, especially to that place?” Persephone was a dreary piece of rock out in the far reaches of Alliance territory. There was only a small group of buildings populated by scientists and soldiers under a protective dome. The storms came up the same time every year and had something to do with the orbit, axis, and poles. When one came up, all communication was lost.

“You know I don’t ask this lightly and I know it doesn’t compare to your missions, but it is important.”

Alan sighed. “I guess I could do it, sir. Didn’t really have much planned for today.”

“Great. Come to my office when you’re ready.” McGuire signed off.

Alan sighed again and stood. If he delayed any longer, he’d never move. After a quick visit to the bathroom, he checked his fatigues to make sure he was presentable. After all, he did have a reputation to uphold. He left his quarters and headed for the general’s office.

“Hey, Alan!”

Alan turned to see his brother heading his way. “Ryan.” He waited for him to catch up. “We didn’t have anything planned, did we?”

“Not really, no. We were basically just gonna hang out and enjoy some downtime.” He fell into step beside him. “So, where ya goin’?”

“Cieran asked me to do him a favor. A milk run, really.”

“If it’s a milk run, why did he ask you?” Alan explained his godfather’s request. “Count me in.”

“There’s no need for you to go as well. It’s not like I need the company.” Actually, he wouldn’t mind if Ryan came. He’d probably try to follow on his own anyway. He sighed. “OK. Only if Cieran agrees.”

*********

Ryan went with Alan to McGuire’s office. The general was one of the best officers and pilots to come out of the Academy but you wouldn’t know it to look at him. He was very laid-back and had an almost childlike quality about him. Get him into a ship in the midst of a fight, however, and you’d better watch out.

“Ryan, I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“I met up with Alan in the hall and he told me what was going on.”

“He wants in, sir.”

“You did tell him it’s a simple courier run?”

“Yes, but I think it’s best to let him come. When he’s bored and left to his own devices, things can get dangerous.”

He is standing right here. And my background in plotting and scheming has come in quite handy for us.”

“True,” agreed McGuire. “I guess having the two of you go won’t hurt. It’ll certainly give those posted on Persephone stories to tell.”

He handed them a small square envelope. “All the information has been transferred to this disc so it will be easy for you to transport. Just hand it to the commanding officer and you’re done.”

Alan pocketed the envelope. “And his name, sir?”

“Col. James Morris. He’ll be expecting you. Well, not you, but the disc. He are the coordinates. Thanks for doing this for me, boys.”

Ryan took the slip of paper and entered the numbers into his machine before passing it to Alan. “See you in a little bit.” He looked at his brother then activated the machine.

Right away he knew something was wrong. They were outside, for one thing, with a bright sun beaming down. Then there was the noise. Way too much for an Alliance outpost. Conversations in English and Chinese predominated with other languages mixed in. Shouts and calls by barkers and vendors competed with one another periodically drowned out by engines flying overhead.

He looked at Alan. “I think we made a mistake.”

Alan checked the machine on his wrist. “No, these are the right coordinates. Oh, crap.”

“What?”

“We overshot temporally just a little bit.”

“How little?”

“About 200 years.”

**************************

Kaylee smiled widely. It was a beautiful day and she was out shopping with Simon and River so what else did she need? Normally, the captain didn’t like Simon and River off-ship when they were on a busy planet like this on account someone might recognize them and try to turn them in. Yeah, their names didn’t pop up on the Cortex as much as before but it still didn’t mean they weren’t wanted.

She reached for Simon’s hand and intertwined her fingers with his and watched as River darted back and forth between the stalls and making comments on what was on display. It was amazing, the change in her. She acted more “normal” now though she still had her moments. Kaylee felt sometimes River pretended just to scare Jayne.

River stopped in front of a stall that had these furry little creatures in cages. “Oh, aren’t they just so cute?” Kaylee exclaimed. “Just look at those little noses.”

Thinking he might have a sale, the man running the stall smiled. “They’re marvelous animals. Very lovable.”

“I don’t think the captain…” started Simon.

“Ah, but they are ideal for living on a ship. They don’t need much space-- What is she doing?”

