THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 44. "Scum Of The 'Verse"
Monday, May 6, 2013

He struggled and having no way to get through them dropped suddenly into a backward roll dislodging the cloth and parting his assailants but he was not able to take them out before a needle was pushed into the side of his neck.


TITLE: "SCUM OF THE 'VERSE" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 44. Sequel to "THE FIERY PIT" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara RATING: PG-13 SUMARY: "Ryan finds himself getting too much attention for his liking. Meanwhile the Captain sets his plan in motion with a few caveats and addendums. Badger needs to find a new bolt hole not realising he can run but he cannot hide."

"SCUM OF THE VERSE" A "Firefly" Story Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

It was such a narrow escape that Ryan was beyond shaken. Eventually he was allowed to come out and join the others, the decontamination sequence seemingly going on forever but he did not care. As long as whatever it was he had witnessed was not able to touch him he would endure it without a murmur. He noticed a couple of the guards seemed to be paying him more attention than usual,. One of them, Wilkinson, gave a nasty little grin when he caught Ryan's eye. Huh, trust Wilko to get off on his near demise. As if this *lese* place was not bad enough it had to be run by the sort of low life scum who should be incarcerated in it and never ever see the light of day again. Instead, because they were the lowest part of the corrupt regime known as the almighty Alliance they were put in charge of running this cesspit.

Elliot Carr sidled close as he slipped slowly passed. "Keep your ruttin' head down an' don't attract attention."

Startled by the warning, Ryan wanted to ask Elliot what in the nine hells he was talking about but the man had already made himself scarce. Right now he was 'persona non grata' and that meant any other prisoner speaking to him ran the risk of sharing whatever nasty little surprise the guards had in store for him. Once he would have wondered why he was being singled out for their cruel and unusual punishment but logic and reason had nothing to do with the twisted mentalities seeking their own kind of pain relief. His pain, their relief.

* * * * *

Everybody was tired, body and soul. The meeting giving way to other discussions now that Malcolm Reynolds had set them a seemingly impossible task. At last the various crews had split up to get some much needed sleep. Wash had suggested they lift off and head for the Black, not to lay in a course yet just to be free of the rising cost of berthing at the docks. Monty had been torn. Wanted to help his cousin all he could but he had his own crew to think about. When he raised his concern with Mal, Serenity's Captain gave him a small but honest smile as they lingered by the cargo bay doors. Wash waiting for word from his Captain when he could lift off.

"Appreciate the offer, Monty, but I'm thinkin' it would be good to have someone free of any entanglements."

Entanglements? Well, that was a new way of describing the kind of complications that seemed to follow Malcolm Reynolds from cradle to grave. "You lookin' to me for reinforcements, Mal? 'Cause I gotta tell you could be I might be nowhere close enough when the call comes."

"You got a job lined up?"

Monty stroked his bushy whiskers thoughtfully though he did not look too happy about it. "Yeah, haulin' animal feed an' some farmin' equipment for Elias Young."

"You trustin' that old turncoat?"

"Don't wanna but jobs're gettin' a mite scarce, *dong ma*?"

Mal nodded. It was one of the reasons why he still did work for Badger. "I surely do. How long you gonna be tied up? Best estimate."

"A week, ten days max. I could put him off 'til..."

"You'll do no such thing! Takin' in them three little ones was handsomely done an' permaybehaps once you're free of your commitments you might head more our way, just in case?"

The big bear of a man's solemn expression split into a wide grin. His worry in abeyance at the notion that he might be able to offer something in the way of help further down the line but it wasn't his inability to help right now that was worrying him so much as who his friend and cousin would be taking along for the ride. "You sure you can trust Perkins an' his crew, Mal?"

"*Weisheneme*? Know somethin' I don't?"

"Nothin' concrete but they were pretty tight with Rufus an' that mad old dog had some mighty unsavoury friends."

"Polly's dead, Monty. 'Less you're tellin' me to watch out for his *guai* I don't think there's anythin' to worry about."

"Not from Rufus but that man always cast a mighty long shadow."

The Captain knew what that meant. Was something that had been niggling away in the back of his own brainpan. Hearing Monty voice the same reservations he had been feeling didn't make him any happier but it was something he could not do anything about now. He needed the manpower and with Monty out of the picture Jerrod and his men could be the difference between pulling the plan off or failing in the most painful and permanent way possible. Crew was as good as family to him, Jerrod and his were not.

"Could you manage without 'em, Mal?" Asked Monty softly.

"Maybehaps but can't keep an eye on 'em if I can't see 'em."

Monty nodded. It was as he suspected. Mal didn't trust them either but letting Jerrod and his men go their own way now was a worse risk. They knew too much and the plan was too fragile to survive much in the way of complications. Was already complicated enough.

"I hope you know what you're doin' *yige biaoge*."

"Me too."

The Captain stood and watched Monty go, shutting the cargo bay doors after him and waiting until the man was well clear before giving Wash the go ahead to take off. He felt rather than heard Zoe join him.

