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AMDOBELL

THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 38. "Little Blue Lies"
Sunday, March 17, 2013

He had made a promise and now she knew that it had been broken. Consequences were sure to follow but not answering her request was not an option.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1373    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "LITTLE BLUE LIES" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 38. Sequel to "LOST AND FOUND" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara

"LITTLE BLUE LIES" A "Firefly" Story Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

It took no time at all for the Captain to track down Jerrod Perkins. The man was holed up in a spare passenger bunk even though Mal had given him and his crew the run of the ship.

"You wanna tell me why you didn't want to come with me to see Badger on Persephone?"

"Just didn't want more folks than needed to know realise I wasn't on Anaeron."

The Captain's eyes narrowed. "What's goin' on, Jer?" He asked softly. "An' I don't mean that weak tea you fed me an' my crew."

"As I remember you didn't call me on it, Mal."

"Well, I'm callin' you on it now. An' Jer? Don't be mistakin' that for a suggestion."

* * * * *

Suzie was not sure what she had been expecting from the big bear of a man but a hot cooked meal and kindly words were not it. Davie had his head down, busy mopping up the last of the gravy off his plate. It was a long time since he had eaten hot food this good. Living off seeds, sour berries picked out of season and whatever they could find cheap in the markets was no substitute for proper food. Their host seemed amused.

"Danny made pie. You like pie?"

Davie stared at him as if he had just walked on water. "*Qu, shifu*."

A grin split the bewhiskered face and the Captain yelled out for Danny to fetch the pie. Suzie wondered what kind of pie it was but didn't want to appear greedy even though her mouth was watering. Danny came in with a great big pie on a huge oval plate, larger than most plates Davie or Suzie had ever seen. It was a platter, one of those enormous serving dishes like the monied folks had only this was old. The bluish pattern faded but honoured as if it was some kind of heirloom. All the children saw was a big oval plate dwarfed by the biggest fruit pie they had ever seen. Their host laughed at the look on their faces and his men chuckled while trying to get Danny to hurry up cutting the pie. Danny flashed his cutting knife and eager fingers snapped back as if on elastic.

"*Wode ma*, no need to take our ruttin' fingers off!" Complained John-Joe.

Danny glared at them and flicked a glance at the two children, as if to remind the men of their manners. Suzie caught the look and hid a little smile. They didn't want any fuss but this crew didn't seem big on doing things by halves. Looking up she noticed the burly Captain looking at her, his kindly eyes bright and shrewd, missing nothing. Remembering her promise she introduced herself and Davy, telling him they had only just met Lucy. She didn't know Lucy's last name or where she came from. He nodded while Davy watched Danny dividing up the pie as if his life depended on it.

"I'm Cap'n Reynolds, Monty that is. Not the other one."

Suzie raised her eyebrows but Monty did not elaborate. Danny had just dropped the biggest slice of pie on his Captain's plate and everything else was forgotten. Monty wanted to eat it while it was still warm and nothing was going to interfere with that mission objective. After all, a Captain had to have priorities. Davie looked as if he was in Heaven, his mouth part opened in a grin and unable to shut for the pie crust sticking out of it. Suzie laughed and felt her worries diminish. These were good people if a little rough and ready.

As Danny slid a piece of pie towards her, she glanced at Monty. "About Lucy..."

He shook his head and Danny translated. "Food first, *dong ma*? Cap'n didn't get that impressive bulk by missin' meals, *nu haizi*."

Monty swallowed the food in his mouth and growled at Danny. "If you weren't such a good cook I'd throw your cheeky *pigu* out the air lock."

Danny laughed, an easy going affection telling Suzie more than the bantered words. "You'd only have to scoop me up again. Either that or starve."

* * * * *

"What is that noise?"

Zoe patted her husband's shoulder. "Just ignore it, *zhangfu*."

Wash looked up at his beautiful but deadly wife, a look of confusion shading his adoration. They had hit atmo minutes before and with a flick of a few switches Wash set Serenity on auto-pilot which was kind of a joke seeing as the Captain hadn't give him a destination yet. They all knew they would be heading to Lilac to drop off Jerrod Perkins and his crew but for some reason the Captain had seemed in no rush to set course and go there. For Wash that was almost as much a mystery as the terrible noise assaulting his eardrums. After a few more moments, realisation hit Wash like a steam train.

"Is that Jayne howlin'?"

