THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 27. "Mighty"
Saturday, November 3, 2012

The animal was HUGE, a veritable monster. if the sight of the beast was not enough to make him quail in his shoes the smell of it would, yet it was not a rank scent but rich, dark, earthy and impossible to block from his senses.


TITLE: "MIGHTY" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 27. Sequel to "REPAYING DEBTS" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara SUMMARY: "Ship and crew go to Jerrod Perkin's aid while Commander Urquart is furious to realise Serenity appears to have slipped through his fingers. Silas goes into hiding while Davie and Suzie come face to face with the last thing either of them had expected to see."


A "Firefly" Story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

The Captain felt his heart sink. Why didn't anything ever go smooth?

"You really want me to answer that, sir?"

He blinked at Zoe and realised he must have said that last thought out loud and shook his head. Instead of pulling back from the opening he leaned forward so that those below would be able to see him more clearly, ignoring Jayne muttering about how he was like to get his fool head shot off. "Jerrod, it's me, Malcolm Reynolds!"

At first nothing happened, then slowly, more slowly than Serenity's crew would have liked, they heard safeties being clicked on and the weapons were lowered but not re-holstered. Jerrod Perkin's voice drifted up to them as if being born on a harsh unremitting wind. The man sounded mighty tense, even knowing who his gorram visitor was. Made the Captain wonder what had happened since they last spoke.

"What're ya doin' here, Cap'n Reynolds?"

"Thought you might be needin' help off this rock, *dong ma*?"

Perkins' eyes narrowed. "An' why in the nine hells would you be thinkin' that?"

The Captain coughed and then found it hard to get his breath for a moment. He nodded to Zoe and gave a vague wave of his hand to let her explain for him. Gorram throat was still a mite sore and touchy.

"If you don't need our help that's shiny but we can talk better if we can do it face to face."

For a moment there was silence then Perkins asked an odd question. "You been to the docks or market area?"

Zoe shook her head. "*Bu qu, weishenme*?"

The man seemed to deflate a mite, diminish somewhat if Mal was not mistaken. What the good gorram had happened? River sidled up next to the Captain's shoulder. "He knows. Wishes he didn't but the truth won't stay hidden."

"What truth, little one?" The Captain whispered, his throat slowly easing enough to allow him to talk again.

"You'll see but first we have to hide."

Alarmed, Mal exchanged a look with Zoe. His first mate kept her voice calm, not wanting to spook the girl before finding out what she was talking about. With River you never knew how good or bad anything was until it was almost on top of you. Could be she was mistaking the girl's inference. "Why do we have to hide?"

"They're looking for us. Didn't expect anyone to find the inhibitor or the trackers. Angry now, no time to waste."

Jerrod Perkin's voice floated up to them, sounding a mite impatient now. "What's with all the whisperin'?"

"*Duibuqi*, Jer." Mal paused to swallow so he could carry on talking. It was getting easier but he had been talking a lot earlier in the day and this was payback for not following doctor's orders. He hated it when Simon Tam was right. Boy wasn't likely to let him forget it either. "Throat ain't fully healed yet, *dong ma*? Also, seems the gorram Alliance are still in the area an' permaybehaps lookin' for us."

"How is that my *wenti*?"

"Tell us to go," the Captain said with as much strength as he could put into his voice without it cracking "an' we'll leave."

Perkins fell silent and stepped back, his men crowding round him. River started to look anxious. "We need to hide, *mashang*."

"An' I'm inclined to agree with you but first we have to see what they wanna do."

To his relief the committee below came to a swift decision. "Okay, Mal. How you plannin' on gettin' down? You got enough rope or are you gonna jump?"

"Does that roof open any further?"

Perkins' eyes widened so far it was almost comical. "You can't bring that ship in here! Roof don't open wide enough."

River leaned over the Captain's shoulder so she could see Jerrod Perkins. "Can to. Just have to do the math."

