The Temptress and the Hunter: Part 1-The Scent
Wednesday, November 8, 2006

A prolific criminal is sighted and its up to Special Federal Agent Dorm Harkaway of the Panopticon to catch her. The Scent-In which Federal Agent Dorm Harkaway receives his mission and begins to gather evidence in order to carry it out.


The Temptress and the Hunter

Part 1: The Scent In which Federal Agent Dorm Harkaway receives his mission and begins to gather evidence in order to carry it out.

The countryside blurred into a smear of greens and browns as the train accelerated away from the station. Federal Agent Dorm Harkaway, formerly Captain Dorm Harkaway of the Alliance Army stretched uncomfortably on the narrow seat, earning himself a reproachful look from the elderly woman on the seat next to him. He glared at her, daring her to open her mouth but she looked away. Dorm felt a small moment of disappointment. A large part of him wanted to get into an argument, even if it was with a woman probably twice his age. He was jammed back here with the civilians, and the poor civilians at that, so his temper wasn’t exactly in the best shape. This train apparently had only one decent guest cabin and the pompous son of some wealthy landowner filled it. There was rarely more than one important person on a train like this heading to the backwater province of Lhasan as it was and so no one had ever thought to put more than one guest carriage in. Of course he could have simply commandeered it in the name of the Alliance but that was a good way to get demoted or wind up behind a desk as a pen pusher. Most of the landowners were former Alliance High Official’s or Generals and still had friends in high places. No, for this one he would keep quiet and do his best to tolerate his present surroundings. It wasn’t that he especially needed he cabin; he had slept rough a thousand times and likely would a thousand more before he retired but he just didn’t like discomfort when it could be avoided. And lots of civilians, that was always a problem. He couldn’t stand their idiocy; the way they just lived their lives, never giving a thought of the greater good of the society, of the government that sheltered them. Such an ungrateful lot, this lot as much as any other he thought, looking around disdainfully at the sea of empty face, staring blankly into the same nothing that filled their heads. There was barely a spark of life in their eyes, not a single one smiled or laughed simply conversing quietly about crops, weather, how-this-cousin-was-doing-in-the-city and the other mundane uselessness that was the entirety of a civilian provincial’s life. Dorm had always disliked civilians but at least those in the city understood where their place was in comparison to that of their government and adapted accordingly. All to often these provincials simply forget that the Alliance existed and started making their own laws and decisions. That was how rebellion started, how civil wars began, when people forgot they had a government that must be obeyed. Dorm had seen it before, on another world, in another time, a year or so before the Unification War. The people in the country had risen up wanting to become their own masters believing that they could do a better job of governing than the Alliance could. Dorm had been a Sergeant then, had been a Sergeant for nearly a decade and had led his squad against the barely trained peasants. His troops had the superior weapons, the superior training, the superior equipment and officers while provincial rebels were no more an army than a heap of building materials is a house. Still they came and they fought and they died and Dorm learnt then the difference between bravery and stupidity. They could have waited, trained themselves into a force with a hope but instead they rushed straight into the guns of his troops. How he hated them for that, that more than the fact that they rebelled against their lawful government, that more than anything. They drove themselves in like lambs for the slaughter, gaining nothing, getting nowhere, obtaining only their deaths. He tried to put it out of his mind and leaned back and closed his eyes. It would be a long trip and he would need the rest for what was to come. The bench drove furrows onto the skin on his back but he started the rhythmic breathing he had learned at the Academy, calming his body, blocking out the discomfort. Slowly his eyes slipped closed and he fell into a deep and restful sleep.

The train stopped with a jolt, a thud and the long drawn-out screech of the brakes. Dorm opened his eyes calmly a snatched his bag out from under his feet, giving it a quick pat-down to make sure that nothing was missing. All there, but you could never be too careful with these provincials, they’d steal anything that wasn’t nailed down and then he’d have to shoot someone to get it back. He threw the ragged rucksack onto his back and pushed his way through the mass of dirty, dead-eyed provincials as they spilled like a wave of rats leaving the sewers out onto the platform. He looked around for his contact, the man they said he would meet here and found him almost instantly. It wasn’t as though he stood out in any way, a non-descript man flicking through a news-holo, certainly none of the provincials would have thought him anymore than a middle class shop-owner or clerk of some sort. But Dorm could see that state of taught readiness that combat training brought, the way the eyes flicked the crowd assessing every detail in what looked like a casual glance. He strode towards his contact and the man folded his news-holo at his approach.

