THE PURSUIT SERIES: 3. "Hide and Seek"
Saturday, August 26, 2006

"The Alliance elite trackers set out to hunt the crew of Serenity down. As the crew learn more about Savanna things begin to get even stranger."



SUMMARY: "The Alliance elite trackers set out to hunt the crew of Serenity down. As the crew learn more about Savanna things begin to get even stranger." 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

* * * * *

Up on the surface of Savanna, Commandant Harkan and the Commander in Chief of the Red Division, Chin Li, had not been idle. Without preamble as soon as the bloodsuckers had landed Harkan told them what had happened. The teams automatically formed from the ordered mass of troops, no spoken orders being needed among them. The venerable Chin Li had jet black eyes, no visible irises. It was an odd affectation caused by a special kind of surgery. The kind in common with other little enhancements gifted by a rather single minded purpose.

Some of his men specialised in honing particular senses, others to optimising all that they had into a kind of hybrid skill that rose above anything within normal parameters. They were still human but only just. Harkan didn't know that and what the Commandant didn't know wouldn't hurt him because in Alliance eyes the dead always kept the best secrets. With only his ignorance to protect him, Commandant Harkan straightened into a smart version of parade rest and watched the ordered rank and file leave effectively handing the problem over to Chin Li. Momentarily confused to feel much warmer the moment they were gone. Satisfied that his work for now was done, Harkan barked out the order to withdraw. The sooner he got himself and his men off this rutting rock the better.

* * * * *

There was something very creepifying about a body of people obeying orders unspoken, of marching in time without creating vibration beneath their feet, of breathing eating and drinking only when observed by outsiders. They moved almost with a hive mentality, a kind of beauty and grace to actions with no benign intent yet emotion was removed from the equation. There was nothing to disturb the pervading calm in which they were rooted. Each one finely tuned to their austere duty. Not one of them had been given the ability to deviate.

In the cave the beast stirred. Malcolm Reynolds was out of it but the beast was ever alert. Vigilant. Mouth hanging open the golden eyes stared back towards the mouth of the cave then with sinuous grace the creature stood, poised and listened. After a moment the great black head dipped and nudging the Captain's head to one side the beast opened her massive jaws and began to drag Mal by his collar towards the long tapering funnel. The Captain moaned in pain but the beast was seemingly oblivious, the walls closing in on them until they brushed the sides. Sloping downwards now the big cat was guiding and slowing Mal's descent rather than dragging him. Her bulk closed in to ease his fall when the funnel ended abruptly a few feet above a concrete floor.

Mal woke with a jolt that jarred so many bits of him that hurt that thought made no impression above pain as he cried out. The big cat crouched over him, sniffed and nudged him then gently lapped at his face. The warm wet abrasive tongue bringing the Captain out of the heat of delirium rocking his senses. He felt hot enough to liquidate, his mind a fog, his vision blurry. Why was that? What the good gorram was going on? Naturally the questions had not been verbalised and no one answered. Then he was being dragged again, this time the cat's grip had changed, her jaws clamped down on the front of Mal's bloodied shirt so that she was dragging him beneath her body, those muscled legs like pistons remarkably efficient in propelling them along at speed. The burn along Mal's back as he was dragged hardly penetrating his senses.


The rest of Mal's words seemed to vanish as if snatched out of his mouth before they could fully form. The Captain blinked, struggling for coherence. His vision a dark blur with vague patches of light streaking by. Oh god, oh god, he was blind. Then he remembered. In bite sized fragments. Zoe and Wash leaving him to get help. He was, he was wounded, that was it. And oh yeah, he couldn't see. Panic began to build in his chest, memories flashing back. He passed out as another more violent spasm of pain shot through him, a small ragged cry bleeding from lips no longer able to form words.

* * * * *

Chin Li's eyes narrowed at the cave mouth. Without uttering a single command, eight of his red armoured soldiers followed him inside, the others automatically spreading out to comb the empty landscape. Not trusting to any one sense what was or was not before them.

