river_meimei: (thygatera mou)
[personal profile] river_meimei
There's no comm in River's room. Maybe it's luck, or maybe it's premonition, or some combination of the two; at any rate, she finds her way to the bridge early in the morning, when the ship's still on autopilot and nobody's grumbling over tea and reconstituted eggs yet in the kitchen, and the WAVE RECEIVED light is still blinking red.

She curls up in the copilot's chair, and touches a control. (No flying without Wash or Mal or a dire emergency, but this isn't flying; it's just looking at the wave details, not even taking a live call.) There are four waves: text, with canned video attached. All from the Wú Sheng Bao bank.

One's to Kaylee Frye. One's to Wash and Zoe; one's to Mal. And one is to Simon and River Tam.

River tucks her knees up, and touches another control.




The text is simple. Dry precise sentences, with phrases like hereby bequeathed and upon receipt of your preferred account of transfer and yours respectfully, and a figure with several zeroes at the end.




The vidfeed is Crowley.

He's sunlit, at home, uncertain and rueful and grinning. (He's dead.)

Er, he starts. Cào wŏ, this is weird. Okay.

He recorded this three years ago. River was eight days shy of her nineteenth birthday. Anthy (still the Rose Bride) was about to be kidnapped by the Academy's can-toi huntsmen; Roland Deschain was laying plans with allies from Milliways; Serenity's crew knew only Anthony J. Crowley, and had no idea that they were only days from meeting Andronicus Ji. The Crowley in this video is the same as ever, and he's been gone for years.

He's not playing a weird prank, he tells the camera, with a lifted finger and a lopsided grin. It's really him. He explains: how time went on, how they left Earth-That-Was, how he built identities and plans for generations from Milliways memories of the battle they were all about to face. About Bentley Aeronautics, and their role in an Academy's weak points.

(River doesn't know she's weeping. Or just doesn't care.)

Crowley cracks his knuckles, looks back up at the camera. (Back up at River.) So this is my backup, as it were, in case you suddenly come into cash from a mysterious Andronicus Ji Crowley and were wondering why. In case I don't get to explain in person.

Outside the window, stars prickle in the black: silent, timeless, motionless in their subjective constellations. Inside, the bridge is silent but for River's quiet gulps of breath, and Andronicus's steady, wry voice. Obviously if you're watching this, I've taken a Time Out in a major way - and there's really no way to know how long it'll be before I'm back. And it's not as though I'll be using it in the meantime.

Check in on Aziraphael? he asks, without quite asking it. (Crowley's always, in any time, awkward with requests.) A devious grin: ask Book about Prior Fell, he says, smug in his own knowledge, three years and a funeral out of date.

I'll see you around.

And the screen goes black, and fades swiftly back to the textwave's anonymous numbers and a stranger's legal explanation.






River tips her face up to those silent constellations -- those silver pinpoints in the black, ever-changing and eternal, that once she saw in different configurations -- and weeps in messy, gulping sobs. There's no way she can see clearly through those tears, but she doesn't move.

Everyone goes, Crowley told her once, less than a month after he recorded this vid. 'Cept those that don't. I'm one of the ones that don't. It's true, and she knows it. He may leave but he'll always return; not like Roland or Antigone, but a true return, life resumed under another official name, and he'll still be Crowley. All it takes is time.

She knows that.

('m a reliable fallback)

She knows.



But she's still crying.
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River Tam

August 2010

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