“Dorm Harkaway,” he said, flicking out his badge.

“Very pleased to meet you. My name is Brett, Brett Dattre.” The other man flicked out his own badge and then made it disappear just as quickly. He was younger than Dorm had first thought, perhaps mid-twenties, with a wide almost froglike face and mousy pale hair that was beginning to thin.

“This way.” The unspoken ‘sir’ hung in the air. “I have a carriage waiting outside the station.”

Dorm nodded his indifference. As long as it got them where they were going he didn’t really care whether it was a Hover-racer or a donkey that took them. The two men weaved their way through the crowd and out onto the street where a sleek black carriage and two horses waited. As the carriage rumbled down the main street Dorm had his first good look at the town of Neren-on-Jade. It was neither a large or small town but still it had that country feel, that feeling of isolation and self-sufficiency at the same time. Yet this town was the centre, the hub of the region, this Dorm knew by the way these people carried themselves as though people came to visit them, they were the most important thing for miles around. And they were right to, the Neren-on-Jade was prosperous with smooth and sleek Blackstone buildings rising three or even four stories above the main street where banks, moneylenders and lawyers abounded. The clothes that many of the people wore were finer than those that the people on the train wore, a smattering of silk here, a touch of embroidery there. To the south end of Neren-on-Jade, grey smoke billowed in dirty clouds into the sky, a sign of some industrial or mining facility. Yes this was more than just some flyspeck village, to be forever ignored; this Neren-on-Jade was a place where the full breadth of humanity could be found. Here was the rich and the poor the cream and the dregs, the sane and the mad, forever changing roles like an ensemble cast. Just by glancing Dorm knew that here was all the uniqueness and variety of life a man could want, all neatly packaged into a familiar box. It was not such a bad place after all thought Dorm. For a provincial city. They came to a stop outside a plain, office-type building, grey curtains in the windows of its two stories, the sign above the door reading ‘Panopticon Security’. That was barely a front for a secret service but it was one that was used often, for all the problems usually came the way of a security agency and most people had never even heard the rumor that the Central Alliance Federal Agency was also known as the Panopticon. The entry hall was just as bland, a young Asian receptionist behind the desk, in a room full of grey chairs and wilting indoor plants. Dattre nodded to the receptionist and took Dorm through a side door that was marked ‘Brett Dattre- Senior Officer’. “You are in command here?” asked Dorm

“Yes, sir” replied Dattre, sitting down behind the desk. “But that’s not saying all that much, sir. There’s only myself, four deputies, a couple of clerks and Sera behind the desk. Most of the problems here are handled by the police force or the army, so we handle the matters of state importance when the crop up, sir.”

“You can dispense with the formalities,” smiled Dorm, the young man was obviously nervous and wanting to make a good impression. Dorm realised that this was probably the first time someone of his rank had been in the district apart from the yearly inspections. “If I was going to become offended by not being addressed as sir, I wouldn’t be a very effective undercover agent now would I?”

Dattre smiled weakly “I guess not, sir” Dorm winced inwardly “Can I get you a drink?”

“Thank you, brandy, make it a double.”

Dattre flicked on the intercom screen on the desk. “Sera could we have two double brandies in here please.”

The younger man folded his hands into a spike, looking back up at Dorm. “How much do you know? About the case I mean?”

Dorm shifted in the padded chair. “Not all that much. Just the outline, that I would be infiltrating a gang of brigands in order to catch a fugitive. I was informed that I would be given a full briefing here.”

Dattre beamed. “Yes, yes very true sir. What would you like to know first?”

“How about we start at the beginning.”

“Of course. You see this case came to my attention three days ago when-“

He cut off as the door swung open to admit the receptionist carrying a tray with their drinks on it. Dattre smiled at her, his wide face expanding even further as he did. “Thank you Sera, just on the desk here.”

When the door closed after her Dattre continued. “Three days ago I received word from the local police that the wife of a wealthy landowner in a village not far from here had reported her husband missing. Howard Tuck was the man’s name, a private man, only recently married. His new wife is a Marietta Tuck, a girl he brought back from the city perhaps a year ago. She reported that her husband was missing and that he had run off with another woman, and she believed him to be in danger. Marietta provided us with holo-recordings of the woman and DNA hair samples. I ran some tests and this is what I came up with.”