It was obviously a lair. When he saw the blood Chin Li paused and clicked a finger. One of his men stepped forward and crouched down then touched the blood with a red gloved hand, the soft leather seemingly moulded to his skin. He raised the bloodied finger, sniffed then put his finger in his mouth. One second became two then the soldier tilted his head at his Commander. "It is Reynolds."

There was no nod, no sign of having taken in the confirmation. Chin Li gazed around the dark place, his eyes seeing everything with the precision of looking into a brightly lit room. He saw the rock behind which Mal had been hidden, the blood soaked rags that had been used to try to staunch the flow of blood from his wounds. The drag marks leaving a bloody trail down the diminishing tunnel. Only when he was satisfied that Reynolds was the only one that had been dragged off did Chin Li retreat. Let the beast have the rebel Captain, his target was more important than the entire crew of that *lese* Firefly. River Tam was on this moon somewhere and they were ordered to find her at all costs.

As he emerged from the cave mouth Chin Li addressed his major domo without turning his head. "Destroy it."

Then he was jogging off with the main body of his men, a small contingent left behind to detonate the cave. The explosion was small, muffled. Pathetic by demolition experts' standards but that was because none of the force of the blast was wasted. Dust blossomed in the air above it in a powdery plume as the cave collapsed. When all the dust had settled there was no entrance. No welcoming shelter from two alien suns. And no cave.

* * * * *

"What in the nine hells is this place?" Said Wash. His eyes big and round and full of the surprise and astonishment of finding this huge world beneath. Well. Not a world so much as creepy corridors and rooms and a distant odd hum that could only be machinery. It was so faint he was not sure the others had even heard it.

River led them deeper, her steps as sure as if she was following street signs. Simon tried to stop her. "River, we don't even know where we're going!"


That made everyone feel more not less jittery. Zoe was already testy with the need to get to the Captain. "We don't need to go down River, we have to get back to the surface and find the Cap'n."

The girl nodded but did not stop which meant Simon kept following with Kaylee not more than a step behind him. Book just raised his eyebrows at Zoe and followed. Frustrated and bordering on the need to rip someone bodily apart Zoe had little choice but to do likewise with Wash her quiet but comforting shadow.

If Wash had been suprised before he was now literally stunned. The blast was like a sonic wave bouncing them back. Everyone ended up sprawled on their backs, dazed. Only River remained standing. She had stopped millimetres from the invisible barrier. River tilted her head so she could watch the barrier and look at her fallen crewmates without turning her head. Her dark hair hung in a lank curtain partly obscuring the expression on her pale face. "They never listen." She murmured.

* * * * *

Jayne Cobb was perplexed then alarmed, before breaking out into an ecstatic grin. He couldn't believe it, his ma was right! "What in the good gorram are ya doin' out here?"

The huge blocky shape stared at him. Jayne grinned back and reholstered his gun. Wouldn't be needing it anyway even if it would penetrate hide an inch thick. Jayne frowned a mite to keep the sun out of his eyes, taking the time to critically survey everything he was seeing. The buildings were big square lumps of concrete and they dotted the compound in a hap-hazzard way. Even with no fences and no demarcation Jayne knew what this place was. Also knew that seeing no boundary didn't mean there wasn't one. The fact that the object of his attention hadn't moved towards him was proof enough of that.

Jayne took a step or two back, his eyes now on the ground. Searching. "Ah!" Seeing the palm sized rock the mercenary bent and picked it up then, with a patently insincere look of apology, threw it at the creature. Just before the rock would have hit the beast sparks flew, the air sizzled and hot dust spat out in a brief flaming arc. "Huh," Said Jayne with satisfaction. "Knew there was a gorram boundary."

* * * * *

Zoe helped Wash up, the others were already on their feet looking dazed and shaken. Wash tried to shake the stunned feeling out of his head and wondered if his hair was standing on end. "What just happened, *bao bei*?"

"Force field." Said Zoe in a clipped angry tone. She moved away from her husband to step closer to River. "You knew it was there."

River nodded. "Wouldn't listen."

