THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 34. "The Devil's Cradle"
Friday, February 15, 2013

Metal, bone, flesh, cloth - everything collapsing with the dust of their bodies spilling over and beginning to eat through the deck. At first no one noticed, too stunned by what they were seeing for their brains to catch up to the danger.


TITLE: "THE DEVIL'S CRADLE" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 34. Sequel to "THE WORLD TO COME" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara SUMMARY: "Commandant Urquart begins to learn the consequences of his actions. Simon is unsettled by questions he cannot answer and Commandant Urquart discovers something he cannot ignore."

"THE DEVIL'S CRADLE" A "Firefly" Story" Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

It was not the fact that the man was having such a hard time breathing that was such a shock but the fact that part of his trachea was simply missing. Commandant Urquart stared through the reinforced transparasteel window of the ship's biohazard room and knew with a certainty that this was not the end of the problem only the beginning. Without taking his eyes off the unedifying drama unfolding in that room he questioned Dr Gordon.

"What happened to his containment suit?"

"It was reduced to dust, *shifu*."

Even though he had been expecting the answer it still made him turn his head to stare at the man. "What did you do with the dust?"

Dr Gordon blinked at the Commandant. Seriously? He had three men dying in the most awful and excruciating agony and Urquart was asking him about DUST? When the doctor did not answer immediately the Commandant leaned in close to the man, his voice pitched low and icy cold. It sent more than chills down Dr Gordon's spine.

"The dust doctor, did this. Now. I ask you once again, what did you do with it?"

* * * * *

She stopped suddenly, a strange sensation prickling through her senses. Davie ran on a few yards before he realised she was not following. He turned and frowned at the arrested expression on her face, not knowing what it meant. '*Shenme shi*?'

'We're bein' hunted'

He frowned. 'Don't you mean followed?'

Suzie shook her head. Davie felt sick. The people they passed were neither Alliance officials or government monitors and took no notice of them but the children were still wary. Suzie waited until there was no one else near her. 'Block your mind, Davie'


'Now!' Suzie barked in his mind.

Startled, Davie quickly complied though now he was both worried and fearful. Suzie took his hand, gave it a small squeeze, then turned so that they were heading back the way they had come. Her stride lengthening, Davie had to almost run just to keep up with her.

'What's *cuode*?'

"Best if we speak out loud for now, *dong ma*? Whoever's pursuin' us has the gift."

He blinked, confused. "What gift?"


He would have stopped then and there to ask for more information but Suzie's hold had tightened and she was not about to stop for anything. Davie could feel a knot of fear building in his chest. They should be safe, they were on Osiris and Suzie had given the impression there were others like them. He assumed at least one of the others must be on Osiris. Did that mean the Alliance had captured them? The very thought made him quail inside, the fear that he and Suzie were next taking hold of him.

As they neared the dock Davie's hope rose just a little. "Are we gonna look for Mr Bart?"

She shook her head. "*Bu qu*, they took off after droppin' us off jide*? We need to find a ship we can hide away on."

Alarmed, Davie wanted to dig his heels in but it seemed Suzie knew what was troubling him.

"We're not lookin' for an Alliance ship Davie, nor anythin' too modern. Keep an eye out. Somethin' older, maybe a former settler's ship or an old transport. The last thing we need is to draw attention either by lookin' suspicious or choosin' a ship that's too shiny."

Davie didn't reply, just stretched his neck and gave the various ships at berth a more critical look. A thought occurred to him. "Wouldn't a new ship be less likely to fall in the Black?"

Her laughter, though muted, was a welcome change from the wall to wall angst. "The older ships have to be well maintained just for that reason. Newer ships may be more reliable but they are also the ones most likely to be commissioned by the Alliance." Davie was silent for several minutes then gave a heartfelt sigh. Suzie shot him a look.

"*Shenme shi*?"

"I'm hungry."

"You're always hungry."

Davie gave a much more dramatic sigh. Suzie fought back a smile. "*Wo lei le*."

"*Wo zhidao*. We'll rest soon, first we find a ship then find a way to get on board. We can worry about everythin' else later.

"What if..."

"What if what?"

Davie looked troubled. Ill at ease. "What if they find us?"

