THE PURSUIT SERIES: 13. "Lockdown"
Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Jayne recovers, Leylani seeks help. As River reveals why they are there what looks like a way out begins to resemble a tomb."



SUMMARY: "Jayne recovers, Leylani seeks help. As River reveals why they are there what looks like a way out begins to resemble a tomb." 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

* * * * *

For a moment or two Inara was simply stunned. She turned to Senator Lang for some kind of explanation. "*Wo bu dong*, did they win?"

The Senator was tempted to laugh but really, it wasn't funny. "No."

Inara frowned slightly, knew that amidst all the carnage of the battle it hardly looked like a victory. But still. "They're still standing."

"Do not be so proud of that fact, my dear. Remember where they are."

"What are you saying?"

Senator Lang turned his attention back to the screen, watching as the doctor knelt beside Jayne's unmoving body. The subdued aftermath seeming to extend beyond the survivors. "They're trapped. There is no way off for them."

A daring possibility impinged on Inara's consciousness. "Unless we give them one."

The Senator stared at her, really stared. Then threw back his head and laughed. "Oh you really are priceless, my dear!" He paused to wipe at his eyes though Inara knew there was no moisture there. It was nothing but cheap theatre. "Do you not yet understand? They are being played with."

She blinked. Her heart sinking and overcome with disgust. "*Weishenme*? What possible threat could they be?"

"*Weishenme bu*?" The Senator pointed at the screen but continued to look at Inara. "This crew of misfits has been a thorn in the side of the Alliance for too long. You can only pull the tail of the tiger for so long before it turns round and bites you."

"The Alliance isn't a tiger it's a virus. Something insidious and corrupt, obssessed with power and controlling people. Lies and deceit instead of the truth, powerful men manipulating everything to get what they want and crushing anything and anyone who stands in their way."

"Now who sounds like a polititican, Inara?"

"This has to stop, William."

He stared at her. Truly, she was magnificent. Even with her friends bloody and bowed, trapped on a world that existed nowhere but in the fevered mind of the Alliance Black Projects Division, she stood calm and resolute. Ready to weather any storm. Well. She wouldn't weather this one. A pity really. It would have been most entertaining.

* * * * *

The man was tall, of mixed race, with a proud aristocratic mein. He held himself naturally erect, his eyes clear and bright, his black hair only beginning to show a few white hairs. Rather than age him they distinguished him. In his sixties now he looked as fit and healthy as he had in his thirties. Sharp eyes seemed to read between the words spoken. "The Alliance did this?"

Through the threat of tears and the fear of discovery, Leylani nodded. Forced herself to calm down enough to tell her story. The balance of more than one life lay in making her meaning clear. A short conversation followed, no words wasted. At the end of it the man considered her for a second then nodded. "I will need the co ordinates."

With a trembling hand Leylani complied, relieved of her burden but not her concern. This was her fault and anything she could do to remedy it she would.

* * * * *

Zoe was watching the mercenary like a hawk. "He's coming round."

The doctor was about to tell them to give him room when the Captain shook his head. A tiny gesture. "Not a good idea, doc."

Simon looked about to argue but the Captain continued speaking, his voice soft and modulated low so that only those close could hear him. Naturally those crowded around Jayne drew closer.

"Conjure we been monitored all the while we been here, Simon. Probably got a feed on us right now, audio and visual most like. We can only get a few words and actions passed 'em when we're close like this, *dong ma*? Maybe not hygenic but we don't have many options."

A moan from the ground reminded them that they had a man down. Simon looked at Mal and when the Captain nodded dropped to his knees again. Kaylee looked anxious, Zoe wary. Wash was concerned about what they would do now. "Mal, how we gonna get outta here? Even if we find our way back to the surface Serenity's in bad shape."

The Captain moved closer, almost whispering in the pilot's ear. "We do what we can do, Wash. No givin' up, *dong ma*?"

"Mal, I don't know if you've noticed but we're not in the best shape either. We have no food or water, the only supplies we have are back on the ship."

