BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

THE PURSUIT SERIES: 9. "Players"
Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Jayne searches for the others and tries piecing it all together. The Captain comes up with a plan but no one is sure they can pull it off."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1870    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "PLAYERS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: G. STATUS: SEQUEL to "UNFORSEEN" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://unilelu.net/Alison/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "Jayne searches for the others and tries piecing it all together. The Captain comes up with a plan but no one is sure they can pull it off." 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.

"PLAYERS"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Jayne Cobb was puzzled. He kept coming across tracks that he recognised as those of his friends but no matter how many times he followed them it was always the same. They went so far then disappeared. Annoyed and frustrated he paused to drink from his canteen, eyes narrowing in the heat of day. Two suns damn near bleaching him down to the bone. The water was warm in his mouth but welcome to his parched throat. He wanted to be frugal with his supplies but it was hard not to swallow as much as he wanted rather than just what he needed. A thought occurred to him and Jayne squinted beneath the brim of his hat. There had been no true nightfall since they landed on this hell hole and now he was wondering whether they were destined to suffer an eternal day. Just how rutting hot would this place get?

Weariness creeping into his muscles the mercenary tried to stay as alert as possible. Either he would find his friends soon or would have to look for somewhere to get out of the heat. Staring off to his right he spent several minutes looking off across the waving grass to the concrete flats and the distant shimmer where the elephants were. He could feel the tug to go off in that direction but knew it was a dead end. As much as he was drawn to the pachyderms it didn't get him any closer to the rest of Serenity's crew. Maybe once he found the others he could persuade them to come and visit his new friends? With a little sigh Jayne turned back to the task at hand, peering down at the patchy grass beneath his feet and looking for tell tale heel marks in the poor soil scattered in between the sporadic tufts.

* * * * *

Zoe said what the others were thinking. "Are you completely *shenjingbing*, Cap'n?"

The Captain felt all manner of weary but was too concerned to even think of resting. The panther paced quietly, picking up on Mal's mood. "Don't hold back, Zoe, say what you mean."

"Look," Said Simon calmly, trying to keep to the matter at hand. "I agree we have to get out of here but are you sure going down is the right way to do it?"

"Already tried going up, doc, but this gorram puzzle don't wanna be solved, *dong ma*? What was that quote about all roads leadin' to Rome? I'm thinkin' all roads here are leadin' down so may as well see where the good gorram it leads us." A look of barely contained disbelief swept over the doctor's face. River ducked her head to hide the laughter in her eyes, her hair hiding the betrayal of humour that would have simply incensed her brother even more. Kaylee squeezed Simon's hand but he ignored her attempt to reassure him. "How can you even think that's a good idea? Has it occurred to you Captain that we are being herded in the direction they want us to go?"

Kaylee's eyes widened. "Ya mean like cattle to the slaughter?"

The doctor immediately regretted his words, he had not intended to make Kaylee any more anxious than she was. Wash patted Kaylee's hand but her big round eyes were fastened on Simon's face as if only his opinion counted. "I didn't mean..."

Mal cut him off. "Ain't got time for arguin'. Book said somethin' earlier about the control for this place being in the middle. We go down 'til we find the heart of the machine, Kaylee disables it, an' we get outta here. *Jiandan*"

"Sir?"

The Captain turned his head and looked at his first mate. "Yeah?"

"I thought the scorpion was the control mechanism?"

"The operatin' system as I recall but I'm thinkin' we knock out the heart of the gorram complex then the operatin' system ain't got nothin' to lord it over, *dong ma*?"

Everyone exchanged troubled glances. Wash had been listening to the back and forth and he wasn't any happier than the rest of them. "What if it's booby trapped, Mal?" "I'd be more worried if it weren't."

Simon frowned. "*Shenme*?"

River lifted her head and answered before the Captain could. "Means we've found the right place, Simon."

"Shepherd said this place is monitored, sir. Won't they know what we're doin' an' try to stop us?"

The look on the Captain's face made her back stiffen in anticipation. She knew that look. Had locked and loaded for battle in response to it often enough for it to become second nature. "Been thinkin' about that, Zoe. Got a plan but not sure you're gonna like it any better than what you've heard so far."