"Monty's right, sir. We can't trust them."

He didn't ask how much she had heard. "Don't intend to but that don't mean they can't be useful."

For a long moment neither spoke, Zoe giving him the kind of look that made him want to check the rounds in his sidearm. "You got somethin' to say Zoe, spit it out."

"It's the children, sir. We sure we should be relyin' on them to give us directions?"

"River says they know the way, we don't. Just doin' the math."

"You realise we do this we could be trapped on Titan Station?"

"Better that than the *jianyu*."

Zoe's lips compressed into a very unamused thin line. Memories of being in the Alliance internment camp after War's End too vivid and painful even now. The Captain cleared his throat softly.

"It's why we ain't landin', *dong ma*?"

That was news to her. Zoe raised her eyebrows. "You asked Jayne to make a bomb big enough to blow the whole *jianyu* up, planet too. How we gonna get it inside if we don't even land?"

A smile swept over the Captain's face, his eyes twinkling. "Been speakin' to Book."

"The Shepherd knows a way inside?"

Mal shook his head. Looked to be enjoying himself. Zoe's eyes narrowed, she never did like not knowing what the Captain was thinking. Liked even less having to drag it out of him. "Book says there's a way to utilise Jayne's bomb so we can drop it down on the *jianyu* as we fly overhead."

She stared at him for a moment. "There are people in that prison, sir."

Mal nodded, not smiling now. "Which is why we have to pick our time real careful. Seems they take the prisoners out in work gangs, right across the frozen gorram wastes. We pick it right we can blow that place to *diyu* an' set 'em free at the same time."

"Murderers, child molesters an' the scum of the 'Verse?"

"So they say."

Zoe gave him a searching look, the Captain was speaking mildly and that was all manner of disturbing. "What aren't you tellin' me?"

"Book says they're political prisoners, Zoe. Folk who disagreed with the great Almighty Alliance an' are now payin' for it with a life of incarceration in the worst *jianyu* this side of *diyu*."


"Okay, most of 'em it seems are Browncoats. Happy now?"

Her look said she wanted to bang his head against the side of the ship's bulkhead. "Any reason you couldn't tell me this earlier - sir?"

"Too many ears, Zoe. We seemingly stick to the gorram plan, *dong ma*?"

Zoe realised what he was really saying and gave a firm nod. "Yes, sir." After a pause she couldn't help adding. "An' blowin' the whole planet up?"

"Might have exaggerated a little bit, havin' an audience an' all."

Her lips quirked up then all humour vanished, just the echo of it lingering in her eyes as she bid her Captain good night and went to find her husband.

* * * * *

He was sweating so much he had to keep wiping it from his gorram eyes. Dayton Colony. What a *ling ren jusang* pile of *goushi* this place had turned into. Not that it was any better when he grew up in the place but back then everybody he knew lived hand to mouth so there was no stigma to it. Now though he was a businessman, had worked his way up out of that gutter with no intention of looking back. He snorted softly and wiped his grimy sleeve across his sweaty face. Bloody hell, did it used to be this ruttin' hot? He couldn't remember and for some reason that bothered him.

Badger had not gone back for his gorram health nor to sight see. With his men wiped out and his business premises destroyed he needed to start again. Fortunately his contacts would not know what had happened, would expect his business to be running as smoothly as usual. No need for them to know things weren't as rosy as before but he needed men. Muscle he could trust and a place to work out of while he sorted through what to do. And if he saw a way to settle a few scores along the way - well now, what would be the harm in that?

* * * * *

The room was small, blessedly cool in comparison to the rest of the stinking hot *jianyu* but he did not let such thoughts distract him. This was as unofficial as it got and they knew it. Knew he knew and revelled in that knowledge. Twisted gorram *hundan*.

"Think you're so ruttin' *congming*, 17832."

Ryan didn't reply knowing that any response he gave would be the wrong one. Just another excuse for a beating he did not deserve. Maybe this would be the one that would end him. The guards had certainly come mob handed, he counted eight of them. Talk about over kill. Wilkinson stepped right up to him, a nasty grin on his face, his piggy eyes glittering with anticipation.

"Too proud to talk to us now?"

Ryan kept one eye on Wilko's electric prod and the other on his peripheral vision. They were in an old rarely used storage room. Block brick construction, no windows and more importantly for the guards, no cameras. The only way in or out of the room was with a special key card and only staff had those. Ryan came to a swift decision, if this was where they would end him then the least he could do was try for some answers, not that he held any likelihood of getting much in the way of truth out of any of them but they were cocky, had the upper hand and perhaps something might slip. "What was that stuff?"

Wilko paused. "*Shenme*? What the *diyu* you talkin' about?"

"On the shovel. Scared the livin' *goushi* outta me."

The guards exchanged a look, several laughed while the others smirked. Ryan allowed a look of confusion to come over his face.

