THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 26. "Repaying Debts"
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just then they heard a knocking sound. At first it wasn't that loud but it was where it was coming from that was so alarming.


TITLE: "REPAYING DEBTS" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 26. Sequel to "SEARCH AND RESCUE" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara SUMMARY: "With the Captain almost fully recovered River convinces them they have to return to Anaeron. The Hunter is temporarily thwarted and Davie finds a new ally in a strange new world."


A "Firefly" Story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Ever since the crazy girl had insisted they go back Jayne had been trying to wrap his head around what in the in nine hells she thought they could accomplish. "How're we supposed to rescue everybody on that gorram planet?"

River shook her head. "We're not, there's too many, or at least there were."

"Then what's the point in goin' back?" Asked Zoe.

"They saved us, now it's our turn."

Kaylee was confused. "*Shei*?"

The Captain had been watching and listening, having pretty much worked it out already. "You're talkin' about Jerrod Perkins, *dui*?"

"*Qu*. They're trapped but we can save them. Fly Serenity right over the warehouse."

"Yeah, but it's not like they'll wanna let us in."

Kaylee looked at Jayne, noticing his sour expression. "Why would they do that? We're friends."

"What do ya suppose they're gonna think when we tell 'em Shen is dead?"

Serenity's mechanic paled, she had forgotten about that. Simon didn't like the way Kaylee was getting upset. "That wasn't our fault and you know it, Jayne."

"They don't know that though do they?" Jayne retorted. "We go back we'll just be stirrin' up more gorram trouble."

"An' yet it's the right thing to do."

Jayne stared at the Captain as if he had taken leave of his senses. "You're *shenjingbing* 'cause there's still a gorram Alliance Dreadnought out there an' I ain't plannin' on endin' up in no *jianyu*."

"You won't," said River confidently "they'll shoot you first."

* * * * *

For a moment confusion clouded his mental acuity. Silas blinked as if the act of doing so could clear his mind. Having lost contact with the girl he had rejoiced at the flare in the boy so bright it was a beacon calling him even though he was off world. The Hunter extended his mental probing to incapacitate the child until he could reach him. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, contact was broken. Now both targets were lost to him but more importantly how had the boy managed to shut him out? He knew the boy was strong which was why he had waited until after nightfall, hoping to tap into his sleeping consciousness and gain control without having a fight on his hands and it had worked perfectly. Had the boy woken up? Or had someone intervened? Either option was intriguing but also frustrating and Silas did not like being thwarted.

The Hunter needed a place to retreat to so that he could meditate and review all that had happened. Perhaps he had missed some sign? As he started to retrace his steps he thought he heard something. He froze and listened carefully, whatever the noise was it did not occur again. Troubled, he took more care moving around, his eyes sharp and constantly scanning around him but there was nothing. No movement and no mental activity in his vicinity. To all intents and purposes he was alone but Silas was alert now and took nothing for granted.

* * * * *

The Lady could not understand the loss of contact. Not only was she unable to get any response from Chou but communication with Ithaca Moon and Anaeron was not possible either. What in the nine hells was going on? She stared at her major domo. Matthew James Wong waited patiently, no expression on his face. The Lady thought of sending him to physically check but did not want to lose him as well. No. The prudent thing to do would be to wait. Sooner or later word would surface. There was no need to expose her interest or take unnecessary risks. Having come to a decision she instructed Wong to stand down. Her major domo bowed and the screen went blank.

* * * * *

"What're we gonna do, *laoban*?"

Jerrod Perkins was worried. The images that came back from the remote were beyond disturbing. With the Alliance involved in the massacre at the market place and dock area he had to wonder how long it would be until they extended their reach to the warehouse district. For now they were safe but how long would that last? With the docks effectively destroyed along with everyone who worked there getting off world was out of the question: they were stuck here. Fortunately with all the trouble they had experienced at the hands of various triads and criminal gangs Jerrod had made his premises more fortress than anything else. From the outside it looked much like all the other warehouse complexes but the inside walls were reinforced like a ship's bulkheads and the roof above their heads had a cunningly concealed iris that could be opened to allow take off and landing of shuttles directly into his premises. It made the movement of their shipments more secure although making a living on Anaeron was getting riskier and harder all the time. This latest crisis was like to wipe it out altogether.

"For now we stay put, Billy. Howdy, go check on our supplies."

"What about the remote?"