She looked at him long and hard without speaking. The others waited for the Captain to elaborate, when he didn't Kaylee spoke up. "Can't be that bad if'n ya got a plan." She said hopefully.

No one smiled or looked comforted by the thought. Not all of the Captain's plans were shiny. Instead of explaining the Captain made a brief fuss of the panther and nodded to his crew. "Best we make a start, no tellin' how long this is gonna take us."

The mechanic was about to tell him he was going the wrong way. This was the way she had gone with Simon, Zoe and Wash when they found all those other animals and it was in the opposite direction to the one Shepherd Book had taken. When no one commented on it Kaylee kept quiet, after all she didn't want to blurt something out and alert whoever was watching and listening in.

* * * * *

"What are they doing?"

Chin Li smiled. "Goin' the wrong way."

The voice hissed in his mind like escaping gas, the words tapering into the unlit corners of his consciousness like a parasite seeking a host. "Yesss," the voice hissed softly. "but why?"

* * * * *

Jayne had a headache. Everything was gorram burning. His eyes, his throat, his rutting flesh. If he hadn't been wearing a gorram hat he reckoned he would have had heat stroke by now. The mercenary tried to find some shelter but there was nothing. As badly as he wanted another drink he didn't have much water left and was worried he would not be able to find anywhere to refill his canteen. Licking dry lips he thought about the elephants. They had to have water, right? And he knew they had shelter even if only those ugly adobe outbuildings. Big, square and thick as castle walls but enough to make the inside cool. Right now the need to get out of the heat was over riding his need to find his friends.

He stumbled, not noticing his boot scuffing away the dry crumbling topsoil beneath his feet. As he changed direction and headed off towards the concrete flats Jayne failed to notice the vague outline exposing the metal edge of a concealed door.

A few minutes ticked by, the mercenary pausing to squint at something out of the corner of his eye before realising what it was. With a smile that cracked his dry lips he made a half turn and headed towards it, almost falling against the gnarled but reassuringly solid trunk of a tree. Really it was a couple of spindly trees close together but that just meant more shade for him. Wasn't much but for now it was enough. Jayne flopped down in the only patch of shade for what seemed like miles around. "Huh," he grunted as he took the opportunity to rest a while, "who would'a thought I'd be so gorram grateful *zuo zai shuyin xia*?"

He would just close his eyes for a minute. Jayne didn't mean to doze off but gorramit he was so rutting tired and with his hope beginning to flag along with his energy a little rest seemed a mighty fine alternative to staring out at nothing and still more nothing. Was all manner of depressing. Yards away something shifted in the dirt. The little swirl of disturbed dust began to settle, another minute ticked by, then there was a bigger shift and a hatch lifted up. Jayne didn't stir, his body slumped against the tree trunks, mouth hanging half open. Shepherd Book peered out and smiled. This was going to be easier than he thought.

* * * * *

The Reknown seemed to be keeping to a predetermined course. Inara's frown deepened. The navigator still had not picked up any trace of Serenity on the long range sensors. A dark disturbing possibility settled in her mind like an uninvited guest. When she turned her head she was surprised to see the Senator looking back at her, a knowing glint of something in his eyes. "You know where they are." She said quietly. It was not a question.

"I thought you wanted to find them?"

Find them not betray them, Inara thought. "Are you going to tell me what is going on, Senator?"

He raised his eyebrows, voice mild but oddly chilling her as if the Devil preferred a whisper to a shout. "And spoil the surprise? I think not, Ambassador. You worked so hard for this you should enjoy the fruits of your labour."

The use of the archaic title gave her a pang, reminding her of Mal. It was how he addressed her sometimes. Oft' times mocking her choice of trade, at others not. The Captain was nothing if not a contradiction. Was that why she found him so fascinating? Then she remembered something the Senator had said earlier. "You said your connection to the Guild was not accidental?"

A smile sailed the curve of disingenous lips. He plied his manner with the ease of a skilled and consumate liar. Inara knew she could not believe a word he said and yet something might slip. Perhaps she could use his over confidence against him? "My dear, why bandy words at this eleventh hour? You chose your side, pity it's the losing one."

Inara tried to block Mal's voice out of her head, similar words echoing an age old refrain. "Why are you doing this?"