He dropped a file onto the desk that was a thick as Dorm’s arm. Dorm raised his eyebrows in surprise. He hadn’t seen a file that thick since he investigated the organised crime back in the city.

“Bam, bam double black flags came up,” said Dattre smoothly. Dorm was surprised again. Someone with double black flags was a second highest level of priority criminal- ‘use all necessary force to apprehend’ the manual said. No wonder Dattre was nervous, probably the biggest criminal on the planet had fallen into his lap. Dorm had only seen two or three other double black flags in his career and only one triple black flag. This had just become interesting. “Do we have a name?”

Dattre grimaced. “We’ve got about thirty names. I can’t remember them all. Saffron, Peita, Veronica, Casie. It’s all in the file. The most common seems to be Saffron. Maybe she likes the colour. Marietta says she was using the name Nerieth, but she would have changed that by now.” He paused and sighed. “That file might be thick but it’s mostly anecdotes, hearsay and pictures and not all that much of real substance. I’ll tell you what we do know for sure however. She’s a sort of con-woman; she seduces men, uses them and then leaves them.”

Dorm broke in. “Then why has a petty temptress been double black flagged? What makes her so dangerous?”

Dattre grinned, “This is where it gets juicy. You see it’s who she uses, how she does it and what happens to the men afterwards that make her stand out. First of all she’s extremely good, reports suggest she’s had some sort of training perhaps a rogue companion or a companion academy dropout. Secondly she’s not above using people high up in government, in business to achieve her ends. Thirdly she doesn’t simply seduce them in a physical sense. Nearly every report we have of this Saffron mentions her marrying her mark, often making them fall head-over heels in love with her. That’s why this situation with Howard Tuck fits. A lonely millionaire, newly married suddenly chasing after another woman, so far to the point that he is willing to abandon his property and all he has worked for just for her. Fits like a glove.”

Dorm held up a hand stopping Dattre for a moment. “Then what does Saffron gain by having him leave his riches and station behind. Isn’t that what she wants?”

“Exactly sir, that was what puzzled me about the whole thing at first. However I did a bit of digging and our Mr. Howard Tuck has been withdrawing money from various banks for about three days prior to his disappearance, all together an amount upwards of six million.”

“And this Howard Tuck? Where is he now?”

Dattre twisted uncomfortably, “I’m sorry, to say this, sir, but he’s stretched out on a stone slab in the downtown morgue.”

Dorm sat up in sudden shock. “He’s dead? How did that happen?”

“That’s the other thing about Saffron, sir. When the men she uses are no longer required they usually wind up dead. Sometimes she does it, sometimes someone she’s working with does, but approximately eighty percent of those who have been confirmed as her husbands died in one way or another within a month or two of marriage. This time we are sure it was her; Howard Tuck was killed with a single, close-range pistol shot in the back of the neck.”

Dorm took a long sip of his brandy. He had hunted a lot of killers in his time, some who killed for pleasure, others necessity, others money, but this was an especially cold one. She murdered men who were whole-heartedly in love with her.

“How many has she caused the deaths of? Give me an estimate, not confirmed, I want to know what you think.”

Dattre too threw back a good portion of his brandy. “If you count the star-ship crews she’s finished off, their captains, all those she’s killed and those that died trying to get her back. A hundred, perhaps more.”

Dorm lowered his voice to dangerous whisper and nearly spat, “All right, I’m going to catch her. Bring her to justice in the name of the Alliance. I won’t rest until I do.” Dorm unclenched his fist. He hadn’t realised he was so angry. It had been along time since he had lost control like that. He needed to refocus. “Give me a recent history.”

