THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 10. "Not So Good Intentions"
Thursday, June 7, 2012

Several possibilities came to mind including the Almighty Alliance itself but what if this was a new player on the scene? Or, worse still, a treacherous voice spoke into the back of her mind. What if it was a very old one?


TITLE: "NOT SO GOOD INTENTIONS" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 10. Sequel to "ON THE ROAD TO HELL" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: "It is decided that Simon needs to operate on the Captain but needs a little help from a reluctant source. Meanwhile, Serenity's crew are not the only ones getting mighty suspicious."


A "Firefly" Story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Kaylee opened and closed her mouth but no sound came out. Wash was the first to recover.

"Simon, what're you doin' here?"

"I came to see Kaylee."

Serenity's mechanic immediately beamed through her grease and dirt streaked face. "Aw Simon, that's so sweet."

He began to flush a little then remembered what he had overhead. "Who's a boob?"

Wash laughed. "I was sayin' anyone who doesn't think Kaylee is pretty must be a boob."

Simon blinked. Really? Was that what Wash thought? Kaylee shot the pilot a grateful look, he grinned back and began to put their tools away. They had pretty much finished anyway and he was getting hungry. Kaylee noticed Simon was standing hesitantly in the doorway of the engine room and tilted her head in query.

"You wanted to speak to me?"

What had sounded like such a smart idea in his head now left him feeling uncertain but he was here now and Kaylee was waiting for him to explain why. "I wanted you to hear it from me first."

Kaylee's smile dulled a mite, the confusion showing clearly on her face. "Hear what?"

Simon stepped inside the engine room, Wash quick to skirt round him, give Kaylee a reassuring wink before making himself scarce. As much as he liked to know what was going on, he didn't want to play gooseberry. Simon took her hands in his. "It looks like Rufus may have a laser I can use to help the Captain. Some of that dust got into his lungs and the back of his throat, it needs to be removed."

Worry crowded out every other thought that had been in her head. "Cap'n'll be alright won't he, Simon?"

He squeezed her hands and smiled gently at her. "While I can't say for sure, if the equipment is as efficient as I hope everything should be fine." "An' if it ain't?"

He sighed, unable to fashion a pretty lie no matter how much he wanted to reassure her. Maybe it was a mistake slipping away to forewarn her? But no, if he said nothing then when she heard about the operation Kaylee was likely to go into full panic mode and think the worse. Better to be honest and up front with her. "I won't lie to you, Kaylee, there are risks as there are with any kind of surgery but not doing anything isn't an option. The dust forms a layer inside the lungs which when wet solidifies and hardens. Fortunately the Captain was sick and coughed a lot of it up but some did get into his lungs so that is what I am going to try to remove."

"But he's gonna recover, *dui*?"

"I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as it could be but if I can't remove it the Captain would not be able to move around as much as he's used to. The lungs won't be able to inflate fully because the dust reduces the flexibility and efficiency of the lungs and he's already having difficulty with the dust in the back of his throat."

Kaylee hadn't known about that but remembered the Captain having one or two nasty coughing fits. "I don't like the sound of that."

"Neither do I, *xin gan*, which is why I want to operate as soon as possible."

She thought about that then gave him a sunny smile. "If anyone can fix him up you can, Simon."

He wished he had half her faith. "I'll certainly do my very best."

"Top Three Per Cent!"

"I have to go now just... try not to worry, *bao bei*."

Going up on tip toes Kaylee kissed him and without thinking he returned it, only the taste of oil and dirt reminding him that maybe he should have waited for her to clean up first. As he pulled away from her Kaylee laughed. "Ya got smudges on ya!" "I'd better go and wash it off then get scrubbed up for surgery."

Kaylee resisted the urge to get him even messier. Plenty of time for that later. First she wanted to check the repairs she and Wash had been doing to Serenity before going to get cleaned up for dinner. Inara had offered to cook and Kaylee was looking forward to something other than wall to wall protein.

* * * * *

Chou's tone was grave, his look inscrutable. The Lady was thoughtful.

"You saw no insignia at all?"

Her major domo shook his head.

"Did you try to follow them? See where they went?"

"There were too many, my Lady, and they were too watchful. Even at their most active there were always too many keeping lookout."

That meant the soldiers, if that is what they were, had to professional. They certainly seemed to be well trained. For a moment neither spoke. One waiting for further instruction, the other digesting what had been gleaned so far.

