un_fallen: (color - got my eye on you)
[personal profile] un_fallen
[From here.]

Raguel is very good, but he is not River Tam; in a physical fight his movements are strong, quick, but he lacks her unerring instinct, the unthinking grace.

At first it had been only four Reavers, then five, then all too soon it was ten... and twenty. Too many. A firestorm to destroy them all would also have destroyed any evidence remaining here, and would potentially have broken the Shé Xuán apart.

He'd searched it. He'd been ready to abandon it. But Destroying The Evidence is a repulsive idea that has been long entrenched in the very core of him. It was becoming clear, however, that he wasn't going to have a choice if he wanted to be around to find his target.

But then the flood had - suddenly - lessened. The nearest dock had been damaged when Raguel's skimmer had been rammed away from it, so that the moment he'd pulled the airlock's lever down to admit a torrent of madness and violence, the ship's air had begun venting out through a fracture. The Reaver ships had begun a sluggish process of undocking and abandoning their fellows; the lack of air had finally reached a critical point and one by one those on board fell, gasping, to the floor.

There'd been one more major change in the look of his surroundings. The door to that bizarrely well-organized room must have locked when it had swung closed, because he'd found a hundred new marks on it; dents and scuffs and    smears    were all over the door and extending for several feet around it. He'd gone to check the room again (stepping over a few new corpses) and found everything inside as he left it, with one exception. The strange stick with the button on it, abandoned on top of the folders, had retracted its prongs.

"Uh huh," he'd mumbled, and pocketed it.



There had been two inhabitable moons in an escape pod's range of the ship when it had been attacked, he'd remembered. One of them was a sparsely populated mining colony. The other was a moderately populous border moon with a budding economy and a promising climate.

He'd headed for the mining colony in the battered flagship. If you were going to crash-land a vessel (just as he was) on a moon, the last thing you wanted was pictures of it beamed around the 'verse by some technologically shrewd wunderkind. The colony might not even have had electricity, let alone have recognized the Shé Xuán from broadcasted pictures. If he'd been planning this sort of thing, he couldn't have wished for a better place. And it was beginning to look as though ELIZABETH RYDELL had planned this down to the second.

--


She does not stay long on either of the moons, but there are traces of the escape pod to be found there if you know what you're looking for. It's been disassembled, then certain parts melted down and 'found' in one of the mines with the rest of the ore. From there she leads him on a long trail winding from one planet to another, using a string of different names that he discovers when he bothers to check. But there are very few places that are not covered by surveillance of some kind; certainly not the places that ELIZABETH RYDELL frequents, and not all of them have been erased. They aren't centers of commerce, but there are crowds or centralized food and shopping, there are electronic eyes and there are people. Someone's always seen her, and Raguel doesn't have to rely on electronic records alone to know where she's been.

He knows what she looks like: young, fair complexion, blue eyes, hair falling in reddish-blonde waves past her chin. As the weeks pass, it falls down to her shoulders. She never cuts or colors her hair, which he finds odd. She's smart, that much is clear, but she's not a professional. Careful, but still makes mistakes. Moves around, but doesn't disappear. She relies on the kindness of strangers that she never trusts with more than a heavy bag, never for more than a moment. And she's finally found a place to settle down when Raguel arrives to highlight where she went wrong.

Date: 2008-10-28 04:28 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
It's getting near the wrong end of autumn now, here on Salisbury, but it's bright and sunny and still warm enough to leave a window open, if you're doing warm work. The house is set back a little from the road, which is probably a good thing; Elizabeth doesn't have a bad voice, but she won't be breaking any chart records any time soon.

"Xiào jiù gēsòng, yī zhòu méitóu jiù xīntòng, wǒ méi kōng lǐ huì wǒ, zhǐ gǎnshòu nǐ de gǎnshòu - "

The living-room is spacious, but not ostentatious; its best feature is the glass wall that looks out onto the trees. At the moment, the sunlight is at precisely the right angle to shine through the fiery autumn canopy, casting a warm, dappled glow on the room's occupant as she bops between a few meagre-looking boxes, half-unpacked.

"Nǐ yào wǎng nǎ zǒu, bǎ wǒ línghún yě dàizǒu, tā wèi nǐ zháo le mó, liú zhe yǒu shénme yòng."

At least one of the boxes seems to have a couple of carefully-rolled prints sticking up from the top, and a few attractively kitschy frames from the local craft market are propped against the wall. Today's mission: decorating.

Date: 2008-10-28 05:56 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
One of Elizabeth's favourite prints is by Clayton Fleming: a panoramic photograph of rolling, wooded hills with the sun setting behind them, its soft, pinkish light picking out a pretty town tucked into a valley. She didn't bring it with her. It was an awkward size; she couldn't find anything to replace it in the frame, and it wouldn't do to leave an empty rectangle three shades brighter on the wall of her old apartment. And in any case, she has a view now that's even better.