"You didn't say anything, *mei mei*." Said Simon gently, trying to mitigate her lack of action. "You may have thought you'd warned us..."

She turned and looked at the doctor with such intensity he stopped mid sentence. River frowned at him. "Were already warned."

Book decided to see if he could get some answers and keep River calm as well. "We were?"

"Yes." River flicked her head back the way they had come. "But you never listened." Her voice lowered and trailed off. "You never do."

"River," Said Zoe a mite sharper than she had intended. "The Cap'n's hurt bad, we have to get to him so Simon can help him, *dong ma*?"

"She understands *and* she comprehends."

"Then how do we get back?" Asked Wash.

"Back," Said River in a detached tone. "Retrogade, retreat. We need to go forward."

Kaylee was tempted to touch River's arm but Simon gently shook his head. "River, sweetie, we have to go back."

"*Ni bu dong*, no way back."

Zoe felt her blood go cold. "What do you mean there's no way back?"

"Collapsed. Very precise detonation. Good work."

Zoe and Wash exchanged horrified looks. Seeing their expressions River shook her head. "Not dead. Just composite aggregate used to terraform. Looks like rock and soil but it's not." River held her arms out as if to encompass the entire underground section, perhaps the moon itself. "None of it is."

"River, I need you to tell us plain. How do we get out of here an' find the Cap'n?"

Everyone hung on Zoe's words though all eyes were on River Tam. She took a step towards them but kept the exact placement of the barrier in her mind. It was all about the maths and if they didn't get it right someone would get hurt in a way that Simon couldn't fix. River was good with numbers. The math flowed in her veins with all the precision of DNA encoded into her bloodstream. Better than fingerprints. As accurate as a retinal scan. The maths didn't lie but sometimes the DNA did. "We don't. We let her bring him to us."

Totally baffled they looked at each other. Zoe wondered if the Captain's little 'wunderkind' had finally flipped. If she had they were all screwed. River turned her head and looked Zoe right in the eye.

"She's protecting him, won't let the Captain come to harm."

Kaylee found herself looking anxiously around her. "Who, sweetie?"

But River wasn't listening any more. Turning away from them she took a step back towards the barried then stopped. Her head tilted as if listening and slowly a broad smile washed over her face. "Coming now."

Wash looked spooked. "Perhaps we shouldn't be here when *she* comes?"

Zoe did not look at her *zhangfu*. She was staring at River. "We're not leavin' without the Cap'n."

"Or Jayne." Added Book.

Wringing her hands Kaylee tried to sound confident. "Everythin'll be alright, Cap'n's comin'."

Zoe's hard gaze shifted from River and widened in a mixture of alarm and sheer disbelief. Her gun drawn and in her hand before she took another breath. River turned and grinned happily, oblivious to the consternation of those frozen in shock behind her. "Told you."

* * * * *

The mercenary made no attempt to sweet talk his way around the creature. Instead he sat cross legged on the dusty concrete and pretended to ignore his huge companion. The brim of his hat hid his eyes as he dipped his head a little and began patting his pockets. He felt more than saw the shape sway, definite interest seemingly at war with the all too obvious and painful barrier.

After a minute or two Jayne located what he was looking for and grinned, tipping his head back he smirked at the creature and proudly drew out a candy bar. Whether the elephant had ever seen the confection before was quickly answered by the animal's reaction. Trunk reaching towards the invisible barrier the beast drew back just in time, a look almost of human frustration in its' eyes. Jayne slowly ripped the paper off one end talking all the while.

"This here's my last gorram candy bar, can ya believe that?" His conversational tone kept the animal looking from him to the candy bar and back again until all the elephant was seeing was the enticing treat. Jayne took a small bite and made a production of chewing it with relish, waving the bar about so the elephant would scent the sweet chocholate. The animal rocked from side to side, getting agitated.

"Want some?" Mumbled the mercenary, hand outstretched.