"You will see. In fact, it will be my honour to give you a ringside seat." His words disturbed her. Ringside seat? What in the name of all that was holy did he mean by that? Seeing her consternation the Senator straightened, a touch of stiff formality coming into his manner.

"Time for some refreshment I think."

Inara opened her mouth to refuse. Senator Lang raised a hand and Inara froze.

"It was not a suggestion." The polite but steely-eyed assertion was a subtle way of underlining the fact that she had no power here. That his were the only decisions that counted. The Senator watched Inara for a moment or two. When it became clear she would not say anything his smile became a touch more genuine. Inara tried another tack. "What are you going to do with them?"

Senator Lang affected an air of surprise. "I? You flatter me above my station."

She blinked. "But you know?"

"Dear Lady, this is a matter that does not concern you. However, because you came to me for help you shall have it." The Senator paused and Inara had to dig her nails into the palms of her hands not to yell at him to spit it out. With tension thickening in her veins it took all of the Companion's training to project an air of calm. Of patience. It was painful waiting him out but she would not give him the satisfaction of hearing her grovel. The Senator touched a button on his cuff and gave a satisfied nod. "But first, Inara Serra, we shall dine."

Unable to do anything except go along with the charade, Inara put her hand on the arm extended to her, her palm hardly touching his sleeve. Why oh why when she inhaled did she imagine the faint but cloying odour of sulphur and brimstone?

* * * * *

It was no hardship at all to move closer to the man he had once thought of as his friend. A tiny sealed off part of his psyche clung to that fragment of memory but it was quickly lost in the fell passion that coldly fed him the sequence of unfolding events of which he had become such an integral part. Book knelt beside the sleeping man, carefully lowering the scorpion so that its' glittering black body could scurry across the heated ground. Book watched as the anamorphic construct mimicked its' role model and raised the stinger high above its head. The scorpion did not touch Jayne, it did not have to. While distance was no real object it would cause a time delay between the signal strength and the response.

Jayne Cobb slept on, his dreams infiltrated by strange shadows and portents that failed to convey any threat or urgency. Discarded as weird and thus unimportant the little alarms fell on deaf ears and a mind closed to the subtle clues of the unconscious mind. Instead his dream world fashioned the anomalies into the landscape, his inward eye not lingering on the details. Deep in his ear canal the tiny implanted tracker woke. No longer a passive transmitter the minute folded spikey legs unfurled and the nanobot crept and worked its' way a little deeper before inserting a superfine tendril into a nerve. In his sleep the mercenary twitched, imagined an enemy creeping up on him, his instinct causing his dream self to whip round and spin off shots from the hip that had the bad guy face down in the dust, his blood evacuating his body before the information reached the man's brain that he was dead. Satisfied with his kill, Jayne relaxed.

It was a couple of hours before he woke. Yawning mightily Jayne stretched and cracked his knuckles then did a double take as he opened his eyes. "Book? Where in the nine hells did ya come from?" The Shepherd chuckled in his dark rich baritone, humour gentling his face into that of a friend. Jayne was all kinds of happy. "Oh, I've been lookin' for you, Jayne. Wasn't sure the bloodsuckers hadn't caught you."

"Huh." Jayne scratched the back of his head to hide the fact that he was a mite embarrassed to be caught napping, him being a mercenary and all. Then he noticed Book was alone. "Where are the others?"

Book hung his head as if not able to break the news to his friend. Alarmed, Jayne jumped to his feet.

"What the good gorram happened? Come on, ya can tell me. They got nabbed didn't they?"

The Shepherd shook his head slowly, his look sad and mournful. Raising his eyes slowly he let them fill with sorrow. "Worse than that, Jayne."

Stunned to think there could be something worse, Jayne moved closer and sat facing him. "Worse how?"

"I hardly know where to begin. Fact is, I still can't believe it."

"Ain't goin' nowhere 'til ya tell me."

"Very well, though it doesn't make easy tellin'. The Alliance made a deal with the others."

Jayne blinked. "*Shenme*? What ya talkin' about, what deal?"

"The Captain sold us out, Jayne."

Seconds lengthened into minutes as Jayne just stared at him. Something seemed to creep across the inside of his gorram scalp, weren't nothing more disturbing in the 'verse than the thoughts multiplying in his mind. "To the Alliance?"