The Captain looked at him in mock surprise. "What happened to the wall to wall optimism?"

"That's Kaylee."

Mal paused. "O-kay, the cheerful banter then?"

"Not feeling especially happy right now Mal and neither should you."

"*Shenme shi*? What you talkin' 'bout?"

"We have to get outta here, find Book an' get Serenity flyin'."

"*Diyu* Wash, you think I don't know that?"

"I'm just sayin' optimism is for when we make it out, Mal." The Captain looked at him for a moment or two, knowing the others were listening to every word. He put a hand on his pilot's shoulder to reassure him. "No Wash, optimism is how we make it out."

The pilot stared at him as if Mal was crazy. The Captain flashed him a wide smile that only seemed to confirm the fact that they were all going to die horrible deaths. There would be screaming and agony. Possibly torture.

"You're wrong."

They turned their heads as River spoke.

"We have all the tools right here."

The Captain blinked. "We do?"

River nodded. On the ground the groans were stretching out into long moans, Kaylee's words hushed and soothing, the doctor's calm voice telling Jayne what had happened while trying to assess how badly he was injured and what legacy the implant had left behind. Zoe silent but watchful, listening intently to both conversations.

"River, need you to be specific. You sayin' we got everythin' here we need to break outta here?"

She shook her head. "*Bu qu*, not break out."

The Captain looked confused. "Then explain."

"Captain Dummy Talk?"

Mal nodded. People on death row had no room for pride.

River leaned forward and whispered in the Captain's ear. His eyes widened, Wash wanted to butt in and ask what she had said but didn't want to make the Captain mad. And not just because of the protective way the panther never left the man's side. Pulling away the Captain stared at her. "We can do that?"

The girl nodded. Her calm assurance went a long way to calming the Captain down. Wash's patience was fragmenting. "What did she say?"

Eyes still locked on River's the Captain turned his head slightly so he could see Wash out of the corner of his eye. "Not now."

Wash wanted to yell 'if not now then when?' but a hand settled on his shoulder, a hand that belonged to the body of a goddess that he knew well. Fortunately the snake was more around Zoe's neck and upper arms, her hands were free agents. It still creeped Wash out though. "*Zhangfu*, listen to the Captain."

"I am listening to the Captain. I can see his lips movin' only he isn't sayin' anythin'."

The last four words were hard with emphasis. Mal gave him a blinding smile. "Where is your faith, Wash?"

"Captain?" Simon interrupted. "You really need to hear this."

Immediately, the sparring with Wash was forgotten and Mal sank to his knees. Simon edged over to make room for the Captain. Kaylee was holding one of Jayne's hands, a single monkey on her shoulder as if it was the only simian brave enough to return after the fighting. Jayne looked dazed but was conscious which was a mighty relief. "Jayne? You okay?"

The big man blinked up at his Captain. "They did somethin' to me, Mal."

The Captain nodded, voice low and reassuring. "*Wo zhidao*, Simon removed it."

"*Ni bu dong*, it ain't the implant. Well, it was the implant on'y it ain't just that. When that thing was in me it was like my mind wasn't my own. I felt everythin' Chin Li was thinkin', every order just seemed to go straight to my muscles as if I couldn't even order my own body about." Everyone stared at Jayne in concern. The Captain blinked slowly as if trying to wrap his mind around what he was being told. "Well now, that's worryin'."

"Yeah it is but it ain't all bad." Jayne paused and whet his lips but no one had water to give him. "Y'see I got glimpses too."

"Into what Chin Li was thinkin'?"

Jayne frowned. "Nah, felt more 'alien'."

The others looked at each other then the Captain looked at Simon. "How hard did he hit his head?"

Frustrated Jayne struggled to sit up. "Ain't talkin' 'bout alien aliens."

When the big man paused the Captain waited a minute before speaking. "Well. That clears that up."

Jayne nodded. "It was somethin' else, somethin' creepin' in my brain Mal." The others moved slightly back as if the mercenary might have something contagious.

"*Wei*, I ain't got cooties just somethin' in my head!"