Kaylee looked and saw that River was opening the cages and the animals were scurrying for freedom. Some of the other shoppers screamed making her wonder how anyone could scream at something so cute. Still others saw a chance for a free pet and scrambled to catch them. River stood in the middle of it all, a huge smile on her face.

“I should call the guard on you!” the man yelled. “You’ve ruined my business!”

“There’s no need for that,” said Simon trying to calm him down. “I’m sure we can reach some agreement.” He sounded so calm but she knew the very mention of the guards had him panicking.

Three Alliance guards forced their way through the ruckus and came to a stop right in front of them. “What’s going on here?”

“That girl,” the vendor said pointing at River, “let loose all my animals. These two are with her.”

Two of the soldiers grabbed Rover by the arms. “What do you have to say?” the first man asked her.

“They were scared and frightened,” she answered. “Now they’re happy.”

“I apologize, gentlemen. It’s just that she doesn’t like to see anything locked up.”

“We’ll just see how she views it from the other side.”

River began to whimper and struggle and Kaylee wanted to comfort her but wasn’t sure how. At least she wasn’t fighting them like she did on Beaumonde. Simon made to reach for her but the first soldier pushed him back.

“Aren’t you going a bit overboard with this?” asked a new voice.

Kaylee looked up and saw two men in some plain uniform she’d never seen before. They were tall and pretty good-looking too—though not as handsome as her doctor. Why are they helping us? What could they want?

“This is Alliance business and none of yours so you’d better leave before we take you in as well.”

“I’m certain some sort of restitution can be reached,” said the second man. “There’s no need to lock her up for something that’s little more than a prank.”

“ ‘Prank’? That little stunt ruined me! Those animals cost me a pretty penny!”

“Maybe next time you won’t put them all where just anyone can reach them,” said the first as he and the other newcomer moved closer to River.

She stilled and looked at them in that way Kaylee recognized and was still getting used to. “You’ve come such a long way,” she said softly. “Further than anyone.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“I don’t care what you think,” said the officer. “She started a riot and we have to take her in.”

“A riot? ‘T’weren’t nothin’ like that. It was just a--” She was at a loss for how to describe it.

“A commotion,” supplied Simon.

“Fine. A commotion. We still have to take her in.”

The two men looked at each other and then the first looked at River who smiled. Then the two men each punched the guard on either side of River, knocking them to the ground. They then grabbed her arms and ran. Kaylee didn’t take long to follow.

***************

Captain Malcolm Reynolds smiled. The supplies were loaded and Badger hadn’t showed his face yet. Everything was going smoothly the way he liked it which only meant they were headed for trouble. He heard pounding footsteps and looked up to see River racing towards him with two men close behind her. He drew his weapon and aimed it at the men. “Now you’d best stop there or I will shoot.” Of course that’d be the last thing he’d do, as he didn’t want the attention.

From behind him River said, “No, they helped me.”

Without taking his eyes off the two men he spoke to the girl. “You sure, Albatross?”

“Yes.”

At that moment Kaylee and the doc ran up. “Feds comin’, Cap’n!”

Great. I knew it was comin’. “All right. Everyone onboard. We was just waitin’ on you anyways.”

“What about them?” Simon asked. “If they hadn’t intervened, the Feds would have taken River and locked her up.”

Mal looked at the men. What they were wearing looked like uniforms though not one he had seen before. “We’ll drop you off next civilized planet we get to.” Damn, I’m getting’ soft.

“Thank you, captain,” said one of the men.

“As long as you don’t interfere with the runnin’ of my ship, we’ll get along just fine.” They all entered Serenity and Mal closed the door.

Jayne was the only one in the hold. “We takin’ on passengers again?” He looked them over, probably judging how well they’d do in a fight.

“Not exactly.” With Simon and River being wanted by the Feds, passengers were the last things he needed.

“They helped us get away from the Feds,” Kaylee told Jayne in that smiley way of hers. “And you don’t even know our names!” she exclaimed as she turned back to the men. “I’m Kaylee, this here’s Simon—he’s the ship’s doctor—and his sister River. That’s Jayne over there, and this is Malcolm Reynolds, the captain of Serenity.”