"You'll catch up on my roof, rip it right off!"

Shepherd Book decided to speak up before the whole deal went south. "If we can find a way to get the ship down without causing any damage can we come down?"

Mal stared at the Shepherd. "How you figurin' we do that?"

"Captain, whatever else may be said about River she is a gifted child and if she says she can do the math we should at least listen."

"Even if it breaks up our ship?" Said Zoe softly.

River tilted her head and smiled at Zoe, a knowing look in her eyes. "Oh ye of little faith."

"River, need you to concentrate an' answer me true." Said the Captain. "You sayin' you can get Serenity through that there gap in the roof? Seems an awful tight fit to me, little one."

Her smile was blinding. Nodding she jumped to her feet and started to run off. The Captain turned his head to shout after her. "Where you goin'?"

"Have to tell Wash!"

With a sigh Mal glanced at the rest of his crew then looked down at Jerrod Perkins. "If you trust us to do this, we're gonna set our ship down."

"You're *shenjingbing*, Malcolm Reynolds, anyone tell you that?"

"It's been said. Suggest you move your men back far as they can go, an' any bits of precious might be in the way of our landin' gear."

Jerrod Perkins shook his head but couldn't stop a smile from tugging at his lips. Malcolm Reynolds was a crazy *shishengzi* but permaybehaps he was his kind of crazy after all.

* * * * *

The den smelt dank and fusty, not helped by the rotting carcasses of the wolves but he needed to get below ground. Somewhere dark and hidden where he could meditate without any fear of anyone happening upon him. When in the higher state he was vulnerable, the delay in getting his consciousness back into his body could mean the difference between life and death and Silas had too many things he wanted to accomplish to court an early death. The girl and boy were momentarily lost to him but they could not stay hidden from him for long. It would take patience but sooner or later he would pick up their scent and when he did nothing, but nothing, would stop him from claiming their most treasured and likely unappreciated possession.

Settling with a dark smile upon his face, Silas turned his thoughts inwards and began to control his breathing, his heartbeat slowing in slow and steady anticipation. His eyes closing on one world while he reached with his mind for another.

* * * * *

"Where are we going, *shifu*?"

Commandant Urquart came out of his dark reverie with a scowl but there was a glitter of malice in his eyes. "While we were busy on Anaeron the Firefly must have headed for Ithaca Moon, it is the only thing that makes sense." "Unless he was lying."

Urquart's head snapped round so quickly it was a wonder he didn't get whiplash. "What are you saying, Lieutenant?" "Just this, *shifu*. Reynolds is a Browncoat, sees us as his natural enemy. Why would he tell us how much fuel his ship has?"

"It would have been easy to check, what reason would there be to be caught lying?"

"They don't think like us, *shifu*. It's in the nature of a man like that to lie as automatically as breathing. If he told me the sun was shining I would have to go and check before believing him." Lt. Richards paused and coloured slightly, as if embarrassed to be saying so much. "Of course that's just my opinion, *shifu*."

"You never fought in the War, did you Lieutenant?" Said Urquart softly.

The hairs stirred on the back of Lt Richards' neck and he fervently wished he had never opened his fool mouth. "*Bu qu, shifu*."

"War makes victims of us all." The Lieutenant blinked. What did he mean by that?

"If he was lying," said Urquart "where do you think that Firefly was going?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but it would open up other possibilities."

The Commandant mused over the notion for a moment then turned back to his navigator. "Maintain course to Ithaca Moon, we will not ignore the obvious. Also, open a channel to any other Alliance ships in the region. If the Firefly transport ship Serenity is sighted it is to be disabled but not destroyed, *dong ma*? I am to be immediately informed."

The navigator nodded and proceeded to do as instructed. Commandant Urquart straightened, his icy grey eyes staring straight ahead as if he could see something not visible to his crew. "You and your crew will not escape me, Captain Reynolds." He murmured.