The younger agent nearly saluted in his haste to comply. “Yes, sir! Perhaps a year ago she was involved in a scam, in which she lured spaceships into electro-magnetic-nets, run by a group called The Tearers. Once caught the ships would be torn apart and sold on the lucrative underground spare parts market. The crews would be jettisoned into space, it was easier that taking prisoners and it kept the game quiet. This operation was shut down about eight months ago, believed destroyed by a former Independent sergeant turned spaceship captain named Malcolm Reynolds. This Saffron; married to Reynolds at the time, escaped and ran some smaller con jobs for a while getting business men and spaceship captains to give up their hard-earned. During this time she managed to extort more than eight million from the young Vard Garcia; son of the shipping magnate Jose Garcia. Then about four months ago she was involved in the theft of a relic from Earth-That-Was, the Lassartar. This was stolen from the collection of Alliance General Durren Hemar to whom she had been married to at one point before disappearing. The heist went south, with Saffron’s associates betraying her and abandoning her to the authorities. She was then caught and was on her way to a processing facility when she apparently persuaded the guard captain to set her free and they escaped together, coming here. The guard captain was killed about two months ago, we believe in a pub brawl. And so here we are with Saffron, siphoning money off another millionaire before plugging him.”

Dorm nodded as he processed this, “And where is she now? With this gang I’m here to infiltrate?”

Dattre pulled another file onto the table, thinner than before. “We believe she’s taken shelter with a bandit group known as ‘Blake’s Blades,’ whether she had contacts there previously is unknown but we’ve had reports of a new female member, joined in the last couple of days. The Blades are a relatively new group, appeared about three years back, formed by a former mining engineer, Blake Taylor. In their early years they were a legitimate mercenary organisation and were employed by the local police force to help clear bandits and the like out of the forest. I met this Blake Taylor at that time and I remember him as both extremely intelligent and charismatic, albeit with a violent temper. I wouldn’t put it past him to have deliberately become involved in the bandit clearing operation just to carve out territory for himself with government backing. Not long after they were informed their services were no longer necessary, Blake led his force numbering about fifteen into the jungle and they have held up stage coaches, mal runs, attacked rival groups and so on and so forth ever since. They run a protection racket with some of the ranches while some of the richer ranch owners hiring them out to deal with other smaller groups and rustlers. They are the main group in the area without a doubt but they have never been so troublesome as to warrant calling in troops or assembling a posse to deal with them. Especially with the real chance that The Blades would take a fair toll on any force that pursued them.” Dattre paused letting this sink in.

“They number perhaps thirty or more these days and are mostly seen in the village of San Mark, where they fence their takings, drink, and buy supplies. Every now and again the Sheriff picks up one or two of them, just to make sure they don’t get to cocky, but apart from that they have been relatively unmolested.”

Dorm gathered both the files off the table. “I’ll have a look at these more thoroughly as soon as I can. Now, unless there is anything else, I’d like to visit this Marietta Tuck, seeing as she seems to the only one with information on our fugitive.”

Dattre stood with him. “Certainly, sir. It’s perhaps a two hour trip to the Tuck estate, by carriage.” He leant over and switched on the intercom screen, “Sera, could you ask Hollander and Torval to get themselves ready for a trip, Agent Harkaway and I are heading out to the Tuck estate. And tell Davey his break is over and he needs to get the horses hitched up again.”

They walked out of the office, Dorm slipping the files on Saffron and Blake’s Blades into his satchel. Two other people in a grey and black uniform were strapping on armour in the foyer, the first a stocky blonde man, in his late twenties and heavily muscled. The second was a tall sharp-faced dark haired woman, younger than the first but it was hard to tell her real age, her face was so severe.

“These are two of my deputies, Maxt Hollander and Kite Torval. Deputies, this is Federal Agent Dorm Harkaway.” The two saluted.

“Are you expecting trouble?” Dorm asked Maxt, nodding at the armour.

“Not really, sir,” he said in a surprisingly boyish voice, “But it pays to be careful.”

Dorm smiled knowingly, “All too true.” The four left the building and climbed aboard the carriage, the driver, Davey, nodding to Dattre as they did.

“We’re heading out to the Tuck Estate, Davey. Make it a comfortable trip.”

“I’ll do my best, sir.”

An hour and a half later they were travelling through a dense jungle, the trees arching over the road like the legs of a spider over its victim. The road here was damp and slippery and the wheels skidded on the dirt, even with the grid-stabilizer on the chassis. There had been little conversation, the two deputies keeping to themselves, slightly awed by Dorm’s presence while Dattre’s attempts at sparking a conversation winked out as quickly as they began. Dorm himself read the files thoroughly, absorbing the information, deciding how best to make contact and gain entry into Blake’s Blades. All was quiet, all was as it should be. A cry split the air, a ghoulish scream of hate and rage. The occupants of the carriage sat up straight in shock.