"Best leave it where it is until we're sure the purplebellies have really gone. Don't want them noticin' the remote an' followin' it back to us, *dong ma*?"

Every head nodded, not one of them wanting to risk bringing the Alliance down on their heads. Just then they heard a knocking sound. At first it wasn't that loud but it was where it was coming from that was so alarming. Jerrod stared up above his head, his face going pale. No one moved. After a minute the knocking sound came again, louder now and heavier, as if a weight was being dropped or lowered on the roof then lifted off again.

"It's the Alliance! They've ruttin' well come for us!"

Perkins frowned. "Nah, whoever it is it ain't them. Alliance don't knock, they just blow you the good gorram into kindlin'."

Billy's eyes were round. All the men had drawn their guns but at least no one was firing yet. Jerrod didn't fancy getting hit by a ricochet.

"Who'd ya reckon it is, *laoban*?"

"If we had the remote we could take a look-see." Said Billy.

Stan Evans clicked his fingers and holstered his gun. "We can use the compound sensors, just need to realign 'em to cover the roof."

It was the first sensible idea Perkins had heard. He gave a curt nod and wished he had thought of it. As Stan ran off to set it up he just hoped whoever was trying to get in wouldn't lose patience and start blasting their way through.

* * * * *

Commandant Urquart was more than satisfied. Not only did they have ample footage of the testing of the bio-tech weapon but Sgt Elias Grant had gone down to the surface with two men in their heavily shielded containment suits to check the results first hand. Their reports were most gratifying. Urquart failed to notice a number of his crew looking a mite queasy as they viewed the carnage. However, they knew that any sign of disapproval or weakness would not be tolerated and it took no time at all for their faces to quickly assume the blank lack of expression that was expected of them. Queasy or not they had good survival instincts.

* * * * *

"Told ya, they don't trust us."

The Captain felt faintly exasperated though he did not actually blame his mercenary. "Jayne, they don't know it's us."

Kaylee looked anxious, as if the inability to contact their friends by hovering over the warehouse roof and firing their downward thrusters in light bursts was somehow her fault. "I could try an' run a line down to 'em, Cap'n."

"You do that Kaylee, it'll need to attach to one of the air vents in the roof, *dong ma*?"

"Those vents are closed, sir." Said Zoe, her voice deadpan. Not a flicker of judgement in the tone of her voice.

"*Wo bu zhidao* but they'll hear it connect better than a solid section, *dui*?"

"Don't know what use that'll do us, sir."

"I wanna draw their attention, maybehaps they got a way of detectin' us that we don't know about."

"What way is that, sir?"

"If I knew it wouldn't be a way we don't know about would it?"

"Oooh," said Jayne, his voice tinged with glee "gettin' a mite testy, Cap."

The Captain turned an unamused eye on his mercenary. "Best hope I don't go from testy to endin' him as made me so." Jayne blinked. Did the Captain mean him?

"Kaylee, you ready?"


Everyone made their way to the cargo bay except Wash, who was keeping the ship steady, and Inara who was looking to see where River had gone. Shepherd Book offered to help but the Companion had shaken her head and left. Jayne stared down at the open hatch in the bottom of the cargo bay and watched Kaylee use the winch to lower the cable. At the end of the line was a square blocky piece of metal with a grill on the underside. The blocky plate was magnetised so when it landed on the warehouse roof it would attach with a clang. The Captain was hoping the noise would get Jerrod's attention. If Jerrod had the right equipment they could use the line to communicate to him but if he didn't they would have to think of something else. Right now Jayne looked anything but impressed when Kaylee switched the magnet off then raised it and dropped it back on the roof with a loud clang.

"Huh, that don't look very technical to me."

Kaylee didn't look offended as she shut off the magentism, raised it again and repeated dropping it several times before stopping. "It ain't but they can't hail us. Tried to raise contact but don't know if they're bein' blocked or their electrics're out."

Jayne screwed up his face. "Why would ya' think they're bein' blocked?"

Shepherd Book's tone was dry. "For the same reason ours are."

* * * * *

"*Women qu nar*?" Hissed Davie.

"Sssh, you want us to get caught?"

Davie blinked back at her, mesmerised by those intense green eyes. It was as if she could see right through to the soul of him which was impossible, wasn't it? The soul being non corporeal or somesuch. He didn't quite know what it meant but his sister used to rattle on about all sorts of things he could only barely grasp and afterwards he was never quite sure if what he thought she was saying matched her words. Why were girls so confusing?