Book nodded. "Yes."

It still made no sense. Anyone else, maybe, but the Captain? Gorramit, man was a walking living and breathing timebomb when it came to the Alliance. *Diyu*, the man even sought out Alliance-friendly bars on Uni Day just to spit in the eye of his enemy and now Book was telling him the man had turned on them all? To the Alliance? "That ain't right, must'a got mixed up." "I wish that were true but I saw it with my own eyes. He didn't want to Jayne, don't think that, but he was offered a deal. Join them in hunting us down and the rest of them got to live."

Jayne stared, completely lost for words. While he tried to make sense of what he was hearing impulses fired in his brain, paranoia sparked across the synaptic gap and fed on fears so long buried and forgotten that he didn't even recognise them as his own until they began to bind around the Shepherd's words and darken the soul in him with anger. "Why that lyin' *wangba dan* lecturin' me on how they was crew!"

"*Shei*?" "The Tams, that's who. Sold 'em out on Ariel on'y the Cap'n found out. Hit me upside the head with a ruttin' steel wrench an' threw me in the gorram airlock!" Book's eyebrows rose, he hadn't known that little detail but Jayne was not watching his reaction, the burning fire turning to a need for vengeance. Retribution on the scum sucking Captain he had come to respect. A man he thought worthy enough to give his loyalty to, only the man was made of straw after all. Just another jumped up *goushi buru* former Browncoat thinkin' the 'verse owed him a ruttin' livin'. Well, the man could think again if he thought Jayne Cobb was gonna fall for any more of his *goushi*.

Book let him stew, knowing it would rub harder if he didn't push. Let Jayne think he had worked it out for himself. Be the reluctant voice of reason trying to pull him back from the brink, only he wasn't going to do that. No. This was an experimental research station and they were all part of the programme now, the only difference was which side they were on. If Jayne did as expected he would not be on the losing side. Of course he wouldn't win either but then what was the point of telling him that? Jayne got to his feet, so angry he could hardly form words without spitting them out of his mouth.

"Where are they?"

"Now Jayne, I don't think you want to go looking for anyone. Just calm down..."

"Not askin' ya to go with me, Shepherd, I know ya ain't fond of violence but this is somethin' I gotta do. Where did ya see 'em? Just point me in the right direction, I'll do the rest."

Book affected a look of wary caution. "What are you goin' to do?"

Jayne Cobb lifted Vera and flicked off the safety. "Somethin' I should'a done the first time I met that gorram *hundan*. Gonna put the piece of vermin down."

* * * * *

It was the weirdest thing. Since the Captain had announced the plan to find the centre of the moon the corridor had taken a distinctive downward curve. Kaylee frowned, sure that it had been an upward gradient yet it was the same corridor she and the others had come down when they had met up with the Captain and that gorram panther. The panther. She blinked and watched how the animal hugged the side wall, the Captain reaching out to stroke the top of the big cat's head every now and then as if he just had to keep contact with her. Now that was kind'a odd, wasn't it? River caught Kaylee's eye and shook her head slightly, her eyes going wide as if warning the mechanic not to say anything. Kaylee so badly needed to talk, to hear the others voice their opinions. To know she wasn't alone in her worrying, but there was a tension in the air that cautioned her to hold her peace.

"Sir?"

The Captain did not slow his pace but half turned his head and nodded to his second in command. "What is it, Zoe?"

"Not sure Cap'n but I could'a swore this corridor went up not down."

"Maybehaps you're rememberin' it wrong."

She opened her mouth to disagree with him but something in his look stopped her. Wash was about to support his wife but Zoe shook her head. "Guess that's it, sir. This place kind'a shakes you up a bit."

"No," Said Simon, turning to look around him as she walked. "I think Zoe's right."

The Captain inwardly groaned. Why couldn't his crew just follow the gorram plan? River tugged her brother's hand to stop him falling behind. "Doesn't matter, all roads lead to Rome."

* * * * *

Inara Serra was not sure exactly what she had been expecting. This isolated moon in the middle of No and Where was certainly not it. The only thing unusual about it was the approach to the system in which it lay. In every single direction, as far as the eye could see, Alliance vessels protected the route. At least, that was her first impression. Eyes wide with shock she stared at Senator Lang. "*Wo bu dong*. What is this place?"