“What the ghoram hell was that?” breathed Maxt. The carriage stopped. Dattre leant out the window. “Davey can you see anything?”

“Sorry, sir, nothin’. But the horses are mighty spooked. Somethin’s out there.”

They sat in silence for a moment, listening. There was no sound but the whickering of the horses. The forest was silent as though it too was afraid. Dorm reached down into his rucksack and drew out a six-shooter.

The sound came again, louder and closer this time. Everybody tensed. Dorm reached under his coat to check that his second pistol was there. Then Dattre cursed suddenly and went scrambling under the seat for something.

“Sir?” Asked Kite tentatively “What’s out there?”

“Degens!” Dattre gasped pulling out a pistol, “I think its Degens. Get out the shotguns. Get the shotguns!”

“Oh shit!”

Maxt pressed a button on the wall and a rack of shotguns slid out of the roof. As he reached for one there was a whirring sound and a choking scream as a spear punched through the wall of the cabin inches from Maxt’s head.

“Ghoram it!” screamed Dattre. “Davey!” He leapt from the cabin, a pistol in one hand shotgun in the other.

Dorm jumped out the other side, a gun in each hand, rolling as he landed, his heart pounding. A twisted sort of human, hunched and wearing tattered black rags stood in the center of the road. It held another long spear, little more than a sharpened stick in claw-like hands. As it saw Dattre it hurled the spear but the agent was too quick and jumped too one side. Dorm opened fire at the monstrosity, the Degen or whatever the others had called it and was certain that both of his shots hit. The creature reeled back briefly and then came on, in a loping run towards Dorm. Out of the corner of his eye he saw two more black shapes drop out of the trees to land on top of the horses. The creature was still coming on and Dorm shot it again but it only slowed briefly then loped ever more quickly towards him again. Just as it was about to lunge a booming shot filled the air and it twisted sideways, its chest shredded to bloody rags as Kite emerged from the carriage, shotgun in hand. Sprays of blood filled the air as the hapless animals pulling the carriage were torn apart with the knives and teeth of the Degens. More shots rang out as Dattre and Maxt tried to take the Degens off the horses. Movement on the top of the carriage caught Dorms eye and as the creature leapt towards him he brought up his six-shooter and fired. The shot blew a chunk out of the Degen’s neck, filthy flesh and dark blood fountaining into the air as it crashed into him. His six-shooter fell from his hand as he hit the ground but he jumped to his feet without it. The monster was just as quick, swinging a rusty shard of metal at his head. Dorm ducked and slammed his foot with piston-like force into the side of the Degens lower leg, shattering the bone, forcing the creature to its knees. For an instant it glared its hate with mad yellow eyes before he raised his pistol and put three shots into its forehead. Another Degen sped out the forest on his right and jumped at Kite’s back. Dorm put a bullet into it but Kite, who was finishing off another creature attacking a horse, didn’t even see the one coming from behind her. It seized her violently, and before Dorm could pick a target it had put one hand on her chest, the other gripping her arm just above the elbow. Its mountain biceps tensed and with a sickening crunch Kite’s arm tore off at the shoulder, blood and pieces of sinew spraying into the air as she howled in agony. As quick as lightning the thing tossed her arm aside and with sharpened teeth ripped her neck in half. She collapsed like some macabre children’s puppet as the monster gulped back her flesh. Dorm charged with a scream of rage and horror, putting a bullet into the thing’s face. As it fell he jumped onto its chest firing into its head until his clip was empty, its face was nothing but an empty ruin and the forest was empty once more. Dattre and Maxt appeared at the end of the carriage, guns held high and ready. The young agent gulped back a mouthful of vomit when he saw Kite’s body and Maxt turned very pale. Dorm went over and picked up his six-shooter again, still with three shots in it. His two surviving companions weren’t in the best shape themselves, Dattre with deep claw marks across his face and Maxt with a triangle of rusty metal driven deep into his right bicep. The shotgun hung loosely in his left hand. For a moment no one spoke, taking stock of their situation.

Then Dattre broke the silence. “Davey’s dead. So are the horses. We’ll have to walk from here.”

“What the hell were they?” said Dorm quietly. He’d just witnessed one of the most horrible things since the war. It was bringing back some terrible memories, ones he’d hoped were locked away forever.

