THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 32. "Things Unseen"
Saturday, January 26, 2013

A voice somehow penetrated where nothing else could. On the verge of giving up her hold on life that voice touched something deep inside her, something awakened to a danger she could not ignore.


TITLE: “THINGS UNSEEN” SERIES: THE DEVIL’S CRADLE CHAPTER: 32. Sequel to “HIDDEN AGENDAS” FANDOM: “FIREFLY” AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: “Lucy faces her worst nightmare. Meanwhile the Captain’s plan has everybody on Edge. Suzie and Davie find out some surprising Things about their new benefactor.”

“THINGS UNSEEN” A “Firefly” Story Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Nothing made sense. Her world was a muted grey, cold as old bones and empty of all sensation but that. Her eyelids felt odd. Sticky and reluctant to obey her need to see where she was, what had happened. Memory a fuzzy backdrop of out of focus images that made no sense and brought no recognition. Where in the nine hells was she and what had happened? Had she fallen asleep? The chill actually calmed her somewhat, it was the only sensation she had so she clung to it like a lifeline but knew not why. She must have fallen asleep outside. That was the only conclusion she could come to but outside where? As she struggled to remain conscious faint yawing sounds began to fog her ears as if she was trying to hear through cotton wool. Just as she began to grasp that the sound was a voice darkness clouded all her senses like a funeral shroud and she knew no more.

* * * * *

“That’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard and since being on this ship that says a lot.”

The Captain glared at Inara but did not respond. He knew she thought him a *shenjingbing chunren* but her opinion would not get any of them out of the situation they were in. No. It was time for some lateral thinking and something Simon had said a while ago had sparked the seeds of the current plan. Not that any of his crew looked suitably impressed but then they didn’t know the half of it. Huh. Everyone was a gorram critic. Jerrod Perkins was at least polite enough not to question his sanity in such stark terms.

“*Qu*, we got spades a-plenty Mal but diggin’ down ain’t gonna get us off’a this planet.”

The Captain smiled. More a projection of confidence than humour. They were all in the huge interior of Jerrod’s warehouse, so big it actually made Serenity look small. “Ain’t intendin’ to bury us, leastways not in the sense you’re thinkin’.”

Jerrod Perkins frowned. “*Ni zhide shi shenme*?”

Mal chuckled. Jayne gave the Shepherd a look but his friend had no idea what the Captain was playing at either. They had gathered to hear him make his transmission to Commandant Urquart. What In the nine hells did spades have to do with anything? “Noticed you got some earth movin’ equipment too, Jer.”

Jerrod scratched his head. “What the *diyu* is goin’ on in that twisted head of yours?”

“You’ll see soon enough. Need you to get all that equipment ready to use soon as this transmission ends, *dong ma*?

Zoe was dying to ask him what he had in mind but decided to wait . Mayhap she would have more of an idea once they heard what he had to say to Urquart. Wash gave her hand a squeeze and she squeezed back, too tense to reassure her *zhangfu* with a smile. Kaylee looked at all the tense faces and moved in closer to Simon. Automatically he put his arm around her and Kaylee snuggled in close. For once River was not saying anything but her eyes were like large liquid pools drinking everything in. Wash felt like saying something to cut the tension but a warning look from his *qizi* made him think better of it.

“Best everybody hush now.” Cautioned the Captain. “Don’t want that *tamade hundan* to know just who is where.”

“Where else we gonna be?” Growled Jayne.

The Captain didn’t answer, he was waiting for everyone to fall silent then hit the transmission. “This is Cap’n Malcolm Reynolds callin’ Commandant Urquart, do you receive?”

There was a long pause in which no one dared to so much as draw breath then Urquart’s voice sailed over the airwaves as loud and clear as if he was stood amongst them. Kaylee didn’t like that notion one bit but kept herself from saying anything out loud.

“Captain Reynolds, I confess to being surprised to hear from you.”

“Seems I’m needin’ to be askin’ you for some assistance.”

The pause this time was longer. “You do? How can the Alliance help you?”

“As you know my boat needs fuel, not a gorram whiff of it to be found an’ me an’mine are sick of breathin’ fumes.”

“If you tell me your location we can meet face to face and I’ll see what I can do.”

“No offence Commandant but if an’ when we meet I need to know nothin’ is gonna happen to my ship or crew, *dong ma*?”

“Captain, you are asking me for my help, I did not call you.”

