Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"When Serenity is attacked by the Alliance and crashes on an unknown moon, the crew think things cannot get much worse."


TITLE: "SAVANNA" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: G. STATUS: First in the PURSUIT SERIES. ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE:

SUMMARY: "When Serenity is attacked by the Alliance and crashes on an unknown moon, the crew think things cannot get much worse." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Wash's voice telling Mal they had to find a place to hide kept recycling over and over inside the Captain's bruised head. "Tell me again why we're on this crappy moon?"

Wash's mouth opened and shut but nothing came out. Mal sighed.

"We crashed, Wash. My boat don't crash, you crashed us."

"It wasn't quite like that, sir. *Jide*? The Alliance were firin' at us." Put in Zoe, her voice a calm evenly modulated tone of reason. It helped ground him through the pain.


"Yes, sir?"

A pause. "Is it night time?"

A longer pause. "No, sir."

"What time is it?"

Silence. Murmuring, muttering, then another pause. "Watch is broken, sir."

"All I'm needin' is mornin', noon or evenin', *dong ma*?"

Awkward pause. "Sir? I'm guessin' mid-day, would there be some reason you're not knowin' that?"

He didn't say it. Couldn't say it out loud because that would make it real and real would be scary. He didn't do scary. "What about the others? Kaylee, Simon, River, Book? Jayne?"

This time it was Wash who spoke. Gorrammit, when had he moved? Man sounded not two feet away from him. "We haven't seen them."

"Best go find 'em. Need to stick together."

Now Zoe spoke, so close he almost jumped. "You don't look so good, sir. Where does it hurt?" Hurt? He wanted to laugh only it wasn't funny. Easier to ask where it didn't hurt but right now he was worried about his crew. Made this a mite easier. "I want you an' Wash to locate the others but don't be takin' any chances. We need to find out how bad this is then find a way off this rock."


He tried not to tilt his head towards the sound of her voice. Would be a dead give away. "I'll stay here, rest up."

Zoe and Wash exchanged worried looks. The Captain was pretty banged up but both of them had seen him worse than this. It was not what he said that worried them but what he didn't. Not like the Captain to sit and wait while he sent his crew into danger. "Sir, could be you're forgettin' the Alliance."

"No, they shot us down or did I imagine that tumble we just took?"

"You didn't imagine it, Mal." Came Wash's slightly apologetic comment. "But they sent men down to look for us. Hence with the hidin'."

The Captain blinked, oblivious to the trickle of blood running down the side of his face. Trying to hold in the pain of every breath eased through a broken rib cage into bruised lungs. "They did?" Why didn't he remember that? Seemed the kind of thing a Captain should be knowing.

"That's why we're in this cave, sir."

They were in a cave? When the good gorram had that happened? Zoe. At times like this he could kiss her. His rock. Unflappable and reliable. Her practical strength was the only thing keeping him mostly sane right now and he hadn't been exactly sane before. He cleared his mind by stubborn will alone. He needed to be the Captain for a little while longer. "Go an' find the others, that's an' order." When he heard no word of acquiessence and no sound of anyone leaving he snapped. Part irritation, part frustration. "Not arguin' 'bout this, Zoe!"

"Good sir, 'cause I ain't leavin' you."

Arguing with Zoe was as useless as arguing with himself. Mal should know, they were cut from the same gorram cloth. Mirror images. Faced with that kind of instransigence he wasn't sure he had enough energy for the fight but he had to try. Somewhere out there his people were scattered. Frightened, hiding, maybe even injured their own selves. He was the Captain. It was his duty to find and protect them only right now he'd be more liability than rescue party. That left Zoe. "You have to find the others, Zoe."

He hated that the words came out more plea than command but she did the courtesty of answering back with not an inch of give in her voice. Perhaps she hadn't noticed. "*Wo zhidao*, sir, but you can't travel least not 'til the doc fixes you up."