“They were Degen’s, Wild Men, Lopers whatever you want to call them,” responded Dattre tiredly. “And I have no idea what they are doing here. They never come this close to any settlement worthy of size.”

“Why was I not told about them? What made you hold this back? You’re in dangerous waters here, Dattre, so don’t try lying to me.” Dorm’s breathing was heavy, and his chest felt strained. Ten years ago a fight that short wouldn’t have had him even breaking a sweat, now he felt as if he had run a marathon.

“To be honest with you sir, I thought you knew. There are rumors about these things all over the planet. I would have thought you’d have heard them. Men gone mad after too many years in the wilderness, after no other human contact, their sanity slipping away until they become little more than degenerate animals.”

“I’ve heard the rumors. I just had no idea they were this dangerous. This feral. Did you know they were cannibals?”

The other men’s heads snapped up.


That one ate part of Kite.” He pointed to the Degen with the missing face.

“Oh God.”

Dorm went into command mode, the old familiar feeling of leading men in the field flooding back into him.

“I suggest we put Kite and Davey’s bodies in the carriage, lock it up and call in a team to clean up this mess, before sundown. Then when we’ve done that we keep moving to Tuck Estate. Do they have medical facilities there?”


“Good. Then we’d better hurry up I don’t want to be out here in the dark.”


“Yes Dattre?”

“What if more of the Lopers come?”

“Then we fight them off again or we die. Now get moving”

It was twilight by the time the three wounded men reached the Tuck Estate. Maxt was lagging behind, the metal shard in his arm numbing his whole arm. The big man was quiet and pale. Dattre’s face had bruised up, the skin that was still intact was lumpy and purple. Blood had caked and crusted down his neck and onto his shirt, giving him the appearance of some hideous ghoul. Dorm too was bruised and sore from where the Degen had crashed into him, his whole side aching so that he had to limp stiffly. The iron gates of the estate loomed over them in the fading light, and at the end of a row of confers Dorm could see the grey roofs of a mansion that rose above the jungle, its towers reaching for the stars like the rockets of culture that was taking the first steps towards starflight. Dattre leaned against one of the pillars and pressed the intercom button. A screen flicked on, and a young man in a coat-tailed butlers suit appeared on the screen.

“Yes, hello.” He jumped as he saw their appearance. “I’m calling security if you don’t leave at once!”

“That’s just great, Hoyle, what about medical assistance, or do you turn away lost children as well?”

The butler leaned forward, squinting at Dattre. Dorm didn’t blame the man for not recognizing the Dattre; his face was a fearsome sight and he was hardly the same man he had met that morning.

“Is that Mr. Dattre? What on earth happened to you, sir?”

“You’re ghoram right it’s Mr. Dattre! Now open up the damn gates and send someone to take us to the nurse. Maxt here can barely stand.”

“Yes, sir. I do apologize, sir. I’ll notify Marietta that you have arrived.”

“About time, Hoyle.”

The gates swung open smoothly and a hovercraft floated speedily down towards them. Men and women in blue-grey livery hauled them gently into the craft and they sped off again.

Minutes later Dorm sat uncomfortably in a chair in the nurse’s station while an old woman applied a cream to his bruised side. Dattre had clean shirt on and with the blood cleaned away the wounds on his face were now simply thin red streaks in amass of purple bruising. Maxt’s arm was in sling, the deep wound cleaned and bandaged and his pallor had gone from deathly white to a healthy pink.

A woman, all in black and with a lacey veil over her face rushed into the station. She had her black dress held up as she ran and Dorm found himself admiring a pale leg. He stopped and shook his head; this woman was at least twenty years younger than him and recently a widow, for this; with no need for an introduction; this was Marietta Tuck. She rushed over and turned Dattre’s face on one side, withdrawing as he winced in pain.

“Oh, Brett,” she gasped in a clear musical voice, “I’m so sorry, it looks so painful.” She looked around the other two men, then back at Dattre. “What happened? No wait don’t tell me come in to the house I’ll get you boys a drink and some thing to eat.”

She turned and snapped at one of the young men in uniform who hovered at the entrance. “Davern, get these men something to eat in the main dining hall in ten minutes! And do it right for a change!”

She turned back and smiled apologetically at the men through her veil, her voice back to that same musical quality once more, “I am sorry for that but Davern is likely to let his mind wander if you don’t keep a firm hand on him. Shall we go?”