“Well no, that is surely true but what kind’a Cap’n would I be if I didn’t look out for my crew? I’m sure you understand.”

* * * * *

Davie was dumbstruck. Seeing the monster in passing was nothing compared to facing it in the flesh. His mouth sagged open, eyes huge, feet itchy with the need to run - but where? There were all manner of odd creatures every direction he looked and not one of them was in a container or collared. One false move on his part and he would become a tiny snack, barely a footnote. All he could hope by way of revenge was to cause a massive bout of indigestion. Belatedly he realised their benefactor, Mr Bart, was talking to him.

“*Duibuqi, shifu*.”

The big man smiled down at him. “I was asking where you were going?”

Davie turned to Suzie but she was captivated by something that looked like bits from a multitude of beasts all cobbled together and given an eerie kind of life. No help there. Then he remembered what Suzie had told him and stumbled through an answer, hoping to sound more confident that he felt. “Osiris.”

Mr Bart’s eyebrows rose in surprise. Panic began to rise in Davie, had he said something wrong? Just then Suzie stepped forward, her fascination seemingly under control for now.

“If you are not goin’ to Osiris please you can tell us how best to get there?” Left unsaid were the words ‘who we can trust’.

“Young lady, I offered you and the young man my protection and though I was not going in that direction what kind of a benefactor would I be if I reneged on a promise, hmmm?” He paused, straightened, then let the showman side of himself take over. “In the meantime, allow me to show you the rest of this magnificent menagerie.”

* * * * *

“Captain Reynolds,” Commandant Urquart thundered as quietly as an active volcano could before it blew “do you take me for a complete *baichi*?”

“*Bu qu*, sir, not me. Well, not a complete one anyways.”

Up on his bridge the navigator was careful to keep his face averted so that the volatile Commandant would not see the laughter in his eyes or the smile on his lips. It took more control that he currently had to hide his amusement at the way in which the former Browncoat was infuriating their stiff necked Commandant. Also it was rich entertainment and long overdue for the man’s long suffering but loyal crew. His finger hovered over the release button while he hoped and prayed he would not have to press it. He inwardly lamented the fact that they had voice contact only.

“Give me your location Captain and I will dispatch a shuttle. We can discuss exactly what assistance you need.”

Again, Captain Reynolds declined. Oh, so politely but the navigator had a feeling it was all done a bit tongue in cheek. The man obviously had a death wish. The Commandant launched into a tirade, finally unable to contain his frustration and fury. It took minutes before he realised that the transmission had been cut. Spinning angrily he tossed commands right, left and centre. His crew hurrying to carry them out, landing craft already standing by ready to deploy were sent down to the surface homing in on the location of the transmission. One hundred and fifty grey ghosts silently relished the fight ahead. One caveat only were they given. Malcolm Reynolds was to be taken alive but the Commandant did not stipulate what condition he wanted him in.

* * * * *

The buzzing was light but growing more insistent. Where was she? What was happening? It was hard to think clearly, to make sense of what she was hearing or feeling but some instinct made her pay attention. Ignore the seductive desire to just let go and float away. A dull distant nagging urged her to be more alert but it was so difficile and she had no energy so for what felt like a lifetime she lay without moving, her body all but detached from her. It was the voice that intruded into her baffled consciousness. A voice that somehow penetrated where nothing else could. On the verge of giving up her hold on life, that voice touched something deep inside her, something awakened to a danger she could not ignore.

* * * * *

The hustle and bustle at Jerrod’s warehouse was a stark contrast to all the hours they had spent just hanging around, wondering and worrying what to do about their latest predicament. Action, even of such an insane plan as this, galvanising both crews into a flurry of activity. In no time at all the two earth moving pieces of heavy machinery were ready, the sand crawler loaded with spades and assorted supplies. Wash looked anxiously from the equipment being readied to the Firefly.

“How heavy do you suppose those things are?”

Shepherd Book knew Wash was worrying that the equipment would be too heavy for the Firefly to haul but what choice did they have? ”We aren’t going very far, Wash.”

“It’s not the distance I’m worried about, it’s the liftin’ off.”

The Captain came up behind Wash, making the pilot start. He had not heard him and now felt a mite embarrassed though his concern remained the same. “*Wo bu zhidao*, Mal. She’s never lifted anythin’ this heavy before.”

“Then best we find out *mashang*. Not got time for a better plan, Wash. An’ I don’t need her to lift high, *dong ma*? Want to skim the ground not rise above it. Fortunately we’re on the other side of the warehouse district from where the remote was sent, should give us a head start.”