The Captain tried to get a full breath through lungs which seemed more than a mite squashed. Mal didn't want to think about what that might mean or how much it hurt if he tried to breathe too deeply. Right now little short breaths worked best. Those he could manage without passing out. "A doc we ain't got! Look." He paused, panting and trying to hide the fact. "We both know I ain't goin' nowhere so it's not like you're gonna lose me. Go, find the others but real careful like in case any of those *tamade hundan* are lyin' in wait, *dong ma*? When you find 'em you come back an' get me."


Zoe's hesitation bespoke the pain she kept out of her carefully guarded voice. The Captain went for his last shot. A low blow but it was all he had left. "Can't see, Zoe."

Mal heard the sharp intake of breath at the unexpected admission.

"I'm thinkin' I need the doc sooner rather than later, *dong ma*?"

"The Cap'n's right, *bao bei*." Said Wash.

The pilot sounded sad, reluctant. Wash's voice quiet, placating almost. The Captain wondered what else they weren't telling him,

"Sir? If we're gonna do this you need to move."

Mal blinked. Not sure he had heard correctly. "Move?" Did they have any idea how hard he was finding it just to stay conscious and they wanted him to move? Gorrammit if he could move he would be going with them.

"Yeah," Said Wash apologetically. "You're in sight of the cave mouth, Mal."

The Captain's mind felt foggy, full of mush. Thinking was becoming more of an effort. "An' that's a bad thing?"

"It is if the purplebellies are out searchin' for survivors, Mal. We weren't exactly tryin' to cover our tracks."

"There's some rocks a few feet back, sir. If we can settle you behind them you should be safe enough 'til we get back."

Mal couldn't argue with Zoe's logic even though he didn't like it but needs must when the Devil drives. "How big is this cave?"

Wash and Zoe exchanged a look. "Not sure, sir. Weren't exactly in a position to explore."

He wanted to call her on that but he couldn't. Mal's air was running thin and every bit of exertion pained and weakened him. Zoe noticed. She didn't like the look of him and glared at her husband. Wash shrugged. The only person who could help the Captain was Simon and it was that fact that convinced Zoe they had to do this though every atom of her being was screaming that she couldn't leave him.

The Captain hardly felt the firm but careful hands carrying him deeper into the cave, the pain coursing through his body blocking most everything out. They settled him in a sitting position, back against the rock and obscured from view by other rocks. Mal had his eyes closed, slowly getting breath back into flagging lungs. He felt something cold and hard being pressing into his gun hand and opened his eyes on darkness. "Zoe?"

His first mate ignored the way the word came out weak and kind of breathless, not wanting to pick up on the slur in his voice even as it deepened the worry working its' way to her heart. "It's a gun, sir. Just in case whoever finds you ain't us."

"Don't feel like my gun." He murmured, breathing in little leaky gasps.

Zoe frowned down at him and fussed a little, trying to get him to grip the gun so his index finger slipped through the trigger guard. Making sure the makeshift bandages stayed in place. "It ain't. Lost your gun gettin' clear. Didn't have time to go back for it."

He wanted to refuse the damn thing. Push it back into her hands but he lacked the strength. Gorramit she would need the gun more than he would.

"Mal," Said Wash gently. He could see how the Captain's deteriorating condition was affecting his wife. They needed to bring the focus back on what they could do. "Take the gun. Don't make this harder than it is."

Somehow Wash's meaning by-passed the words spoken and Mal understood. His attempts at protesting stopped. He wasn't sure he could speak anyway, the way his tongue seemed to be swelling in his gorram mouth. Couldn't tell if it was with emotion or something medical only Simon could pronounce. Didn't mean a damn thing anyway. Mal tried to nod but wasn't sure how successful that was as a different kind of darkness rose up in his consciousness and swallowed him whole.

Zoe knelt at her friend's side, her gun resting on Mal's blood soaked thigh where it had slid from his hand as he passed out. It hurt Zoe to see him like this. Hurt even more to think of leaving him behind. Didn't matter a good gorram that they would be going for help. You didn't leave a man behind. But the Captain had given her an order and she had others to think of, a crew to find and protect. "I don't like this, Wash. Cap'n's real bad."