"Not sure you'd call it howlin', *bao bei*."

The pilot gave his wife a suspicious look. "You knew an' you didn't tell me? Your husband."

Her smile was sweet, a sure sign that he was being humoured. "Simon didn't want a fuss."

"What does Jayne howlin' like a wounded banshee have to do with Simon?"

Zoe just looked at him then Wash's eyebrows rose. "Did somethin' happen on Perspephone? Was Jayne injured?"

"*Bu qu*, but since they got back he's been stuffin' his face almost without stoppin' for breath."

He thought about that for a moment. "How is that different from the rest of the time? We are talkin' about Jayne."

"Simon thinks he has a tapeworm."

* * * * *

The Lady was not pleased with the news. Badger tried not to squirm but already he had a presentiment of impending doom. He had made a promise and now she knew that it had been broken. Consequences were sure to follow but not answering her request for an update was not an option.

"You have contact with the ship?"

Badger wasn't sure whether to readily agree that yes he did or make it vague, give himself a little wriggle room, but one look at her face jettisoned any notion of lying. "*Qu*, not that he always answers my waves, *dong ma*?"

Her eyes narrowed slightly. "You are not friends?"

He wanted to laugh, really he did. That was rich. Him and Malcolm Reynolds friends? Bosom pals? They barely tolerated each other. "It's more of a business arrangement. We don't move in the same social circles you could say."

The Lady fell silent and just stared at him. Badger reviewed what he had just said, couldn't see a thing wrong with it but what did he know? This was a woman who would have you skinned alive just for looking at her wrong. No. Best let her do the talking and him the listening. At last she gave a slow nod, not so much approval as letting him off the hook. For now. "You will notify me the instant you hear anything, *dong ma*?"

"*Dang ran*, my Lady."

The honorific was awkward on his tongue but seemed to mollify the Lady. A cool hint of a smile dusted icy lips. "Then perhaps you should have a bonus after all." She paused, her eyes locked on his as if holding him to a promise he had yet to make. "A token of my 'appreciation'."

Badger did not like the way she said 'appreciation' but his attention had already skipped over that to home in on the part that caught his attention the most. A bonus! What would it be? Gold? Platinum? A chest full of coin? It was not until long after the screen had gone blank that Badger got to wondering what kind of reward a woman like that would give to someone who had failed them. Not that it was his fault as such, no man or woman alive could predict that sumbitch Malcolm Reynolds. He fought down a momentary feeling of panic then smiled as he considered another possibility. The Lady wanted Reynolds and his ship bad, that was why she was willing to keep him sweet. His high opinion of himself restored, Badger smirked and decided to put out a few feelers. See if he couldn't discover where Serenity had gone. Maybe earn himself an extra bonus into the bargain.

* * * * *

"Don't be such a *ying er*, Jayne."

"Ya ain't cuttin' me open!"

Simon gave an exasperated sigh. "I'm not cutting you open, how many times do I have to tell you?"

Jayne was lying on his back on the infirmary bed, his chest and belly covered in a cold clear gel. Simon had drawn the blinds and locked the door to reassure his reluctant patient's privacy. "Then what's all that ruttin' stuff you smeared on me for?"

"It helps to make a good contact. Look," Simon tilted a screen towards Jayne and placed the device he was holding on the mercenary's belly. As Jayne watched, Simon slowly moved it across his stomach and both watched to see what the screen would reveal. Something twitched on the screen, a ribbon that wriggled and seem to start other ribbons wriggling but the images were so small. It was hard to tell what they were and Jayne was suspicious.

"What the *diyu* is that?"

This was the part that Simon had been dreading. "They're called tapeworms, Jayne."

"*Shenme*? I ain't got no tapeworms. Ya ain't usin' that ruttin' excuse to cut me up."

"Jayne, I am not going to operate on you."

Jayne gave the doc a suspicious look. "Ya ain't?"

"*Bu qu*." Simon put the device to one side and began cleaning the gel off Jayne. "I'm going to put you on a course of medication that will take care of the problem for you."

"What kind'a medication?"

"You might feel a bit queasy at first but within hours the stomach cramps will stop and in a week or two the tapeworms will be expelled from the body in the usual way."

"Huh?"

Simon wondered how the man-ape had ever learned to form even rudimentary words when his ability to understand the basics was so fragmented. "There's just one thing I have to warn you about."