For a moment the elephant stopped mid-sway and stared at him. Jayne could swear the cogs were turning in its' head. He waited but didn't pull back his hand. Either this would work or he would be the biggest gorram *baichi* in the 'verse. The elephant curled its' trunk up and backwards then trumpeted at him. Still Jayne did not move. He had made his entreaty, now it was up to the gorram elephant. Snorting and shaking its' massive head the elephant turned and lumbered away. Jayne felt the sharp sting of disappointment almost as keenly as a physical pain. The beast went over to the nearest ugly block and was halfway round the side of it when it stopped. There was a moment's silence then a high pitched buzzing sound.

Jayne blinked, not sure what had happened. "What in *diyu* was that?"

Alarmed he glanced around to see if he had somehow tripped a rutting alarm. When he turned back the elephant was coming back towards him, a glimmer of something in its' eyes. Jayne moved slowly to his feet but didn't back away, curious to see what the elephant would do and knowing that if he did have to stop it he would have to empty every round of ammo he had into the magnificent beast. To his surprise the elephant did not stop at the boundary. His jaw dropped open. Jayne could only stare as the beast stepped through the space where the force field had been and neatly plucked the candy bar out of his hand with its' trunk. As Jayne watched in awe, the elephant nodded at him then tossed the snack - wrapper and all - into its' great maw of a mouth. Before Jayne could react the beast turned and walked back to the blocky structure, disappeared round the back of it for a few seconds then reappearing just as the force field buzzed back on.

Staring at the animal as if it had just sprouted wings and was naming every star in the Black, Jayne Cobb sat down before he fell down. "Well, mama always said elephants was right smart critters."

The elephant wagged its' head from side to side as if in agreement. Jayne patted his pockets hopefully, his face falling after a minute.

"Gorrammit, that really was my last candy bar!"

As he sat on the dusty concrete Jayne tried not to think about how he had just been outwitted by a gorram elephant.

* * * * *

It was hard to tell who was most shocked or surprised. For several seconds no one spoke. The beast was magnificent. The shining black coat, proud mein and noble bearing self evident even as they watched in stunned silence as the great cat carefully laid the Captain on the floor. Simon was about to rush forward but River stopped him.

"Current's still on, Simon."

He looked about wildly for anything that might be a control panel. A switch, a sensor, anything. Book, Kaylee and Wash spread out to check the walls. River shook her head. Zoe did not move, her eyes glued to the Captain she could see but could not reach.

"Not here." Said River. Zoe could tell the Captain was getting weaker. Didn't like the fact that the makeshift padding was gone and her friend was bleeding freely again. Probably good that he was unconscious though it would have reassured her some to hear his voice. She looked at River, the last of her finite store of patience wearing almost to nothing. "Where's the switch, River? We need to turn the power off, *mashang*."

River nodded, she understood, really she did but now was not the right time.

"Don't be mistakin' that for a request. Cap'n's lost a lotta blood, *dong ma*?"

The girl blinked. Were those tears glittering in her eyes? Zoe couldn't tell and right now she didn't care. It was taking her all of her control not to grab River and shake her until her eyes rattled. This was serious and entirely the wrong time for the girl to be wasting their time with delays the Captain could not afford. River looked at the first mate with sad solemn eyes. "We have to wait."

Wash could tell that Kaylee was close to tears. They had been checking either side of the room but found nothing. Simon had never felt so helpless. The Preacher looked up then began to study the floor. Simon sighed. "I don't think you'll find the control panel down there."

"That's not what I'm looking for, doctor."

Simon blinked. The Shepherd's response broke up the death glare Zoe was giving River. Simon went to his sister and put an arm around her. Kaylee couldn't move, staring at the huge black beast now sitting next to the prone Captain, its' mouth open as the creature panted gently, great red tongue hanging out and yellow eyes watching every move they made.

"What do you mean, Shepherd?"

Book glanced around slowly. "A place this size must take a lot of power. Couldn't help but notice a distant hummin'." Interest sparked in formerly bleak eyes. "You talkin' 'bout a power source?"

The Shepherd nodded. "Must be one."

River's look turned vacant. "Won't need it."

