Wolf Pack (Part VIII)
Monday, February 9, 2004

What happens when the other side are also too complacent at the notion of being forewarned?


Disclaimer – Everything either does belong to Joss or it should. I’m just borrowing his shiny ‘verse for a while.

The 21st Lancers belong to the British Army so I’m borrowing them too. I hope they don’t mind

* * *

Qingdao City - Macau – 2520AD

Knowing when to get the hell out of the way had been a skill of Mal Reynolds for a considerable number of years so as soon as he heard the firing he was already diving for cover. He was in fact just starting to move when Steven was hit and he got splashed with the Lancers blood.

The street was crowded and it was a miracle that number of bystanders had not been hit by those shots in the burst that had not struck Steven. Everyone was screaming and scattering which must have had an effect on the gunman because his second burst aimed at Mal went wild.

Muscle memory is a wonderful thing. Repeat the same action enough times and you can do it smoothly and automatically with barely a hint of actual thought required. Mal was still dropping to the ground when his pistol came up and fired at the gunman.

The Captains first shot missed but definitely had an effect because his opponent also began diving for cover behind a market stall. He had almost made it when Mal Reynolds second shot hit him square in the chest and sent him crashing awkwardly to earth.

The screaming and scattering continued as Mal fired a second shot into his opponent. He was about to deliver a coup de grace headshot when a shotgun blast hit the car in front of him showering him with plexiglass.

Another blast then another very fast it was either somebody very practised with a pump-action or they were toting an autoloader. In any case Mal was keeping his head well down.

If the car had been a conventional wheel design Mal could have looked underneath but it was a powered down hovercar resting flat on the roadway.

The blasts got closer and closer and Mal was deciding whether to break left or right when another gun opened up full-auto.

Mal heard the sound of bullets smashing into flesh and a short-lived scream as the shotgun fell silent.

‘Got him’ Steven yelled out and Mal looked out to see the Lancer still lying on his back with a smoking machine-pistol in his hand.

‘You okay? See any more?’ Mal called over.

‘Not from here’ Steven called back obviously in a lot of pain ‘I’ve got a few holes in me but I don’t think I’m going to die anytime soon’

The street had emptied by this time but there were still stall owners sheltering behind their goods and people watching through windows as Mal slowly rose to scope the situation.

The one who had indeed been carrying an autoloading shotgun had a good dozen holes in him from Steven’s machine-pistol which were pouring blood on the roadway but the one Mal had shot was still moving and moaning.

Mal considered finishing him off but answers were more important so before checking on Steve he ran over to the first assailant, keeping his pistol aimed at him, and kicked his weapon away.

The gunman was bleeding badly from the hole in his chest and Mal’s second bullet was in his leg but he still had enough savvy to look very afraid when Serenity’s Captain stuck his pistol barrel in his face.

‘Who the hell are you and why did you try to kill me and mine?’ Mal asked.

The gunman grimaced with the pain ‘Mercenary’ he said ‘Contract hit’

‘Who for?’

‘Don’t know. Just hired’

‘Only the two of you?’


Mal cocked his pistol.

‘No’ the mercenary said ‘five of us plus the others’

‘What others?’

‘Don’t know who they are just they hired us. Maybe ten of them’

‘How did you know we were here’

‘They told us you were coming a week ago’

‘Fine’ Mal turned uncocked the pistol turned it around and clubbed the Merc’ into unconsciousness.

Mal pulled his radio out of his pocket ‘This is the Captain. Steve and I just got into a gunfight, everyone get your ass back to the port but watch out for trouble’

‘This is Zoe’ Answered the radio ‘Need backup?’

‘Negative but there’s more of them out there. We got hit by mercs who were told we were coming a week ago. Guess we know who’s behind it so stay sharp’

‘River says she doesn’t feel them’ Zoe responded.

‘She didn’t predict danger either. Maybe she’s having an off-day or something’ Mal paused ‘Jayne you there?’

‘I’m here’ came the response.

‘Don’t go to the ship until Zoe, Wash and River are there for backup in case there’s company at the spaceport’


‘I’ll be there with Steve as soon as I can. Mal out’

The Captain double-timed back to the Lancer who was now sitting up leaning against a market stall.

‘Hit bad?’ Mal asked.

‘Armour stopped most of them but one went through and I’ve got a slug in my guts. I’ve also got a hole straight though my left arm and I’m missing my left ring finger’ he held up his hand to show Mal.

Mal looked around ‘Well it’s not really missing because I can see it over there’ he pointed.