Suzie leaned down and looked him in the eye, her voice softening a touch but as determined as ever. "We don't let them find us, Davie. Until we find someone we can trust we can't trust anyone."

"We trusted Mr Bart."

She paused but didn't say what she was thinking. They didn't know Mr Bart and while he had seemingly done them a good turn she could not be sure that the person hunting them had not been alerted to their presence on Osiris. And who, besides the two of them, knew? No. They were not going to trust anyone. They couldn't afford to.

* * * * *

Wash stirred in his sleep, some instinct waking him to the fact that his beautiful but deadly wife was not resting. As his eyes flickered open he felt the tension in her body and slid his warm hands over a landscape he knew by heart and could navigate blind folded.

"*Bao bei, shenme shi*?"

She turned in his arms to face him. Wash wriggled closer and cupped a generous breast in one hand, his thumb rubbing back and forth across the slack nipple, encouraging it to harden to his touch as he gazed lovingly at this marvellous, incredible woman who was now incredibly his wife. The knowledge never ceased to amaze him.

"I don't think we're gonna get outta this, Wash."

He was so surprised by her words that Wash paused to give her a sharper look. It was not like Zoe to be defeatist. Her faith in the Captain was so strong he often wondered whether it indicated some kind of brain damage. Hearing her voice doubts was therefore more than unsettling, it was like watching a tear open in the fabric of the 'verse. He just hoped it wouldn't swallow them whole. "Cap'n's got a plan. All we gotta do is sit tight."

"Then what, *zhangfu*?"

For a moment he was puzzled. "Then we get the *diyu* outta here."

Her voice dropped to a tiny hush, speaking a fear that she would normally have kept firmly locked in the 'not gonna happen' vault. "What if Urquart is waitin' for us?"

Wash took his time answering, his hands continuing to massage her breasts until both rose full and proud, as ready as fruit ripe for the plucking. "Then we wait, *bao bei*. Got plenty of food - if we can stop Jayne eatin' it all - an' I'm guessin' the Alliance won't let such an important ship stay much longer. They'll be needin' to head back, go torment other innocent citizens an' such." He dropped his mouth to suck and nibble on a waiting nipple and let his other hand drop between them, the warm questing fingers gently finding the warm moist forest parting to his touch. Zoe sighed softly, her body slowly easing into a familiar humming content but her mind could not settle. Wash though was a man on a mission and not about to leave a job half done.

He took his time pleasuring his wife, her moans deepening as his own desire rose yet still he kept bringing her to the edge then easing off only to do so again and again until her sounds of desire became aggressive, demanding. Only when he was sure if he stopped she would kill him, Wash slid himself home and almost came then and there as her walls clamped tight and firm around him. They were silent a long time after their love making, Wash continuing to soothe her body with his touch until the blessing of sleep claimed them.

* * * *

The final moments of Sgt Grant's life were lost in a soft creepy susurration, his two colleagues had already succumbed to the inevitable. Not only their bodies but also every scrap of uniform, insignia, weapons and personal effects had likewise been reduced to dust. A dust that, even as the Commandant watched in a kind of sick and horrified fascination, was eating its' way through the gurneys the men had been laid on. Metal, bone, flesh, cloth - everything collapsing with the dust of their bodies spilling over and beginning to eat through the deck. At first no on noticed, too stunned by what they were seeing for their brains to catch up to the danger. After all, this was the bio-hazard suite and the most secure room in it. No one had thought to tell the dust that.

An update came through at that moment from his ground forces and Urquart turned away from the viewing window to take the call. "Report!"

"Operation successful, *shifu*. Nothing has been left standing."

A twitch flickered on the left side of Urquart's face. He had still been hoping, rather foolishly, that they would come across Reynolds and his ship. To have him slip through his fingers was an itch he could not scratch. Yet. "Any casualties?"

The Lieutenant in charge of the ground forces, codenamed Zero, seemed to hesitate for just a fraction. Urquart's eyes narrowed. "*Bu qu, shifu* but we did find something and have recovered it.

"*Shenme*? What did you find?"

"It's a small remote, *shifu*, we almost missed it. It has been coloured to blend in with the surroundings. Sgt 202 says this was the device used to transmit the call you received."