"Why's that, Sweetie?" Asked Kaylee softly.

The girl looked at Kaylee and smiled, the focus coming back in her eyes as if returning from a long journey although only seconds had gone by. "Don't need a key when you know the code."

* * * * *

The efficient sweep yielded one promising result. Chin Li smiled grimly, eyes cold and bottomless like a soul scraping the barrel of *diyu*. In places there were even boot prints. Without a word the bloodsuckers formed serried ranks and moved with effortless precision. As they moved across the grassland the little knots of trees grew further and further apart, the coarse grass thinning, the ground becoming harder and more barren until their boots echoed on the firm undeniable surface of concrete. Chin Li did not even pause to look at it, his eyes focused ahead. The grey blocky structures slowly coming into view across the concrete flats.

Jayne had been sitting with his head bowed deep in thought. Trying to find a rutting way out of his predicament. How in the nine hells was he supposed to find the others? A faint vibration shivered up through his bones from his contact with the ground. Jayne's head shot up. What the good gorram was that? Jumping to his feet he stared back the way he had come, back towards the grasslands and Serenity. At first it looked like a red plague, a mist of locusts swarming towards him like a dark crimson smudge. As the shimmering band of colour resolved into focus Jayne gulped in a worried breath. "*Wode ma, wo cao*!"

He recognised the soldiers as Alliance bloodsuckers, the elite trackers that formed a force as terrifying as it was unstoppable. Jayne glanced behind him and felt his heart sink further. Gorramit, even the elephant had deserted him. With practised ease Jayne checked Vera was fully chambered and his ammo clips were ready for rapid reloading. This would be hot frantic work, firing so fast the heat would sear his palms in payment for speed. Even though he was vastly outnumbered, Jayne Cobb did not intend to be taken without a gorram fight.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*lese* = crappy *bao bei* = precious/treasure *mei mei* = little sister *dong ma* = understand? *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *zhangfu* = husband *diyu* = hell *baichi* = idiot *mashang* = at once/immediately/at the double *wode ma* = mother of God *wo cao* = I'm fucked


*wunderkind* = wonder child


Saturday, August 26, 2006 3:04 PM


Whoa! I missed the first two chapters - how'd I do that? But I loved this chapter - Zoe's desparation and exasperation at River's not so clear remarks is great. Poor Mal too - I hope he's going to be ok?

I love Jayne's interaction with the 'smart' elephant and his readiness to go down fighting!! Can't wait to read more.

Saturday, August 26, 2006 8:00 PM


Great googily moogily, AMDOBELL! That was brillaint! Totally was laughing my ass off at Jayne's interaction with the elephant (now there's something I would paid to see: Jayne conversing with a cunning pacyderm ;D)

And somehow I get the feeling that even Vera won't really slow the Bloodsuckers down:(


Tuesday, August 29, 2006 2:29 PM


WOW! This is such a great story! Your weaving here is just plain awesome. And the uniqueness of it is refreshing.

The fic....

There was something very creepifying about a body of people obeying orders unspoken, of marching in time without creating vibration beneath their feet, of breathing eating and drinking only when observed by outsiders.*Very creepifying, and a great description to boot.

He raised the bloodied finger, sniffed then put his finger in his mouth. One second became two then the soldier tilted his head at his Commander. "It is Reynolds." *Even more creepifying.

"You didn't say anything, *mei mei*." Said Simon gently, trying to mitigate her lack of action. "You may have thought you'd warned us..." *just an example, but I loved River in this part, all of her, as she led her little band down through the corridors.

The mercenary made no attempt to sweet talk his way around the creature. Instead he sat cross legged on the dusty concrete and pretended to ignore his huge companion.*LOL...Jayne and the elephant, I can see him in complete confused amazement.

Staring at the animal as if it had just sprouted wings and was naming every star in the Black, Jayne Cobb sat down before he fell down. "Well, mama always said elephants was right smart critters." *and momma, the boy's got it right, and this whole part is so very Jayne.

Great story you have going here Amdobell, I'm glad your writing it!



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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.