‘You’re rutting hilarious Reynolds. It’s a good job I’m stoned because otherwise I’d be kicking your arse right now’


‘Pocket Med-kit. Gave myself a shot of painkiller, I’m tripping the light fantastic here’ he pointed to his wounds ‘Also poured a packet of instant bandage on the holes to stop the flow so I’m good for now’

Mal didn’t like using the stuff himself. So-called “Instant Bandage” was a mix of coagulant powder, antiseptics and other things. The blood would clot instantly and slightly plasticize stopping up the wound but there was always a chance of a stray bloodclot going astray into some important organ and really rutting you up ‘Fit to move?’ he asked.

‘Hell I could float home. Get me up but before you do grab the finger’

‘That ain’t getting stitched back on, your knuckles smashed to hell’

‘I want the gold ring that’s on it you berk’ Steve retorted.

* * *

‘I think that should have unnerved our subject somewhat having her compatriots attacked without realizing it was going to happen’

‘Indeed. Perhaps it is time for a proper test of her abilities?’

‘I concur. Laura could you please instigate the next stage’

* * *

Jayne scoped out the spaceport whilst Book remained with the women and kids. He didn’t like the idea of going to the ship it was bound to be an ambush. At least once Zoe, River and Wash arrived they could apply some force if needed but until then he just wanted to get the lay of the land. Fortunately night was closing in which meant that although the spaceport was still well lit by floodlight there were fewer and fewer people about. The spaceport staff and the crews of most of the ships would be likely heading to the local bars and brothels by now.

Three men caught his eye. They were wearing long coats which could easily conceal some decent firepower and one seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of interest in Granite Gorge. They were also trying to remain as much in shadow as possible.

Jayne sized them up. They weren’t super professional because if they were it would have taken him longer to spot them but they did seem alert. None of Mal Reynolds happy little band had a rifle with them for long-range work so the best move might be a distraction and let Zoe and himself sneak up on them for a little up close and personal attention.

Wash on the mule would make a good diversion. His shirts alone were eye catching enough to draw the attention of most people. If something went wrong River could step in and introduce own personal brand of mayhem into the mix.

Zoe radioed she was about to arrive and duly appeared next to him. Jayne indicated their reception committee and explained his plan. She considered it and agreed saying Wash and River would be arriving any minute.

* * *

Mal was half carrying Steven at a fast walking pace through the streets. He would have expected somebody to have followed them from the scene of the firefight but nobody had, probably all making sure not to get involved. Any second now though they could be facing either more merc’s or the local law.

It appeared that the painkiller Steven had taken might have either been a lot stronger than usually advised, or else he was having a severe reaction to it, because he was now high as a kite and Mal had to stop him singing twice. Well at least he was feeling no pain but the Captain didn’t think he’d be much use in another fire-fight.

‘I could really go for a packet of cookies right now’ Steven stated ‘lets find some’

‘There’s some back at the ship. The faster we get there the sooner you can have some’

‘If I wasn’t having to hold you up we could go a lot faster’

‘I’m holding you up Steve. You were shot remember’

‘Oh yeah right, that would explain the hole in my jacket’ Steven said and started to giggle ‘Jennifer will be pissed. She likes me in this jacket and now it’s covered in blood’ he paused and held his hand in front of his face ‘do you think I’ll be able to play the piano?’ he asked

‘No problem’ Mal told him still half dragging him along.

‘Wonderful because I never could before’ Steven joked and started giggling again.

* * *

Wash was about to make like a diversion when suddenly River just ran off without a word of explanation. ‘Definitely a weird day for that girl even by her standards’ he muttered to himself.

Jayne and Zoe had shifted into position and were just about to tell Wash to go ahead when they were both hit by electrical discharges and fell to the ground stunned. A second later Wash was stunned too.

Some people think it’s the Laser in the Laser Stun gun that drops the target. That’s not so at all. A high powered laser would just burn a hole in them and a weak one would just show up as a dot. No what actually happens is a reasonably strong laser ionizes the air in a beam towards the target and then a capacitor in the stun-gun discharges thousands of volts down the beam using the ionized air as a transmission medium.

They only work properly in dry conditions otherwise too much current is lost but they work and with more precision than sonic weapons and can be rapid fired unlike those that fire a dart leaving a trailing fire.

Men in plain black uniforms carrying stunners in one hand and plastic handcuffs in the other, moved to retrieve the three electrically-shocked Serenity crew.

* * *

River knew she had to keep moving she keyed her radio whilst on the move ‘Captain this is River are you receiving?’

‘Mal here what’s up?’

‘We’re in trouble. Zoe, Jayne and Wash are down and I’m on the run’

‘They’re shot. How the hell did that happen?’

‘Not hurt just stunned, someone sneaked up on them. I felt them just before it happened and didn’t have time for a warning or else I’d have been stunned too’

‘Who in the name of god can sneak up on Jayne let alone Zoe?’