Commandant Urquart's lips thinned, his stride quickening as he headed straight for the bridge. "Then Reynolds was never on Anaeron." He growled.

To give Lt Zero his due he said nothing, did not say what he suspected but could not prove. The mood his volatile Commander was in he was likely to have his ground force left behind on Anaeron as petty punishment. "Return immediately. Once we have retrieved the active component we are leaving."

Urquart stepped on to the bridge, oblivious of the underlying tension. His own emotions a tight vicious sea. "Activate the retrieval!"

No one verbally acknowledged his order, just carried it out immediately. The ports that had expelled the activated dust were now opened again but this time to recall the prime ingredient. Too valuable to leave behind the advanced nano techology could be used again and again and again providing there was enough material to satisfy the programming. Urquart claspsed his hands behind his back and waited with forced patience until it was done. Now he knew Reynolds was not on Anaeron he wanted to leave as soon as possible. Not only to report the total success of the experment but also the one or two worrying side effects that their Blue Sun colleagues had forgotten to mention. Someone would pay for that if it was the last thing he did.

* * * * *

Captain Malcolm Reynolds stared at Simon. It was not that he did not believe his gifted and brilliant young doctor, it was what he said that stunned him. They were in the infirmary and Simon had carefully gone over and over his findings until there could be no mistake.

"Are you sayin' that filter mask that infected me was still active?"

Simon nodded. "*Qu*. Had I still got my original data I could be more specific Captain but I believe the Alliance actually did us an unintended favour."

That raised a bigger disbelieving eyebrow than Simon's ground breaking news. "Be that as it may," he said curtly "I an't never gonna be beholden to no lyin', murderin', cheatin'..."


Shepherd Book's voice cut off the tirade the Captain was warming up to. He opened his mouth to say something ascerbic abouot being interrupted in his Captain-y duties but Book did not feel his news could wait.

"I was speaking just now to Jerrod and he says the remote has been found."

The Captain quickly changed mental gears. "Can they trace the transmission back to our last location?"

Book shook his head. "*Fang xin*, Captain."

"Then why you lookin' so worried?"

"The last images we got back before it was decommissioned showed the complete destruction of what was the warehouse district. Captain, conservative estimates put the number of people that lived or worked in that area at 860."

Malcolm Renolds paled. Behind him Simon looked visibly shocked. "We know them people were still there when they unleashed their deadly weapon?"

The Preacher's voice was quiet, his voice subdued. "Yes, Captain. With the destruction of the rest of Anaeron it was the only safe place they had left."

"Only it was not so safe." Murmured the Captain. He took a moment to steady himself then gave Book a steely look. "Seems we missed joinin' 'em our ownselves."

"We did?"

"That mask that infected me still had active dust in it. Wouldn't have known how dangerous it still was if the doc hadn't been studyin' it."

Book looked confused. "*Wo bu dong*, you recovered Captain."

"Only because of the equipment Rufus had on his terraformin' ship." Something clicked in the Captain's brain. "Rufus said his ship was grounded, had most all the terraformin' equipment gutted from it leavin' that enormous ugly shell."

Zoe, Jayne and Jerrod came into the infirmary as if summoned. The Captain gave the Shepherd a look, he shrugged. "Thought it best to say it only once."

Behind them River danced and wove until she came to stand in front of the Captain. Simon moved to intercept her but the Captain raised a hand, his voice mild and pitched to the soothing tone he tended to use whenever River seemed on the point of unravelling. No telling what her mood or mental state was until she opened that confusing mouth of hers. Never had met such a complex mix of little girl and wise old woman, full of crazy smarts but oddly endearing too. Wouldn't admit it to no one least of all her over protective brother but he had something of a soft spot for River Tam. Just hoped it didn't indicate a weakness in the brain pan. Her smile made him feel a mite self conscious like she was peeking into his head and that was so not fair. Her smile vanished but the echo of it tinged suddenly serious eyes, glued to him as if to underline whatever came out of her mouth.

"We should get ready."

His heart missed a beat. "Has that gorram *tamade hundan* found us?"

She shook her head, tried to look reassuring. It wasn't entirely successful. "*Bu qu*, they'll be going soon. Job done."