"We have heard rumours of these 'soldiers' before but this is the first time you have brought me proof." She was referring to the hand held cortex he carried for communication purposes, pleased that he had managed to record live feed of part of the clean up operation. Naturally, Chou had not revealed his own position and retreated in time to avoid detection. Yet, with her interest piqued, she could not help wishing he had more details. Perhaps they needed to set a trap, capture one of these 'grey men'? Her idea actually alarmed Chou, something she had only seen once or twice in the thirty odd years he had worked for her.

"My Lady, the risk is too great!"

Both knew he did not mean to himself. "Aren't you curious about who and what they are?"

"I know what they are, their actions betray their purpose. In this the who and what are the same."

Her eyes narrowed slightly, he sounded so 'certain'. She leaned a little closer to the screen. "Who do they work for?"

It was on the tip of his tongue to voice his suspicions but guesswork was not what she paid him for. Instead he was more reticent. "Someone with a great deal of money and power, my Lady."

He did not add 'enough to rival our own' but she caught his meaning nonetheless. Silence fell between them. A great deal of money and power. Long after the call ended, the Lady twisted her lips into a vinegary expression, her eyes cold and thoughtful. Several possibilities came to mind including the Almighty Alliance itself but what if this was a new player on the scene? Or, worse still, a treacherous voice spoke acid into the back of her mind. What if it was a very old one?

* * * * *

Simon Tam stared. Really. Whatever he had been expecting from Rufus Pol it had not been this collection of miss-matched pieces of *goushi*. He felt his hope deflate but tried not to let it show. Unfortunately the Captain had been watching him keenly.

"Ain't none of this no good?"

The doctor raised his head from the pile of junk at his feet and instead of answering the Captain looked straight at Rufus Pol. "This equipment is too large and bulky to be used in surgery..."

Just then River popped up behind Rufus, a grin on her pale face which vanished into an equally disturbing smile. "That isn't everything."

A loud clunking sound drew all eyes to the door of the infirmary just as Jayne Cobb manhandled more of Rufus's 'equipment' into the infirmary. Simon hurried forward, hands raised in a warding off gesture. "Jayne, you can't bring that in here, it isn't sterile."

Jayne huffed. "Huh? Well, neither is the rest of it an' ya let him bring that in."

"*Wo zhidao* and if things weren't so desperate I wouldn't have allowed that either. In fact, it doesn't look as if I'll be able to use any of this equipment."

Rufus began to look angry and mighty put out. "*Shenme*? You had me lug all this stuff up here for nothin'?"

River ignored Rufus's bluster and put a hand on her brother's arm. "You haven't checked his pockets."

Suspicious, Zoe edged closer to Rufus, her right hand resting none too casually on her mare's leg. "Best you empty your pockets, Rufus."

It was on the tip of his tongue to argue with her, to tell her to go to *diyu* but at that moment the Captain had a coughing fit. He was sitting on the infirmary bed, about to get up and go about his Captain-y duties the moment it looked like the plan was not going to be a plan after all. Rufus paled, remembering what was at stake and without a murmur put his hand in his right pocket and removed a much smaller piece of equipment. It consisted of a fairly long insulated flex of some unknown material attached at one end to a smallish oblong box and at the other to what looked like a screw head. It also was much cleaner and newer looking that the rest of the things he and Jayne had brought to the infirmary. Zoe had the absurd suspicion that Rufus had not been intending to reveal it but why? Simon put a hand on her arm, light enough for her to feel it but not enough for her to get angry. It was enough to draw her attention away from the staring match with Rufus. "Let me see, *qing*."

Silently she moved aside and let Simon examine the piece. He asked a few questions and Rufus answered much more politely than before. Simon looked up and met the man's eyes. "Where's the power source?"

Rufus pointed to an ugly gnarled object sitting among the ton of things he and Jayne had been lugging. Simon nodded to himself, realising everything else was just junk. He asked Jayne to remove everything except the squat rusting tank and turned back to Rufus.

"Is it compromised?"

At least the man had stopped playing dumb. Whether it was River's presence that made him think better of it or the fact that the Captain really needed the help he did not care. Simon was a doctor and right now he was looking at the only thing that might make a difference short of heading for a Core world to get access to better equipment.

"Yeah. Checked it myself."

Simon turned his attention back to the item in Rufus's hands. The man passed it over without a murmur. "Where's the rest of it?"

Zoe frowned, ready to shoot Rufus on the spot if he was still holding out on them. Rufus put his free hand in the other pocket of his jacket and took out a set of nozzles and fixings which Simon carefully poured over. He asked more questions, Rufus answering every one without hesitation. It was as if the rest of them did not exist. After a few minutes the doctor looked up. Zoe gave him an anxious look.