‘Someone who’s being told what to do by someone who knows what’s going to happen’

‘What the hell are you talking about?’

‘Captain I just realized why I’ve been feeling so strange. I was being jammed’


‘Yes. There’s another Academy project here. I think it’s a girl, I can still read things perfectly well up close but my range has been slashed by the jamming. It’s like she’s broadcasting white-noise. I realised when I got back to the Port, the ones that took down our people are some kind of Academy Special Op’s and they were close enough for me to pick up their thoughts’

‘Wode tìan. What we gonna do?’

‘She can read you as well as I can. Possibly better because she seems to be a more powerful telepath than me. Now I know she’s there I can keep her out of my head but you can’t so I can’t risk telling you anything’

‘I can’t just do nothing. Can you jam her back?’

‘I don’t know how. I’ve never met anyone else like me to practise on, or at least I don’t remember meeting them. Find Book and the others and try to keep them safe’

‘What are you going to do?’

‘Go to the port and surrender’

‘You can’t’

‘I have no options. When I get close to her we’ll both be able to break through the other ones mental block then it will be a total standoff except for the fact they’ll have the Special Op’s there to tip the balance in their favour’

‘I can help’

‘You’ll be killed’ she stated bluntly ‘why can I hear Steven singing?’

‘He took a painkiller which sent him off the deep end. He’s stoned out of his mind’

‘Is he alright?’

Steven must have been listening to the conversation because he jumped in and yelled ‘No I’m half left’ into Mal’s radio before starting to sing again.

‘He’ll live. River you can’t do this’

‘You’d give your life for the crew. So why think I wouldn’t’

‘I’m the Captain that’s my job’

‘We’re a family not a crew. It’s everyone’s job’

‘We’ll rescue you’

‘No you won’t’ River told him and turned off her radio.

* * *

The girl turned to her companions. ‘She’s going to surrender. We should meet her at the port’

‘How do you know? Can you read her clearly now?’ One asked.

‘No but she told her Captain she was going to. I can feel his distress he cares for her greatly’

The other spoke ‘When she gets to the port I’ll have our operatives standby to guard our guests and we’ll see how she handles our hired help. It will be nice to see how she has adapted outside the Academy’

‘Should I be armed?’

‘That would be for the best Laura. Are you confident you can disable her if necessary?’

‘She never finished the program she is incomplete. I am more than a match for the prototype’ she answered and went to the weapons locker.

The two men in blue gloves smiled as their sixteen year old prodigy buckled on a gunbelt and placed an automatic pistol in its holster.

* * *

Mal and Steve had just located Book and the others hiding in a dark side street and were explaining to a tearful group when River suddenly appeared out of the darkness.

‘I just had a radical idea’ she said ‘and I need to borrow something’

‘Care to explain what?’ Mal asked.

‘Can’t but stay on the radio’

Mal nodded ‘What do you need to borrow?’

River smiled and pointed.

* * *

They had taken up position next to the Trance Class Transport which had bought their quarry here. The spaceport was now almost totally deserted which made things far easier not that local law enforcement would be showing up. They’d already been ordered to steer clear.

Two of the Academy Special ‘Ops Force were with the three bound and gagged hostages. Also with the group were a pair of men in plain though expensive suits and blue gloves who were eagerly awaiting the show.

The guest of honour stepped into the light.

‘I’m here so let them go’ River said loudly.

One of the men in suits spoke up ‘In a moment first we have to see for certain if you’re actually worth retrieving’ he spoke into a microphone on his lapel ‘This is your target gentlemen’

Three mercenaries appeared surrounding River forming a rough semi-circle thirty yards across.

‘What her?’ one asked.

‘Yes if you kill her there’s a fifty percent bonus’

The mercenaries thought about it.

The first two either side of her were just deciding to reach for their pistols when River dropped to one knee drawing her twin automatics.

They were starting to move when River placed a shot straight between the eyes of both of them. She didn’t even look where she was aiming.

They were both still falling when she smoothly swung her pistols forward and gunned down their remaining compatriot before he could do much more than give her a wide-eyed stare.

‘Do I pass the test?’ she asked rising again.

‘Excellent work my Dear. Another proud Academy product even if you did rather miss your official graduation’

‘You really would be better off killing me you know’ River stated.

‘Possibly but that is for our superiors to decide. In any case if you prove to be too much trouble we have a method of restraining, or rather, matching you’

‘That would be the individual who I can feel trying to get into my head I assume’

‘Of course you haven’t been introduced. Laura please step forward and say hello’

River watched a young girl appear and walk between herself and the “Hands of Blue”. She was even younger than she had been herself when Simon rescued her. River felt a tinge of sympathy but her priority was her own people.

