A Weird Western Saga
in "Serenity: season II"... A glowing orb is seen over the town of Serenity, heralding, so Raven Clark fears, the return of the Four. She and Stu race for the old mine on the Outskirts, reluctantly leaving Boxer to defend the town. At the old mine, they encounter Elizabeth Byrnne, who resumes her glowing orb shape and flies back to Serenity, and they realize she had deliberately decoyed them from where the real danger was -- Serenity itself...
Finally, the town rolled into view. It still stood, but the black spiral was lodged in its heart. Raven and Lake spurred their horses hard.
And veered to opposite sides of the road when Marshal Boxer staggered from behind a boulder and collapsed in the road.
Lake leaped from the saddle to Boxer’s side. “Box. Box! Are you all right?”
Boxer rolled to his back. A bloody trail slashed across his chest with gashes on his face to match, the marshal’s voice was a ragged hiss. “It’s Brynne, Stu. She’s…going to destroy…town.” He doubled up in a wicked wet cough. “Had to…barely escaped. Warn you.”
Raven yanked Apollo’s reigns round to face Lake. “We don’t have time for this!”
Lake’s eyes blazed. “There’s a man down here! I’m not leaving him!”
“No!” The croak came from Boxer. “She’s right…Stu. You…only hope now. Leave me. Stop her.” He went limp.
Lake mounted in Apollo’s dust.
When the hoof beats faded to faint patter, a white horse walked from behind the same boulder from which Boxer had tumbled.
They dismounted on the edge of Serenity Town Square; the horses would go no further. There wasn’t a soul in sight. At the far end of the street, the dark twister obscured the church. It was not smoke, but energy. It was not twisting up into the heavens, but funneling down, boring into the earth. Black, swirling lightning tore at Serenity’s heart, its crackle and the stench of scorched earth filled the air. Raven and Lake stood in paralyzed awe.
Lake managed to incline his head toward Raven, but his eyes remained fixed on the tornado of black energy. His rifle dangled at his side in one lame hand. “What…what do we do now?”
Raven swallowed, a tear rolled down her cheek. “I don’t know.”
Lake’s revolver flew from its holster, but not by his hand.
“Drop the rifle, Stu.”
It was Boxer’s voice. His gun pressed to the back of Raven’s head, Lake’s gun to Lake’s head. “Hands up and step forward nice and easy, kids.
“She wants to see you.”
Raven and Deputy Lake shielded their eyes as best they could from the dirt and pebbles spewing from below as Boxer edged them around the dark funnel. Through the debris and their fingers she came into view. The One Elizabeth Brynne stepped around the vortex, clad in the tattered remains of an already scant negligee, and nothing else.
“Miss Clark. My dear Deputy Lake. Welcome to The End.”
Lake wished for a firearm as Raven found her tongue. “Nolan Paige’s fiancé. Nice touch.” (Byrnne had introduced herself as such back in Episode One: "Power Play" ~ the ed.)
“I thought so.” Brynne’s lips pulled back into a smile only true joy will allow. “We’re quite familiar with his Order in my world. Posing as his poor, widowed fiancé gave me the town’s sympathy. It got you to tell me everything I needed to know.” She nodded over Raven’s shoulder at Boxer. “It even got my new lap dog there wanting me so much he came to me.”
Boxer jabbed Raven’s back with this revolver. When she jerked her head round to shoot him a look, he winked at her. “Arf arf.”
Brynne giggled. “I originally came here to kill him, you know? For his betrayal of my brethren.” She traced a line in the dust with her toe and stepped slowly to Raven. The black vortex continued its work. “But, I thought better of things. I would need the strength of The Four to rule this world, but not to ruin it.” She stood within inches of Raven’s face. “Why not draw minions to my loin and lay open the barrier between this world and mine. I won’t be this world’s ruler, not at first, but it will be so very delicious watching my kind devour yours.”
Brynne pressed her tongue to Raven’s chin and dragged it slowly along her jaw. Raven stood rigid. Brynne’s mouth settled at Raven’s ear. She spoke in a breathy whisper.
“I’m going to love it when they eat you inside.”
Raven turned her head to meet Brynne’s smoldering gaze. “You won’t win.”
The smile remained on Brynne’s face. “I’ve won already.” She stepped back and shouted. “Men! Where are my men?”
From round the left side of the church came Reverend McCallum. Raven and Lake gasped and exchanged a look. Boxer giggled. The preacher’s eyes were coated in a milky glaze. Two spiral horns adorned his head, a trail of dried blood descended from the base of each. Boxer threw him Lake’s rifle.
From the right side of the church came Deputy Richter, his eyes covered in the same pearly gloss. A thick, brown, barbed-tipped tail extended from the base of his spine. It beat the ground as he walked and sniggered. He carried his shotgun.
From over the roof of the church came a shrill cry. Raven and Lake flinched and looked up to see Grady O’Halloran arc into view on two leathery wings. The ancient man flapped to the ground with eyes to match his companions’. He brandished a pistol rusty enough to be as old as he was.
Elizabeth Brynne swooned. “My lovers.” The three mutants grinned, giggled and drooled.
