THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 30. "Intersection"
Saturday, December 29, 2012

They might not like the plan but it was better than no plan at all and the thought of pulling one over the Almighty gorram Alliance appealed to each and every one of them.


TITLE: "INTERSECTIONS" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 30. Sequel to "THE GREY GHOSTS" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: "Caught between a rock and a hard place the Captain comes up with a plan halfway between desperation and lunacy. Meanwhile, other forces are coming face to face with a different nightmare."


A "Firefly" Story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

"What're we gonna do?"

Both crews were in the commons area of Serenity crammed around the big oak table. The sofa and armchairs had been brought up to add extra seating along with a couple of sturdy crates. Book and Inara were handing out mugs of actual real coffee, a fact that delayed talking while Serenity's crew made assorted sounds of appreciation and bliss. It had been a long time since they had tasted anything but re-boiled grounds. The Captain let his gaze drift over Jerrod Perkins and his crew then over his own. By the time Book and Inara had taken their seats the room had gone quiet with wary expectation.

The Captain put his now empty mug on the table. It was time to get down to business. "What do you do when you're holdin' a nothin' hand but need to win the pot?"

"Huh, that's *rongyi*." Growled Jayne. "Ya bluff but that ain't nothin'. Poker's all about bluffin'."

"But when it really matters Jayne you need to bluff big."

Jerrod frowned. "How big?"

The Captain held his gaze a moment, letting him know this was serious. "Everythin' you got."

Simon looked uncertain. "Would anyone fall for that"

Ther mercenary pulled a face. "No."

"Yeah, they would. They'd be wonderin' why you'd suddenly up the stakes so high. Figure you must have somethin'."

Book wasn't sure what point the Captain was trying to make. "How does this help?"

"We got nothin', Shepherd. Not nothin' but our wits so that's what we use."

Zoe frowned. "How? They don't even know we're here."

The Captain gave her a look and something in her gut turned to ice. Wash wasn't sure what it meant but suspected that their good and noble Captain was about to do something monumentally stupid. Heroic even. A horrible suspicion formed in his mind.

"You're gonna talk to Urquart?"

Shocked looks reflected back at the Captain like a ripple of light on broken glass. Kind of distorted more than the image.

"It was somethin' Simon said. Got me thinkin'."

Simon stared at the Captain in alarm. This was 'his' fault?

"You said Urquart got the notion I was immune from the dust on account of the fact I was recoverin', *dui*?"

Simon nodded. "Yes, but that doesn't mean you are immune, Captain."

"Not the point I'm makin'. Remember, this is a game of bluff, doc. He thinks I'm immune which makes me valuable."

"Right up until ya ain't." Said Jayne.

Shepherd Book tried to sound a note of caution. Never an easy thing with this ship, this crew. This stubborn Captain. "We don't know that, Captain. That's an awful big assumption to make."

Wash turned to Jerrod. "Don't you have any weapons, Jerrod? Doesn't have to be anythin' fancy *dong ma*? Just so long as we can knock that Alliance ship out of the sky."

Jerrod shook his head and patted his holster. "All we got are handguns an' a few rifles."

The Captain shook his head. "Wouldn't do any good."

Jayne scowled. "Shootin' 'em outta the Black would make me feel better."

"Jayne, they got grey ghosts, *dong ma*?"

The big man gave the Captain a perplexed look. "So? They's flesh n' blood just like us."

Book shook his head. "Maybe not."

Howdy Marks wasn't sure he was following. "*Ni zhide shi shenme*?"

"It means," Book explained "that there have been certain rumours."

Wash looked alarmed. "Rumours? I never heard any rumours." He glanced at his wife. "Why haven't I heard any rumours?"

Zoe gave the Shepherd a level look. "Best you explain."

"Rumours that the Grey Ghosts had been human once."

In the clamour of competing voices Simon's mouth opened and closed but nothing came out. Kaylee looked more intrigued than horrified. "Ya mean like.. robots?"

"They aren't mechanical as such, Kaylee, but their abilities have been augmented."

Simon managed to find his voice. "Augmented how?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but suffice it to say, enough to make them very hard to kill."

The Captain's eyes narrowed slightly. "How come you know so much about them?"

