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Stern Chase
"Well, I've got to run to keep from hidin',
And I'm bound to keep on ridin'.
And I've got one more silver dollar,
But I'm not gonna let 'em catch me, no,
Not gonna let 'em catch the Midnight Rider."
The Allman Brothers Band, "Midnight Rider"

The protagonist is being pursued and must stay in motion, usually moving to a different Adventure Town each episode. There will be ploys to delay the pursuit. Some will work, some won't. Frequently the protagonist must complete a hunt of their own, to bring the pursuit to an end.

The term "stern chase" comes from the navy cliche, "a stern chase is a long chase", which comes from the old days of sailing ships. When one ship chased another from behind (the stern), both ships had the same wind, could only use the few guns that could point forward or back to fire at each other and since most ships were roughly the same speed, even if one would eventually overtake the other, it could take days, weeks or even months depending on how determined each side was. Thus, one catching (or escaping) the other depended entirely on shiphandling skill, a lucky shot or a change in the wind making it more favourable for one side to press an advantage.

A Stern Chase makes a good reason why those Walking the Earth choose not to just settle down. It is also commonly associated with Clear My Name plots. The pursuer is often the Implacable Man. If the pursuer is a well-intentioned, sympathetic character, he is an Inspector Javert or a Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist. Compare also Super-Persistent Predator, which is a generally unrealistic animal version of the pursuer.


Examples:

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     Anime and Manga 
  • El Cazador de la Bruja.
  • Inverted in InuYasha, where the protagonists are chasing the villain forever.
  • Kurau Phantom Memory .
  • Michiko to Hatchin.
  • Monster; Tenma hunts for Johan, and is chased by Lunge and the police.
  • Scrapped Princess: Just about everybody and their mother wants Pacifica dead, thanks to a prophecy that states she will eventually destroy the world.
  • The title unicorn of the Unico movies that traumatized many viewers in The Eighties.
  • Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force: After protagonist Tohma rescues love interest Lily, he finds himself being chased from one place to another by a large, inter-dimensional organization that wants to secure Lily. The name of the chasers? The Time-Space Administration Bureau, the protagonists of the previous seasons.
  • The first season of Monster Rancher ends with one of this in "Melcarba", with the Searchers being pursued by the titular beast.
  • Gundam SEED has a new type of ship Archangel running from chasing ZAFT who want to destroy it because it's somehow supposed to change the course of war if it went into production. It goes on for most part of series. What's staggering is that Archangel is supposedly a superior ship, however it's never even able to take out a single opposing ship on its own. One would wonder why ZAFT is so determined to destroy it if that ship is so incompetent in battle.
    • Not the Archangel as much as the all-important Strike aboard it: the Archangel itself is an amazing ship nonetheless, capable of dealing with entire fleets single-handedly, but the mobile suit (far superior to anything ZAFT could field at the time) very nearly changed the course of the war for the Earth Alliance (and could have, if they had used their production resources to speed up the Strike Daggers and the Three Ships Alliance hadn't intervened).
  • One Piece: Smoker and Tashigi. In the first half of the story, they didn't get much screen time (mainly because Luffy couldn't hit Smoker and didn't stand a chance of beating him), but now that Luffy is stronger and can actually fight Smoker on even ground, they're bound to have their roles expanded.
  • In the XY arc of Pokémon Special, Team Flare is after X's Mega Ring and is clearly willing to use lethal force against him and his friends. Adding to that is that they have plenty of members disguised as ordinary citizens, so the kids are especially wary of every stranger they meet and staying too long in any area. As such, despite the fact that Y is clearly loaded, the kids have been camping out at night in remote areas and subsisting on convenience food.

     Fanfiction 
  • The Kingdom Hearts fanfic The Renegades is about the former residents of Castle Oblivion being chased through the worlds by the other members of the Organization.