"I don't know about this. Mama is gonna be so *shengqi*."

The serious look staring back at him softened a mite. "I know this is scary, Davie, but you have a gift."

"Not as strong as yours."

"You were asleep an' no one taught you how to block. It's not your fault."

He fell silent, mulling over her words and feeling a mite *bushufu* with his outdoor clothes over his pajamas. Should have put socks on but they were in a hurry and the cold of his shoes made his feet feel a little numb. All in all he would rather be tucked up in his bed but then that would leave him to the mercy of his nightmares, wouldn't it? Deciding to trust his unexpected guardian angel, Davie gave her a tentative smile. His heart soaring when Suzie smiled back at him. They were running as quietly as they could towards the tree-line.

"You never said where we were goin'."

Suzie waited until they were beneath the darkened boughs, the trees closing protectively around them as they entered the small copse. "To help a friend."

His eyebrows rose in surprise, it almost matched the shock of unbrushed hair sticking up every which way. Suzie gently touched his shoulder as if to ground him, her voice a tender hush on his ears like large fluffly flakes of snows falling from a Winter sky.

"I helped you, *jide*?"

Davie nodded, not sure his voice still worked.

"Wouldn't you like to pass that gift on?" At his confused look she quickly clarified what she meant. "Wouldn't you like to help someone else like I helped you?"

He nodded, not sure why it meant so much that he keep her good opinion of him but he was grateful and Suzie had promised to help him learn to protect himself from future attacks. "How far is it?"

"A long, long way Davie but I know a short cut."

The confusion returned but one glance at those green eyes and all his reservations vanished. He trusted her completely and suddenly, in a flash of insight, he realised that from now on his world would never be the same again. As they hurried toward the docks Davie wondered whether he would ever see his family again. Somehow he knew that as long as he was no longer with them they would be safe but what about him and Suzie? What about her 'friend'? Was swapping one danger for another an act of inspiration or lunacy? Feeling his mind sharpen, Davie revelled in the alertness that seemed to infuse every atom of his small body and for some unfathomable reason resolved not to worry any more. Someone needed their help, 'his' help, and that knowledge was more empowering than anything else he could remember feeling.

* * * * *

Inara Serra found River in her room, sitting with her legs folded under her on her bed, her head tilted down so that the long lanky strands of her dark hair partly obscured her face. Her head angled slightly so she could see through the gaps in her hair as Inara drew back the tatami door. "They think they can hide their actions but it won't work."

The Companion moved slowly, her movements fluid as if every action she took would soothe as much as her words. "What won't work?"

"Something always gets out." River paused, tilted her head as she watched Inara reach her bed. Knew that the Companion had no idea what she was talking about. It was frustrating but not unexpected. "Nothing in or out but they can't stop the signal."

Inara sat on the bed. "*Shei, mei mei*? Who are they?"

"Big, powerful. Hide behind titles but they're all interchangeable. Helps them to vanish in plain sight."

"*Wo bu dong*."

"Two by two, hands of blue..."

Inara felt a stab of alarm and started to rise to her feet. "I should get Simon..."

"*Bu qu*." River started to shake her head then stopped, cocked her head for a moment before breaking into a sudden smile. "Door's open!"

The girl clambered off the bed so quickly that it took Inara a moment to follow her, surprised to find they were heading to the cargo bay. As she followed River down the metal staircase she heard the girl's sing-song voice carry loud and clear, as if she were quoting a nursery rhyme. "Knock and the door will open!"

Kaylee looked up and smiled as River joined her. "Yeah, well we been knockin' but..." River lifted a raised index finger to her lips. "Sssshh!"

Everybody stopped what they were doing and stared at her, moments later a loud knocking echoed back at them. Kaylee squealed and broke into a delighted grin. "It worked, Cap'n! They heard us!"

A clatter on the metal staircase made Inara turn her head to see Simon join them, a look of relief on his newly awoken face. He was staring at his sister. "River, I've been looking everywhere for you!"

Her grin was unrepentent. "I wasn't lost."

"*Wei*! Somethin's happenin'."

Book and the Captain peered down to see what Jayne was looking at and saw the top of the warehouse start to open like the iris of a camera. Zoe thought it was kind of poetic.

"Huh," said Jayne "they still won't know it's us."