* * * * *

Davie Thomas was terrified. Only the hand across his mouth kept him from crying out and giving their hiding place away. The animal was HUGE, a veritable monster. If the sight of the beast was not enough to make him quail in his shoes the smell of it would, yet it was not a rank scent but rich, dark, earthy and impossible to block from his senses. Davie was sure if he closed his eyes he would be able to see the stench as well.

'*Fang xin*, you are over reacting'

'It's HUGE!'

'So is this ship now calm down'

'What is it?'

'It looks like a... but that's impossible'


'An elephant but it can't be'

In her shock and surprise Suzie had loosened her hold on Davie and he wriggled free, eyes wide as saucers as he dipped his head around a container to catch sight of the slow moving behemoth. A hand on his shoulder roughly yanked him back. 'I was only looking'

Suzie brought her face in close to his so that for a moment it appeared as if her whole face consisted of giant staring eyes. 'What it is the difference between being curious and being nosy?'


'Nothing a hangman's noose won't fix'

'Why're you mad at me?'

It took Suzie a moment or two to calm herself down. She was not really mad at Davie but had just panicked at his reaction. Their only hope of getting to Osiris undetected was by staying hidden. One little outburst from Davie would get them both into more trouble than either could ever get out of. With no adult to speak up for them there was no telling where they might end up, anything from an Alliance orphanage to a Slaver's ship. She knew the Alliance were supposed to be outlawing the evil trade but something her father had let slip had stuck in her mind. Made her more distrustful and wary. Suzie wondered what her father would think if he could only see what they saw.

'*Duibuqi*, Davie. I'm not mad at you, we just can't risk giving ourselves away *dong ma*?"

Davie nodded as everything went dark for a moment. The huge moving mass was lumbering passed their hiding place, leaving its' stench in their noses and throats and making the children want to gag. Suzie gave Davie a look that told him clear as day that throwing up would be a very bad idea. It was only later when they found a service grill they could work open and crawl inside, that Davie found out a little more.

'What was it?'

'You have to understand I don't actually know, this is just a guess.' She waited for Davie to nod. 'And you mustn't repeat what I say to anyone, *dong ma*?'

Davie glanced around their small cramped hiding place, she was kidding right? Who in *diyu* was he going to tell? '*Dang ran*'

'My father found this educational site on the cortex, about Earth-that-was, only it was millions - no, I think - BILLIONS of years ago and there were creatures, monsters so big and ugly I had nightmares for a week. That thing was one of them.'

Davie blinked. Was that all?

'Davie, do you know what a billion years is? It's longer than some stars and planets live, or so *fuqin* used to say. I think that beast was called a woolley mammoth.'

'You said it was an elephant'

'An ancient relative'

Davie screwed up his face. 'Is that why it smells so bad, 'cause its so old?'

Suzie started to laugh and had to put her hand over her mouth. Davie grinned, feeling himself relax for the first time since this adventure had begun. Naturally he didn't understand what it meant but Suzie was older and some things were beginning to make a weird kind of sense to her. 'Mammoths are extinct. They died out a long, long time ago Davie'

'No, they didn't, we just saw one'

She nodded, her expression suddenly serious. 'And that means someone is bringing them back but why?'

* * * * *

Wash's eyes widened into comical saucers, his whole expression one of incredulity. Only the fact that Zoe and the Captain were not laughing gave him a clue that they were not kidding. "You want me to set down inside Perkins' warehouse?"

The Captain was watching his pilot carefully, River hovering at his elbow but somehow managing to hold her tongue for now. A minor miracle in itself. "Can you do it?"

Wash looked from Mal to Zoe but neither cracked a smile. This was serious then. "It'll be *kunnan* an' I'll have to go down at an angle..."

"But you can do it?"

"*Qu*, Cap'n, I can do it but I might scratch the paint." The Captain gave him a tight smile. "Long as nothin' drops off my boat."