Her husband said the only thing guaranteed to move her. "All the more reason to find Simon an' the others *mashang, bao bei*."

Zoe looked down at the Captain one last time. The look was long and telling. "Not sure the Cap'n has that long." She murmured.

Then Wash was clasping her hand and she was rising. Determination pushing every other thought and emotion to the back of her mind. Both she and Wash were battered and bruised but nothing more serious than that. Mind set she turned and left the cave as if she wasn't leaving a gorram thing of worth behind her. But Wash knew different. Knew Zoe and Mal were all manner of tied to each other in ways he was only slowly coming to understand. Wash didn't like leaving Mal either but they didn't have time to do anything else. Every second they hesitated the Captain grew worse. Silently he prayed they would find Simon and the others alive and well. Then he said another equally fervent prayer, hoping against hope that when they did they could get back to the cave in time.

His body slumped against the rock, the Captain didn't hear his friends leave. Insensate and oblivious to the passage of time. Unaware that though they were gone he was not alone. A deep coughing sound seemed to echo from afar, muted by distance until it rolled away. Silence moulded itself around his sleeping form as deeper shadows coalesced on the edge of visible sight. Behind him the walls of the cave narrowed and the roof became lower and lower tapering into a long dark funnel like an elogated crawl space into the very pit of *Diyu*.

* * * * *

Serenity had landed pretty much in one piece but the stablisers had broken off and many of her electrical systems were shot. The engine was broken partway out of its' housing by the force of their impact with the ground. Not nothing stirred within her metal walls but the uninvited. The exterior looked battered but intact, deep score marks showing evidence of the Alliance fire that had brought her down. Kaylee had marvelled that her girl was even in one piece and was offended to see Alliance soldiers crawling all over her like they had every right to be there. A hand on her shoulder pulled the mechanic firmly back into hiding. The thick vegetation their own cover until they found better.

"D'ya see what them purplebellies are doin' to Serenity?"

"Kaylee, ssssh." Said Simon anxiously. "We can't risk anyone hearing us."

Simon was not just worrying about Kaylee and the crew but especially for River. There was no doubt in his mind that the Alliance's relentless pursuit of their missing genius was the reason the ship had been attacked in the first place.

"We have to get out of here."

The mechanic dragged her eyes reluctantly away from Serenity and stared at Simon as if he had just shaken hands with the Devil. "We can't leave her now! Serenity needs us."

"Simon's right," Said Book in his deep calming voice. "Once they're satisfied that the ship is empty - that we aren't hiding under the deck plates or hidden panels - they'll come looking for us. Better not to be found."

Kaylee blinked, close to tears. "But Serenity, the Cap'n..."

"In darkness. Safe for now."

Kaylee, Simon and Book stared at River. Almost dreading asking what she meant. Kaylee reached out to touch the slim arm of her friend. "River?"

"She'll look after him. Strong protector." They just stared at the girl. River's pale almost sickly face looking other-worldly, her eyes unfocused as she gazed at something they could not see still less comprehend. Kaylee assumed River meant Zoe and found herself nodding. Comforted despite the seriousness of their predicament. She wondered if Wash and Jayne were with the Captain and Zoe and felt a little lightening of her heart. The Captain would find them and with Jayne doing the tracking all they had to do was find somewhere safe to hide and wait. Just had to have a little faith.

* * * * *

"There's no one here, sir."

The Commandant's face twisted in displeasure. "It's a smuggler's ship, are you sure you searched everywhere?"

Lieutenant Brugman nodded, a short sharp movement. Everything about him crisp and tuned finely to military precision. Commandant Harkan liked him but that did not mean he would tolerate failure of any kind. "Yes, sir. Every deck and hull plate that could be removed has been. My men have pretty much stripped her down to the blueprints." Brugman shook his head wonderingly to himself. Amazed that people had actually lived on this piece of *goushi* and evaded them for so long.