He then switched on the comms. “’Kay, Zoë, we’re all here.” Not long after, he felt the familiar lift of Serenity taking to the air. He had exposed the safety of his crew to the presence of strangers and not even paying passengers at that. “Seems to me the niceties ain’t quite done yet.”

“Right. Sorry. We’re just a bit overwhelmed by all this. My name’s Ryan Kelly and this is my brother Alan.”

“We know you’ve accepted us on trust, Captain, and I want to assure you that we won’t do anything to lose that.”

They speak like the doc so they’re educated. That’s somethin’ I learned without even tryin’. “Kaylee, why don’t you show them to the guest quarters.”

“Sure, Cap’n.” With a bright cheery smile, she led the two men from the hold.

“Doc, a word o’ warning. They’ll be near you and your sister so just be careful what you say. This rescue could have been arranged just so we’d ask ‘em on to return the kindness.”

“I understand, Captain. Thank you.” He left, probably for the infirmary.

“That goes for you too, Jayne. No sharin’ confidences till we know what side they’re on.”

“Sure thing, Mal. C’n I question ‘em?”

He looked too eager. “Maybe later. I think we can start off more subtle. Maybe we can get stuff out of ‘em at dinner.”

With that, Mal followed River to join Zoë on the bridge.

********************

Ryan followed the young woman through the halls until they came to some doors that looked Japanese—paper and wood frame. They even slid open. He was almost tempted to take off his boots. The room held a small bed against one wall, a cabinet for clothes and personal items, and recessed lighting in the walls.

“It ain’t much to look at but it’s comfy.”

“It’s not like we have much stuff anyway,” commented Alan as he sat on the bunk.

“The room next door is just like this so it really doesn’t matter who gets which.” She looked at what they were wearing. “I think we could come up with a change of clothes when you need ‘em.”

As Kaylee prattled on, Ryan thought on their predicament. Granted, that was understating things a bit. Christ! They were 200 years in the future and the Alliance — their Alliance — was now something feared, its forces corrupted. How could such a thing have happened? Sure it was nothing new, the Romans being the best example.

This was unnerving. If they found out the cause and went back, would that knowledge change the outcome or set things in motion? It was enough to give someone brain cramps.

“The mess is just up the way,” Kaylee was saying. “We usually eat together around __.”

“Thanks,” said Ryan.

“Kaylee, we’d like to help out in some way while we’re onboard if there’s anything you know of.”

Ryan looked at his brother. {What are you thinking?}

{We can’t just sponge off them. We should lend a hand where we can. Besides, we have no idea what the universe is like now. We might be able to pick up a thing or two.}

“Can you cook?”

******************************

Inara docked her shuttle and prepared to join the others on Serenity. Zoë had radioed her saying they had to leave quickly so she met with them before they left atmo. Leave it to Mal to make a spectacle every time they were on Persephone. At least she had finished with her clients.

She wrapped a shawl about her shoulders and opened the door, stepping onto the catwalk that connected the bridge to the rest of the ship. She could hear Mal and Zoë talking, probably about the next job they had lined up. She didn’t approve of Mal’s choice of profession and he most certainly did not approve of hers. The reason she now gave when anyone asked why she returned was that she missed the people, the company of Serenity. If she were to probe deeper, she would find something she didn’t like to admit to herself, let alone someone else.

She made her way to the galley to find some sort of snack, or perhaps a cup of tea to tide her over until dinner and was greeted by a delicious aroma, a virtual stranger to the ship. Once she stepped into the room she saw two men in the cooking area. Mal must be mad, taking on passengers! She watched as they moved in the tight space with such ease, as if choreographed.

She guessed they were both about six-feet tall though one had sandy brown hair while the other was a shade darker. They both looked quite lean and fit like their profession called for it.

The light haired one looked up and the deepest green eyes she had ever seen greeted Inara. He smiled. “You must be Inara. I’m Alan Kelly and this is my brother Ryan.” He wiped his hands on a towel before holding one out. “A pleasure to meet you.”

