He was driven.
He always had been. As a child (not that he remembered childhood; that had been… erased), he'd been a devoted student, consistently performing above expectations and submitting assignments early. When he'd entered the military as a young man, he'd trained constantly, working to make himself faster and stronger. And when he'd been drafted as an Operative, his dedication to the mission at hand was one of his strongest virtues.
It wasn't that he was competitive. He didn't care if someone handed in an assignment first (not that they did) or beat him in hand to hand (not that they did) or completed their mission targets faster (not that they did). He simply focused on his goals, with no consideration for anyone else.
He was emotionless.
He hadn't always been. As a child (not that he remembered childhood; that had been… erased), he'd stormed and raged at any perceived slight. When he'd entered the military as a young man, he'd learned to hide his emotions, disguised them behind blank eyes and a cheerless visage. And when he'd been drafted as an Operative, his impassive face had been an excellent foundation.
It wasn't that he couldn't feel. He was still roused to anger if those under him failed to perform adequately (not that they did) and roused to joy when thinking of the world without sin. He simply suppressed his emotions so long and so deeply that it was near impossible for them to surface.
So naturally, when he left Mr. Universe's moon, he was broken.
The Operative avoided the areas that the crew of Serenity gathered while their home was repaired and their bodies healed. He'd faced Malcolm Reynolds and lost, a nearly unfathomable prospect. But the loss meant nothing in the face of the Miranda transmission. The failure of the mission was merely a stain on his record. The loss of his faith, his hope for the future and his understanding of his purpose had left him feeling bereft.
He didn't like it.
He drifted through the complex, answering questions and approving the financial outlay to repair Serenity's hurts, little more than a shadow. He used to pride himself on his ability to move and act unseen, treading the fringes of society, dipping in without leaving ripples of his passage. He'd felt powerful and knowledgeable there, felt that he understood the motivations of those he watched and prided himself on avoiding those motivations and the flawed thinking that accompanied them. But now he realized he had missed something by not interacting with others.
So he drifted. Drifted and avoided those he'd wronged, knowing there was no way to truly recompense them for their losses.
The voice was high and feminine, quiet to match the silence of the empty halls he kept to. It was youthful and light, but somehow conveyed to the listener that this young woman was confident, intelligent and expected to be listened to. It was a voice he'd only heard in captures and dreams.
He took a deep breath before turning to face her.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Tam."
"And you, Caspian."
He knew her history, he believed in her abilities and yet… his name hadn't been spoken in decades. She made it a benediction.
River waited politely for his confusion to smooth before continuing. "Your definition is faulty, Caspian."
"Definition of what?"
The Operative hung his head in shame. "I didn't understand what it would mean to create a world without sin, a world of perfection and peace. I didn't know it would be a world forced, a world under the boot."
"Not that definition."
"I don't understand."
"You think it means the ideal – perfect laws, perfect government, perfect society. It is only so to those who don't understand the hidden meaning. From the Greek ou meaning no and topos meaning place."
The silence was long and heavy with his guilt and her forgiveness. With a shuddering breath, on the verge of tears, the Operative spoke. "It doesn't exist?"
"There's no such thing."
She kissed him lightly on his bowed forehead, a final act of absolution, and disappeared.