Smoothly she turned and glided from the room, leaving Dorm to shrug his shirt on gingerly and follow Maxt and Dattre out of the room.

The three men sat at the large table Dorm facing Dattre, with Maxt next to him. Marietta’s place was at the head of the table. The woman was behind Dattre now, at the bar, short blond braid swaying as she mixed them drinks.

“Now,” she said, setting down their glasses in front of them, “What happened to you? Take your time if you feel you need it.”

Dattre threw back his double shot of whiskey in a single mouthful and coughed violently.

“Degens.” he croaked, his eyes haunted. “Degens attacked us apart half an hour away from here by carriage. They shouldn’t have been here but they were. Davey’s dead. So’s Kite, they…” his voice broke and Marietta put a hand on his arm and smiled sadly at him. “They tore her apart, they ate part of her. Why would someone do something like that?”

Marietta had her hand clapped over her mouth in horror. “Oh I’m so sorry Brett, I’m so so sorry.” She rubbed his arm again. Maxt had his head bowed against his chest. “They’re not human, remember that Brett. They’re animals, nothing but savage animals.”

Dorm sipped his brandy. He felt for Dattre. Two of his friends, people he had likely worked with for years had died today, in a way that simply wasn’t right. Dorm had been the one who had witnessed Kite’s butchering but it was Dattre and Maxt who had known her. It tore you up so badly when some you knew died by violence and it was worse when it was so unexpected like today. Dorm had fought in the Independents war and other conflicts before that, seen men, friends, companions, soldier under his command cut down, killed in a hundred different ways. It wasn’t ever any easier, but after a while it didn’t take so long to recover from it. So often in war you had to recover from it quickly. There was no other choice. It was pull yourself together or die. His job now was no less dangerous and he needed to be always on the job, always ready. Including now.

“Excuse me Mrs. Tuck, I-“

“Oh I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself to you. Call me Marietta. Mrs. Tuck sounds so formal. And you are?”

“Special Agent Dorm Harkaway, at your service… Marietta. I need to ask you a few questions. About the woman who disappeared with your husband.”

The woman grimaced and stood. “The woman who murdered Howard you mean.”

Dorm raised an eyebrow at the level of hate in the woman’s voice. “That’s alleged murder ma’am, however likely.”

She turned back to face him, tears running out from under her veil. Angrily she wiped them away. It was almost as though she wanted to be out there herself in the jungle hunting down Saffron with a shotgun in her hand and fury in her heart. Dorm was impressed; she was far from a spoiled dandy, a drawing room ornament but rather a strong, independent woman. One who showed remarkable restraint by letting the authorities doing their job rather than taking the law into their own hands like smarter people had done before her hiring bounty hunters and assembling posses that just ended up in blood and death instead of justice.

“Nerieth. What can I tell you about Nerieth? She is the woman who stole away the man I loved. Howard and I had been married for just over a month when she appeared at the gates, claiming to be a lost traveler. If only Hoyle had been as nasty as he is with most and turned her away but she worked some charms on him and he let her in. we put her up in one of the guest rooms for she seemed so tired and frail, a skinny, pale and weak red-haired little girl. Even I took pity on her, with my eyes filled with my first husband as they were. I should have tossed her out on her scheming behind the first time she I caught her looking at my husband with anything more than a passing glance, but I mistook her calculating lust for admiration at his benevolence.”

She sobbed once, her whole body heaving with it. Dattre had his head in his hands as if hearing this story again was cracking his fragile psyche after such a horrific day. Slowly Marietta Tuck sagged into a chair, the memories of her failure seeming to overwhelm her. Dorm’s heart went out to her, as it hadn’t done to any other woman since his Elayne had died a good fifteen years ago. She had to endure so much this Marietta, just when her life seemed to be on the rise, all came crashing down once again. And yet she bore herself with a determined pride, a stoic resolve that she would carry on, would overcome problems that Dorm had seen ruin a hundred good soldiers. He reached a hand across the table and touched her arm.

“Do continue, Marietta. Remember all you tell us now brings us closer to catching your husband’s killer.”

She sniffed and smiled at Dorm through her veil. “Thank you. Soon I saw that Howard had fallen under her spell and that his behaviour towards me became increasingly cold and distant. I saw as at Nerieth’s behest he withdrew more and more of his money from the bank. I tried to reason with him but he was no longer the same man I knew. When they left together, fled into the jungle on horseback to where I knew not but I saw the glint in that woman’s eye. My Howard was as good as dead that day. She murdered him, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.”

