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Story Notes:
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Joss Whedon.
Written for: spoggly for the 2008 apocalyptothon
Prompt: What would happen if the Reavers took over.
Spoilers: Movie and show.
There are no clean planets left in the whole ‘verse.

The gorram Reavers have taken over everything. There are so many of them now, as if their bites carry a disease which strips away humanity. As if the Pax fills every bite. The knowledge Serenity carried from Miranda was supposed to set them free.

Instead it has ended so many worlds.

~~*

“We’re running low on fuel.” Mal’s hands are in fists. He doesn’t understand what he can’t fight, and curses so low and quick she doesn’t quite catch what he says. Not that it matters. They’re almost out of food, too. “We have to restock.”

She doesn’t look up from cleaning her guns. He’ll have some sort of plan, and most likely it will be reckless and put them all in danger. That’s just fine with her.

There’s a flutter in her belly. Once she would have thought it was fear. Now she doesn’t know. She won’t let herself be afraid. There’s no point. She’ll follow him. She always does.

They don’t have many people left to lose.

~~*

Simon watches them, his arms crossed over his chest. River seems more normal than not, her head all clear for once. She’s listening to Mal go over their plan again, even though they all know it well. Forwards and backwards.

Zoe doesn’t quite tune him out, but she’s not hanging on his every word.

Neither’s Jayne. He’s packing away guns, so many she’s not sure where he’s putting them all. Lots of firepower, but their goal is to not be seen. Mal figures twenty minutes to get in and out with enough food and fuel to get them to the outer planets. They’re still looking for a safe place to land. Serenity’s home, but it’s hard to float forever.

She gives them four minutes until they’re spotted and maybe five tops before the gunfight breaks out.

If they’re all still alive ten minutes in, she’ll be surprised.

~~*

Zoe and Jayne haul boxes of supplies to the mule. Mal and Simon are getting fuel for the ship. They’re all moving fast, and maybe there’s a little luck with them, because the sky is cloudy and shadows long on the street.

There’s a storm coming, and they can really use the cover.

She catches movement out of the corner of her eye and spins toward it, shoving the box in her arms up onto the mule with one hand, jerking out a gun with the other. There’s nothing in the alley, nothing at the opening of the street.

Something’s staring at them. She can feel it.

Just as she turns to grab another box, it moves, streaking toward them.

Her finger is on the trigger, and she’s lining up the shot before she realizes it’s just a cat.

Amazing.

It stops in front of her, fur matted. It sits and licks its paw, watching her with big green eyes. It’s probably infected. She can’t shoot it, the noise will bring the Reavers running.

“Shoo,” she grunts, and kicks at it. She doesn’t come close enough to hit it, but it skitters out of the way.

They don’t have much time. She goes back to loading boxes, but keeps an eye on it, just in case it decides to dart under her feet or attack her, spread the disease.

When the mule is full, she jumps into the pilot’s seat. She hates to fly, but of the people on the ground, she’s the best. River sits in Serenity, waiting, just in case they run into trouble. Kaylee’s with the engine.

The cat leaps up next to her easy as you please. It rubs its head against her cheek before she can bat it away and she gives up. Mal will get rid of it soon enough.

~~*

He doesn’t even see it.

Zoe’s going crazy.

Or maybe it’s just that good at hiding amongst the boxes. She doesn’t see it again while they’re unloading, but when she heads to bed that night, it’s sitting in front of her door, head on its paws, watching her.

They can’t keep it. Even if it’s not infected, they can barely feed themselves, much less this scrawny beast.

It puts its paw on her boot, and she opens her door. Maybe it will disappear again by morning.

~~*

When she wakes, it isn’t morning, but the cat is gone.

Zoe rolls over and tries to go back to sleep, but it’s impossible. She was dreaming of something, she can’t quite remember what. It leaves her unsettled – and, strangely, thirsty.

When she goes to the kitchen to get a drink, River is sitting at the table, her chin on her arms, the cat stretched out in front of her. They are staring into each other’s eyes, and neither of them flinch when Zoe walks into the room.

Not that a cat should flinch. She’s not sure what to make of her own thoughts.

“I have a plan,” River whispers. Her voice rolls like the ocean. “Help me, Zoe.”

She doesn’t know what possesses her as she nods.

River stands, takes her hand, and leads her to the copilot’s seat. She hates to be there, can almost smell Wash, hear his laughter, the way he would poke at her until she was all twisted up inside.

He knew, even though she never said a word.

“What do you want?” she asks River, and her voice comes out too gruff.

River sits in Wash’s seat, puts her hand on the dinosaurs. It breaks Zoe’s heart to see them there, but it would hurt worse if they were gone. The cat hops up on the chair and then all the way to the view of the stars.

She can’t see its reflection.

She has gone crazy.

“I can find us a home,” River says, and touches the screen. She pulls up planets and moons, rushes past them, until she finds Miranda.

Oh no, they will not. Not again.

“No,” River agrees, and sends the universe spinning, “but there are places near it. Safe places.”

“Past Reaver territory,” Zoe says, but she’s still thinking. “Everywhere is Reaver territory now.”

The girl might have a point.

“You should get the captain.”

Her eyes are wide and dark when she looks at her, but there’s a glint to them like a cat’s.

“We should surprise him,” she says. “He won’t understand.”

I don’t either, Zoe thinks. She swore to follow Mal. Look at all the sacrifices she has made.

“I know,” River says, and Zoe believes her.

She sits and stretches out her legs. “All right,” she says, and River enters new coordinates.

“Waters flow uphill sometimes,” she says. “Rivers change course. Destruction doesn’t always mean the end.”

But who’s going to pick up in the aftermath?

Zoe straightens her shoulders.

She’s strong enough to save their world.

End


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