River sprang forward, her face abrim with excitement. Eagerness personified. "Just have to do the math."

River rattled out technical data, the pilot finding himself getting caught up in the calculations and joining in. Zoe glanced at her Captain. "Do you think they even know we're still here, sir?"

"Long as they do the impossible I don't care."

"That's what makes us mighty."

The Captain paused and flashed her a grin. "Ain't we just."

Zoe didn't follow the Captain out immediately but hung back as the back and forth between River and Wash tapered off, her husband's hands flying over the controls, swift and sure. Stepping up to his chair, Zoe put a hand on his shoulder and he paused to look up at her. "You can really do this, *bao bei*?"

His grin was infectious and full of love. Everything the man thought and felt was in those eyes. "It's doable. Not easy but doable."

She patted his shoulder, a slightly smug look crossing her face. "That's my man."

River stared into space for a moment. "Have to hurry, *mashang*."

Wash frowned. "*Weishenme*?"

"We were supposed to be stranded, easy prey."

Zoe felt a cold shiver slide down her back. Before Wash could ask twenty questions she gave him a level look and Wash could not look away. "Need to get under cover, *zhangfu*."

He nodded, feeling his mouth go dry. Wondering what pile of *goushi* was on their tail. Turning all his attention to what he did best, Wash dipped the rear end of the Firefly down a quarter in a controlled descent while River rattled off the measurements and told him when he had the angle just right. Zoe didn't want to look but couldn't tear her eyes away, like one of those people pinned in horror to an unfolding disaster only the ship didn't snag on the way down and minutes later the downward thrusters were gently slowing them as they levelled off and touched down with barely a bump.

* * * * *

He was lost in deep meditation, as unaware of his physical body as he was of any danger. Heightened senses had been stretched to far beyond the planet he was on at that moment. Deep in the wolves lair, Silas was oblivious of the bodies lying at awkward angles around him. Their eyes wide and staring in their last moments of agony, tongues lolling out of mouths gone slack in the moment of death. His mind was casting far and wide, touching tiny sparks that sang out to his awareness but were not strong enough or vibrant enough to warrant his time and effort. Not yet. Let them ripen, like fruit on the vine they would be useless to him if plucked before their prime.

The noise was slight, hardly impinging on his consciousness. Silas was reaching out now to another sphere, something on Boros calling him though he knew not what. It had to be strong for it to draw him over so vast a distance but he had gone further and still been successful. The Alliance did not know his secret and he would never divulge it. Once they understood his usefulness to them would be over and pragmatist that he was Silas knew what happened to those no longer of value to the Aliance. A tiny flare on the edge of his consiousness brought his attention into tighter focus. There! A mind opening, a sharp bright intellect stirring. He felt a surge of excitement, anticipation sharpenig his senses.

Suddenly he was jolted back to the edge of conscious awareness, his journey truncated by a mild explosion of sensation in his head cutting off the link he had been tentatively forming. Angry, he opened his eyes but was confused. Everything was covered in a red mist, his breathing becoming laboured. Feeling faint and over warm he turned his head and vaguely realised that someone was standing behind him. The man was lanky with a sallow face, cheeks sunken and eyes devoid of all emotion. The suit seemed incongruous given their setting but it was the strange device he held in his hand, the little rod looked innocuous and yet... Silas felt his body tremble, ribbons of agony stripping his thoughts to pieces while the heat behind his eyes wept in a river of blood that slowly dripped down his cheeks. He opened his mouth to demand to know what was going on but even if he could speak he would not have been able to hear, a painful thudding rush deafening him. Shakily he raised a hand, numb to the realisation that he was now bleeding from every orofice. Silas was fortunate to be sitting or he would have fallen, as it was his upper body swayed, his eyes now blinded of sight gazed at nothing. Comprehension was leaking out of his ears as his body broke down from the inside out.

