THE PURSUIT SERIES: 8. "Unforseen"
Thursday, September 21, 2006

"The crew are alarmed to realise they don't know Book at all. Jayne goes in search of the others and Inara strikes a bargain with Senator Lang."



SUMMARY: "The crew are alarmed to realise they don't know Book at all. Jayne goes in search of the others and Inara strikes a bargain with Senator Lang." 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

* * * * *

A stunned silence greeted the Shepherd's words. Book felt a smile sneak across his face as if it was privy to things the rest of his body didn't know. The Captain's eyes narrowed, the panther moving closer to him. The bulk and warmth of her a reassuring presence even though all Mal's focus was on the man he had hitherto considered a good friend.

"I'm thinkin' you have some explainin' to do."

A disingenuous smile flickered then went out like a blown candle. The Book that faced them now was one they did not recognise. "I will explain in my own time, Captain Reynolds."

A finger of ice slid down the Captain's back making him shudder. The cat growled long and low in the back of her throat, picking up on his unease. "Consider it a partin' gift, Shepherd, or whatever the good gorram you are." That amused the man. "Very well." Book stroked the back of the scorpion. Everyone watched in mute fascination as the stinger lifted to allow him access, the poisoned point poised like a dagger. "You were wonderin' how that tracker got inside your ear, Captain." No one dared breathe for fear Book would stop talking. Mal nodded.

Book paused and stopped stroking the scorpion. "Perhaps," He said mildly, his gaze locked on the Captain's. "It would be better if I showed you."

What happened next was a blur. Fragments of images imprinted on the mind's eye overlapping like overexposed film. The scorpion flicked its' tail, something sharp and bright ejecting from the tip and flying towards the Captain. The panther moved fast, not to intercept the object but to collide with the nearest wall. As her body slid along the shiny surface the air hissed and crackled between the big cat, the Captain and Shepherd Book. A look of unvieled rage distorted Book's features as the shiny metallic shard hit the invisible barrier, sparks flying and a buzz and spitting arcing noise making those who heard it wince. As the shard disintegrated a burning smell briefly tainted the air with its' destruction.

Kaylee looked down at the tiny pieces, surprised to see that they appeared to have minute little joints as if the whole shard could form itself into a shape like a metalised piece of origami. She reached out in fascination to touch a fragment but Simon snatched her hand away.

"Don't! There could be poison on it, Kaylee."

The mechanic's eyes went wide, alarmed and all manner of distressed. Zoe looked as if she wanted to rip the Shepherd apart with her bare hands. The only constraint being her need to understand just what in the nine hells was happening. Book ignored the gun now pointed in his direction. The force field cutting the Captain and the panther off from the rest of them seemed to have stolen his sense of humour. If Zoe were to fire now nothing would stop the bullet smashing into Book's body but even suspecting a good friend had gone bad it would not be easy to end that life. Not without a whole lot of answers to some pretty disturbing questions. But if Book pushed Zoe would push back, no hesitation.

"I think," said Simon, his voice clipped and clinical. "You should tell us why you wanted to betray us to the Alliance and what your connection is with this place."

Shepherd Book turned his attention away from the Captain and stared at Simon then looked at River. "I was not always a Shepherd."

"You already said that." Said the Captain.

Book ignored him. Watching Simon intently to gauge his reaction. "Long before I became the man you see before you I designed this place."

* * * * *

Even though he wanted to get the *diyu* off the ship and go in search of the others Jayne needed to eat something. Body needed fuel as much as a ship did and he wouldn't be any good to the others if he passed out from hunger. Not that he couldn't survive a good while without food but the mercenary was not the kind of man to neglect anything that might give him an edge. Being fit and healthy was not vanity it was survival same as keeping his guns cleaned and oiled. Might be the difference between life and death. So Jayne was methodical in his search for food, his view pragmatic and practical. Only when he was fed and had reloaded his weapons and grabbed some grenades did he feel ready to leave Serenity.

Pausing on the ramp he had the oddest feeling. Wasn't exactly a premonition but the back of his gorram neck was itching something fierce. Like a million eyes were crawling over his skin only when he looked there was no one there. Making sure Vera was fully chambered, Jayne shut the ship up and entered the code to lock it just to be on the safe side. The sooner he could get off this eerie assed moon the happier he would be.

