Sunday, February 10, 2013

The development of this weapon was the most disturbing thing he had heard of and to have a weapon that could annihilate everything in its' path was beyond frightening. It was the stuff of nightmares.


TITLE: “THE WORLD TO COME” SERIES: THE DEVIL’S CRADLE CHAPTER: 33. Sequel to “THINGS UNSEEN” FANDOM: “FIREFLY” AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara SUMMARY: “While Serenity and her crew play possum Commandant Urquart is getting more and more desperate To catch them. Suzie and Davie find things on Osiris far Different than they had expected.”


A “Firefly” Story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Blood. It was everywhere. With no care given to who else might be alerted to her actions Lucy swept out of the theatre, her feet automatically dancing over the fallen bodies of the medical technicians and the dead Operative. It was as if something more ancient than she was had awakened inside her and the Lucy Dengate who trembled with fear and trepidation was no more. In her place an older self took charge, memories morphed into consciousness and informed her mind in the same way her abilities were informing every cell of her body. For once the path was clear and she knew exactly what needed to be done.

Quickly Lucy made her way to the incubation room and swiftly went from tank to tank, her eyes widening and silently taking in the remains of her sisters. Only when she reached the end of the chilly room did she realise there had been no male subjects. Had the Operative saved them or had their bodies already been destroyed?

An alarm sounded, oddly distant, but she knew her time was up. To be caught now would be worse than any amount of torture or death

* * * * *

Kaylee was frustrated. It was bad enough being buried alive without Simon ignoring all her efforts to drag him away from the infirmary. She gave a huff of frustration.

“Simon, River’s fine. You don’t need to spend all your life constantly lookin’ for cures that don’t exist, *dong ma*?”

Simon did not look up from his high tech microscope. “That’s not what I’m doing.”

“It ain’t?”

He looked up at the note of surprise in her voice but did not smile. “*Bu qu*. It’s this dust, Kaylee. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

“No one has.”

“*Ni bu dong*. It isn’t natural.”

“We know that.”

“The dust was engineered, Kaylee. Someone went to a lot of trouble and a great deal of expense to make it and Commandant Urquart is using Anaeron and Ithaca Moon as testing grounds.”

Kaylee couldn’t see why Simon looked so puzzled. “They’re Alliance, Simon. What other reason do you need?”

“Kaylee, this dust destroys everything it comes into contact with.”

“*Wo zhidao*.”

“What I don’t understand is why it then becomes inert. What switches it ‘off’?”

“Maybe it just ran outta stuff to destroy.”

“I’ve thought of that but if that were the case…” He trailed off as if unsure whether to continue. At Kaylee’s look he cleared his throat and explained. “Why isn’t it trying to destroy the ship?”

Kaylee looked alarmed. “Ya mean it’s gonna turn us all to dust?”

“No, it’s not and that’s what’s confusing me.”

It took Kaylee a moment to realise what he meant. Her eyes narrowed. “Wait a minute, Simon Tam, are ya sayin’ you’re disappointed on account of the dust NOT destroyin’ us an’ Serenity?”

“Kaylee, I’m just trying to understand. The dust here is inert, that is obvious. I even put a sample under the microscope but all I could detect was very fine silica. Whatever was in the dust when it was activated is gone now.”

“That’s good ain’t it?”

“It means we’re safe, yes.” He said slowly.

Serenity’s mechanic could not understand why Simon did not look happier. “*Shenme shi*?”

“If the active component is now gone leaving the dust inert, where did it go?”

* * * * *

It was amusing, really. Like watching an ant’s nest that had been poked into activity. She watched through other eyes, heard with ears that were not her own, safely cocooned in her sham of a life that both protected and kept her isolated from a world she would not touch with a barge pole. And yet it drew her. Like some voyeur addicted to the human condition yet preferring to observe from afar. Anonymous and deadly.