Slowly the body deflated, crumpling in on itself until it was an untidy heap. All life extinct. The man closed his wand and put it back inside his pocket, his blue gloved hands careful not to touch the dead man. His companion had been standing behind him, upwind of the foul odours that permeated the wolves' lair. It was done. The Hunter would never betray them again but before he had died, a spark had been caught and trapped in the ether. A spark they would carry back and investigate. It might not give them the answers they were seeking but it would give them something to mollify the Operative. He had wanted Silas brought back alive but that was something Blue Sun could not allow. The Dead kept the best secrets after all.

* * * * *

"You killed Shen?" Yelled Perkins, the anger taking over from his confusion.

The Captain was quick to reassure him. Serenity was now safely berthed inside Perkins' warehouse, the roof closed and sealed above them. "No, no, not us! Rufus was playin' some game his own self which we haven't fully figured out yet but it had to do with the Alliance. We didn't kill Shen, fact is we didn't kill any of 'em."

"Then who did?"

"It was the Alliance."

Perkins blinked slowly, trying to cycle that information through his brain pan. "That don't make sense, Reynolds, if you're sayin' Rufus was in league with 'em why would they kill him?"

It was River who butted in. "Alliance but not Alliance." Everyone stared at her. Not put off by their reactions she continued. "Like a Fifth Column, one hand not knowing what the other's doing."

Jerrod Perkins looked confused. Mal could sympathise. Simon was about to apologise for his sister when Zoe gave him a little shake of the head. The Captain urged River to explain so they could all understand.

"They wear grey uniforms, no insignia. No names, no pack drill."

Howdy Marks looked sceptical. "Then how'd you know they're Alliance?"

"You can paint a leopard black but it's still a leopard. In the end it's only camouflage."

"Why would they need to do that? Alliance rule the gorram 'verse."

"They think they do, Jer." Said Mal softly.

Jerrod Perkins scratched his head. "None of this is makin' a lick of sense, you know that?"

Shepherd Book's deep rumbling voice was a comfort to all who heard him. "Consider them part of the Dirty Tricks Brigade."

"An' how would a Shepherd know anythin' about that?"

Book's smile thinned a mite but he kept his tone warm and friendly. "A man travels the 'verse he sees things. Hears things too." "What did you see an' hear?"

"Enough to know that the Grey Ghosts only come out when there's some kind of clean up operation going on. Don't know what it is yet but Rufus and his men seem to have been up to their necks in it."

"What I don't understand," said Howdy Marks slowly "is why kill 'em? I mean if Rufus was workin' for 'em, what they do that for?"

"Housekeeping." River explained. "Didn't want what he knew getting out."

For a moment no one spoke as they tried to digest all the twists and turns. "This have anythin' to do with what happened at the docks and market place, Mal?"

"Reckon it does. An' crazy as it sounds Jer it's linked to that gorram dust."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *weishenme* = why? *duibuqi* = sorry *wenti* = problem *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *shenjingbing* = crazy *shishengzi* = bastard (not an insult) *shifu* = sir *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *shenme* = what *diyu* = hell *dang ran* = of course *kunnan* = difficult *qu* = yes (lit. go) *bao bei* = precious/treasure *weishenme* = why? *zhangfu* = husband


Saturday, November 3, 2012 2:31 PM


YES. Silas is dead. But somehow I think that's not the end of it.

Saturday, November 3, 2012 3:10 PM


You are so right, Bytemite! Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 2:00 AM


Bit surprised Silas died. Curious how all the varies little tales will eventually end up coming together. Least I expect that, but who knows.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 3:34 PM


The connections are coming but they may not turn out as you think, Nutluck. Thank you for the feedback, Ali D :~)
"Yu can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, November 26, 2012 6:48 PM


Hard for Mal to talk his way out of a tight spot when he can barely talk...but it looks like he and Perkins are going to get to the same page soon. Odious Silas is dead but it's the Blue Hands that killed him?! We haven't heard the last of it, I'm sure.


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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.