The others now joined them as the last of the equipment went up Serenity’s loading ramp. Jayne and Kaylee helped Howdy Marks secure the equipment then gathered round with the rest. Simon looked as if they were all headed to the gallows. No one noticed the look on River’s face or the way her head suddenly tilted as if listening to something only she could hear. “Not to decry your very fine plan Captain but won’t the Alliance ship notice Serenity leaving the warehouse?”

“If they knew where we were that would be a given Simon but I’m thinkin’ they’ll search the area where the transmission came from first.”

“An’ then?” Said Kaylee anxiously. “Won’t they come an’ sweep the whole area lookin’ for us?”

The Captain tried to sound more hopeful than he felt. “My opinion of the Commandant was someone who is real efficient, the type who won’t move from one spot until he is absolutely gorram sure there ain’t nothin’ there for him to find. He’ll be wantin’ me alive which means there’ll be time wasted searchin’ every gorram warehouse from top to bottom makin’ sure he doesn’t miss anythin’. That’s how we’re gonna get away.”

“On’y we aren’t, are we?”

The Captain looked at Jayne. “*Ni shi shenme yisi*?”

They were all boarding the Firefly, only Howdy Marks holding back to open the roof mechanism so they could leave the warehouse. He would close up after them and set the self destruct to trigger only if and when the warehouse was entered by force.

“You’re gonna bury us.”

“It’s only temporary, Jayne.” Assured Kaylee. The mechanic’s face changed into one of uncertainty. “It is just temporary ain’t it Cap’n?”

“*Dang ran*.”

He met Zoe’s eye and perfect understanding passed unspoken between them. As his boots rang out on the ramp he found Inara waiting, outwardly calm but inwardly worried. He barked out a few orders and the crew hurried to comply until it was just him and Inara in the cargo bay. He wanted to be up on the bridge but knew she likely had words he didn’t want the others overhearing. Lowering his voice he tried to sound reassuring.

“We’re gonna slip right through that *tamade hundan’s* fingers.”

“Mal, we’ll be trapped. Don’t you see this is a mistake? Let me contact the Guild…”

“*Bu qu*! Can’t afford to make a transmission Inara, you know that. As for bein’ trapped that’s the idea.”

Her expression was incredulous. Both ignored the hum of Serenity’s engine’s under their feet and the feel of her slow canted lift off as the ship was carefully angled up through the opening roof of the warehouse. “*Wo bu dong*.”

“Inara, we discussed this already.”

She shook her head. “No, Mal, we didn’t. You came up with this crazy plan and that was it.”

A tiny thread of hurt crept into his voice. “You could’a said somethin’.”

“And what would change your mind once it’s made up Malcolm Reynolds?”

“*Bao bei*, gettin’ off this planet while that Alliance juggernaut is here ain’t an option, *dong ma*? Best plan is to hide in the one place that *hundan* ain’t gonna look.”

“Mal, that dust eats through EVERYTHING. If we do this there will be no escape afterwards.”

“*Bushi*. Not got time to go over all the details *xin gan*.” He paused and touched her arm, the look on his face suddenly tender giving her heart pause. “Love you too much to risk losin’ you even for a stuck up Alliance *wangba dan* but don’t go countin’ us out just yet, *dong ma*?”

His warm lips captured hers in a surprise kiss which deepened all too briefly before he drew away. He gave her a mischievous smile that actually reached his eyes and made them twinkle. Mesmerised, Inara was lost for words. Really, the man was impossible. His voice dropped to a husky whisper that sent a little thrill through her. “Just trust me, *bao bei*.”

By the time she was able to respond he was already gone. Slowly raising a hand to touch her lips, a little girl smile touched the lips he had kissed. The kind that made her heart sing.

* * * * *

The operating theatre was ready. The medical technician checked his instrument tray and began to connect the monitoring equipment to the subject. A long distance away, she was aware that something vital needed to happen, an urgency building up in muscles that would not obey her. She lay inert for seconds that took on the aspect of hours, her ability to think the only ghost of moving parts she still possessed and yet they held power. A thought impinged on her barely functioning consciousness, prodding her to take action. Then in a sudden unexpected burst of information, memories assaulted her in a flurry so fast and insistent that her heart missed a beat. What the good gorram? In that space between staggered heartbeats something steadied, the rising panic arrested before it could incapacitate her further. Her body might no longer obey her but the mind was something else. A force was unleashed building quickly to a crescendo that instinctively allowed her to lash out in the one direction her captors had not anticipated.