The big man was sitting up now and putting his shirt back on. "What's that?"

Simon held up a bottle of pills. "You won't be able to drink alcohol of any kind while you are taking this medication."

The mercenary got to his feet and tucked in his shirt, a belligerent look on his face. "That ain't gonna happen."

"Then I can't give you this medication."

Whatever Jayne was going to say was swallowed in a groan as the big man doubled up, one hand reaching out and hanging on to the side of the bed.

"The cramps will only get worse, Jayne."

"Doc," Jayne panted "ya gotta be able to give me somethin' else."

"It's this medication or surgery, Jayne. Your choice."

* * * * *

Matthew James Wong listened to the Lady's instructions and bowed low. He would catch the next flight and deal with the matter in person. As he put the portable cortex screen away he stared at the little square box bound in silk. Carefully he placed the *liwu* in his pocket and smiled.

* * * * *

Shepherd Book wondered when the Captain was going to speak to him. All those sidelong glances, the look of something unfinished in the man's eyes before he looked away and spoke to others. He noticed Inara look his way once or twice, possibly picking up on something but not sure what. Book could sympathise but only so much. River was dancing around, her feet bare, a wispy thin dress flowing like some diaphanous shroud given new life. Gradually the commons area filled up with Serenity's crew and Jerrod's gravitating to the evening meal. Inara and Kaylee shared the cooking between them. Book had offered to help but was politely declined, secret little smiles passing between the women which he was not supposed to see. Let them have their secrets, he was sure he had worked out most of the ingredients from the rich aroma. River stopped mid spin and looked suddenly at the Preacher.

"Close but no cigar."

Conversations around the table paused and everyone looked in their direction. "I don't smoke, child."

"It's a figure of speech and one you know well."

Simon came in last with a trailing Jayne looking sour and glum. As the stragglers took their seats or drew up crates Inara and Kaylee dished up a highly fragrant stew. Wash's nose was twitching with excitement as he examined the contents of his bowl with a spoon. "Is that meat, *bao bei*?"

Zoe was already tucking into the meal, a quick satisfied smile on her full lips before giving him a fond look. "Best not examine it too closely, *zhangfu*."

For a moment Wash looked stricken as if not sure he wanted to eat it after all. For once Jayne didn't chip in with an offer to eat it for him. In fact, now that Wash thought about it Jayne was acting very un-Jayne like. He gave the man a speculative look noticing the mercenary had not touched his bowl of stew. "You sickenin' for somethin', Jayne?"

A look of deer-caught-in-the-headlights froze on the big man's face then he glared at Simon. "You said it was private - confidential."

Simon took a warm roll from the basket on the table, smiling at Kaylee as she filled his bowl. "I haven't said anything, Jayne."

The big man narrowed his eyes at Wash. "Then how did you..."

"You mean somethin' IS wrong with you?"

Jayne inwardly cursed. Gorrammit now they would all know. There was only one thing to do. Grabbing his spoon Jayne dipped his head and began ladling the food into his mouth as if afraid someone would snatch it off him. Wash opened and shut his mouth a few times before finding words. More disturbing that Jayne not acting like Jayne was seeing him act like himself, in all his rough and undisciplined technicolour. No one should have to watch Jayne Cobb eat.

It took a little while for conversations to get started but as the noise level rose the tension eased. Inara watched Mal, her dark lashes framing her beautiful eyes and adding to the flawless perfection of her face. Jerrod was deep in quiet conversation with Howdy Marks, smiles and chuckles peppering their talk, both men at ease with one another. Simon turned his head to speak to Kaylee and River took the distraction as permission to steal the uneaten half of his roll. Kaylee's eyes widened at the petty theft but River grinned at her and made a shushing motion. Simon smiled at Kaylee and got a kiss in return. Jayne lifted his head out of his bowl just enough to scowl at them but for once didn't say anything.

As the meal ended, Kaylee bounced up and began collecting the empty bowls, Simon quick to lend a hand. Inara shot them a look of amusement and affection. Turning her head she noticed the Captain staring straight at her. His eyes softened and a smile bloomed on his face. Inara was glad to see it, the man had been too tense all day and this was the first sign that at last he was relaxing. The job had gone without a hitch, cause for celebration in its' own right, so why had he been acting as if he was waiting for something bad to happen? Wash decided now was the perfect time to discuss getting Jerrod and his crew back to their home planet.

