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River's Way (Revision #2)

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River's Way

Log 1: Spin Me 'Round, Carry Me Down

Part 1 ~ FALLING ~

"You do know how to fly this thing, right?" Kaylee asked nervously, her eyes fixed on the cockpit portal and the atmo rushing by at much too high velocities for her liking.

"Not flying, falling. Mass plus velocity. What goes up must come down. Timing is everything. I have hopes." River replied, her hands on the steering controls, them and the whole shuttle shaking and jittering like it was about to come apart at the fastenings any second.

"Yeah, hopes... Those are good. Good to have hopes..." Kaylee's gaze went from River's hands, almost blurry now from the vibrations, to the window as they broke cloud-side and the ground came clear and ominous in view.

"If we die, I should think you'll be very cross with me." River spoke, and Kaylee was now even more terrified to see a mad kind of smile light River's lips and eyes with a certain kind of peace that she really wished she could feel at that moment.

"River!" Kaylee screamed in abject panic as Serenity barreled at them up from the ground at escape velocity plus.

A jerk of the wheel and a turn and they felt the rumbling shutter of Serenity's velocity wake slam into them, the other much larger ship having passed within maybe as little as a meter's distance of them. The shuttle rumbled and rolled, set to spinning and twirling uncontrolled. Kaylee couldn't hold on to the hand bars anymore, and she tumbled to the floor, holding onto the back of River's pilot chair for dear life itself as she felt gravity pull them around like an angry tide. Weightless one second, lurching in any which direction the next. The unmistakable sound of another ship—if anything, larger even than Serenity—crossing their wake shook the air and them in it with renewed force. Up was down, down was up and nothing in between made itself sensible. She screamed and held on. A scraping sound and something hard and heavy slammed into her backside.

The world went hazy and her vision seemed to blur. Her eyes watering, her whole body hurting, she felt herself kind of whimpering and wishing for anything she'd never seen the inside of a space ship and that she was back home nice and safe on the ground. People weren't meant to live in space, the thoughts came. You'd think the coldness deep enough to kill would've given us the hint.

Hard to focus, time seemed to stretch unnaturally long and bendy in ways it shouldn't, and still she held on. Images of running through her beautiful ship, laughing and having fun—real fun with a really real friend like she hadn't had in what'd seemed like such a long time. River'd stolen her apple, and she'd chase her to the ends of the 'verse to get it back. It's just the way things had to be. She caught River and men tried to kill them for the apple. An apple is a rare and delicious treasure. People have killed for less. She was scared and she hid. Mustn't look, mustn't look River'd said, taking Kaylee's gun from her and going to her feet to face them. Three shots rang out and River'd smiled to her in triumph. No power in the 'verse can stop me, was what she'd said...

A hard shudder, a growling sound. The shuttle shook, but different. What did that mean? Things seemed to blur and slow. Have to hold on... She told herself stubbornly. But things were muddy and she couldn't focus. A hard jerk and all the world seemed to slip out from under her without her leave.

River sat there, pinned to the pilot's seat of Inara Sera's shuttle by g-force, as the ground was coming in fast. She closed her eyes a moment, felt her nerves all jittering inside her skin, then she took a breath and set her mind to this. Life or death—no third options in this situation. She opened her eyes, took in another breath, let it out slowly, then she jerked the controls and flared the engines.

The shuttle shook, shuttered, and groaned in protest, but she set her course, over and through the woods towards a rocky meadow about a mile from a lake she could see to the right.

This would save them. She knew what to do, she had to believe that... Trouble was: most days she didn't know what all to believe at all. She did always seem to find a way through though, sometimes with help, and sometimes, like now, hopefully just all on her own.

She saw them, you know? All those hopes and fears? She always saw them nowadays, like streams of light... Didn't see them with her eyes, didn't know how she saw them, felt them... Something was so wrong with her; most people said so, even her brother most days. Well, today? Now? She darned well hoped her brother and most people were wrong all wrong and that, instead, there just might be something right.

Kaylee didn't think there was something wrong with her. She knew that. She could tell, and that mattered. She mattered. They were friends.

Not quite best friends, because neither of them were very sure around each other anymore... but there was still trust there, and there were still tomorrows to be had, if she could manage the trick of that.

She would though, she told herself. Her friend was counting on her.

The velocity was too much, she knew it was. The landing breaks wouldn't be, shouldn't be enough. One chance in a thousand they'd live. Aim for the mark, she told herself. She could see it—feel it.

Her hands moved the controls just so. She saw the angles, saw the force, the trees coming up fast so fast, then the moment happened—she turned the wheel, spun the ship, and held on for dear life as the world around her shook and jarred her in her seat, until, at last... all was still.