"Jayne." The Captain waited for the big man to calm enough to give him his full attention again. "You were sayin' it wasn't just one way?"

"Yeah, Mal, but it weren't in words so much as images."

"An' these images?" For the first time Jayne looked uncomfortable. Frustrated the Captain tried to prompt him.

"Jayne, we ain't got time for this, just spit it out."

Instead of answering the mercenary stared past the Captain's right shoulder. As he turned to see what Jayne was looking at River spoke. "He means me."

"*Shenme*? What the *diyu* is goin' on?"

"It's what I'm tryin' to tell ya Mal, I kept gettin' images of River. On'y they was like ghosting over another image. One what was fadin'."

It made absolutely no sense to the Captain but Zoe was beginning to get a bad feeling creeping up her spine.

"It's why they need me."

Now Simon was alarmed as well. "River, what do you mean?"

She nodded. "It's why we were shot down. They want me."

Wash looked baffled. "Why shoot Serenity down? You're no use to anyone dead."

"They weren't trying to kill me. *Jide* this isn't a moon, it's a terraforming ship. While the Alliance ship was disabling Serenity this place was moving into position to catch us when we fell." River paused. "We are exactly where they want us."

For a moment no one spoke then Zoe shook her head. "That's not possible."

"We're here." Said Wash, as if that was all the proof they needed.

It was Kaylee who asked what the others didn't want to. "Why do they want you, sweetie?"

"It's dying."

Simon rose to his feet and reached for his sister's hand, all his movements slow as if afraid to spook her. "River, what's dying?"

Her eyes rolled around to take in the whole place. "One mind controls it, Simon, but it's been here so long. Tired now, more weary than ever before. All it's intelligence being used to find a replacement before it shuts down completely." The Captain looked alarmed. "Woah, what you sayin'? Not satisfied with bein' a ship you now wanna be a planet?"

"It isn't a planet."

"Okay, okay, creepier space ship - station - whatever. But that can be good, *dui*?"

Everyone stared at the Captain as if he was crazy.

"*Wei*, just sayin'. If the brain that's controllin' this freak show is dyin' I say we let it die. Problem solved, we go home."

Jayne Cobb looked weary where he sat on the floor, making no attempt to get to his feet. "Ain't that simple, Cap."

"Then make it simple."

Zoe seemed to pick up on what Jayne wasn't saying. "I think he means the failsafes, sir."


Just then the sound of metal doors sliding into place and locking assaulted their ears. As they sprang to their feet Kaylee's remaining monkey fled, the butterflies returned to flit nervously around River's head and the lights began flashing. A low growl began in the back of the panther's throat. The pilot kept looking around, wondering what the good gorram was happening. "What the...?"

Wash was cut off by the deafening sound of alarms going off all over the facility. River was the only one who did not put her hands over her ears. "Failsafes."

* * * * *

He felt sick, body aching but apparently whole. Not that the thought brought much comfort. At least the swaying had stopped and the being tossed around had come to an end. So. This was what hell looked like. He blinked in the dimness, not sure what he had been expecting but it wasn't this. Rough walls of solid rock described what could only be a cave. It was big with a large tunnel going off it in opposite directions. Did that mean there was one way in and another way out?

Shepherd Book was tired but felt strength ebbing back to him. That more than anything made him realise he was alive. *Tianna*, how in the nine hells was that possible?

The rumble was faint to start with. Book sat up and carefully patted himself down relieved to find no bullet holes or other wounds. A painful itch in his ear brought a hand up to investigate. He was alarmed when it came away slick with blood. Confused he stared then jerked his head up as the rumbling became heavier, the ground beneath his feet vibrating, the cave beginning to echo with the approach of something massive. The Shepherd got to his feet and backed away slowly but curiousity kept him from running. Who knew what was in the other direction? He looked up, expecting cracks and falling debris. There were none. The rumbling sound continued until the cause of it emerged from the tunnel and stole all the breath out of his body.