"Shall I set course for Lilac now, Cap'n?"

The Captain hesitated. It was such a slight thing but Inara picked up on it. Then smooth as you please Mal answered Wash. "*Qu*, but no need to rush, *dong ma*?"

Zoe gave her friend a 'what are you worrying about?' look which he quickly answered while making it look like he was speaking to Wash. "If we can save a little fuel that would be shiny."

The pilot nodded and gave his wife a blinding smile. She could not help but smile back and with a nod to her Captain followed Wash to the bridge. Mal didn't want to think about how they would pass the time up there. Inara started towards the Captain but noticed he was now in conversation with the Shepherd. A nudge at her elbow made her look round to find River staring intently into her eyes.

"He just wants to be careful."

"Is something *cuode*, River?"

The girl tilted her head to one side as if considering the question but Inara had the oddest feeling it was not the one she had asked. By the time she turned back to speak to the Captain he was gone and so was Book. Inara frowned, not sure why she felt unsettled. Maybe River was rubbing off on her.

"Ignoring instinct is always a mistake."

The Companion jumped. River had moved so quietly and was now standing right in front of her. "*Ni zhide shi shenme*?"

They were the only ones left in the room now. River looked sad for a moment but it came and went so quickly that Inara wasn't sure whether it had been her imagination or not. "Not what you think."

"River I don't know what you're talking about."

"When you do, remember this moment."

The Companion blinked, was that a warning? Then River smiled happily and danced out of the commons area leaving Inara staring after her. What was that all about? Shaking her head the Companion decided to go to her shuttle and meditate. If anything was wrong it would not be long until someone told her.

* * * * *

Badger was excited. The courier had something of a Old World courtesy that just struck the little King Pin as time wasting. He wanted to see what kind of gift the Lady had sent him. He was a bit disappointed by the diminutive size of the box once the silk wrapping had been removed. He frowned at it, his greedy anticipation of a small fortune coming his way vanishing leaving a bitter aftertaste of disappointment. Looking up he noticed the courier was still there. Badger waved an impatient hand in his direction.

"You can go now, you've delivered your package, ta very much."

"The Lady instructed me to wait."

Badger immediately grew suspicious. "What for?"

"To ensure you are happy with your *liwu*."

"An' if I ain't?"

"I am sure the Lady will reconsider her gift."

Well, that sounded better but Badger had a creepy feeling about this. On an impulse he threw the little box to the courier who automatically caught it then looked a little shaken. Though his expression quickly blanked Badger had caught that initial expression, caught somewhere between surprise and horror unless he was mistaken. Yep. Something definitely smelt fishy and it weren't him. "Go on then, open it."

Matthew James Wong had not been expecting this development but he was nothing if not adaptable. "It is not meant for me."

Badger's look hardened, his men stirring and ready to act if given the slightest sign from their boss. "I insist."

To Badger's consternation the courier smiled slowly then gave a little apologetic bow. "*Duibuqi, shifu* but the gift is keyed to your DNA. I cannot open it."

"What the good gorram would she wanna do that for? You're hand deliverin it, ain't like it's gonna fall into the wrong hands is it?"

Something inexplicable altered in the courier's demeanour but it was too subtle for Badger to catch. "Are you refusing the Lady's gift?" He asked softly.

Badger suddenly felt hot, the back of his neck sweating, his hat feeling slick upon his head. The last thing he wanted was all out war with that powerful little madam. No. He didn't mind tweaking things to his advantage, rubbing a body up the wrong way when he could get away with it, but not this Lady. She was the only one the various rich and powerful Tongs were afraid of. That fact alone was enough to terrify anyone with a lick of sense and he had always had a heightened sense of his own self preservation. "Nah, no offence intended. Just surprised she'd go to so much trouble, see?"

The courier extended his hand and Badger gingerly took the little box back. It was no more than a 3 inch cube, the box made of a lightweight wood and coated with pale pastel colours that seemed to switch and morph one into the other, tricking the eye. Oh, it was a pretty package but would he like what was inside?

* * * * *

They were in the Shepherd's quarters, it being one of the few places on the ship where they could be guaranteed some privacy. It wasn't just his own crew Mal was thinking about but Jerrod's. Book considered the matter under discussion.

"Do you know where the name 'Blue Sun' comes from, Captain?"

"I'm guessin' there ain't no such thing as a 'blue' sun."