"People talk."

Jayne was frowning, searching his memory but coming up empty. "Well I ain't heard nothin'."

River was sitting next to Inara but did not seem to be paying attention to the conversation. Inara could not stop worrying about whatever mad suicidal plan the Captain was concocting. "You said you would bet everythig you've got, Mal." Her look said 'including all of us'.

"Never said it was a perfect plan or even a good one, Inara, but we need to do somethin' an' sooner rather than later I'm thinkin'. I'm listenin' if anyone else has got a better idea."

"That's not an idea," said Simon. "What's to stop Urquart just grabbing you and destroying the rest of this planet? We can't escape if we're all turned to dust."

Wash got an idea. "What about deflection?"

The Captain tilted his head. "Go on."

Wash turned to Jerrod. "That remote of yours. You can view an’ hear what's happenin' outside, *dui*?"

"You already know that, Wash."

"Yeah but can you transmit through the remote as well?"

Jerrod looked puzzled but nodded slowly. "Sure but *weishenme*?"

"Can you rig it to broadcast a live transmission?"

Jerrod looked at Howdy. The man shrugged at his boss. It wasn't something they had ever had cause to find out. "*Wo bu zhidao, laoban* but there's no reason we couldn't do that."

"What if we used the remote to trick the Alliance into thinkin' we were somewhere else?"

The tentative spark of hope in Jerrod Perkin's eyes flatlined. "In case ya ain't been payin' attention Wash there is nowhere else. It's all ruttin' dust!"

"Yeah, but Urquart thinks Mal is immune."

Everyone stared at Wash. Zoe gave her husband a focused look as if she could see right into the workings of his brain pan. "What're you thinkin', *zhangfu*?"

"Just this. Only one person could transmit a message to Urquart an’ be believed."

The Captain straightened in his chair. "You mean me?"

Inara was beyond alarmed. This foolishness had gone far enough. "It's too *weixian*, Mal! We'll find another way."

Wash tried to reassure her. "The Captain wouldn't be with the remote, Inara. That's what I meant by distraction."

Suddenly River raised her head. "Sting the bee and the hive strikes back."

The Captain looked at River. "You sayin' the plan wouldn't work, little one?"

"Might get more than you bargained for."

Jayne puffed out his chest. "I ain't afraid of no bees."

River gave him a pitying look. "Bee stings can kill."

Jayne patted his gun. "Yeah, well so can I."

"Jayne! Not helpin'."

"But Mal, I was just sayin'..."

"Still not helpin'. *Bi zui*!"

Jerrod Perkins waited for folks to settle down. "So what is this plan?"

Wash glanced at the Captain and waited for him to nod before going on. "We set up the remote to carry the Captain's transmission to Urquart sayin' he wants to make a deal. Obviously the remote won't be anywhere near here."

Kaylee looked skeptical. "They'll know the Cap'n ain't there, Wash. They got all kinds'a sensors an' such."

The pilot nodded. "Which is the beauty of this plan."

"It is?"

"Oh yeah. Urquart already thinks the Cap'n is immune to the dust an' he's been tryin' to find Serenity, *dui*?"

When no one spoke Zoe nudged him. Left to his own devices Wash's explanation could last all night. "Go on, *bao bei*."

"When he gets the transmission he'll have to go an' check it out, whether he thinks it's a trick or not He can't afford to ignore it an' lose the chance of capturin' the Cap'n."

"Wants me too." Said River.

Everyone looked at her. Simon tried to reassure his sister. "The Commandant has already searched Serenity, River."

"He doesn't trust anyone, Simon, so he won't trust us. Check, check and check again. Leave nothing to chance."

The Captain didn't like the sound of that. "You're sayin' he'll wanna search my boat again?"

River nodded. Book had a thoughtful look on his face. "What if Urquart sends a team of his Grey Ghosts to hunt down the signal? There is no guarantee he would come himself and it still doesn't solve the problem of how to get rid of the Alliance ship so we can get out of here."

Wash didn't completely agree. "Maybe not but he'll have to land the ship for them to get off."

"Unless they got a shuttle like Serenity," added Kaylee.

"I think the Commandant will want to be close at hand, at least initially, in case they find the Captain." Said Book.