"...I did it." She whispered to herself just softly, blinking her eyes and not quite believing in her own success quite yet.

She still had a death grip on the steering controls, she realized. She told herself to let go, but... it took a few beats before her hands got the message and she managed to relax the tension in her body enough to ease off her grip and let her hands fall away.

She slumped back in the seat. "Still alive... That's good. Really good." She breathed, letting her eyes fall closed as her body trembled all the way through for a spell.

At length, she took in a shuttering breath, let it out, and opened her eyes again. "Kaylee?" She asked, her voice still a little wobbly as she sat forward in the pilot's chair, all the sudden not having the best feeling about this.

"Kaylee, where are...?" She got up on her feet, feeling like a sailor who'd spent months at sea who hadn't gotten her land legs back quite yet.

She looked around, feeling a little dazed, and she saw her there sprawled on the floor, dead to the world, and every other notion of a thought flew right out of her head and she all but flew to Kaylee's side, looking her over with a critical eye, trying quite deliberately not to panic, and almost afraid to touch her for fear she might make it worse somehow.

She let out a relieved, shaky breath when it finally fully sank in for her that Kaylee was still alive, and that she would be staying that way for a good long while to come. There wasn't any doubt, she could see that. She just... had to play her part. Be a doctor, like Simon. That shouldn't be too hard. If her brother could do it, after all, how hard could it be, really?

"Broken ribs... Happens all the time, no big deal. Just takes a while to mend, that's all." She told Kaylee... except Kaylee was unconscious, so, obviously, she was actually only talking to herself to make herself feel better. It did make her feel better though, so, also obviously, she thought positively, it was a winning strategy.

"Get to work, go be a doctor..." She mumbled to herself by way of a plainly lackluster motivational speech as she got up and went looking for the medical supply kit she knew both of Serenity's shuttles carried.

How did she know that? She didn't know, really. She hadn't read the manual—there wasn't one on the ship, so obviously she couldn't have read it... Except, she kind of almost did remember doing that. She wasn't going to question it, not now anyway. She knew lots of things. Remembered all kinds of things she had no right to (which could be exceedingly confusing and also frustrating at times, by the way, but, slowly but surely, she felt she was getting better at not letting her mind go wandering quite so much). You wouldn't think something like that could be made to happen, just poking about in a woman's brain like they had, but she supposed it went to show just how much could get done when you set yourself on a course and didn't stop for anyone or at anything.

Not that she would say that was a positive character trait to have in a person, because it very definitively was not.

She found the kit, right where she'd known it would be. She got it out of where it was stowed under the console on the left, went back into the shuttle and found some scissors, and then went back to kneeling by Kaylee where she lay.

She cleared the area around her, then very gingerly went about setting her limbs in order.

Next, she cut away her shirt with the scissors, unwilling to try removing it over her head. Luckily, she wasn't wearing a jacket.

She ran her fingers lightly over Kaylee's ribs, closing her eyes and trying to concentrate on what she should do next. "No spinal damage, patient is safe to move..." She murmured to herself, somehow very sure that it was true, just from the touch. "...Painful though, isn't it?" She considered, looking down at the medical kit, a sort of disconnected feeling coming over her. That happened sometimes. Maybe it was a good thing now?

She took out a needle loaded with a painkiller, uncapped it, and injected Kaylee with it just under her ribcage.

That done, she sat back and watched her breathe, letting her mind go blank and meditative while waiting for the drug to take full effect.

Something about watching Kaylee breathe was oddly peaceful to her.

It was nice to feel that way. She usually wasn't able to manage it anymore.

When she felt she'd waited long enough, she gingerly and very carefully propped Kaylee up so that she could begin to bandage her ribs.

It was only a temporary precaution though. Bandaging the ribs would make it safer to move her probably, make it less likely the pain would wake her and cause her to... flail about at the wrong time or some such thing, which might end very badly. Best to be careful when you could. When she did get Kaylee onto the bed though, the bandaging would have to be taken off again. Leaving it on would restrict breathing, impair healing, and pose other health risks as well. She didn't know how she knew these things, but it was enough that she did—enough that she knew she was doing the right thing for Kaylee. What Simon would do.

She felt him with her somehow, even though he wasn't. He was out there somewhere though... still alive. She felt sure of that too—sure she would know it if it weren't so... Less sure how she'd know that, obviously, but she was sure and certain of it nonetheless. It was obvious, wasn't it? Like dancing and burning, smiles and sorrows and everything in life in between.

Welcome to River's Way—hope you stick around. Next time: ~ FAIR IS A FAIRY TALE ~