The technician selected a scalpel then, as he was about to make his first incision he turned his hand and in one quick efficient swipe cut his own throat. In the observation room the Operative swore, turned and began to run as fast as he could while shouting out orders. Shock delayed their implementation just enough for Lucy to force her sluggish limbs to move. Once she started to move the return of bodily functions followed swiftly. A little dizzy and dazed she sat up and swung her legs over the side of the operating table, her hands scrabbling quickly to rip out the iv lines and monitors. Quickly she rammed a metal tray into a bank of monitors to kill the alarm and shut off the overhead camera though there were bound to be others. As she got her feet under her the theatre doors swung open with a bang and the Operative sprang towards her, his sword unsheathed and held at the ready. A threat meant to cow her.

To the Operative’s consternation Lucy Dengate smiled. Why was she smiling? At that moment others crowded in behind him and in the first mistaken notion that they had come to his aid the Operative lost the initiative. The gun shot was loud in the enclosed space, a look of surprise then betrayal flickering across the Operative’s face a fraction of a second before the top of his head was blown off. As his sword slipped from nerveless fingers Lucy caught it and swiftly held it upright behind her back. The men behind were confused. Lucy built on that state of shock and confusion to slip round them and out of the room, using a firm mental push to lock the door behind her. As she fled the men slowly came back to their senses, looks of horror and disbelief rooting them to the spot. By the time they thought to raise the alarm Lucy Dengate was no longer inside the facility. It would be several hours before the theatre doors could be opened. The locking mechanism had been melted into a solid block.

* * * * *

“What do you mean you can’t find him? Why am I surrounded by *mei yong* incompetent *baichi*? You will search every inch of this area until you find him. I also want teams to complete a systematic search of the warehouses. I suspect Reynolds has been hiding his ship in one, it would explain why we haven’t been able to find the Firefly with our sensors.”

* * * * *

Davie Thomas could not believe his eyes and only just managed to duck in time as the huge ugly flying beast swooped down, missing him by inches. As Davie straightened his mouth dropped open in awe. “Wow!”

Mr Bart was smiling fit to bust, enjoying the reactions of his young charges. It was Suzie who recovered first. “You brought them back to.. win a bet?”

The big man laughed, a rich hearty sound. “*Qu*. It was the easiest bet I have ever won and let me tell you this.” He leaned down to whisper confidentially. “The money I will make on this wager will set me up for life.”

Though she wasn’t sure what he meant by being set up for life Suzie thought it must mean he would be very rich indeed. A thought occurred to her. “Is that why you are helpin’ us, *shifu*?”

“Ah, you misunderstand my motives young lady.”

“My name is Suzie.”

He nodded benignly, waved a hand and all the incredible creatures flickered and disappeared. A cry of disappointment came from Davie who turned big wide eyes filled with loss on him. Seeing the boy’s expression, Mr Bart gave him an apologetic look. “My boy – Davie, “ he corrected himself before Suzie could do it for him “surely you did not think these marvels had risen from their ancient graves to walk again?”

Davie could not speak: that was exactly what he had thought. Suzie found something that had been puzzling her click into place. “It was a trick wasn’t it?”

“Such harsh words, Suzie. Not a trick, but an illusion if you will. I did recreate the beasts, that much is pure truth, but not in flesh and blood. They are holographic recreations. When you ran under the belly of the mammoth Davie did you feel your hair stand on end, hmmm?”

Wide eyed Davie thought back then nodded slowly.

“It’s called static but completely harmless I assure you.”

“Won’t your bet be invalid now?” Asked Suzie.

Mr Bart laughed then settled into a big wide smile. “Bless you Suzie, the bet will be honoured. For I complied with the letter of the wager. Stephen did not stipulate that the beasts must be demonstrably made of flesh and bone just that they be brought back in a form identifiable to their original selves.” He paused then recalled Suzie’s other question. “And no, that is not why I offered you and your brother my assistance. I did so because you needed help and without it who knows what peril might befall you both?”

Davie gave Suzie a look. ‘He thinks you’re my sister’

‘We won’t correct him. It will be easier this way’

* * * * *

Jayne Cobb swallowed hard and tried not to panic. Once the earthmovers had done their job there was little sign of Serenity left. The great depression that had been dug was just deep enough for the ship to rest In but it was more than disconcerting to see their home effectively being buried. Especially as the fine gorram dust was all that was left of the people who had once populated the dock area. Jayne imagined all those rutting ghosts reaching up through the dust and coming for some kind of revenge. Simon had tried to explain that once the dust had broken down everything and anything to this much finer compound it had become inert and was thus safe. Didn’t make no never mind to the mercenary, still felt like they were digging their own gorram graves.