* * * * *

It was hard to imagine the brief scenario outlined to him but the Special Envoy was astute. Leylani had given him enough to confirm her information, the rest was up to him. She had also informed him, politely, of what would happen if he did nothing. If her only recourse was to allow the information to fall into the public domain. The Envoy had no sympathy for a sycophantic government or the politics of greed that upheld it even if his position meant he had to dance with the Devil to ensure a certain amount of protection for those who fell between the cracks. His power was limited but his access to power wasn't.

There was, however, one group of individuals for whom the cracks in society were navigable pathways. Alternatives to a structured life that would bleed them dry if they even dreamt of surrendering to it. It was a possibility. As high profile as he was, he would need a go between. Someone both sides would trust. Opening a secure channel he put in the call. As he waited for a reply he considered that this was not his only option. There was another.

* * * * *

"*Wode ma*, Mal, we're trapped!"

"Stay calm, Wash. Ain't dead yet." Jayne was on his feet and turning slowly on the spot, his eyes frantically searching the metal blast doors that had shut the orb off from them and had then proceded to cut off their only means of escape. They could not get back into the corridor and the transparent dome was no longer transparent. The lights continued to flash, the sound of the alarm not so much diminishing as settling into an annoying pattern of excess noise. It was loud and disruptive.

"Meant to impair the ability to think straight." River opined helpfully.

The Captain blinked at her. "Think I could have figured that one out my own self, little one."

"Sometimes we are blind to the obvious." "Not deaf though." Shouted Jayne.

River smiled. Even in the chaos there were moments of humour. Wash leaned in close to the Captain who was standing with his hands over his ears. Wash pulled one hand away so he could shout in his ear making the Captain wince. "This part of your big plan, Cap'n?"

Annoyed, the Captain frowned at his pilot. "Gorramit, Wash, I didn't do this."

Suddenly the sound cut off. No one spoke, stunned by the sudden silence they were waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it didn't they looked at each other, wondering what to do next. The Captain swallowed, his throat dry, ears still throbbing painfully. "Jayne?"

The big man was shaking his head. Simon handed him a tissue which he stared blankly at. The doctor pointed to his ear and Jayne dabbed it, the tissue coming away red with blood. Getting the message he wadded it up and held it against his ear. The Captain tapped his shoulder. "Huh?"

Mal stood in front of him and spoke slowly so that Jayne could lip read if his ears weren't working. "Did you see Book?"

"Dunno, all kind'a got messed up." Jayne twirled his free hand around his head by way of illustration.

Frustrated, the Captain looked away not noticing when Zoe came alongside him. "What're we gonna do, sir?"

Her quiet calm voice was like a welcome balm to his fractured nerves. Helped him pull himself together so he could think. He just didn't like what he was thinking. "This ain't gonna be easy Zoe, is it?"

Her lips quirked a mite with dry humour. Not a lick of funny in it. "Since when did anythin' ever go easy for us, sir?"

"Point taken. Still. May be time for a change." There was a short thoughtful pause before his first mate spoke again. "So, no plan then?"

"Not yet." The Captain admitted then something sparked in his eyes. Zoe followed his gaze and saw that he was staring at River. "But I know someone who may have some ideas on that score."

Zoe didn't disabuse him of putting faith in River. They'd seen crazier things and done the whole gamut of stupid. Maybe the Captain was right and it was time for a change. That they would be placing their hopes in the hands of a teenage girl with a damaged brain just showed how deep the bind was they were in. Zoe shifted her stance to make both herself and the snake more comfortable, her only disappointment being that Wash wouldn't stay closer than arm's length no matter how she tried to reassure him that the boa constrictor was a friend. Wash didn't intend to get close enough for a hug.

* * * * *

It had been a long tiring day and Sir Warwick Harrow was happy to return to his estate for the evening. The quiet efficient bustle of servants going about their business was a reassurance as was his wife's smile as she waited while his manservant took his coat. Sir Warwick beamed at her, his tired face lighting with pleasure as she kissed his cheek. "I was hoping you would still be up."

Analise smiled back and took his arm. "You know I can't sleep when you aren't there."