* * * * *

Commandant Urquart was beyond furious. There were no words strong enough to describe his anger. Like an electrical storm that ire radiated off him and cleared a space around him everywhere he walked. His crew watched him overtly, every move and look cautious as if afraid to be caught observing their volatile Commandant. Despite searching the warehouse district inside out they had found no sign of Captain Reynolds or the Firefly mid-bulk transport Serenity. Reynolds had played him for a fool and Urquart had fallen for the ruse. But why the ruse in the first place? Or had it been a distraction? One used so that the maddening former Browncoat could slip out of the Commandant’s net? If so, he had no idea how it had been accomplished. No ship of any kind had taken off from Anaeron while they were busy searching on the ground which meant what?

Urquart stopped pacing and turned to his lieutenant. “I want the district searched again and if you still find nothing then open all ports and release the weapon. Maximum dispersal. Leave nothing standing. If Reynolds is no longer on this planet we will make sure there is nothing for him or his crew to return to.”


Urquart recognised Junior Medic Paulson. “What is it?”

“It is Sgt Grant, *shifu*. Dr Gordon says if you still wish to speak to him please do it soon. He is fading fast.”

Some of the Commandant’s anger faded, a flicker of something too fleeting to be named as concern touched eyes as cold as permafrost. With a short nod he followed Paulson off the bridge of his ship. Navigator Ricky Grant raised his eyes to the Black and the bridge crew released the breaths they had been holding. The only thing worse than a bored Commandant was a bored and vengeful one.

* * * * *

Jayne was scowling with annoyance, his muscles flexing automatically as if the slightest wrong word or act would send his temper over the edge. Zoe kept an eye on him, watching his expression turn even more sour as the Captain explained why they would not be having a hot meal.

“Jayne, we’re layin’ low, *dong ma*? Taken a good bit of trouble to dig ourselves in an’ be hidden from view.”

“I know that, Cap, but what’s that got to do with eatin’?”

Shepherd Book’s deep calm voice rolled between the two men as he helped Inara lay the table with bread rolls, cold meat and various pickles. That the meat was a meat substitute and the pickles a range of oddly coloured vegetables that few of them were familiar with made no never mind. Once properly spiced and pickled it would fool the taste buds long enough to be swallowed which was all that mattered. Food was food after all and everyone needed sustenance. To wash it down they would have some of Kaylee’s inter engine brew. “I think the Captain is worried about giving off a heat signature where there shouldn’t be one.”

The mercenary actually looked more confused not less. “Kaylee shut off the engine, we ain’t givin’ out no ruttin’ heat.”

“But we will if we start cookin’ meals, Jayne.” The Captain explained.

Jayne opened his mouth to complain further but River swept into the room with Simon and Kaylee quarreling quietly but intensely in her wake. She grinned at Jayne. “I’ll eat yours if you’re not hungry.”

Jayne’s hand shot out and grabbed the plate Book had filled and passed to him. “*Wei*, never said I wasn’t gonna eat it!”

“Then you shouldn’t complain.”

Mal hid a smirk then noticed that Kaylee and Simon were still arguing all quiet like, heads close together and seemingly oblivious of where they were and who was present. “There somethin’ you an’ Kaylee wanna share with the rest of us, doc?”

Simon looked up abruptly. “Um, we were just discussing something, Captain.”

“Looked more like you was arguin’.” Mumbled Jayne with his mouth full.

Simon frowned at the mercenary but Kaylee ignored him, taking the opening the Captain had given her. “Simon’s worried about the dust.”

Everybody stared at her. Inara felt her heart miss a beat, hoping that another problem was not about to land in their laps.

“Worried how?”

“Captain, it’s probably nothing…”

Kaylee shot the doctor an annoyed exasperated look. “Don’t you dare pretend it ain’t nothin, Simon, you been starin’ through that gorram microsope worryin’ an’ frettin’ for hours.”

The Captain laid down his chopsticks and leaned forward. “If you got a worry Simon I wanna hear it.”

Simon opened his mouth to protest that he wasn’t sure it was anything to worry about yet when his sister leaned over her brother’s shoulder and stared at the Captain. A bright happy smile on her face as she stole what looked like a pickled gherkin off Simon’s plate. “He doesn’t want to alarm anyone but the dust isn’t acting like dust.”

“It ain’t?” Mal stared at Simon. “Then what is it actin’ like an’ why is this the first I’m hearin’ of it?”