His accent was similar to Atherton’s only with more warmth and less arrogance. She held out her own hand and he gripped it firmly but gently in a polite shake. “And why must I be Inara?”

“Kaylee told us about the crew and you fit the description.”

“I’d say the description didn’t do you justice,” said Ryan as he joined the conversation.

This one is a smooth talker. “You flatter me.”

“I’m sure you don’t hear such compliments often.” He grinned as he warmed up to the game.

“You’ll have to excuse my brother. Once he gets started with that silver tongue of his, it’s hard for him to stop.”

“There’s no need to apologize. You are right. I haven’t been hearing that recently.” She sat at the table. “Is this how you’re paying your way? It smells wonderful.”

“As circumstances forced the captain to take us on, we thought we’d try and lend a hand.”

“Some of the ingredients are a bit unfamiliar,” put in Ryan, “but we’re trying.”

“I’m sure it will be better than most meals we’ve seen.”

“Did you want anything in here?” questioned Alan.

“Oh, I was just after a cup of tea. It’s just--” Alan had already opened the drawer where it was located while Ryan started the water. “You found that fast.”

“I came across it while searching for ingredients earlier.”

When the tea was poured, Ryan handed it to her with a flourish. “Will that be all, m’lady?”

Inara couldn’t hold back a laugh. She hadn’t flirted so innocently in ages. “Yes, you may go.”

“As you will.” He backed away.

She sipped the tea and watched the brothers in the kitchen. Things will certainly be interesting. I wonder if Mal knows what he’s let himself in for?

*************************

Simon counted the bandages in stock. This should hold us unless everyone decided to suffer major wounds at the same time.you think.”

Simon replayed the event in his mind. “They were both self-assured like they were used to being followed. When the officer mentioned the Alliance, for a moment I could have sworn they looked stunned.”

“Stunned?”

“It was almost as if they couldn’t believe what they were hearing. What makes me believe they’re not Alliance is that River went with them willingly.”

“You’re saying she read them and knew it was safe to go with them?”

“It’s all I can think of. I did hear her say something about coming a long way.”

“So, they could come from the outer planets.”

Simon knew Zoë was trying to come up with reasonable explanations. “They could have but River also said something like ‘farther than anyone else’ and I think she meant anyone ever.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know.” And he didn’t. Starting with that one thought you could go in any direction. They could be aliens, from another universe, or, if you really went the outrageous route, they could be from an alternate dimension.

“I guess I should go introduce myself.”

Simon knew she meant business despite her lighthearted tone. If they could win Zoë over, they were good.

*********************

Zoë strode down the corridor to the guest quarters to find them empty. Great. Missing already. She continued on and heard singing. Not just humming or mumbling, but real singing—in harmony. It was something old and classic that was vaguely familiar. She was then able to hear a line or two of the song and she realized why it was familiar. Wash and the Captain used to quote it when using the Cry Baby decoy. As she came closer to the kitchen she was assaulted by a mouth-watering aroma which made a nice change from the “nutty brown” smell that usually came from there.

She arrived in the kitchen and learned the source of the singing and the aroma was the new arrivals. Inara was sitting at the table sampling the food. At least we know it ain’t poisoned—yet. “Enjoyin’ the show?”

Inara looked up surprised. “Zoë, you have to have a taste. I don’t think we’ve had anything this wonderful since--” She stopped, not willing to continue the thought.

“Since Shepherd.” Talking of losing the Shepherd made her think of losing Wash, bringing forth a picture of his idiotically smiling face as he sat at Serenity’s controls. She was lucky to have met him and luckier to have married him. That’s what she remembered now whenever she came across any stray reminders of him.

She pushed that away for now. “You must be Kaylee’s strays.”

Possibly realizing how remiss she was, Inara hastily made the introductions. That’s not Inara. She’s usually very proper with her etiquette. Whatever these two have done, they could give the Cap’n lessons.

“Come to see for yourself?” the one called Alan asked as he came around to her. “I mean, you’ve heard the stories from the others and now it’s time for you to judge.”