"Very well. Contain the scene."

A flicker of hesitation crossed the man's face. Harkan saw it, spun to face him again and sniffed. His look a withering warning not to overstep his bounds by questioning orders. "*Shenme shi*, Lt?"

"I thought we would be doing a sweep of the planet sir. Catch them before they get too far." Only Brugman would call a partly terraformed moon like Savanna a planet.

A cold mirthless smile settled on Harkan's lips. "We have a job to do and we are doing it. The elite red division will take up the hunt."

Brugman blinked, gave a crisp nod and asked no further questions. The Red Division. One of the Corporation's little gifts to the Alliance. Squadrons of specially trained and enhanced soldiers whose one single purpose in life was to track people down. Not through the Black, that was the work of the even deadlier Operatives. The Red Division specialised in finding those who were planet bound and had gone to ground. They wore red suited armour, the better to hide the blood of those that fell into their hands. Among the regular elite forces they were known as Bloodsuckers and the name not only stuck but had been accepted by the squadrons like an honoured coat of arms. A deep part of Brugman's psyche was offended by them, as if close proximity to them would make him unclean. Each errant thought was carefully and thoroughly folded and tucked deep out of sight in that box where a man's deepest darkest secrets lay. Brugman knew that if he allowed his distaste to become an issue he would be one more valiant soul who had shed his blood for the Alliance. A gorram hero. And no one the wiser.

* * * * *

Mal did not know how long he lay there, awkwardly slumped on his side on the cold damp floor of the cave. He was cold, shivering. A part of his brain was telling him that it was a good thing that he could still shiver but he couldn't remember why it mattered. Thoughts no more than fragmented images that came with distorted sounds that never resolved into meaning. Fading and blaring by turn in his consciousness like the hounds of *Diyu*. He could not stop the shivering, unable to even wrap his arms around himself to hang on to what little warmth still remained in his body. Malcolm Reynolds drifted off, waking later feeling warmer. Something solid laying half over him like a heavy quilt, warmth seeping down through his body holding the inevitable at bay. The shivering had stopped.

A dark shape moved, easing the weight pressing down on Mal and flipping him onto his back. Blood oozed from a chest wound. A large great head lowered, the heat of its' fetid breath fanning a face beyond feeling. Sour warmth huffed over the Captain's sleeping features, bright yellow magnetic eyes watched the pained compressions of his chest. Highly tuned ears picked up the truncated laboured breathing, the little pained inhalations. The head dipped and nudged the Captain's shoulder, dislodging the bloody makeshift bandage on his chest. A low long throaty rumble vibrating through the animal and into the human body pinned beneath it. The man did not stir. The animal coughed deep in the back of its' throat and puffed more warm air against the Captains' cheek. Another nudge. Harder this time. A pained moan leaked out of the Captains' mouth, his sweat slicked face thrown back. The beast dipped its' head, lapped lightly at the fresh blood flushing out of the weeping wound. It was starting to go septic. The beast did not care, the strong heavy laps from the coarse tongue becoming more insistent.

Mal stirred. The groan deepening as something pushed him into consciousness. A flare of pain made him cry out. The weight on him shifted again but this time did not pain him. Careful movement eased the dark body to cover his more fully. The weight of the beast on his chest stopping the blood loss but also making it harder to breathe. He could feel his lungs stutter for breath, his eyes fluttering open but seeing nothing. The beast lay quietly, the murmur in its' throat reverberating through its' big body and becoming strangely soothing to the injured man rapidly losing consciousness beneath it.

* * * * *

Leylani was amused, but genuinely happy to see Inara again. The Companion House at Claremont was one Inara seldom visited but each had spoken to the other through infrequent waves. It felt strange but familiar being within the walls of the beautifully appointed House Columbine.

"Inara! I do not have sufficient words to tell you how happy I am to see you."

