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Prompt 94: Independence - "Do I have a kill command?" Mid-Serenity
Title translates as "Emancipate, free oneself."
"Do we have a kill command?"
The words were strangely distorted -- somewhere between the rough men-voices in his ears and the whispered little-girl voice in his head, he lost track of who was saying what. But he saw her fingers tighten on the handle of the axe, rich, red blood -- and who woulda thought Reavers would bleed red, same as anybody else? -- running down the blade like a lover's caress.
Do I have a kill command? she asked again, silently, with her eyes, and this time he heard her clearly, knew it was her, knew she was ready to spin around and take on an entire army of fully-armored, fully-armed, specially trained soldiers with her bare arms and legs and two wicked blades.
He was torn. If he said no, there was every possibility that the Operative's voice would come ringing through their comms at any moment and they'd all lyin' in a ruined heap in the blink of an eye. But if he said yes, there was a good chance she'd never be able to dodge all those bullets, and --
But I could save them -- SimonKayleeZoeJayneInarayou.
What good will that do you if you're dead? he thought back at her, hoping she could hear him clearly through the tumult of everyone else's fear and panicked minds.
I'll be free, she answered, and he saw the muscles in her arms tense, prepare to come up and around to the closest soldier. What is your order, Captain?
He froze, the soldier in him leaping to her tone, begging him to tell her to kill, kill, little River; every last one of those /yÂ¨Â©n jÂ¨Â©ng zuÂ¨Â huÂ¨Â¤i dÂ¨Â¤n who stole your independence and mine/ but the human side of him shrinking from the knowledge that if she died fighting, her blood would be on his hands, and even though he and she would be the only ones who knew he'd given the command, he would still know, and he'd still be guilty.
"Sir? Do we have a kill command?" the soldier's voice crackled again, and just before Mal could tell River to strike, the Operative's voice, tired and defeated, told them to stand down.
He saw the relief in her eyes, saw the way her shoulders relaxed just a little, and he realized she'd been afraid. Afraid to die. For all her courage, for all her determination to go down in flames if it meant saving her brother, the crew, /him/, she was still a little girl.
It burned in his mind, that image of Oh God, oh God, make me a stone and the steel strength in the face of death. It kept him awake when he should have been sleeping off his exhaustion and extensive injuries, made him walk the ruined corridors of his ship when the stiffness in his legs and body should have constrained him to his bed. Made him seek her out when he couldn't stand it any longer.
"You shouldn't have to die for me," he told her without preamble when he came upon her sitting in the co-pilot's seat, staring out at the clouds that covered the world. "Shouldn't ever let a man's word decide your fate."
"Can't see the stars from here," she complained softly, seeming to ignore him for the moment. "Too many clouds."
He glanced out the windshield at her words, but this was too important to let go, and he opened his mouth to repeat himself, but she cut him off.
"You did. You would. You almost died for me."
"Because I decided to," he argued, and she rolled her eyes to the side to give him a long-suffering look and a small smile.
"So did I. Can't tell me what to do," she said smugly. "If I perish, I perish."
He chuffed out a quiet laugh, admitting with that small sound that she'd check-mated him, and made his way toward the pilot's chair, stopping when he remembered that it was no longer there but the bloodstain was still visible on the floor. His smile disappeared and he said darkly, "I don't want no more perishin' on my ship than's absolutely necessary, little albatross."
Her eyes turned toward the black stain on the floor and she shuddered, her hair falling into her face like a protective curtain. "Won't leave you," she whispered. "Need someone to take care of you, someone else to steer. Too many broken, too many wounded. Now my pieces are stuck together again and broken wings can fly, can help you." She looked up at him gravely. "Promise."
He nodded, suddenly overwhelmed with everything that was bearing down on him and turned to leave the battered cockpit and the girl in it.
"Get some sleep, little one," he said over his shoulder, and smiled when her voice floated softly after him.
"Dream sweet, Malcolm Reynolds. No wolves at the door tonight. Blood on the doorpost keeps them away."
He swallowed thickly past a lump in his throat and muttered, "S'been enough o' that spilt, oughtn't have any botherin' us for a long time to come."
"Not 'til the snow's six feet thick," she assured him. "Not 'til the end of the world."
He was too tired to think too hard about what she meant to worry over it just then and continued down into his bunk. He was asleep before his head hit the mattress.
yÂ¨Â©n jÂ¨Â©ng zuÂ¨Â huÂ¨Â¤i dÂ¨Â¤n - dick-sucking bastards