This one does have the feel of a soldier, an officer, and is probably the leader. “It would be bad manners else wise. So you cook, hunh? I think you’ve found your purpose for the length of your trip.”

“And what does the captain have to say about this?” asked the other, Ryan.

“I’m sure he’ll agree once he tastes your cookin’.”

“Yes, he can be swayed by good food,” agreed Inara.

Zoë was ready to get down to business. “So how did you happen to be there at just the right time?”

“Our travel plans got a little botched up and while we were trying to figure out what to do next, we heard the commotion. We arrived to see those soldiers manhandling the girl.”

“River,” Inara supplied.

“Thank you.”

“You guys think we’re plants, don’t you?” questioned Ryan. That’s why the third degree. We have nothing to do with your Alliance.”

“I didn’t mean anythin’ personal by it,” Zoë countered. “We just have to be careful ‘bout who comes onboard.”

“You must admit the circumstances were unusual,” put in Inara.

Alan placed a restraining hand on his brother’s arm. “We don’t need to have these little interrogation sessions with each of the crew so we’ll answer what we can tonight at dinner and that’s it.”

The authority in his voice almost made Zoë salute out of reflex. Oh, he was definitely an officer. What made him turn against the Alliance? “We’ll have to run that by the captain.”

“Run what by the captain?”

**********************

After storing the cargo, Jayne went up to his bunk to take care of Vera. He had been neglecting her lately and he wanted her to be in top shape in case she was needed against the new guys. They looked a mite on the skinny side and not like they’d put up much of a fight. He wondered why Mal bothered taking them on especially if he thought they were Feds.

When Vera was clean, he moved on to his next weapon. Of course the doc’s sister went with them and she was the one supposed to read minds. If she had seen that in their heads, she would’ve screamed her head off and ramble all her nonsense. Or she would’ve killed them on the spot.

His stomach started growling and he knew it was time to eat. He slipped on of his smaller guns—Wynona—in the waistband of his pants before climbing the ladder out of his quarters.

Once in the hallway he smelled something weird. He sniffed again. It smelled like…food! He lumbered down the hall to the kitchen and almost ran into Mal in the doorway.

Zoë was going on about something about the new guys and Inara was sitting at the table. He joined her knowing that if you sat, you usually got food.

“What were they doin’ in here alone cookin’?” Mal squawked.

“Kaylee said we could help out by cooking,” said one of them.

“She showed us where everything was then left,” added the other.

“I’ve already had some,” said Inara, “and I feel fine.”

What? Is there something wrong with the food?

“We gave some to Inara to taste and then Zoë came in so we couldn’t have done anything even if we’d wanted.”

“Why would they have helped us only to poison us?” asked the doc.

When did he get here?

“To wait till they got us all together. We eat the stuff, get all dead and unconscious, then they signal the Feds.”

That’s some pretty good reasonin’. Even if they ain’t Alliance, they could take the ship.

“That’s very faulty reasoning, Captain,” said the other one. “Why risk the three we would have had in the off-chance you’d let us onboard? We could have had them arrested and gotten the rest of you when you attempted a rescue.”

“Yeah, well. Sounds good for now But I’ll still be watchin’.”

“C’n we eat now?”

*****************************

River slipped into her seat at the table, which put her across from the travelers. She had seen confusion in Alan’s head when he talked to her. It was a different kind of confusion, not like hers. They had seen so much, been so many places. It intrigued and frightened her at the same time.

“Let’s get this Q and A started,” declared Ryan.

“What?” asked the captain.

“Q and A—questions and answers. It’s an old Earth term.”

“D’ya know a lot ‘bout Earth-That-Was?” Kaylee asked. “You must have some stories.”

Kaylee loved stories. Made-up ones or real ones—didn’t matter to her.