The smile came easily to Inara's lips. "And I you, Leylani." Inara allowed her glance to take in the rich trappings of the House Mother's room after their embrace. She brought her eyes back to her friend and the smile deepened. "You have done well for yourself."

Tactfully, Leylani made no mention of how the same position at House Madrassa could have been Inara's. Some things were best left unspoken. If one were friends.

"You still have not told me what was so important I had to come in person." The question was said with a teasing smile but the lightly veiled admonishment was not lost on Leylani. Leylani was tempted to turn away while she considered how to impart what must be said but she could not do that to a friend. "Inara, I had a wave from Sheydra."

Inara paled, instantly concerned for events she had thought to leave far behind her. "Has something happened?"

"Not in the way you imagine."

She blinked. Recovering quickly, the smile vanishing from her face as Inara tried to fathom what she meant. "What did she say?"

"Sheydra begged a favour." Inara's eyebrow rose, this time she said nothing. Waiting. Leylani almost smiled. That was better. "I was asked to seek your presence - urgently."

Now Inara's eyes began to narrow with suspicion. "*Weishenme*?"

"Trouble was coming. Hot and fast on the trail of the ship you were travelling upon. Sheydra wanted you out of there fast but without arousing suspicion."

Anger began to rise in Inara but her face was a mask and no emotion was allowed to show. "Danger? Why was I not told of this?"

"It was thought you would warn them or even worse, remain with them."

Like a lightening strike, fury flashed across Inara's face. "Who are you to make that decision for me?"

"I am not," Said Leylani softly, her eyes taking in the Companion's reaction. "But now I can see that Sheydra was right to worry."

"What do you mean?"

"Inara, I have heard the rumours. The reason you ally yourself to that ship and it's somewhat... eclectic... crew. It is not fitting for a Companion of your status to align herself with enemies of the Alliance."

"I merely rent a shuttle..."

"Inara." Chided Leylani. "Let there be no artifice between us, sister."

"Very well. Then let there be nothing hidden either. What exactly did Sheydra say?"

* * * * *

It was a struggle for Jayne Cobb to think straight. Damn rutting Alliance. Always meddling and stopping folk from earning a gorram living. Not that carrying those fugies helped none but they was crew now. Even Jayne accepted them as part of their rag-tag family. With a sigh he wiped the blood out of his eyes and stared down into the puddle to catch enough reflection to tend his wound. It wasn't a deep gash but head wounds were always messy. Bled like a stuck pig. Plus he didn't want to go getting light headed nor nothing nor raving with a gorram fever. So he was careful to keep it clean, rewrapping the torn off sleeve of his shirt around his forehead. Tucking the loose end in the wrapping he wiped his hands on his trouser legs, checked Vera then made a mental inventory of what he had left. How many bullets, grenades and knives remained in his improvised arsenal. When everything went to *diyu* you just had to grab whatever you could before you kissed your ass goodbye. Only if Jayne had anything to say about this it wouldn't be goodbye. Might be a whole big messy hello though.

The Alliance soldier was almost close enough for Jayne to smell. The adrenaline burning in the mercenary's veins was so sweet, like anticipation he savoured it as he watched the man like a hawk. "Come on, come on, just a foot or two nearer. That's it." Jayne murmured.

He settled Vera within reach at his feet and slid Binky out of her sheath. Was the best gorram knife for close work he owned. Sharp, deadly and silent as a whisper. He loved that knife like it owned part of his soul. Same as all his girls she was special. The soldier paused and Jayne froze in place, the undergrowth hiding him from view. Then he saw something that made him grin, like all his birthdays and Christmases coming together. The man slung his rifle over his shoulder and fiddled with the buttons on his fly. Jayne grinned and gripped Binky a little tighter. The man stepped into the undergrowth just as he eased himself out of his pants to relieve himself. With a gasp of shock he felt the kiss of cool metal across his throat a second before he realised what was happening. As the man crumpled from the gaping wound across his throat, urine ran down the leg of his trousers. By the time the body hit the dirt it had turned red with blood.