     Film 
  • The Enemy Below, a submarine-vs-destroyer duel.
  • A literal stern chase is averted in Pirates of the Caribbean for a couple reasons: the Black Pearl has supernatural speed and/or sweeps (oars) to give them a burst of acceleration, and because the wind just happened to be on their side to "luff" the Interceptor (if they hadn't ended the chase, the Pearl would've blocked the wind to the Interceptor's sails and stopped them anyway).
    • And again later on, because the Flying Dutchman has way too many forward-pointing guns.
  • The Terminator film series.
  • Master and Commander : The Far Side of the World centers its plot around a very long Stern Chase: it starts off the northeast coast of South America and ends somewhere westward of the Galapagos Islands.
  • Apocalypto, once Jaguar Paw gets free from the Mayans.
  • Carver chasing Gideon in Seraphim Falls.
  • Midnight Run fits this, with a bounty hunter escorting a former mafia accountant from New York to Los Angeles while he is simultaneously being chased by another bounty hunter, the FBI and the mafia.

     Literature 
  • Stephen King's The Dark Tower: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
  • Stephen King's Firestarter.
  • The Running Man combines this with Deadly Game.
  • The Larry Niven short story "The Ethics of Madness" has Bussard-ramjet-powered starships in a literal Stern Chase into intergalactic space. They keep at it for quite a while.
  • Similar to the Niven example above, Alastair Reynolds has another literal Stern Chase in his novel Redemption Ark. It lasts several chapters of the book, with increasingly inventive attempts to kill the pursuing ship being deployed. In the next book in the series, it is revealed that the positions have reversed, although this time we come in at the point where the pursuer catches up, so the stern chase is only inferred rather than being shown.
  • Also from Alastair Reynolds, in House of Suns there's a Stern Chase across 60,000 light-years; halfway across the Milky Way galaxy. And then a little further. Notably, this takes place in a setting with no FTL.
  • A Stern Chase of the classical type occurs in the 5th Book in the Aubrey-Maturin series, Desolation Island. Aubrey and Maturin, in an old, outgunned 4th Rate Ship of the Line, are chased by a new Dutch 3rd Rate Ship of the Line, whilst on their way to Australia, with an implication the reason is that It's Personal for the Dutch Captain. Jack's master-gunner gets a lucky shot on the Dutch ship's line and rigging, it turns sideways, is hit by a giant wave, capsizes and sinks with the loss of all 600 crewmen within minutes. Damage sustained by Aubrey's ship drives the rest of the plot for the novel.
  • And of course, it comes up a few times in the Horatio Hornblower series of books, most notably in the first published book, "The Happy Return", where Hornblower's ship, a smallish frigate named HMS Lydia, is forced to pursue and sink a much larger enemy ship, with the enemy ship's longer-ranged guns allowing them to plink at the pursuing British warship for several hours before they can fire back. To keep his wits about him, he passes the time playing cards with his junior officers. To keep the morale of his men up, he orders a dance contest even as the enemy's shots periodically hit the ship, wounding or killing crewmembers.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard Of Earthsea has the main character, Ged, getting chased from island to island by a creature from the shadow realms.
  • Max and the rest of her Flock are on the run due to the threat of capture, experimentation, torture, being used as weapons or simply imminent death at the hands of anyone connected to the School, the Institute, Itexicon or Itex.
  • Unsurprisingly given that it's basically Wooden Ships and Iron Men IN SPACE, the Honor Harrington series features quite a few.
    • The best example is probably in the first book where Honor's light cruiser is chasing an escaping Havenite Q-Ship, she destroys it but her ship is pounded to scrap in the process.
    • In one of the spin-off books a character escaping through the air ducts reflects on the cliche about a stern chase being a long one.
  • Louisa May Alcott's thriller novel A Long Fatal Love Chase.
  • The second half of Jerry Pournelle & Larry Niven's The Gripping Hand consists of a series of trips in various directions by the protagonists, to escape being killed or to buy time until the cavalry can arrive.
    "If someone tells me that 'a stern chase is a long chase' one more time." Joyce said, "I'll scream."
  • In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, the chase after the Dancer. It is repeatedly called a stern chase. The Dancer may even be keeping moving before them by choice.
  • Logan's Run is nothing but a novel-length chase, holding off not only pursuing Sandmen, but following the breadcrumbs left behind that hint at Sanctuary.
  • Les Misérables features one spanning almost two decades between ex-convict Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert. Valjean manages to escape for years at a time, only to be discovered because he just can't ignore people in need and Javert is a dreadful combination of dedicated, persistent, and vengeful. It ends when Valjean saves Javert's life and finally gives himself up, only for Javert (baffled and appalled to realise his prey is a good man who doesn't deserve the harsh sentencing he'll receive) to leap off a bridge rather than have to choose between condemning his savior or violating the law he dedicated his life to upholding. Intensified in many adaptations, as the necessary compression makes it seem like Javert's a monomaniac who does nothing else with his life but hunt Valjean.
  • Inverted in the third Provost's Dog book by Tamora Pierce. The whole novel has Beka and her group as the pursuers against the people who kidnapped four-year-old Prince Gareth.