Exasperated, Kaylee flicked a hand at his arm but it was like being swatted by a baby fly. "Sure they will, they just gotta look up."

As the words left her lips they all heard the clear and unmistakable sound of numerous weapons being cocked below them. As Malcolm Reynolds looked down into the top of the warehouse he found himself staring at every weapon Jerrod Perkins had in his arsenal.

"Looks like Jerrod knows it's us after all, sir." Said Zoe drily.

"Maybe he knows what happened to Shen." Jayne added. His words got a glare from the Captain.

* * * * *

"They're not here, *shifu*."

"I can see that!" Snapped the Commandant. Spinning round he glared accusingly, making sure to spread the blame as thickly as he was able. "I ordered several tracking devices be fitted, *dong ma*?"

"We did, *shifu*. They must have found them."

Angry sparks fairly flew off the man. "And what about the inhibitor?"

His engineer stepped reluctantly forward. "It was attached to the engine, hidden from view *shifu*. It should have been undetectable."

Commandant Urquart's eyes were hard as flint. "I am surrounded by incompetents. You were given a simple task..."

"*Shifu*," the navigator interrupted carefully "the Firefly Captain said his ship needed fuel. They cannot have gone far."

"Except you are forgetting one thing." Urquart paused then leaned over his navigator, the poor man trying not to visibly quail with fear both at his Commander's nearness and the implied threat it carried. "There will be no refueling on Aneron or Ithaca Moon because all facilites have been destroyed."

Urquart straightened, just managing to keep what was left of his temper in check. He needed to think, keep a clear head. Then thoroughly and meticulously track down the errant Firefly and her slippery Captain.

* * * * *

Hiding behind the huge crates on Boros Docks, Davie stared round-eyed at his new friend. "If we get caught..."

Suzie hushed him, her voice the kind of whisper that could only be heard inside his head. 'Think what you want to say'

'I keep forgetting'

'You'll learn'

Davie shuddered involuntarily. All the men loading and unloading looked huge. He imagined one of them could crush his head in with one hand.

'Don't think like that'


'Let go of the fear and do as I do. Are you ready?'

He desperately wanted to ask her what she was planning but did not want to appear weak so he nodded instead. For a moment Suzie just gazed at him, hard. Then, satisfied he would follow she gave a nod and slipped between the crates, mind casting for him to stay close. To Davie's horror they were weaving their way closer and closer to a ship. It was big, bright but ugly. The cargo bay doors were larger than his house but there was no time to falter, Suzie quickly darted inside and he followed as if he was caught in her slip stream. Suzie disappeared into the shadows and Davie followed, heart in his mouth and body trembling. He had never done anything like this before.

'W...w...where are we going?'

'This is an Alliance haulier'

'A what?'

'Like a transport ship but much bigger'

'How do you know that?'

'Didn't you see the cranes? It carries serious cargo and nothing but which means we'll have lots of nooks and crannies to hide in but have to be very careful too. They'll be on the look for stowaways, fortunately I know where to hide'

'What's a stowaway?'

In the shadows of the cargo hold, Davie could just make out the white flash of her teeth. 'We are'.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shei* = who *dui* = correct *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenjingbing* = crazy *jianyu* = prison *laoban* = boss *dong ma* = understand? *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *women qu nar* = where are we going? *shengqi* = angry *bushufu* = uncomfortable *jide* = remember *mei mei* = little sister *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *wei* = hey! *bu qu* no (lit. no go) *shifu* = sir


Tuesday, October 23, 2012 6:22 PM


I hope things turn out better for davie and suzie. But River seems to think there's not much chance of that. Too bad. And I also have to wonder, it sounds like they're sneaking onto another dreadnaught, meaning right into the heart of horrible engineered nanotech warfare.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 7:29 PM


Maybe they can lower Jayne down as a peace offering.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 2:24 AM


It's not another Dreadnought, Bytemite, but an Alliance Haulier though you are right to worry about them. I had to laugh at your suggestion of lowering Jayne down as a peace offering, Nutluck. Laughed so much I almost spilt my gorram coffee. Thank you both for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, November 26, 2012 6:33 PM


"You won't," said River confidently "they'll shoot you first." -- ha! Loved River's wry sense of humor. Hope Mal and crew can come to terms with Perkins et al before anybody gets hurt. Wonder where Davie and Suzie are headed. Good to see Silas off the scent.


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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.