"Is it all there?"

Simon nodded. "Fortunately yes, but I'll need to sterilise everything." His eyes shifted to the junk still on the floor. Jayne was already absent, taking back the heavy bit he had been lugging. Seeing Simon's look, Zoe gave him a small nod. "*Fang xin*, Rufus'll help me get the rest of this back to his ship." The man in question looked passed Zoe and Simon until his eyes met Mal's. "Don't know if any of this stuff'll work Mal but just holler if ya need anythin' else."

"I will, Rufus, an' I'm obliged for the help - *xie xie ni*."

Rufus's expression twisted as if something in his gut had turned sour and was on its' way back up. "Don't thank me yet, might not work."

Then the man turned to helping Zoe clear the infirmary of the other things he had dragged up with him. Zoe didn't let him stop to dump it outside the infirmary but made sure he knew it was going all the way back to where it came from. With a huff he did as he was told and only when everything was safe and sound back in the lock up on his ship did he pause to say what was on his mind. Jayne gave them a nod and heading straight back to the infirmary in case the doc needed him. "You don't trust me." It wasn't a question and Zoe didn't treat it as such. "Never did." He looked more resigned than upset. Zoe put her hands on her hips.

"But then you knew that so why expect me to change now?"

Rufus could not put it into words. Too many things were tangled up inside him and some were never meant to see the light of day. "Told ya I'd never do anythin' to hurt Mal."

"That doesn't explain the performance back there." He frowned so Zoe made it real plain for him.

"All that pathetic junk you an' Jayne dragged onto our ship? You knew it was useless."

"Like I said before, didn't know what your doc wanted."

Her eyes narrowed and the air in Rufus Pol's lungs became kind'a thin. "You knew exactly what was needed." She said quietly, her voice taking on a deadly edge. "What I'm more interested in is why not just hand it over? What is it you're tryin' to hide?"

His mouth opened but Zoe didn't give him a chance to speak. She wasn't done with him yet.

"Don't even think of comin' up with another lie, Rufus. The moment I hear it I'll drop you like a stone."

For a moment she thought she had him, that he would cave but then his expression changed into an ugly smile. His eyes glinting darkly as if she had made a fatal mistake. "I won't be the one droppin', Zoe."

The click of a gun being cocked behind her darkened her expression into the kind of fury that made grown men weep with fear. But Rufus wasn't worried, fact was he was enjoying himself. "Ya see," he said in a cold dark rumble "you're on my ship an' the man holdin' that gun on ya is mine. I don't even have to tell him what to do, one little twitch from you an' we'll be haulin' your dead ass off this ship."

A loud burst of gunfire startled them both. Zoe dove to the deck and rolled to one side, Rufus kept to his feet but ducked behind a crate just as bits of blood, brain and scraps of flesh rained passed him. The sound of running feet and shouts from his men hurrying to get to him should have been reassuring, but as Rufus Pol stuck his head around the crate to see what had happened Jayne Cobb shoved his Callaghan in his face. A feral grin spreading across the mercenary's features backlit by an anger that told him he wouldn't be talking his way out of this one. Didn't matter whose rutting ship they were on.

* * * * *

Light! She was losing it, hallucinating, that must be it. Yet as little Lucy Dengate stumbled towards that blurry vision she was suddenly dazzled by sunlight so clear and bright that she wept. Hanging on to the edge of the huge sewage pipe saved her being dragged over the lip into the unwholesome froth churning below as it fed into the sea. But oh, she was so high up. The air felt rarified and pure as some expensive delicacy from a far off world after the foul and fetid stench she had endured just moments before. Lucy leaned forward carefully, letting her face feel the cleansing breeze touch her through the dirt and grime. Smiling she cracked her eyes open, careful not to allow herself to be blinded by anything but relief and joy.

* * * * *

River couldn't stand it. So many voices crying out in her head. No one noticed her slip away to her room. Instead of being able to block them out the voices got louder, more insistent. She put her hands over her ears and curled up into a ball on the floor beside her bed. Rocking first slowly then more manically, eyes squeezing shut as she tried to keep hold of her sanity. But it was slipping. Inch by inch, cry by silent cry. Consuming her a mouthful at a time.

* * * * *

It was alarming to see that look on his face. Eyes wide and staring at her, ignoring completely the gun shoved under his chin and the man holding it. Ignoring a man like Jayne Cobb when he was itching to pull the trigger was not a wise thing to do but Rufus Pol was beyond any kind of wisdom right now. His eyes fixed on Zoe, he could no longer keep the bile inside.