As the mercenary moved out he failed to notice the way the air shimmered behind him.

* * * * *

The Reknown was sleek and fast, her crew as quietly efficient as her engine. What at first had been reassuringly smooth now began to irritate, to feel incongruous. Inara resisted the urge to sigh like some drama queen. Had she become so used to living on that ancient Firefly that even a top of the line ship could not compare? She already knew the answer because Serenity had become home in a way House Madrassa never had. Her crew a family that sucked her into their daily lives like some addiction she could not kick. A habit she nursed and cherished like some guilty pleasure.

Senator Lang had navigator Peter Long use the grid and quarter method of scanning the Black. It was more time consuming than a sweep but less likely to miss anything. Inara watched in silence, her patience dearly bought in hidden frustration. Worry eating away at her a thundering heartbeat at a time.

* * * * *

They had reached a kind of stalemate but Malcolm Reynolds knew that was nothing more than an illusion. Book held the power here not them and yet the panther had introduced a factor that stymied the machinations of the sometime Shepherd and that heartened the Captain.

"Why'd you design a place like this?"

Book spread his arms wide to encompass the whole gorram moon, careful not to dislodge the scorpion in his left hand. "*Weishenme bu*?"

The Captain was not impressed. "Just 'cause you can do somethin' don't mean you should."

Before the Shepherd could comment Zoe asked a question that had been bugging her since Book first showed this darker side of himself. "I wanna know why you left the Alliance. Figure you owe us that much, *dui*?"

"I don't owe you anythin', Zoe." His tone caused the first mate's eyebrows to rise along with her hackles. "*Cuode*, think again."

Before Zoe could say anything else River spoke, making the first mate wonder why the girl had remained silent so long what with her being a Reader and all. River's words filled the air with the kind of tense anticipation that presaged revelations of a near fatal variety. "He didn't leave." Her quiet but clear voice sounded incongruous as if she was speaking about nothing more innocuous than the gorram weather. Was all manner of creepifying. "Just went undercover."

* * * * *

Inara Serra was an intelligent woman. Not given to flights of fancy or hystrionics. She stared at the screen, allowing the import of what she was seeing to seep into her numb brain. At last she was able to drag her eyes away and look up to meet the Senator's emotionless gaze. He appeared perfectly at his ease. Patiently and calmly waiting for the dime to drop. Her voice was hushed not with awe but a kind of disbelieving horror. "You knew!" No word of denial slipped passed his lips. He watched the Companion silently, no attempt to make conversation or reassure her. The silence more damning than anything he could have said.

"I trusted you. Confided in you and you knew all along." Inara paused, her face pale. "What I don't understand is why and how did you know I would come to you?"

"Inara," The Senator said, her name like silk on his tongue as if he could fashion it to mean anything he wished. "You are a beautiful and skilled lady, my dear, do not pretend to be shocked when others have their own powers of manipulation." His smile made her feel unclean. His very presence soiling her. "The artifice would beggar belief and I think too highly of you for that."

"Don't flatter yourself that you know me!" Inara spat, eyes flashing with anger.

Senator Lang took a step towards her not put off by the fury building behind her eyes as her back tensed. "Ah, but I *do* know you, Inara Serra. More intimately than you could possibly imagine. I know everything about you. Why you left Sihnon, why you were drawn to that *lese* piece of *goushi* Captain Reynolds laughingly calls a ship." Lang paused as if needing the break to prevent himself from being carried away with amusement at her predicament. Using his cultured manners to sharpen the impact of his words. Each one dripping in poison to Inara's ears. "My patronage of the Guild was not accidental."

The Companion's eyes widened and the Senator had to resist the urge to look smug. He raised an eyebrow.

"Did you really think you were the one who chose me?"

She did not reply. Had Inara opened her mouth right then only obscenities would have poured out and she needed to gather what wits she had left to find a way out of this. How had she become so predictable and what was it that Senator Lang really wanted? It could not be an aging Firefly even one as increasingly infamous as Serenity. Was it the Captain? Malcolm Reynolds certainly had more than his fair share of enemies of all persuasions. Or was he after the Tam siblings?