"A graveyard. A proving ground."

"How can it be both?"

The Senator gave a cold thin smile. Had it been ice it would have broken beneath the weight of that travesty of humour. "You think in too literal a concept."

"Then speak plain."

He stared at her assumption that she could demand a single thing of him. Inara was quick to realise her mistake and moderate her tone.

"*Qing*. I just want to understand."

"Take another look, do you notice anything unexpected?"

Inara wanted to laugh but did not dare. Instead she took another closer look, staring hard and watching to see what the Senator was talking about. It took a moment or two then her breath caught. She wanted to rub her eyes. Staring she watched more closely before shooting him a disbelieving look. "I thought the ships were moving but they aren't."

The Senator gave a small shrug. "I told you, it's a graveyard. Not one of those ships you see has a working operating system let alone a crew." She whet her lips and chanced another look. Yes, she could see it now and the sight struck a note of terror in her heart that she could not account for. "The planet, it's... it's moving."

"It's not a planet." Said the Senator softly.

"A moon?"

He shook his head. Inara stared wide eyed for a few minutes before acknowledging the impossible. "*Wode ma*!" A slow smug look of satisfaction stole across Senator William Lang's face. "Yes, it is a spaceship."

"It's... collosal!"

"*Bu qu*, Miss Serra. It is magnificent."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenjingbing* = crazy *dong ma* = understand? *shenme* = what *jiandan* = simple/not complicated *wangba dan* = fucking bastard *zuo zai shuyin xia*? = to sit in the shade of a tree *diyu* = hell *shei* = who? *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit/lowest of the low *hundan* = bastard *goushi* = crap/dog shit *qing* = please *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *bu qu* = no (lit. no go)

COMMENTS

Saturday, September 30, 2006 5:14 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Aw...cao! Now the black hats got Jayne hunting down the rest of the crew? This is gonna turn bad in the near future;(

Definitely loving what you're doing here, Alison! Especially making Book one of the villians of the piece...but still seeming to leave the possibility open that Book could recover if certain steps are taken;D

BEB

Monday, October 2, 2006 5:16 AM

LEIASKY


>"Can't be that bad if'n ya got a plan."

She's not remembering a lot of the Captain's other plans, is she? LOL!

Ohh, nice buildup with having Book get Jayne to hunt down the rest of the crew. And that 'moon' is a space ship. Nice little twist. Of course, when Inara said 'a moon' I was expecting the Senator to say no 'its a space station' . . . lol

Only thing that nags at me a bit is Book's speech. He doesn't usually drop the 'g's off words when he speaks, does he? Or is this a little clue that he is being possessed by this machine?

Friday, October 6, 2006 3:02 PM

SPACEFULLOFOBJECTS


It's taken a while for me to get caught back up...again...this story is absolutely fabulous, and the parts are cut perfectly.

Two suns damn near bleaching him down to the bone. *Great description here.

No one smiled or looked comforted by the thought. Not all of the Captain's plans were shiny. *so very true, but he always tries and for the most part keeps the crew's best interest at heart.

The voice hissed in his mind like escaping gas, the words tapering into the unlit corners of his consciousness like a parasite seeking a host. "Yesss," the voice hissed softly. "but why?" *ooooo...visions of Emperor Palpatine...excellent.

"You know where they are." She said quietly. It was not a question. *I like Inara here, she is always so perceptive of what is around her, and intuative to a person's real intentions.

No longer a passive transmitter the minute folded spikey legs unfurled and the nanobot crept and worked its' way a little deeper before inserting a superfine tendril into a nerve. *Again, great description.

Jayne Cobb lifted Vera and flicked off the safety. "Somethin' I should'a done the first time I met that gorram *hundan*. Gonna put the piece of vermin down." *I like Jayne here, I've often wondered how he would react if someone he really trusted turned on him, although I still think it would be very, very hard for him to believe it, this would be his reaction.

A slow smug look of satisfaction stole across Senator William Lang's face. "Yes, it is a spaceship." *uh huh....good call, and it makes the story ever more exciting.

Great job here as usual. This is one of the most interesting and attention holding stories I've read..I love your imagination.


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