Jerrod walked over to where the Captain was watching his ship settle inside the depression his team had dug. “What now, Mal? No offence but you’d have to be blind to fly overhead and not see your ship lyin’ there.”

The Captain grinned back. Next to him Zoe stiffened, as if bracing herself for more bad news in the plan department. “Want you to bury my boat from the front end but leave the hatch at the top an’ the cargo bay door clear . Once you and Howdy have done that I want you to take your earth movers back inside the cargo bay, *dong ma*? Best we do the last bit by hand.”

Zoe watched Jerrod Perkins climb back aboard his earth mover after making a hand sign to Howdy. With a sinking feeling she watched them begin to bury the front half of Serenity. It made her quail inside as if she was never going to see the ship again.

“*Fang xin*, Zoe. Soon as they’re inside you an’ me’ll get shovellin’ an’ cover the back end.” “Sir, that’s still a lot of dust to move.”

“That it is but there ain’t no other way. Not without leavin’ one of them earth movin’ machines out in the open where nothin’ is supposed to be but dust. This way we cover the ship good an’ proper then climb up to the top hatch an’ let ourselves in bringin’ the spades with us.”

“What about the hatch sir, how’re we gonna cover that?”

“We ain’t. That’s why I had Kaylee give it a lick of yellow paint. From the air it’ll blend in, won’t be nothin’ to see.”

“What about air, sir?”


“We gotta breathe.”

A quirky smile twisted his lips as if at some private joke but Zoe wasn’t in the mood for laughing. “Anyone ever tell you that you worry too much, Zoe?”

“Still haven’t answered my question, sir.”

“When we need to refresh our internal supplies we’ll just poke a breather tube up through the gorram hatch. Take what we need then close it up again.”

Her look was dry but unimpressed. “You’ve really given this some thought haven’t you, sir?”

He smiled back and got to work with the spade. “That I have, Zoe. Just wish I could hang around to see Urquart’s face when his search comes up empty.”

Zoe fell silent and got to work with the other spade. It was hard work and neither dared to stop for a rest break, not knowing how long it would be before Commandant Urquart decided to take a closer look at the rest of the planet. The only good news she could see was that in teaming up with Jerrod and his crew they had supplies a-plenty. She just hoped that the whole being buried alive thing would not end up permanent

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin – Pinyin) *shenjingbing* = crazy *chunren* = fool/jerk *qu* = yes (lit. go) *ni zhide shi shenme* = what do you mean? *diyu* = hell *dong ma* = understand? *zhangfu* = husband *qizi* = wife *tamade hundan*/*wangba dan* = fucking bastard *duibuqi* = sorry *shifu* = sir *baichi* = idiot *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wo bu zhidao* = I don’t know *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *ni shi shenme yisi* = what does that mean? *dang ran* = of course *wo bu dong* = I don’t understand *bao bei* = precious/treasure *hundan* = bastard *bushi* = not so *xin gan* = sweetheart *mei yong* = useless *fang xin* = don’t worry (lit. ease your heart


Monday, January 28, 2013 6:20 AM


must be monday, mal and inara are fighting again.

Monday, January 28, 2013 11:17 AM


Mal and Inara always bicker Nutluck, at least they got a kiss out of it too! Ali D :-)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, February 4, 2013 7:08 PM


Well, they may be bickering again but at least they kissed. I'm thinking air shouldn't be a big problem because after all it's a spaceship and they have air supply for weeks, don't they? Let's hope the plan works. I was glad that Lucy thwarted the operative's plans.

Monday, February 11, 2013 4:08 AM


That hot and cold tension that flows between Mal and Inara highlights rather than masks how much they actually feel for each other. You are right about the air supply Ebfiddler and as for Lucy, you have a few surprises still in store on that front. Thank you for the shiny feedback, Ali D :-)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, March 9, 2013 4:25 PM


OK when Lucy pulled her Wonder Woman/Xena/Ninja act I did a fairly decent spit-take-**NOTE TO SELF: do not consume beverages whilst reading ANY of Amdobell's epic fanfics** wow, moving on to next chapter post haste TYSM AliD


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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.