Zoe's voice was bitter. "You mean he ran out of people to murder."

River glanced over her shoulder at Serenity's second in command, a smile tugging at her lips. "Not for much longer."

The Shepherd wondered what she meant by that. "Are you saying there is no more of that weapon?"

"*Bu qu* but it doesn't matter now. They never did the math."

"*Shei*, River?" Asked Simon. "Who didn't do the math?" "They were only interested in destruction, Simon, and in that they were completely successful."

The Captain kind of intuited what she wasn't saying but had to be sure. "You sayin' they overlooked somethin'?"

River beamed at the Captain. "When you switch something on you have to know how to switch it off again, *dong ma*?"

It all clicked in Simon's brain moments before anyone else joined the dots. "They don't know how to contain it." He sounded smug.

"Huh, that ain't nothin' to cheer about." Grumbled Jayne. No one had noticed the big man join them or the fact that the rest of Jerrod's crew were crammed around the doorway trying to listen in as well.

River gave him a brilliant smile. "It will be."

Jayne scowled at her. "What ya talkin' about moonbrain?"

"Rock, rock, rock-a-bye baby." She sang, body swaying to music only she could hear.

Jayne looked at the others as if one of them could translate for him but they all looked as baffled as he was. River had been dancing around, swinging her arms as if cradling something precious. Suddenly she stopped and stared straight at the Captain. She flung her arms apart and looked down. "Down falls the cradle, baby and all..."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin) *shifu* = sir *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *weishenme* = why *cuode* = wrong *dong ma* = understand? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *jide* = remember *wo lei le* = I'm tired *wo zhidao* = I know *bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband *diyu* = hell *shenme* = what? *qu* = yes (go) *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *shei* = who?


Friday, February 15, 2013 12:19 PM


If I were Urquhart (which I'm glad I'm not!) I would be very worried about the dust that ate away the containment suits, that killed the men, that appears to be eating its way through the biohazard containment area of his ship. Very, very worried. It seems like Simon has figured something out, and maybe they'll be able to use that to their advantage. Looks like Davie and Suzie made it to Osiris only to have to leave again immediately -- was it just a wild goose chase? Looking forward to some more twists and turns in this tale, Ali.

Friday, February 15, 2013 5:27 PM


Ooh, it looks like Mal's plan actually WORKED. Very lucky for a certain married couple. And Urquhart might have unleashed it on himself. Poetic justice.

I'm wondering about this new hunter with Davie and Suzie though. The last few hunters we've seen have been pretty scary people. I'm also wondering what happened to Lucy and if she's related to this.

Friday, February 15, 2013 5:59 PM


Soon only Serenity will be left. Which will end one part of the puzzle but still leave more.

Saturday, February 16, 2013 4:57 AM


Urquart has not yet joined up all the dots so does not realise the extent of the danger, Ebfiddler. Yes, Simon has worked quite a bit of the puzzle out now. As for who is pursuing Davie and Suzie and why, that will all become very clear soon. Hello Bytemite, yes Mal's plan WORKED what a shocker - I should have put a warning in there somewhere. Nice to see Urquart getting some kind of payback. As for Lucy, more coming soon. Yes, Nutluck, it is looking as if Serenity will be the only one left. Thank you all for the shiny feedback, Ali D :-)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, February 17, 2013 8:00 AM


>yes Mal's plan WORKED what a shocker

Laughing over here. We should have a celebration. Oh Mal, you must be feeling so proud.

Monday, February 18, 2013 9:56 AM


It is good to actually have one of Mal's plans work isn't it Bytemite? I'm thinking that once all the excitement dies down he will not be the only one to be mighty relieved. Thank you for the shiny feedback, Ali D :-)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, February 18, 2013 7:45 PM


>yes Mal's plan WORKED what a shocker

We should have a parade. :-)

Saturday, March 9, 2013 5:08 PM


is it bad that i'm laughing at Urquart, laughing my ass off?? is it? 'what goes around comes around' i believe is the, LUCY...moving on

Saturday, March 9, 2013 5:08 PM


is it bad that i'm laughing at Urquart, laughing my ass off?? is it? 'what goes around comes around' i believe is the, LUCY...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.