Wolf Pack (Part IX)
Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Academy Retrieval Squad finds that no battle plan survives contact with this enemy


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 Spaceport - Macau – 2520AD

She may not have been forewarned but she was certainly quick because Steven’s burst of fire went through the space she’d just been rather than through the Academy Graduate herself. Regardless of the fact her telepathy wasn’t being its usual overwhelming advantage her human-standard “fight or flight” reflex was still working perfectly. Laura’s instincts had decided for option two and she was running and dodging the Lancers fairly indiscriminate full-auto fire like her life depended upon it, which of course it did.

The other telepath on the ground was running too but she was operating in the “fight” category. Unlike the younger girl River had no problem reading the minds of her adversaries and as she sprinted into action she was confident she was going to tear them apart in short order.

As for the two Academy Agents they were by no means stupid and as soon as the firing began ordered the Special Op’s team to take out the spaced out stranger with the machine-pistol. Unfortunately the black clad soldiers had a far bigger immediate problem as River Tam intervened to stop that happening.

Steven meanwhile was enjoying himself immensely though he was of course totally stoned out of his gourd.

Even for a crack shot hitting somebody in the head at a run with a pistol in your non-dominant hand is basically impossible at anything much beyond point blank, you can’t hold it stable enough, so River went for centre-mass shots aiming at the torso whilst rapidly closing the gap. You had to give it to them, the Special ‘Ops team were very skilful and well trained and one of the two standing by the shuttle had almost managed to get a shot off before River put two rounds into his chest.

It seemed a safe bet that they’d be wearing body armour so River had replaced the usual high-impact hollow-point ammunition in her pistols with solid core armour-piercing rounds coated with a frictionless polymer to add penetration. They didn’t cause as big a wound but they would go through lightweight armour. Simon had always carried four clips of each kind of round in pouches on his gun-belt and River made a mental note to thank him later for his foresight.

Anybody with the strength to hold a pistol in each hand and pull the trigger can operate two guns simultaneously. The problem is that humans can only actually shoot properly at one target at a time thanks to our stereoscopic vision. That is unless of course you can just sense exactly where your targets are, and if moving where they’ll be by the time you aim, and you don’t therefore actually have to look at them to shoot them.

There were half a dozen other Special Operations troops in the vicinity who were all getting into the game when River went to work in earnest shifting her aim from one target to the next in rapid succession.

Logically they would have been better off shooting at Steve because with him out of the way Laura could stop River. Unfortunately logic does not override one’s tendency to want to shoot at the person who is clearly trying to kill you as opposed to the person who isn’t. Instinct takes over once again, and this time instinct was not the answer.

A mere sixty yards away Laura dived behind a small cargo forklift and dodging the last of Steven’s bursts as his machine-pistol ran dry. He’s already reloaded once but she’d been in the open the last time and didn’t want to risk stopping. She pulled her pistol and was about to return fire when River span and fired a few shots in her direction with her right hand pistol to keep her back in cover whilst Steven slapped in another clip.

‘Qù tāmāde’ Laura swore and was just about to lean out and engage River when the doped up lunatic with the machine-pistol started firing again pinning her well a truly behind the forklift. The worst thing he was still gorram singing.

After the twentieth or so time the same song had played in a continual loop in his head Steven had begun altering the lyrics somewhat. “I rode a Tank held a Captains Rank’ he sang ‘whilst the blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank” he was also punctuating each line with a burst of fire and randomly shifting position to change firing angles, very randomly in fact.

Just before the action began there had been seven Special Operations in the vicinity plus the two blue-gloved Academy Agents. Within the first few seconds River had killed two of the black clad soldiers outright and had wounded another.

River smoothly and effortlessly sidestepped to avoid two streams of bullets whilst firing herself and dropped and rolled to avoid a third. The Agents watched transfixed, this was what they had always dreamt of, an unstoppable killing machine with the intellect to back up its ability to wreak mayhem, the ultimate symbol of the sheer brilliance of the project.

They were so in awe of the scene it took quite a while before they realised that the damage their symbol was wreaking was very likely about to be directed at them. On the whole this they concurred was a bad thing and they decided that discretion was very much the better part of valour.

Laura could not read her singing assailant with any clarity but she could still pick up on everyone else in the vicinity and was not pleased at being abandoned by her two mentors who were apparently planning to flee. She was also more than a little distressed that her first real fire-fight for which she had been training for years was not exactly going how she would have imagined. There was far too much getting shot at and not nearly enough actual shooting towards.

It was actually very scary despite all the psychological conditioning she’d been put through. At its core the problem was that she had always been trained to use her innate advantage, knowing what to do without it had not featured on the Academy Curriculum. Theory as ever was proving a poor substitute for practical reality.

The firing at her stopped. ‘Rutting hell it’s jammed’ yelled the lunatic with the machine pistol.

Laura snapped out to fire and snapped back in when another burst of fire headed her way.