"You think I didn't know? All them nights in the gorram trenches. You whisperin' to Mal, fillin' his ears with your ruttin' poison. Tellin' him how I can't be trusted, ain't good enough."

Things began to click into place in Zoe's head. Made sense now of that indefinable barrier that had always been between them. "This isn't the way to gain my trust."

He snorted in derision. "You think this's about you?" His laugh was a jeer, a harsh ugly sound.

Zoe was disturbed at the change in the man. All the ugly now on the outside where everyone could see it. Everyone but Rufus Pol. "Mal's always trusted you." She said quietly, hoping to somehow get through the rampant craziness in his eyes.

"Yeah, but he trusted you more."

Now she was looking for it she could see the truth all too plainly. How did she miss the signs? The hurt in his voice, hidden, disguised all these years but now bubbling to the surface. It was a revelation of sorts but one that brought her no pleasure.

"You were jealous."

"I was loyal." Rufus spat. "But you had to spoil everythin'."

Vaguely she was aware of other people arriving. Jayne snarled something and they came no closer. Zoe could not believe that all these years Rufus had held and nursed such a deep resentment of her. "Rufus, I was never your enemy. Me an' Mal go way back, before the War. We're friends, *dong ma*?"

A calm deep voice cut through the tension. "What's going on?"

Zoe wanted to sigh with relief but didn't want to do or say anything to tip Rufus that last little inch over the edge. Carefully she kept her voice conversational. "Just a misunderstandin', Shepherd."

Book didn't mention the splatter of blood and brains or the body on the deck now missing a head. He moved carefully but not too close, a rifle in his hands just in case. A step behind him was a shocked Shen Willets. Book had told him to stay in the commons room when they heard shots but Shen had followed almost without thinking, the need to know what was going on taking precedence over common sense. It now occurred to him that he was standing among an assortment of very tense people, all of them armed except himself. Permaybehaps he should have taken the Preacher's advice.

* * * * *

He had been meditating. Eyes closed, breathing getting slower and deeper as he reached out with his mind. Carefully locating them one by one. So few now where once there had been many. About to make his choice he sucked in a sudden startled breath and his eyes opened. There! A bight flare in his mind where there had been darkness. It diverted him from the others for this mind he knew, had touched before and been seeking but it had vanished unaccountably and he had been unable to relocate it much to his frustration and chagrin. Now, it was a shining thread in his mind as if the owner had forgotten to be careful and shield herself. Dismissing the others he closed his eyes and gently reached out. No sense alerting her to his presence until the trap was sprung. This time there would be no escape.

* * * * *

"Where do you think you're going?"

The Captain slid off the infirmary bed and checked his gun was fully loaded without pausing. "Those're gunshots in case your feelin' slow."

Simon's eyes widened in alarm. Had they been boarded? Had the Alliance found them?

"An' less I'm much mistaken that's Vera."

"How could you possibly know that?"

The Captain got to the doorway in a couple of quick strides and threw the answer over his shoulder on his way out. "Not nothin' sounds like a Callaghan, doc. Best you stay put while I check it out."

As the Captain got to the catwalk he ran into Wash and Kaylee. Kaylee's eyes were wide as saucers. "*Zenme hui shir*?"

"*Fang xin*, nothin' to be troublin' your head about, little Kaylee. Wash, take Kaylee back to the engine room. Go via the armoury just to be on the safe side."

Wash nodded, his eyes scanning about them. "Where's Zoe?"

"She went with Rufus to take some stuff back to his ship."

"Have we been boarded?"

Mal shot him a warning look. Kaylee didn't need to be worrying about such things. "Just look after Kaylee an' if you see River tell her to hide."

Not at all reassured, Wash nodded and urged Kaylee to head back to the engine room. Kaylee opened her mouth to speak but the Captain was already gone, his rapid footsteps ringing on the metal staircase as he headed down to the cargo bay.

* * * * *

Red Pole stared at the bodies. They were laid out in waterproof body bags, unzipped so he could check their faces. Those that were his he claimed, a couple of his men stepping forward to remove them from the rest and respectfully zip the bags back up ready to take them away. Red Pole looked up at the grey uniformed man with a look of barely controlled thunder on his face yet when he spoke nothing of the emotion he was feeling was evident.

"Two Triads and these," he gave a dismissive wave of his hand in the direction of the other bodies "mercenaries. There was no one else?"

"No, *shifu*."

"And the clay?"