Happy and content he let her lead him into the well appointed drawing room. He had already eaten and just wanted to unwind a little before retiring for the night. Analise reminding him of the days he could stay awake all night fueled by his need for her. He was an old man now, or at least an older one, and the body did not have the stamina it had in youth but he could still admire her beautiful face. Analise did not have classic beauty but she was fair of face, a face that became more radiant with the years because of her calm and giving nature. A sure treasure in troubled times. From their joining had come four children. Exuberant and as full of mischief and intellect as any children could be. All grown now with families of their own. The big rambling estate house was still home but it rang a little more hollow with just the two of them to enjoy it. He sighed softly at the memory.

"Warwick, *shenme shi*?"

He blinked kindly at her and kissed her. "*Yiwusuoyou*, just missing the times when these rooms rang with children's voices. Have we really grown so old, Ana?"

She laughed, her voice merry. Looking at her thus it was as if the years vanished and revealed her in the prime of her youth. It made him feel young and impossibly ancient at the same time. "You think back too often, dear. Remember, you are a grandfather now."

Sir Warwick groaned with exaggerated depression. "Don't remind me you wicked woman."

He smile touched his heart anew every time. "Ah, but I'm your wicked woman." Their banter was interrupted by the appearance of Marlow. "Your pardon, my Lord, but you have a wave."

Sir Warwick raised a brow then turned to his wife. "*Duibuqi, xin gan*, I'm sure this will not take long." His eyes crinkled as he smiled at her, raising her hand up to touch his lips while his eyes twinkled merrily into her own. Genuine warmth, affection and love shining from one to the other. "Wait up for me?"

Her smile was generous, a faithful echo of her heart. "Always."

Then he was striding purposefully across the marble floor and into the study. Once the door was closed behind him, Sir Warwick straightened his suit and moved to his cortex link to see who would disturb him at this late hour. To his surprise, Special Envoy Clarkson's face appeared on his screen. Clarkson inclined his head respectfully. Sir Warwick frowned. "Do you know what time it is, Stephen?"

"Your pardon, Lord Warwick, but this is of the utmost urgency."

Those words, that expression. Sir Warwick Harrow knew what that meant. With a sigh he rose and went to the door, locked it, then returned to his seat. Elbows on his desk he knitted his fingers together and rested his chin on them. "I think you should tell me everything Stephen. From the beginning if you will."

* * * * *

Shepherd Book was shocked. The mass of grey bodies filling his vision and making him want to pinch himself. Elephants? He knew he shouldn't have been surprised, after all the Captain had a panther but at least it had been in the singular. Unless he was much mistaken he appeared to be facing a herd of pachyderms. Or was he seeing double, treble...? He wanted to shake his head but didn't dare, his ear was sore and he still felt a bit dizzy.

While the Shepherd stared and wondered what he should do, something dark and glittering skittered down through a crack in the ceiling behind him. Sharp precise movements typified the scorpion as it skittered down a wall shrouded in darkness. The scorpion hurried down the wall and across the floor positioning itself a couple of feet behind the unsuspecting Shepherd. Once in position it uncurled and raised the sharp stinger above its' head.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wo bu dong* = I don't know *weishenme* = why? *weishenme bu* = why not? *dong ma* = understand? *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *diyu* = hell *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *zhangfu* = husband *wo zhidao* = I know *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *wei* = hey! *shenme* = what *jide* = remember *dui* = correct *wode ma* = mother of God *tianna* = oh God! *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *xin gan* = sweetheart/darling *duibuqi* = sorry


Sunday, October 22, 2006 7:13 PM


Aw crap...not again! Either Book's gonna get Body Snatched or offed by that little robotic arachnid:(

And I am definitely getting a StarFox 64 vibe from this whole alarm and lockdown of the chamber with the brain. Gives me the heebie-jeebies;)


Sunday, October 22, 2006 11:57 PM


Have faith BEB more will be revealed in the next chapter. Also, thank you for waving me about the Sushiverse - looks like it will be highly entertaining and right up my street. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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.