“Sucker” yelled the man and began laughing.

If I ever get out of this I’m going to kill that man slowly and painfully Laura decided.

Another volley of exchanged shots and it was down to River versus two as the Agents fled the scene. One was using some boxes as cover whilst the other was wounded and trying to reload whilst sheltering behind Granite Gorge.

River dropped to her knees still at the run and slid in behind a refuse container to reload. It was smelly but made of nice thick steel and full of nice bullet absorbing broken machinery from the various ships there to refit. She heard rounds impact with the container and some go winging off into the night while she reloaded both pistols. She was now down to standard ammunition which meant she would have to be more careful in her aim and make sure to hit an un-armoured part of their bodies.

‘If you surrender’ River called out ‘I’ll let you live’

Another burst of fire hit the container.

River popped up and put a round straight between the wounded ones eyes just as he emerged from cover behind Granites landing gear. She was back behind the container before his comrade could fire again.

‘Are you reconsidering my surrender offer now?’ River called out to the last one.

* * *

The two Agents were running towards their shuttle as fast as they could. Their main ship was outside the city. They had specific orders if something went catastrophically wrong, if this occurred they should signal the AI which would now likely be in geosynchronous orbit above and order it to destroy the two vessels it had been following.

It was an awful waste of material but they could not permit such an obvious threat to remain at large. If they did not make sure to eliminate River Tam then one day she might actually be able to disrupt the whole project and that could not be allowed.

They were half way to their shuttle when a man appeared directly in front of them causing them to stop suddenly.

‘I’ve been meaning to have a word with you’ he said and slid aside his coat to reveal a pistol belt.

One of the Agents reached into his pocket and then found himself on his back with a large hole in his sternum; the man had one hell of a fast draw. Another shot went through his skull as the second agent decided not to reach for his pocket.

‘Only really needed one of you alive and neither of you healthy’ the man said and shot the second agent in the right kneecap. He hit the ground screaming but was soon anesthetised by a boot to the side of the head.

‘Day’s starting to turn out okay after all’ Mal said and started going through their pockets. He found a strange device in the hand of the one he’d killed. Looked sort of like a wand or something.

* * *

Laura screamed.

She felt the first Agent die then the pain of the second followed by unconsciousness. It was all too real for her. She was on the verge of cracking up under the strain.

It was an unfortunate side-effect of the process that the subjects had to lose their normal ability to regulate emotional distress. Simon had helped mitigate this in River through mood stabilising drugs whereas back in the Academy the final stages of the subjects training were actually a form of hypnosis bordering on sheer brainwashing. An Academy graduate still feels everything but they are trained to put this to the back of their minds in order to keep reasonably stable.

Unfortunately the conditioning was about to break down and the sixteen year old Laura was about to revert to her now natural state. This being psychologically traumatised, emotionally crippled teenager means she wasn’t in the best frame of mind to be getting shot at.

Steven loaded his last clip. He’d been carrying a hell of a lot of ammunition but even that wasn’t enough for the way he’d been burning it off for the last few minutes. He wasn’t particularly worried though, he just wasn’t capable of being particularly concerned about anything right at the moment.

River shot down the last Special Op’s soldier with both pistols coming up from cover as his sub-machinegun ran dry and he hurried to reload.

She ran towards him firing. The rounds wouldn’t penetrate but they would have quite the effect on his ribcage. He fell over backwards dropping completely out of sight behind the boxes but he was still winded and gasping for air when River appeared over him and delivered the killing shot.

River reached down to pick something up.

* * *

The man who had started singing again was getting closer. Laura knew she was about to die and that this was not a good thing.

That was about all she knew.

Tell someone they are invincible, give them sufficient abilities to back up this notion and you can convince them they are. It becomes a matter of faith.

When faith fails you are left with a void. If you’ve got nothing left to fill it you’re in trouble.

Laura was in trouble.

She couldn’t even focus enough to read anybody else now let alone try and fathom out what the scarred man was about to do. His voice was getting close now.

‘To end this tale just call me Lucifer’ he sang ‘cause I’m in need of some restraint’

Laura heard his footsteps get closer’

‘If you meet me, show some courtesy, have some sympathy and some taste’

The sound of a bolt being pulled back on a machine pistol, Laura curled up into a ball.

‘Use all your well learned politesse, Or I’ll lay your soul to waste’

Laura began to cry.

‘Found you’ yelled River appearing next to her and shot her with a captured Stun Gun.

Laura was still convulsing from the electrical charge when the man appeared over her

‘Pleased to meet you’ he said smiling.

Part X


Friday, February 13, 2004 5:40 AM


Hurray! Telepaths aren't invincible; Only the bad-guys died; Their victim didn't. And you made it all work out believably and entertainingly. Thanks.

Monday, February 16, 2004 5:14 AM


Oh so very good, I am loving this - *dong ma*? Very shiny, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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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