Alan looked to the captain who shrugged. “Might as well. Kaylee’ll keep goin’ on ‘bout ‘em till you do.” He used his roll to wipe the gravy from his plate. “’Sides, cookin’ like this, no way you’re with the Alliance,”

“OK. I think I’ve got just the one.” Ryan took a breath and started. “There was once a kingdom that was filled with fields and forests, lakes and ____. The king was a brave warrior who left to fight a war in a faraway land leaving the running of the country to his brother. Now the brother was greedy and began to tax the peasants to line his own pockets. The poor were too scared and oppressed to stand up to the cruel and unjust laws. They had lost all hope.”

Alan picked up. “The prince liked to make a show and let the people celebrate to forget how bad their lives were. At a tournament outside the city of Ashby four travelers arrived. As they were needing money and jobs, one of them entered the archery contest in the hope of winning the prize…”

The components of the story itself were archetypal: the cruel, unjust ruler, the hero rising from obscurity, and the woman for possible romance. River was drawn into the story, barely registering when the brothers switched narrating. It was how they were brought to life. She could picture them in the rôles easily and the other members of his team became the rest of the group. How do I know they’re his team? They’re not real. Yes, they are! They’re here!

She risked looking into Alan’s mind and saw him in many strange places and costumes. It was when she saw him in uniform and got a flash of “Alliance” that made her fall.

***********************

Alan was just starting the end of the story when he was going to Nottingham Castle to show the Sheriff what he could do when River started flailing her arms and shouting. He couldn’t get the full gist of it, but he had a feeling it had to do with them.

“Crazy Girl’s back,” commented Jayne around a mouthful.

“What brought that on, doc?” asked the captain. “She ain’t had one o’ those fits since…”

“I don’t know. It could be a delayed reaction to what happened today.” He turned to his sister setting a hand on her arm as she started to curl up. “It’s ok, River. We’re on Serenity. No one here wants to hurt you.”

“May I try?” Alan knew he would have a better chance of reaching her. Simon looked at him sharply. “It’s all right. What can I do with all of you watching?”

“You’d better believe we’re watchin’.”

Alan ignored the captain and placed a hand on either side of River’s face. “River, listen to my voice. I won’t hurt you. Your brother is right here with me and so is the rest of Serenity.”

As he spoke out loud for the benefit of the others, he slowly probed her mind. He could see it had been tampered with somehow. Given her fear of the Alliance, he guessed they were the cause. How could anyone mess with the brain of a young girl?

I was a prodigy, she answered sounding completely normal. They wanted to turn me into a killer, an assassin. Simon rescued me.

Mi>Were you always telepathic or did they do that as well?</i>

It was done at the same time. There was a pause. Are you Alliance?

I was many years ago. I can honestly tell you I know nothing about the Alliance now. He thought of his life and the different universe he now confronted.

You’re from the past. You have to tell the others.

He looked at her face and she was smiling.

Simon looked at Alan. “She’s never come around so quickly—not even for me.”

“Alan has a knack with girls,” said Ryan. “They’ll do just about anything he asks.”

“That could prove useful,” said the captain. “So you gonna tell us your story now?”

Alan looked at River who nodded. “You probably won’t believe it but this is the truth. We’re from 200 years ago. We were born in 2243.”

There was silence. At least they weren’t laughing at his explanation. “You look good for your age,” remarked the captain after awhile.

“All right, you think we’re crazy, but let me ask you a question. If we were the Alliance you despise, wouldn’t we want to have a more credible story? Probably something simple and mundane like salesmen in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or better yet, we’re on the run as well. That way we’d get your sympathy.” Ryan seemed to have swayed them with that speech.

“That does sound about right, sir. Alliance ain’t known for creativity.”

“If they had time travel in the past, how come it don’t exist now?”

“We’re not the ones to ask, Captain. Perhaps the information was lost.”

“Maybe they do know and covered it up,” put in Simon.

“Wouldn’t be the first time the Alliance done that,” muttered Jayne.

“So what did you two do?” Kaylee asked them. “If we looked you up on the Cortex, would we find you?”

Alan didn’t know how to respond to this. Maybe a lie of omission until he learned the history of this Alliance. “Probably. I’m sure you could pull up the birth certificates of anyone.”

“Just about. Harder if they were born before the Alliance. River’s the best workin’ with the Cortex.”

“How long has the Alliance been around?”

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