Three years after first stepping foot on its quiet, serene surface, River returned to Miranda. She brought with her three things: a travois, accelerant, and a lighter. It didn't matter where she started, but she still took the time to make a grid of the capital and get organized.
At first, she thought she might finish the entire section she was working on in one day, but by noon her muscles were beginning to ache, so she slowed her pace. Moving the bodies was difficult at first. She found herself wondering who each had been; had this woman with the bright pink shirt and the inadvisable shoes had children? Had she leaped out of bed in the morning or did she complain? What had been her favorite food? River wondered and wondered, and by the fourth body she sat down and wept.
"It isn't fair," she muttered to Miranda, but Miranda did not answer. She was a stoic planet, a world of whispering breezes and solemn sunrises. If Miranda had any secrets left, she would never tell.
River managed to haul nearly forty corpses into the right-hand side (and that was an arbitrary distinction, of course, as she had decided upon the direction based solely on the bridge of her planet-hopper; had she landed in a different location, it might have been the left-hand side) of her section of the grid by the time twilight drew near. Mindful of how much accelerant she had, she sprinkled the fuel over the pile of bodies. She wished Shepherd Book had been here. He would have known the right words to say. He would have been able to make everyone feel as though there were hope to be found in the 'verse. But everyone wasn't here. Only River was here, and she had no words.
She lit the pile. The corpses were so desiccated that she hadn't needed to build a pyre beneath them. The smoke was dark and acrid, and she had to take several steps away. They burned to ash quickly, and River laughed a little as she watched the last of the smoke float up just as a fresh breeze blew in, and the smoke made a curve like an ocean's wave. River didn't believe in fate, because fate in a world like this was too cruel to believe in, but she liked moments where it felt like things fit together. For too long in her life, nothing had fit; she had been a puzzle made only of obtuse angles. This was one angle she had been able to smooth out, just a little.
Tomorrow she cleaned up the rest of the first section. There were dozens more to go, and that was just in this quarter of the capital city. It was a daunting task she had set for herself, and would require countless trips to and fro this abandoned, outback world. River could think of few better vacations.