* * * * *

Zoe watched Book like a hawk, only marginally aware of Wash's presence at her side. Couldn't afford to be distracted and miss her chance. River's voice interrupted her reverie. "Won't do any good."

Somehow she knew River was speaking about her plan to jump the Preacher first chance she got. Looking sideways at River so she could still keep the Shepherd in view Zoe had to ask. "*Weishenme bu*?"

"Out of your hands."

They both stared at Book. A slow ghost of a smile frosted his lips. Simon wanted to ask River what she meant but didn't want to do or say anything that would make this situation even worse. Kaylee looked as if she was about to cry and the Captain stood poised like a statue on the other side of the invisible barrier the black panther at his side. The whole thing seemed so surreal he could laugh only he was afraid if he did it might come out as a sob.

"What happens now?" Asked the Captain.

"It shouldn't take long to locate Jayne."

"An' then what?" Zoe prompted.

"Then," Said Book letting his frosty smile deepen into something more chilling. "You will find out exactly what this place can do."

Kaylee couldn't stop a tear or two breaking free and rolling down her shocked face. "Ya gonna kill us?" "No, my child." He said in his deep amused Preacher's voice. It set Zoe's teeth on edge and made the Captain tense. "Like God, I only rain down death and destruction on those that oppose me."

"Not too many friends, then." Said the Captain bitterly.

Ignoring the insult Book took a step back. "You will stay here for now. Do not try to follow me, you will find there are more than adequate safeguards to stop you doing so. I will not be responsible for what happens if you ignore my warning."

Without waiting for a response, Book turned and walked briskly off down the corridor, the air sparkling and shimmering behind him as another force field became active. Kaylee was so upset she was trembling. Simon put an arm around her but didn't know what to say. Their situation looked so helpless that any words of reassurance and comfort he considered died in his throat. He might not know what to say but he'd be damned if he'd lie to Kaylee.

Wash looked at his wife. "What're we gonna do, *bao bei*?"

Her lips thinned into an unforgiving line. "Find a way out of here."

Kaylee sniffed. "How we gonna do that?"

The Captain looked at the big cat beside him, ruffled a hand through her thick silky fur then eyed the barrier that kept him and the panther from his friends. As if reading his mind the panther nudged his hand almost playfully with her head then walked over to the wall and rubbed her side along it until with a hiss and crackle the force field switched off. Kaylee looked up, a spark of hope interrupting her tears.

"Hey Cap'n, ya think the cat'll take out the other force field too? Then we can go after the Shepherd."

Mal shook his head. "Don't think that's an option, little Kaylee." The mechanic looked crestfallen but the Captain wasn't finished talking. There was a thoughtful look on his face as he gazed down the corridor after Book. "Somethin' seem a mite 'off' to you, Zoe?"

She blinked. "I assume you're bein' more specific than wantin' everythin' as an answer, sir?" "Cute. Expected better of you predicament we're in."

"*Duibuqi*." He didn't believe the apology any more than she had meant it.

"Talkin' about Book." The Captain said, wanting to keep this conversation on track.

"If that's really his name, sir."

The Captain could not quite hide his exasperation, lowering his voice as if that would make what he had to say less painful. Automatically the others moved closer but leaving a healthy space around the panther. Just because the beast had taken to the Captain didn't mean it was safe for any of them to be taking liberties. Was a wild animal after all. The Captain took a moment to look at them one by one, allowing his eyes to meet theirs so that they would know this was not only serious but something they were all up to their necks in. Solidarity in times of trouble could be a powerful thing. "Shepherd said he designed this ruttin' place. Don't that seem odd to you?"

"Everythin' that's happened since we landed on this moon seems odd, sir."

Mal automatically corrected her. "Ain't a moon."


"How old d'you reckon the Preacher is?"

Zoe blinked at her Captain, her frown deepening at the seeming change of subject. Perhaps he had a concussion after all? "You sure you're feelin' alright, sir?"

"Humour me, Zoe. How old?"