He was referring to the blood soaked dust that had been congealing and was now set hard into mishapen lumps like discoloured rocks.

"The blood is theirs."

"Nothing unaccounted for?"

The soldier's eyes narrowed slightly, a warning not to ask too much though he was wise not to say so. "No survivors."

Red Pole fell silent. No survivors. How did the Grey Men know? Had they been watching? Letting his men get wiped out without lifting a finger? There were many questions he wanted answered but this was not the time or the place and this man was at the wrong end of the food chain. He gave a tight nod, turned and left, his men forming a phallanx around him and falling into step like a single unit. The soldier watched them leave, taking their dead with them. Only when they were gone was there movement in the shadows behind the soldier. He did not turn his head but kept an eye on the exit, now guarded by another soldier. It did not hurt to be careful.

"He suspects nothing?"

The soldier shook his head. For a moment or two neither spoke.

"They will know one is missing."

"They may think one got away, *laoban*."

The man stepped up beside the solider, they did not look at each other, both gazing off towards the exit but with their thoughts much further away.

"By the time they realise their error it will be too late."

The soldier dared to turn and look his superior briefly in the eye. "Should we have disposed of the bodies?"

"*Bu qu*. The 'verse is full of mysteries, let this be another."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dui* = correct *xin gan* = sweetheart *bao bei* = precious/treasure *goushi* = crap/dog shit *wo zhidao* = I know *shenme* = what *diyu* = hell *qing* = please *shifu* = sir *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *xie xie ni* = thank you *dong ma* = understand? *zenme hui shir* = what's happening? *laoban* = boss *bu qu* = no (lit. no go)


Thursday, June 7, 2012 5:57 PM


Rufus isn't to smart to ignore Jayne, when he is looking to kill folk.

Friday, June 8, 2012 3:12 AM


No he isn't Nutluck, but I think his emotions are clouding what little judgement he has. Thanks for the feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, June 8, 2012 5:14 PM


Lots of plot threads going here. The confrontation between Zoe and Rufus was a highlight. Jayne has a way with that Callahan, doesn't he? I don't like Rufus much. What was with all that goushi in the infirmary? If Rufus is loyal to Mal, what's with all the delay and twistedness and maybe-not-ing about delivering the machine that can help him? A good chapter, Ali.

Friday, June 8, 2012 11:30 PM


Glad you liked the confrontation between Zoe and Rufus, and Jayne and his Vera make an unbeatable team don't they? As for the *goushi* in the infirmary Rufus is torn by wanting to help Mal but not give something away. You will learn more about that. Thanks for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, June 9, 2012 3:02 PM


Another intriguing chapter Ali. Mal is still moving around quite a bit. Doesn’t he realize that all that exertion is making things worse? Best he sit still and let the doc do his work. The rest of the crew can handle things. They’ve done it before (War Stories) and are good at it. He can trust them.

Poor Lucy. Just when the child gets to breathing fresh air and seeing a bit of sunshine there’s a dark cloud looming on the horizon. I can't even bring myself to think of what is happening to Kathleen.

Things are becoming quite a mess literally. Methinks the crew of Serenity may be in some trouble, outnumbered, if not outgunned. Of course they do hold the trump card.

So Rufus comes clean, why do I get the feeling that he’s still dirty?

Another dramatic chapter Alison, good as always, Z

Saturday, June 9, 2012 3:37 PM


It's always hard for Mal to play a passive part even when it's a case of his health. As for Lucy and Kathleen things are not going to be too shiny for either of them at the moment. As for the crew of Serenity more coming soon, Zzetta13. Thanks for the shiny comments, keep flying! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 10:27 AM


I missed this chapter somehow so I had to go back and read. Some things do make a lot more sense, both in terms of what happened previously and what happens next.

Rufus tries here to make it all about Zoe, but I think that was really just the excuse that kept him going. The jealousy towards Zoe is real enough for him, yes, but he also just saw an opportunity and doesn't really care about the obvious fall-out or implications.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 11:36 AM


You are right about Rufus but there is also a side of him deliberately kept hidden from Mal. Fortunately Zoe has always had good instincts especially about anyone getting close to the Captain. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, June 17, 2012 8:15 AM


been out of town but catching up, really not fond of this mystery man looking for River? and Lucy and others? and Polly can't be trusted can he? moving quickly to next chapter, AliD

Sunday, June 17, 2012 9:27 AM


The mystery man looking for the 'gifted' ones is a thoroughly bad lot, Malsdoxy, but those he is hired by are worse. As for Polly, he's a mite damaged his own self. 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.