Brynne slinked to Richter. “Bump, would you be so kind as to take Deputy Lake here to jail? Make sure he stays there. He’s not invited to our party.”
Richter pumped his shotgun. “With pleasure, mistress.” He stepped into Lake’s face. “I been waitin’ fer this fer the longest.” He rammed the shotgun stock into Lake’s stomach. Lake doubled up and fell to one knee. Raven moved, but a poke from Boxer’s gun kept her in place. Richter, giggling all the way, swung his hind end round into Lake’s face and blasted him across the jaw with the tail. Lake fell backward into the dust, unconscious. Richter seized him by the collar and dragged him toward the marshal’s office with strength he’d never before displayed.
Brynne turned to O’Halloran. “Patrol the skies above town. If anyone tries to interfere here, kill them.”
“Yes, mistress.” O’Halloran sneered at Raven and flapped up and out of view.
Reverend McCallum looked at Raven and licked his lips. “What about…her, mistress?”
“She.” Brynne ran her tongue across her lips as well. “She stays here. I want her to witness the coming of my kind from the front row.” She turned to McCallum. “Patrol the town borders. No one is allowed in or out.”
“Yes, mistress.” The reverend slowly ran his hand up one curly horn and down the other, staring at Raven all the while, and trotted around the edge of the vortex.
Brynne smiled at Raven. “Have a seat, Miss Clark. The show’s about to start.”
“What in God’s name…?”
Tom Putnam recoiled at the sight of Richter as the deputy dragged Lake to the cell. His back pressed to the rear wall as Richter opened the cell door and tossed Lake through it. Richter growled at Tom and went to his desk. His tail made little swipes at nothing as he walked.
When Richter was far enough away, Putnam stepped to the center of the cell and knelt beside Lake. “Lord, I wish I knew what any of this was about.”
Huddled behind the Post Office counter, Dr. Bullshank, Mr. Johansson and Muggs winced as a shadow passed over the skylight. “It sure do look like Mr. O’Halloran.”
“Oh come now, Muggs? O’Halloran? Flying?” Bullshank fiddled with the handle of his black physician’s bag. “There’s only so much I’m willing to believe.”
“Why stop at a winged O’Halloran?” The others looked to Johansson as he stood. “We’ve seen monster apes, crazed cattle and there’s some sort of magic funnel cloud burrowing into Town Square as we speak. Why do you draw the line here?”
Bullshank waved at the floor. “Get down, you fool! What are you doing?”
The gaunt undertaker snatched his hat off and pointed it at the skylight. “That’s Grady O’Halloran up there. He should have been dead years ago, but instead he’s flying over Serenity under his own steam. That can’t be good.”
Muggs shook his head. “No, I wouldn’t think so.” The doctor shot him a look.
“I, for one.” Johansson replaced his hat, “am tired of cowering while this town is assailed by one impossible thing after the next.” He fixed the other men with a stern glare.
The doctor and the stable master looked at each other, then at the undertaker.
“What can we do?”
Elizabeth Brynne knelt before the black vortex, arms above her head, chanting something Raven couldn’t make out from her seat in the dust. Boxer, standing over her with long revolver leveled, read the strain on Raven’s face. “It’s an incantation to remove the mystic twister thing. It’s just about deep enough to pierce through to the other side. Can’t drill too deep, or The Others will see it as an invasion rather than an invitation.”
Raven looked up without expression. “When this is over, I’m going to kill you.”
The marshal’s grin was as wide as his brim. “That a fact?”
Raven didn’t blink. “That’s a fact.”
Boxer pushed his hat back over his forehead and crouched to eye level. “You’re gonna die, little lady. Slowly. Painfully. Finally. You are going to die, and I’m going to watch.”
Raven leaned in close. “You think there’s going to be a place for you once They come through that hole? You’re nothing to her. You’re clay, a tool.” She allowed herself a smile. “I used to know someone who called you a toy. She was right.” (she means little Lili, of course ~ the ed.)
He pulled the hat forward. “Shut up.”
Raven giggled. “You’re a toy, ‘Marshal’ Boxer. You’re a little boy who gets to play cowboy until mommy says it’s time to come in for supper.”
He stood up. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. She’s promised me this town. That’s how it was always supposed to be! That’s how it was going to be until…”
Raven’s lower lip puckered. “Aww, until what?”
He shoved the gun in her face. “Until you ruined it!”
Raven tilted her head and sniffled. “Poor baby. You gonna shoot me now?” She nodded at Brynne. “Or did Mommy tell you not to?”
He cocked the hammer and squinted down the sights. “Say one. More. Thing.”
Raven leaned in until her forehead rested on the gun barrel. “You’re not one of Them, you’re one of us.”
His finger tensed on the trigger. A fraction before the hammer would fall, Boxer jerked the gun away from Raven’s forehead and delivered it across her cheek. She sprawled backward into the dust.
Raven rolled to her side, wiped blood from the fresh gash in her cheek, and smiled up at Boxer.
She knew all she needed to know.
Next - Episode 13: The End (part III) - finale!
Previous - Episode 11: The End (part I)
Serenity is copyright by Jason Chirevas. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)