"Zhí néng ài nǐ, you are my superstar."

Her other favourites, she did better with - their frames back home hold a half-dozen newly-bought posters, and there's no sign whatsoever that anything is missing. Everything is exactly as Lizzie Rydell left it when she boarded the ill-fated Shé Xuán and never came home again.

If she thinks about it too much, Lizzie knows, she'll start to miss what she left behind. So really, the best thing to do is not to dwell on it; to stay busy and stay positive, and to spend at least a few hours every day out walking in the glorious autumn sun. Lizzie Sunshine, Uncle Andy used to call her.

Matching one poster to a frame, she shimmies back for another. The bridge of the song is the tricky bit; Lizzie isn't leaving the right number of beats between the lines, and isn't quite hitting the high notes. But what she lacks in talent, she makes up for in enthusiasm - and the rolled-up print makes for a excellent impromptu microphone.

"Nǐ shì yìyì, shì tiàn shì dì, shì shén de zhǐ yì." She takes a deep breath. "Chú le ài nǐ, méiyǒu zhēn lǐ!"

Sing like nobody's listening, she's always believed, and dance like nobody's watching.

Date: 2008-10-29 02:58 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
The first shot goes wide, but the second doesn't. She may not be able to triangulate by sound alone, but she's spent long enough at the firing range with paranoid Uncle Andy to land a bullet in someone when she's facing them. Out of the corner of her eye, she has just enough time to register the stranger's look of surprise at the sudden hole in his shoulder before she's out the door and booking for the stairs.

(The gun was on the mantelpiece, behind a family photograph; the heavy frame teeters, topples, and hits the carpet with a muffled thud.)

Date: 2008-10-29 04:07 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
Her finger  won't  close  on the trigger.

That doesn't stop her from keeping the barrel trained firmly on the stranger, and visualising (like she's always been taught) exactly where she wants the next bullet to land. It's all about positive thinking.

"Who are you," she asks.

As they edge clockwise around the kitchen, the gun between them, the stranger's wings rattle the new pots sitting on the counter-top. He's the only person she's ever seen with wings. The only other person.

And he won't be the first she's Dealt With -

if she can just  get her finger to  pull  the  trigger -

Date: 2008-10-29 04:46 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
It's the way he strokes the gun. Or maybe the way he just takes it from her.

With it back in her hands, her chin dimples a little, her mouth trembles.

It passes. She mounts the stairs slowly, but not too slowly. They had training in this; the important thing is to stay calm.

Back upstairs, her music is still playing. Briefly, she thinks about slamming the living-room door in his face, of trying to knock the glass out of one of the windows and jumping. But she won't get away with another stunt like that; she can tell, the same way she can feel his eyes on her from behind.

In the center of the room, she turns around, hands loose and by her sides. The gun dangles uselessly from the right.

Date: 2008-10-30 03:18 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
She blinks twice, fast, and looks down at the carpet.

(She can't tell if he wants an answer, or just wants to hear himself talk. If the latter, that's - that's good.)

Date: 2008-10-30 03:59 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
Moving slowly once again, Lizzie picks her way through the scattered boxes and lowers herself cautiously onto the edge of a chair. She keeps the gun in her lap, thumb tracing unconsciously over the grooves in the chamber.

(Once upon a time, it was believed that the miniaturisation of laser technology would make bullets obsolete, that - with the new generation of weapons flooding the market - guns like this would cease production, become antiques. Instead, they simply became Option B: weapons for those discerning customers looking to go back to basics, without all the unnecessary paraphernalia of things like registration, or electronic tags. Waste not.)

"It looked like an accident," she says. She's more composed now, and there's a certain sureness in her voice that's part real, and part projected.

It was supposed to look like an accident.

Date: 2008-10-30 04:26 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
"Susceptible to a head-shot. Just like everyone else."

Only half consciously, her hand lifts, touches light fingertips to her right cheek.

"He obviously wasn't untouchable."

Date: 2008-10-31 03:06 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
Lowering her hand, she follows Raguel's gaze, uncomprehending.


Lizzie's eyes are a clear, summery blue, almost as vivid as Raguel's own; as she looks back, they soften a little around the edges.

"I'm sorry," she says. "I didn't mean for that to happen."

Date: 2008-10-31 03:42 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
"Shì a," she agrees. Her voice is quiet - but that's not the same as cowed, or subdued. "Though maybe it depends on what you mean by 'around'."

Date: 2008-10-31 03:57 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
"By that definition, there are plenty of us. The records should have told you that."

Date: 2008-11-17 02:41 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
She holds her head high, making a clean curve of jaw and neck, but Raguel's focus centers on her like a weight; despite herself, she leans back a little, into the wicker embrace of the chair.

"I majored in civil engineering," she says.

Date: 2008-11-17 02:59 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] walk_ins
A little red rises in her cheeks, fiercely scarlet against her fair colouring.

"I was family. That's what you were saying, wasn't it?"

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