Dorm straightened and looked the shaking woman in the eye. “Believe me when I say this, Marietta. We will catch this woman. She will get the justice she deserves.”

“Thank you Agent Harkaway, thank you. I do not doubt your capabilities.” Marietta paused, returning Dorms look with sudden clear-eyed strength. “But I must warn you, do not underestimate Nereith. She is very intelligent and very good at enticing a man. She will most likely not hesitate at telling any lie she can think of to escape from her situation. Do not believe her lies.”

The doors swung open then and the butler Hoyle and the young servant Davern entered, pushing a food-covered trolley.

Marietta clapped in an attempt at lightness. “Ah the food is here and I’m sure the chefs have outdone themselves once again. Let us eat and enjoy in honour of those friends and loved ones lost so close.”

Dorm watched the others dining with a detached air, his mind racing as he categorized and filed all the information he had obtained. He would ask Marietta more questions during the course of the night, but it would be mostly superfluous information. He had the scent in his nostrils now, and once the hunter had the scent there was no way the temptress could escape.


Wednesday, November 8, 2006 2:52 AM


This is my first time posting something on thsi site so i hope you enjoyed it. tried to bring in some different elements into a Firefly story- an Alliance piont of view, a darker heavier tone(not easy as firefly can be pretty dark).
Feedback is majorly appreciated.
P.S i recomend Blackout by Mutt.
P.S.S-part 2-the Inside won't be coming out for about a week (i've got exams) so i've you're hanging out the be patient.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006 5:38 PM


Very nice! I'm not 100% clear on a few things, but im better you're going to clear that up in future additions. I think we are the only two writing about wholey new characters, as you say!

Love that you're going to use Yo-Saff-Bridge, and the arm-ripping, horse molesting, throat tearing wildmen are just gravy!


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A New ‘Verse-VIII-Plotting
Mal works on the plan for getting out of the Slam with Dash and Blake. We learn a little more about Jeremiah and about get closer to Dash.
'The Erebos Slam is the very depths of hell and only the worst and the most unlucky end up wallowing in its pits'-Human Rights Advocate Nerin Timms

A New ‘Verse-VII-Inside
Mal meets his rescuers and the objects of his mission. There's good folk in every corner of the 'Verse as well as bad.

A New 'Verse-VI-Slam
Mal gets dropped in the dismal Erebos Bounty Slam and rescued in the nick of time from an unknown quarter.

A New ‘Verse-V-Trade
Its been a while I know, but my computer was dead. Anyway Mal gets traded to the Bounty Slam in one of his most dangerous plans yet. How far is he willing to go for Dash?
Enjoy and thanks for waiting

A New 'Verse-IV-Coversations-Simon and Kaylee
Members of the crew discuss the coming job, their current situation, and their general good luck at being in such an awesome show like Firefly. Some fluff and some angst, but I enjoy'd writing it-(4/4)-I', moving the story along now, I swear!!!

A New Verse-IV-Coversations-River
Members of the crew discuss the coming job, their current situation, and their general good luck at being in such an awesome show like Firefly. Some fluff and some angst, but I enjoy'd writing it-(3/4)

A New 'Verse-IV-Conversations-Jayne and Zoe
Members of the crew, discuss the coming job, their current situation, and their general good luck at being in such an awesome show like Firefly. Some fluff and some angst, but I enjoy'd writing it-(2/4)

A New 'Verse-IV-Coversations-Mal and Inara
Members of the crew, discuss the coming job, their current situation, and their general good luck at being in such an awesome show like Firefly. Some fluff and some angst, but I enjoy'd writng it-(1/4)

A New 'Verse-III-Dash
Mal remembers back to the early days of the war and how he meet the soon to be Independent hero Fast Dash. Flashback piece and an introduction to my main OC.
Thanks for reding so far, ladies and menfolk!

A New 'Verse-II-Plan
River has suffered a meltdown that put them all in danger and now the crew is faced with some desiscions they don't want to make. Does Mal have the answer? Revealed: Inside!...oh wait.
Thanks for all the comments guys, helped me a bunch! Sorry about the dialogue chapter...