Jerrod found himself caught up in the crazy plan. "They won't find Mal's ship"

Simon nodded. "*Bu qu* though Urquart may think the Captain has found a way to mask it from Alliance sensors."

Howdy Marks didn't look convinced. "Why would he think that?"

"Because he already thinks the Captain is immune to the dust. Something neither he nor the power and technology of the Alliance has been able to accomplish. Would it be such a stretch for him to think the Captain had also found a way to hide Serenity from them as well?"

The Captain gave Simon a small smug smile. "*Wode ma*, never realised I was such a cunnin' an' accomplished master criminal."

"You aren't but it wouldn't hurt if they thought you were."

Mal glared at Simon then looked from face to face, noting that both crews now looked cautiously optimistic. Intrigued even. They might not like the plan but it was better than no plan at all and the thought of pulling one over the Almighty gorram Alliance appealed to each and every one of them. Even if the plan didn't work it was good to see the hope in those faces. The Captain just needed the chance to pull it off. If he failed it wouldn't just be him paying the price. It would be all of them.

* * * * *

‘Now Davie, run!’

The thicket of thorny bushes had not seemed that far but the dash for freedom took so long that Suzie feared her very heart would stop from sheer panic. Instinctively they split up but ran in the same general direction. Davie proved to be light on his feet and being the shorter of the two had no difficulty weaving a quick path through the thorn bushes. It was a little harder for Suzie who had to stoop lower and run a zig zag course without getting caught. She made it through by the skin of her teeth, the two men cursing and hacking at the thorn bushes with their knives. She tried not to think of those sharp blades carving through her skin and bone. But there was no time to pause or catch her breath, the men could be on them any minute. Picking up speed she ran as fast as she could in the direction Davie had taken, back towards the docks.

It was the smell that alerted them just before the huge behemoth lumbered into their path. Davie would have stopped and stared but Suzie gave him a push. ‘Don’t stop now or they’ll catch us!’

Ducking under the huge swaying belly of the beast they ran between the lumbering legs and out the other side, a laugh of sheer relief ready to spill from Davie’s mouth when a voice neither of them recognised halted them in their tracks.

“You look as if you need some assistance.”

Suzie stared up at the man. Davie wanted to keep running but he wasn’t sure what to do. The man was right in front of Suzie, if Davie made a break for it he would be leaving her behind. Before they could react, the man gave them a smile and clicked his fingers. Politely but efficiently they were herded along in the wake of the woolley mammoth. Suzie shot Davie a look. ‘Don’t say anything, *dong ma*?’

He was smart enough not to nod. ‘Are we safe or in trouble?’

Suzie didn’t know but the man looked kind and if nothing else the men who had been chasing them would not dare to try anything now. Suzie just hoped they hadn’t jumped out of the frying pan and into a rutting big fire.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin – Pinyin)

*rongyi* = easy *dui* = correct *dong ma* = understand? *ni zhide shi shenme* = what do you mean? *wo bu zhidao* = I don’t know *weishenme* = why *laoban* = boss *zhangfu* = husband *weixian* = dangerous *bi zui* = be quiet/shut up *bao bei* = precious/treasure *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wode ma* = mother of God


Monday, December 31, 2012 11:59 AM


Bee's suck especially when they swarm. I think the crew is going to find that out all to soon.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 11:24 AM


You could be on to something there, Nutluck! Hope you had a great New Year. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, January 4, 2013 5:52 AM


Well, they're backed into a corner, things look desperate, and there are not many options open to them -- and that's when Mal really shines. He's done the impossible before. It's just the time for one of his shen jing bing plans. Let's just hope it works! And that they can manage somehow to avoid being stung too badly, after kicking over the beehive. (Beekeepers use net bonnets and smokescreens. Works pretty well. ;-) )
Meanwhile, mammoths?! Whoa, wasn't expecting mammoths.
Thanks for another exciting chapter, and Happy New Year to you, Ali. :-)

Monday, January 7, 2013 11:21 AM


As Jayne would say, "time for some thrilling heroics" or maybehaps the next best thing, Ebfiddler. Hang on to your pretty floral bonnet and thanks for the feedback! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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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.