With no way forward but to answer him as best she could Zoe made a guess. "60, 70 years. *Weishenme*?"

The Captain waved a hand around him. "An' how old you reckon this moon that ain't a moon is?"

With her patience fast deserting her Zoe scowled. "This a trick question, sir?" A look of disgust and frustration reminded her that winding the Captain up was not her best idea ever and they really did need to find a way out of their predicament.

"Hard to tell."

"Ball park figure, Zoe, don't be shy."

"I can be shy." Cut in Wash.

It was River that answered, her look a mite unfocused and voice distant as if she wasn't really with them at all. "127 years 4 months and 2 days." She paused. "Given the rotation of Savanna."

The Captain nodded but was looking at Zoe. His first mate looked from the crazy girl to her Captain, not sure which one was the saner of the two. "Not sure I'm gettin' your point, sir."

"Shepherd ain't old enough, Zoe."

She took a moment to catch on. "You think...?"

He nodded. "Somethin' else is speakin' through our gorram Preacher."

Simon looked ill. "The scorpion, it's controlling him."

"Seems like."

Wash looked at their glum faces, disturbed that no one was coming up with a cunning plan. "What do we do about it?"

Kaylee's eyes widened. "We can't harm the Shepherd, Cap'n!"

The Captain gave her a small smile like a peace offering. "Wasn't thinkin' of harmin' him, little Kaylee."

"Then what were you thinkin', sir?"

He paused, startled when the panther nudged his side but automatically stroking his fingers through her thick fur, the cat easing into a seated position and leaning her body against his leg. "Gotta find a way to get him away from that ruttin' scorpion." The Captain mused thoughtfully.

Zoe never did like a half baked plan even though her Captain and friend kind of excelled at that. Could call it a gift. "An' then what, sir?"

"We take the gorram thing apart, find out how the *diyu* it works then get off this cursed rock."

Kaylee's face tilted like a flower seeking sunlight as she looked up at her Captain, Simon's arm around her more perfect than anything had a right to be. "After we find Jayne?"

The Captain smiled and dropped a light kiss on her forehead by way of reassurance. "After we find Jayne."

* * * * *

Chin Li's face twisted with displeasure, his lips distorted as if tasting a bitter fruit. "*Tamen zhidao*!"

"Yes," Came a soft thoughtful voice. The sibilant whisper curling in Chin Li's brain as if it were part of him. "Unexpected."

"Do you want me to kill them, *laoban*?"

"*Bu qu*, remember what this place is. Besides, where would they run?"

Chin Li spoke slowly, feeling his way for the right and wrong of it. He had learnt long ago the pain of giving the wrong answer. "Then we observe?"

The hiss of pleasure in his mind was almost a drug in itself. Relieved to live another day he eased back in his seat and silently watched the monitor. Content to watch the future unfold.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *weishenme bu* = why not? *dui* = correct *cuode* = wrong *lese* = crappy *goushi* = crap/dog shit *bao bei* = precious/treasure *duibuqi* = sorry *weishenme* = why? *tamen zhidao* = they know *laoban* = boss *bu qu* = no (lit. no go)


Thursday, September 21, 2006 1:26 PM


Hmm, ok, so its not really Book. Someone/something is controlling him. Very interesting. I kind of like Lang in this chapter. It isn't often one gets the drop on a Companion. Now, just what is he after? Hmm.

Thursday, September 21, 2006 5:37 PM


You really got me on that one! I was darn near ready to pull my memebership from the "Book-O-the-Fic" club. I had no idea it was the scorpion controlling him, but hey...with everything else that's going on on this little man-made moon, its no surprise and very well written.

Jayne's hunt for grub was good also, equating it with his need to be locked and loaded made perfect sense. All mercinary...the boy.

I'm glad I finally got caught up on this thing. Looking forward to your next chapter!

Friday, September 22, 2006 4:46 PM


Oh...the twists are getting ever more violent in their changes in direction. Especially when you throw us suddenly into a moment between Inara and Lang about his true motives. Seemed a tad...disorienting:(

Still...I am loving this series to bits, Alison! Can't wait to see who's really pulling all the strings;)



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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.