Silently Jayne patted the man down and took his weapons, the rifle greedily added to his arsenal along with a hand gun and something he hadn't seen in a good long while. A steel wire with a little wood handhold at each end for garroting. Jayne's smile grew. His day was getting better and better.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*jide* = remember *dong ma* = understand? *wo zhidao* = I know *tamade hundan* = fucking bastards *bao bei* = precious/treasure *mashang* = at once/quickly/immediately/on the double/right away *diyu* = hell *goushi* = crap/dog shit *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *weishenme* = why?


Tuesday, August 15, 2006 8:11 AM


Binky!!! OMG I howled with laughter when I read that!

How is it that they all got separated getting out of Serenity? You'd think they'd all stay together.

I like your Zoe voice. I'm so terrible at writing her, but you did a real good job here.

Very interesting start. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 10:14 AM


wow, you totally have me hooked, amdobell.

"Behind him the walls of the cave narrowed and the roof became lower and lower tapering into a long dark funnel like an elogated crawl space into the very pit of *Diyu*."

wonderful descriptions, intrigue and plot-squee! great setting too--nice being off ship for a change. and what the go suh is happening with mal? can't wait for more of this.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 2:05 PM


You did really good here, and I'm glad I've caught this at the beginning, so I can follow along easily on future parts.

The whole concept is great. Serenity being shot down, and the crew scrambling out of the wreckage to keep themselves from the Alliance.

Wash's mouth opened and shut but nothing came out. Mal sighed. *Total Wash, I can see him lift his head as if to say, not a word.

Silently he prayed they would find Simon and the others alive and well. Then he said another equally fervent prayer, hoping against hope that when they did they could get back to the cave in time. *Very interesting characterization, Wash lifting up a prayer, thats a bit outside the box, but I loved it. I really like it when writers take the BDH's beyond what we know about them.

Kaylee blinked, close to tears. "But Serenity, the Cap'n..." *Totally Kaylee, great characterization.

"We have a job to do and we are doing it. The elite red division will take up the hunt." *I'm liking the concept of this "red division", and the description of them that comes in the next paragraph.

Like a lightening strike, fury flashed across Inara's face. "Who are you to make that decision for me?" *This would be Inara in this situation, so independent of her profession, in so many ways. Its her family and she would never disassociate herself willingly in times of trouble.

With a gasp of shock he felt the kiss of cool metal across his throat a second before he realised what was happening. *Jayne...good Jayne, you wrote this very well, and the scene played out very well.

Good job on this. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 6:34 AM


Whoa...some definitely dangerous times are ahead;)

I really wanna know what provoked the Alliance to wail on Serenity and force her down on Savanna. Did they know for certain River was aboard? If so, how? And I really wanna know if Mal's inadvertantly gone Grizzly Adams with a bear or something in that cave:(

Gotta first though when I read your description of the Red Division was "Oh army of Jubal Earlys!" Cuz your construct of a Blue Sun-trained and modified cadre of special ops soldiers would explain Early's dress and behaviour as someone who got diddled with, used and abused, and discarded for being too nutzo;)


Thursday, August 17, 2006 7:28 AM


Oh Alison, what a start!

Well, at least we know they are all still alive...

Can't wait to find out more about Leylani


Friday, September 22, 2006 2:22 AM


Oooo. Loved the Jayne(y) bits esp! And the Inara parts.


You must log in to post comments.



His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying.

Personally she didn't care if Serenity was towed off to a junk yard and stripped into spare parts. She had promised the ship to Jer and his crew as a bonus but it looked like scavengers had beaten them to it.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

What in the nine hells were they so afraid of? Then he remembered Tracy. The body mailed to them by their old war buddy and all the trouble that had brought down on them.

If it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two?

The man was in a terrible condition, his pulse weak, and for some reason he was soaking wet which did nothing to staunch the blood soaking through his clothing and seeping from the poorly tended wound where he had been shot.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 8. "All The King's Horses"
Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 7. "Friend or Foe"
Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.