“I’m not sure there’s a problem Captain but I couldn’t help wondering where whatever it was that activated the dust went to.”

The Captain gave him a blank look. Wash joined them with Jerrod Perkins and Howdy Marks, the rest of Jerrod’s crew traipsing in behind him carrying plates and hopeful expressions on their hungry faces. Kaylee hurried to make room for them at the table. Jayne felt a prick of satisfaction knowing they would be disappointed to be eating cold food especially as the Captain had made it clear they were likely to be in hiding for several days at least. Wash looked from his wife to the Captain, having only caught the tail end of the conversation.

“*Fang xin* Simon, it’s inactive.”

For a moment no one spoke. Jerrod narrowed his eyes and turned to Mal. “What’s goin’ on, Mal?”

“Our doc, Simon, is puzzled by the dust.”

His expression cleared. “That all?”

Frustrated, Simon found himself blurting out what he had been thinking before he had been able to investigate enough to come up with a workable theory. “The dust isn’t the same as the dust I took from your damaged mask, Captain. That dust was still active which was why you were so ill however it should still have had the same properties present. It didn’t.”

Book looked grave. “How is that possible?”

“*Wo bu zhidao*. At first I thought the dust had exhausted its’ active element once all the matter it came into contact with was also reduced to dust.”

“I’m takin’ it you don’t think that now?”

Simon shook his head slowly. “*Bu qu*, Captain. It’s a puzzle. I don’t know what it means or even if it is significant but given that we don’t know how it was created into such a devastating weapon it would make sense to find out as much as possible about it.”

“Maybehaps you can compare the sample Jayne an’ Book swept up with what’s left in the mask.”

“I can’t do that Captain. Commander Urquart took your damaged filter mask with him when he left Serenity.”

The Captain gave Simon a long look and realised that was the nub of the matter. Simon was fretting because he had no way of comparing the two samples.

“Surely you still have your original findings saved on the computer in the infirmary?” Said Book.

As Simon’s face fell the Captain got a sinking feeling in his gut. “Don’t tell me, those *tamade hundan* purplebellies took your research?”

“Worse than that Captain they infected the computer programme. I lost other data as well. It’s all gone.”

Jerrod was not sure what any of it meant. Jayne just kept eating, his eyes now fixed on the Captain’s plate. Inara noticed and moved Mal’s plate out of the mercenary’s reach earning herself a black look which she returned with a serene smile. The Captain now understood that Simon’s research was part of what Urquart had been looking for. That and making sure his ship was not able to go anywhere. Fortunately the latter had been dealt with but it raised other ugly questions in his brain pan that he wasn’t sure he wanted the answers to.

“Sounds like the Commandant was trying to erase any mention of his new weapon, Captain.”

The Captain had to admit that Book was right and wasn’t that chilling? That meant the disingenuous *liumang* would not give up the hunt for his ship and crew. They had become loose ends in a project the almighty gorram Alliance wouldn’t want anyone knowing about.

* * * * *

The showman was feeling inordinately pleased with himself. Not only had he won the bet but it seemed he was about to receive a bonus for the way in which he had done so.

“You will receive payment in person, Mr Bartholomew.” At the look of surprise on the showman’s face, the Lady effected a look of serene satisfaction. “I will have it delivered by courier along with a most handsome bonus.”

Something like a vague presentiment unsettled him but though not their usual arrangement he could hardly protest. The Lady was always generous and he served her well. He bowed, his tone laced with respect. “Xie xie ni*, it is always a pleasure My Lady.”

When he straightened his screen was blank. For a moment he stared at the monitor, mentally reviewing the entire conversation. The Lady had been most anxious when he mentioned the presence of the children but he had explained how he had shown them the holographic park and all the various and wondrous creatures that had been brought to life there. When he had then made them vanish with a wave of his hand and explained that they were not flesh and blood recreations but holographic it had settled the intended seed in their minds that *all* of the creations were of this nature. That had reassured the Lady to some extent but he had the uncomfortable feeling that she was not happy he had let the children go.

