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Thursday, June 2, 2011
Malcolm Reynolds Vs. Caleb (Parts 20-24)
We are on our penultimate installment of Malcolm Reynolds Vs. Caleb. Soon you'll have to find some new addiction. We've had laughs and tears and there are so much more to come. Strap in, because I'm not pulling any punches with the ending.
So without further ado, here's the story so far: The First Evil, who has the power to assume the appearance of any dead people, took the form of Inara and convinced Mal that Serenity was being over-ran by Reavers. In the confusion, Mal almost killed Jayne. Zoe and Simon stopped him. Yay! River shoots up Inara's ship and stopped Caleb from escaping out into the black. She's off to eject the shuttle into space. Now let's get into it.
It was all silence in the hall, apart from the constant crackle and buzz coming from Inara'’ newly destroyed shuttle. Zoe stood in the porthole with her gun drawn, eyeing the ruins. Smoke was bellowing into the halls, but Serenity’s carbon scrubbers and overhead extinguishers were taking care of that. Jayne was attempting to get up, though Simon might have told him it would be better to lay down.
“Zoe…” Jayne said, mournfully.
“You don’t need to.” Zoe said. “Whatever this is, it was trying to get me to kill myself back in the bay. Probably was screwing with your head, too.”
“Yeah. Made me think I could bring back your husband.” There was a long pregnant silence filled with the dying flames.
“Come to me.” Zoe said. “That’s what it kept saying.”
“Thank you.” Jayne said. “You know, for saving my life and all.” Jayne wanted to say more, but he wasn’t sure of how to say it, what it would mean if he did. So, instead he just gave up on getting up and leaned his back against the wall.
Groans and angered cries broke the silence. Zoe rose her gun and fired once, then she was knocked unconscious by a flying bit of debris. Caleb limped out of the shuttle, his eyes black and wet, like a shark’s eyes might be.
Jayne forced himself to him feet, using strength he didn’t have. He was without a gun, River had kept it for whatever reason. Jayne threw a fist and it connected, but did as much damage as if it had missed. He threw his other, broken hand and screamed in pain. Caleb stopped the screaming with a quick strike to the man’s head. Jayne fell unconscious.
Kaylee’s eye went wide at the sight of Caleb. He towered over her, shivering with rage and pain. His hissing wounds oozed black sewage that might have been blood in a human. He limped forth to her, piloting an impossibly broken body. His left leg dragged, broken at an odd angle. The defrocked priest stopped before her, forcing shuttering breaths through a collapsed chest. Caleb brushed his fingers across her face and a single tear rolled down her cheeks as she struggled to breathe. She took his touch like a slap to the face. The world had dwindled down to the two of them, in that hallway. Sounds and light drained away like water out a storm drain and Kaylee didn’t notice Mal’s eyes open.
“Kaylee?” Mal said, weakly. From his point of view, he saw her first and saw the tear roll down her cheek, second. The third thing he saw was Caleb’s horrible face soaked in black blood and bile. Mal rolled from her lap and on to his chest. Caleb caught on to Mal’s motions and a broken smile cracked across his lips. Caleb took him up by the scruff of the neck and Mal winced as he held on.
“Kaylee, you get on.” Mal said with a clumsy tongue.
“You go ahead, girl. I’ll be killing you, later.” Kaylee stood and ran, pausing shortly to see Mal peer back at her.
Mal flew like a leaf on the wind as Wash once said. And like Mal’s boat, Serenity, he slammed gracelessly into the ground below. Mal bounced off some wayward crates Mal had sworn he told somebody to stow away. The crates hurt and the metal grated floor hurt worst. Mal spat blood as Caleb descended from the catwalks where Mal had recently been launched. He still had his broken, psychotic smile plastered on his face and Mal, inexplicably, formed a red one. Mal struggled to his feet, spitting more blood out. The two men stood eye to eye, oddly broken and amused by each other.
“Had a hell of a day, hadn’t it?” Mal said.
“Some day, for sure. Back in my day, we handled things with our fists. I’m all shot up.”
“We still do, mind you. Firearms are just more handy.”
“Very true. I think I’m going to kill you now.” Caleb made a fist and Mal did what was most easy for him. He let himself collapsed to the ground, only catching himself once he was on his knees. Caleb struck down and Mal rolled away from his attempted strike. He got back to his feet and fell away as Caleb attempted to strike again. This all seemed very random and clumsy to Caleb, but Mal was wilier than any coyote ever was.
Mal fell against the far wall where the large bay doors separated the crew of Serenity from the cold of space. His hand hit the control pad and opened the inner door. Caleb hit the wall close to Mal’s head and Mal laid hands on him. With all the strength his drugged and abused muscles could muster, he wrenched Caleb through the doors. Caleb dropped to the ground, crashing against the outer doors. The inner doors lowered as Caleb got to his feet. They were separated by a thick slab of space age steel and nothing separated Caleb from the chill of space. Caleb was weightless, but still there. Mal had the fortune of taking away Caleb’s strength advantage. It’s hard to smash and break without a momentum and traction. Mal could comprehend how a man could stare back with living, black eyes from out in the black.
Mal limped slowly up the stairs and down the halls to the cockpit. Something was dislodged from the ship and jostled him some. Turned out to be Inara’s shuttle as River had planned. Mal had words with her about that, but not before they figured the mussed with wiring. The First remained uncommonly silent and Caleb had failed to hide his way in. Inertia took care of Caleb. As Serenity sped, Caleb lost his grip and disappeared into the black. The crew was soon as whole as they possibly could be, realizing what Inara’s appearance to Mal meant.
A new silence washed over the crew, marred only by sobs kept to the crier’s selves. They thought the worst had left with Caleb, but they were wrong.
Mal sat in the silence of his room with Serenity drifting through the black. Inara’s form swelled into being before him, garbed in a flowing purple gown. She sat at his knee and peered up to him with her soulful eyes.
“Get away from me.” Mal said, bitterly.
“Mal. We never had our time, did we?” Mal remained silent and still.
“I died at the Alliance’s hand. I was shot down after they came asking about you. Might have been better if I never came aboard Serenity.” Mal remained silent and still.
“I was brave. Right until the last.” Mal remained still and silent.
“I did love you, Malcolm Reynolds. For whatever that means, I did. Did you love me?” Mal’s eye turn to a half full bottle of whiskey. He had a beautiful notion of making it empty.