‘So you’re the famous prototype?’ the young girl said ‘they made me wait over a year before they let me come after you. I don’t know why, you don’t seem much’

River looked her up and down ‘I suppose you think you’re the latest thing?’

‘New and improved. Also fully trained unlike a certain deserter who’s past her prime’

‘Are you trying to provoke me junior? Is talking in predictable gung-ho language and inflection plus clichéd mannerisms the final class at the Academy?’ River asked.

The girl flushed with anger ‘When we get you back you’ll find out. That’s if they don’t decide to scrap the older model completely’

‘Much as I am enjoying the verbal banter I’m afraid it’s time to put up or shut up’

One of the Hands of Blue looked startled ‘If you’re planning to resist we will defeat you and then kill your friends’

‘If you’re relying on your black-clad minions they wouldn’t have a chance against me’

‘But we’re not relying on them’ the girl “Laura” announced ‘You have to worry about me’

River shrugged her shoulders ‘Now there’s the problem. As soon as I move to take out the opposition you move to stop me’

‘Of course’

‘And then the problem is that once we get going neither of us will be able to maintain the mental discipline to block the other so it’ll be like fighting a normal person. We can see each others moves in advance and block them’

‘I’m faster’ Laura told her.

‘And I’m probably far more experienced practically so we’re too evenly matched for anyone to predict the outcome’ River said ‘What I need is a way to keep you occupied whilst I deal with your colleagues’

‘I could easily dispatch anybody you have helping you’

‘Ordinarily yes but it occurred to me that if we can’t actually read our opponents moves in advance then we’ve no advantage over them. We’re not faster we’re just forewarned’

‘What are you getting at?’

‘Think of it as a secret weapon against our kind. An opponent who’s moves we cannot predict because their mind is clouded and illogical and what’s more they don’t really know what they’re going to do next either’

‘That’s impossible’

‘No that’s just recreational pharmaceuticals’ River told her.

A man appeared next to River. He was short, badly scarred and obviously wounded although not feeling much pain.

His pupils were also severely dilated. And he seemed to be humming a tune to himself.

Laura quickly read him. She felt an astonishing sense of pleasure and well-being, a considerable darkness in the man, that he had some skill in a fire-fight and that he had an overwhelming desire for cookies. As for intentions she was damned if she knew what he was about to do.

‘Is this my dance partner?’ he asked.

‘This is her’ River answered.

‘In that case’ he said ‘Let’s party. I bought the fireworks’ he continued producing a machine pistol.

‘This is unexpected’ Laura said out loud directing the comment at her superiors ‘I cannot predetermine his actions’ she looked more than a little concerned.

Steven grinned like a lunatic. An ancient song he’d learned in music appreciation classes taken in school thirty years before was stuck repetitively playing in his head.

‘Please allow me to introduce myself’ he sang ‘I’m a man of wealth and taste’

River smiled ‘But what’s puzzling you is the nature of his game’ she said.

Steven snapped the machine pistol up and pulled the trigger as River starting running.

Part IX


Monday, February 9, 2004 8:32 AM


Yowzer, this is good! I really enjoyed it and love the way you have depicted River. She is going to serverely kick butt! How glorious to turn the tables on those blue handed freaks. Can't wait for the next part! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, February 9, 2004 10:27 AM


It just keeps getting better. Love the way you analyze and systematize River's magic. Um, don't spend writing time drawing, ok? Your stories are too delicious.

Monday, February 9, 2004 12:14 PM


I'll be danged,
drugs ARE the answer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004 12:02 PM


Thanks for the positive response :-)

To "AMDOBELL" - I don't think I have ever elicited a "Yowzer" before. I am deeply honoured ;-)

To "artships" - Too kind as always. As for drawing that actually may have to take a place on the back-burner because of a lack of free time. Hopefully I'll still be able to keep up the writing though

To "DrBoris" - This is your opponents brain... This is your opponents brain on Drugs :-p


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Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XX)
The Independents lift for a return to the Valley

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIX)
As they train for the Campaign to liberate Hera the soldiers of the Independent military continue to go about their daily lives.

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVIII)
Mal faces a worse fate than he ever imagined, Serenity has an image change and Cally adjusts to life back on Toulouse

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVII)
After the initial Independent blitzkreig the Second War of Independence continues with the Alliance still reeling and the Browncoats starting to consolidate their position

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVI)
Scylla and Charybdis show the Alliance Navy what real warships are made of

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XV)
After the skirmishing the Battle of Toulouse begins

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIV)
Mal Reynolds takes his "Valley Wolves" into action as the fighting on Toulouse escalates

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIII)
The Independent Navy takes the fight to the Core while Mal Reynolds takes his new troops into action on Toulouse

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XII)
Unification Day 2522 goes not as expected

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XI)
Reunions and opening gambits