It made no sense to him. They were simply children and easily manipulated into not only seeing what he wanted them to see but believing it too. He had joyed in their delight. It was only when he had told her the children had wanted to go to Osiris that she appeared to relax. The news that she was so pleased with his work that he had earned an unexpected bonus momentarily wiped away the uneasy feeling that had begun to creep over him. Now though, it hovered on the edge of his consciousness like a foul lingering odour and his carefree happy mood seeped out of him.

Fervently he hoped he had not put those innocents in unintended danger but no. They were just children and all they had seen was an illusion. Where was the harm in that?

* * * * *

The Captain and Simon were going over all they had learnt so far about the dust, both that which had infected the mask and made the Captain so sick as well as that used in the planet destroying biotech weapon that Commandant Urquart has unleashed upon two unsuspecting worlds. Shepherd Book listened carefully paying little heed to other conversations at the table. The development of this weapon was the most disturbing thing he had heard of and to have a weapon that could annihilate everything in its’ path was beyond frightening. It was the stuff of nightmares. *Wode ma*, what were they thinking?

“Power. Control.”

He almost jumped at River’s words. When had the girl moved? Her head dipped close to his, her long lank hair hanging down like a frayed curtain. Her eyes seemed too large for her small pale face, two wide shining lamps that saw far too much for anyone’s comfort.

“You worry that they won’t stop. The genie out of the bottle. Like Pandora but worse, that was an accident of curiosity.”

“Then what was this?” Book whispered.

Oddly enough she smiled but it was not a happy smile, the brightness of it cut him to the quick. “Planned. Executed with ruthless efficiency but you worry too much.”

The Captain turned his head, catching the last few words of River’s pronouncement. “I’m thinkin’ we don’t worry enough.”

She could have told them Informed them all but that would spoil the surprise. River knew from experience that she would not be believed anyway, not until they saw the evidence for themselves. Simon looked at her in concern but River just smiled back, her smile turning into a grin when Kaylee leant in close to her brother and whispered in his ear. Simon flushed and so did River. The Captain gave her a quizzical look but she was already dancing away, her bright laughter echoing like a merry shadow in her wake.

Wash glanced at his wife in bewilderment. “What do you suppose that was about, *bao bei*?”

Zoe gave an unconcerned shrug and kissed her *zhangfu*. “Just River bein’ River, Wash.” As they kissed, Zoe looked over her husband’s shoulder and her eyes met those of the Captain. Something subtle but deep passed between the two putting both on notice just in case.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin – Pinyin) *dong ma* = understand? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *shifu* = sir *shenme shi* = what’s the matter? *ni bu dong* = you don’t understand *wei* = hey! *fang xin* = don’t worry (lit. ease your heart) *wo bu zhidao* = I don’t know” *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *liumang* = bastard/asshole/criminal/gangster *xie xie ni* = thank you *wode ma* = mother of God *bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband *Wo zhidao* = I know


Sunday, February 10, 2013 8:19 PM


Hmm! I didn't really you could post comments without being logged in. I'm going to have to take advantage of this to leave lots of anonymous comments all over anything. Possibly having arguments?

Anyway, fun chapter. Hope the storywriting is going well.

Monday, February 11, 2013 4:04 AM


I didn't know you could do that either, Bytemite, but thank you for your comment Guest. I wanted to get this chapter up days ago my washing machine not only gave up the ghost and died on me it flooded while it did so. Had to get a new one, it's digital and very good. Feels weird having a washing machine smarter than I am! LOL. Thank you both for the feedback, Ali D :-)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, February 11, 2013 7:09 PM


Ali, I know the feeling, with these household appliances that know better than I do. lol
You're starting to pull the disparate threads together but I must confess I'm still wondering how they mesh! Lucy's no longer the victim; the showman works for the Lady?! Most intrigued about the apparent nature of the activated vs inactivated dust -- looking forward to seeing just what is going on there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 7:45 AM


Things aren't always as they seem and in the Firefly 'verse there is often someone behind the scenes pulling the strings, Ebfiddler. Lots more still to come, thanks for the shiny feedback! Ali D :-)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, February 15, 2013 5:18 PM


When River is just being River is when you should worry the most.

Saturday, March 9, 2013 4:39 PM


head spinning, trying to sort it out, what-the-hell, the dust IS just dust now??!! moving on...


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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.