Book nodded. "*Dui*."

"That bein' so I'm thinkin' permaybehaps they took some features of one thing an' added it to another."

"Like a hybrid?"

The Captain was totally serious though he kept his tone mild and his voice lowered. "Would fit their twisted notions." He caught the pleased look on Book's face before it vanished and had himself an epiphany. "But you already knew that didn't you, Shepherd?"

"I'll admit it took me a little longer Captain, but yes I do. The more intriguing question is why you're so interested and why now?"

"It all comes back to the dust. Way it destroys every gorram thing in its' path it makes an unstoppable weapon. Can see why the Alliance would be crawling over hot coals to get their ruttin' hands on it but somethin' like that would take a lot of specialist an' scientific know how to make. That's where's I'm thinkin' Blue Sun comes in."

"And Commandant Urquart?"

"Every new weapon needs testin' but that ain't what's worryin' me."

Book frowned. "I'm not sure I follow, Captain. We all saw what happened to Urquart's ship, it was totally destroyed."

"That it was but was it the ONLY ship?"

For a moment the two men stared at each other. "If this was a test," said Book slowly "it stands to reason it was the only ship fitted for the purpose. After all, they needed to make sure it not only worked but that they would remain safe from any fall out."

The Captain nodded, his eyes burning into Book. "*Qu*, but the Alliance don't take chances, *dong ma*? What if they kept a back-up? Best we keep our eyes an' ears open, stay extra sharp."

"You think they have another ship doing the same kind of testing?"

"It would make sense if you were the careful, scheming, planet scarifyin' bully of the gorram 'verse."

Book allowed a small sigh to escape. "Captain, I think you are being paranoid."

"Hope to *diyu* you're right but the destruction of that ship - however it gorram happened - don't solve the main problem troublin' me."

"Which is?"

"Where have they been makin' this gorram dust an' how can we shut down their operation?"

It wasn't often Serenity's Captain completely surprised Shepherd Book but this was one such occasion. He stared in shock, hardly able to believe what he was hearing still less what it meant. "You want to look for the manufacturing base?"

The Captain didn't look happy about it but he had a determined look in his eye that Book recognised only too well. "Want to? *Bu qu*. But this is the best chance, the only one maybehaps we're gonna have to track down where the dust is comin' from an' shut its' production down forever."

"While there is no doubt that is a noble - if suicidal aim - how do you expect to even know where to start?"

Now Book finally discovered why the Captain had wanted to have this conversation in private. The words he heard next chilling him down to the bone.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shifu* = sir *wode ma* = mother of God *dong ma* understand? *nu haizi* = girl *pigu* = bottom *zhangfu* = husband *bao bei* = precious/treasure *bu qu* = no (no go) *dang ran* = of course *ying er* = baby *diyu* = hell *shenme* = what *liwu* = gift *cuode* = wrong *ni zhide shi shenme* = what do you mean? *duibuqi* = sorry *dui* = correct

COMMENTS

Monday, March 18, 2013 8:17 AM

NUTLUCK


Nice, can't just save the verse once, got to do it again.

Monday, March 18, 2013 12:05 PM

AMDOBELL


Absolutely Nutluck! Thank you for the shiny comment, Ali D :-)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 4:43 PM

EBFIDDLER


Loved your phrase where Monty had a "mission objective" of eating the pie warm! :-)
>"More disturbing than Jayne not acting like Jayne was seeing him act like himself, in all his rough and undisciplined technicolour. No one should have to watch Jayne Cobb eat." -- I also laughed at that description!
I liked your characterization of Mal in this chapter -- his talk with Jerrod, the contents of which remain unrevealed; Inara's observations at the mealtime; and his talk with Shepherd Book revealing that he's on another 'Verse-saving mission. You've upped the ante, Ali, considerably! Shiny chapter.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 5:38 PM

AMDOBELL


Gotta love Monty, Ebfiddler, pie and all! Glad you liked the characterisations and yes, our noble Captain is gearing up for another 'verse saving mission. Thank you for the shiny feedback, Ali D :-)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, March 29, 2013 2:46 PM

MALSDOXY


Does Mal not recall that most of his schemes don't always come out like he planned? how can he NOT remember?? THEY'RE HIS PLANS!!! Oy I've got a bad feeling about this...on to the next chapter!! :)) [so happy to see Monty!!]


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