     Live Action TV 

     Theater 
  • In Prometheus Bound, Io can not stop because she is being harrassed by a gadfly. Prometheus consoles her as best he can, by telling her of her future travels and offering that, because of this, her future descendant will rescue him.

     Video Games 
  • Prince of Persia: Warrior Within has the prince running from a demonic entity bent on enforcing the Timeline, which says the Prince must die.
  • Used in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series twice. In Red/Blue Rescue Team, the hero and their partner must flee the other rescue teams out for their blood due to a critical logic failure; in Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky, the pair are trapped in the Bad Future and searching for a way back. Both sequences include an understandable difficulty bump, given the circumstances.
  • Essentially inverted for the majority of disc 1 of Final Fantasy VII as the player's party pursues Sephiroth across continents and around the world even as he is hunting for the Black Materia
  • Anyone that's played sailing games like Sea Dogs or Pirates of the Caribbean (aka Sea Dogs II) will probably have experienced the literal version. Needless to say, they can get pretty boring.
  • The ending of Dragon Age: Origins for a male character who romanced Morrigan has the player abandoning all of his political clout and hero-worship to chase after her.
  • The first part of Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete has the party being tracked by Lord Leo and Althena's Guard.
  • Battlefield2142: Another example that echoes the original military scenario: a running battlewalker has the same speed as a tank moving in reverse. At a distance, the walker's rockets do not fly true, and the tank's shells can easily be dodged. Unless the tank driver gets stuck on an obstacle, the walker giving chase has a long fight ahead.
  • Luigi's Mansion pulls this as you start the final section in the game: lightning strikes the mansion and causes a blackout, which naturally makes the ghosts pop up all over the place. In order to stop the infestation, Luigi must hunt down a ghost using a somewhat obscure hint from E. Gadd to get a key to open the previously-accessible basement and switch the power back on.
  • About half of TRON 2.0 involves the protagonist running from system to system to escape pursuing security Programs who have mistaken him for a virus.
  • After the prologue in inFAMOUS 2, where Cole Macgrath decides to run from the Beast instead of fight it, he has already escaped down the Eastern Seaboard to New Marais, but the Beast is slowly catching up to him, with the game giving updates as to how far the Beast is from the city.

     Web Comic 
  • Off-White: The humans are looking for the white spirit wolf.

     Web Original 

     Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender : Season 1, and obviously the second-season episode The Chase.
    • Not to mention that whole bit with Combustion Man in season 3.
  • Here Comes the Grump. Princess Dawn, her Non-Human Sidekick Bip, and ordinary Earth teenager Terry Dexter are being chased by the villainous Grump and his klutzy Dragon. Each episode takes them to a new locale, where the heroes enlist the aid of the locals to try and get The Grump off their trail.
  • The third season of The Secret Saturdays starts with this due to the Tomato in the Mirror reveal (Zak Saturday is Kur, who is believed to be the ultimate evil) of the previous season.
  • The Zeta Project ran off of this. The government is chasing after Zeta because they believe he's turned against them and Zeta is chasing after his creator to find evidence to prove he's genuinely sentient and peaceful.
  • Dogstar has the Clarkes chasing the Dogstar, and Bob Santino chasing the Clarkes.
  • Gary And Mike The duo are unknowingly being pursued by Officer Dick, who's morever after Mike for sleeping with his daughter and costing him a promotion (she was suppose to marry the Police Chief Officer's son but called it off after sleeping with Mike). Gary's father later joins in on the chase after he finds out Gary had lost the SUV he had given him for the trip (Though that was more Mike's doing. Never pick up hitchhikers folks).

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