"It was like somethin' came from the fire below, then it was as if the gorram dust was eating its' way up my shovel. Never seen anythin' like it in my life."

"Maybe we should'a left you in there." Said Boyce.

Something clicked in Ryan's brainpan. "That's why you emptied the place, locked the door on me."

"If you'd had any sense you wouldn't jumped off the gratin'." Growled Wilko. "The dust would'a finished the job for us. Save everybody a lot of gorram trouble."

"*Wo bu dong*, what trouble can I cause in here?"

Spit Henson paused in chewing his plug of tobacco. "You're a ruttin' Browncoat, that's trouble enough."

So. It was back to the gorram War. He was weary of it, really he was but these thick *chunren* seemed to have overlooked the fact that the Alliance had won. Was kind'a depressing that even the obvious failed to penetrate their thick skulls.

"*Gou le*!" The others flicked their eyes to Lyall Richardson the gang boss. "Let's get this done."

As the guards closed in Wilko got the first lick in with his cattle prod, the electric current shooting through Ryan's arm as he raised it to protect his head. He cried out in pain, the arm hanging loose as blows landed from fists and feet in a quick flurry that ended suddenly, just before he lost consciousness. He lay in an awkward pain filled heap, his ears ringing, blood pouring from his broken nose. He was vaguely aware of Spit Henson swearing and someone hefting him to his feet and dragging him from the room. Oddly enough the ringing in his ears only got louder. Only later did he find out that it was the gorram fire alarm.

* * * * *

River's eyes were huge wide liquid pools absorbing all the light. Suzie, Davie and Lucy sat on River's bed, none of them wanting to be separated. "That won't happen."

"How do we know?"

River looked at Davie and gifted him with a truly beautiful smile then projected her thoughts into all of their brainpans at once. Her excuse was it would save time and she didn't feel like repeating herself. 'You are safe on Serenity and no one would make you sleep alone, *dong ma*? Now, you say you know where this *jianyu* is even though none of you have been there?'

Lucy spoke for the rest. "*Wo zhidao*, they don't."

River frowned, about to ask how she knew when Lucy explained.

'I plucked the thoughts right out of his head - just before I killed him.'


'The Operative. I saw tanks, lots of them, all standin' on end an' each one had someone floatin' in it'

River paled. It was one of her more disturbing nightmares. 'Where was this?'

'It doesn't matter, they're all dead. There were these doctors, they opened up their heads an' took somethin' away from them. After that they were allowed to die, waitin' to be disposed of'

Davie stared at Lucy open mouthed, horror in his eyes and a sick feeling rising in his gut. Suzie put her hand in his and oddly enough it helped.

'Where is Titan Station?'

'Away from the trade routes, in his head it was weird. A moon but not a moon'

River frowned. 'Show me'

Lucy projected her memory of what she had glimpsed just before the Operative died. The smug satisfaction that even though none of the children taken had been worthy enough to survive but her and the glimpse of a cold, inhospitable place with a fortified *jianyu* slap bang in the middle of it. Even viewed second or third hand it still chilled River to the core. She could almost taste the evil coming off it.

'How do you know it has anything to do with why the Hunter was after you?'

'Because it's where the Operative was ordered to take us. I couldn't understand everythin' in his head but apparently we can do things they can't'

"With the dust?'

A nod. '*Qu*'

River had a very bad feeling about this and insisted Lucy show her exactly where Titan Station was. As she gleaned as much information as the girl could give her, River Tam had a feeling they would have to move fast. If her suspicions were correct they were running out of time.

* * * * *

"You let him escape?"

Matthew James Wong did not smile. "I let him 'think' he got away." When the Lady did not say anything her major domo asked the only question that mattered. "Shall I kill him quickly or slowly, my Lady?"

Something in her eyes glittered. "Neither. You will locate him, bind him, and bring him to me."

"And if he resists?"

It was as if she could taste his desire to snuff out the little King Pin's life and save the 'verse the trouble of doing it for them. "You may maim him if you must but I want him alive." At the look on Wong's face an icy smile flickered and died on her cold lips as if the last bit of humour she possessed had committed suicide. "What use is a lesson if he does not live to bear witness to his crime?"

* * * * *

"Gorramit River, don't you know to knock?"

River scampered down the Captain's ladder into his bunk before he could get his shirt back on. Glaring at her he quickly put it back on and was doing up the buttons when he noticed the three children had followed her into his bunk.

"*Wei*! Shouldn't you young ones be sleepin'?"

River shook her head. "No time. I know where Titan Station is and we have to hurry!"


River grabbed the Captain's sleeve and gave a tug, the children being urged back up the ladder by a mental push. Puzzled but catching on to her urgency, the Captain pulled his braces up and clambered swiftly up the ladder with his little albatross on his heels. "Need to enter the co-ordinates *mashang*."

"River, you best tell me why we're runnin' while the rest of the gorram ship is sleepin'."

She shook her head. "Not sleeping."


But River had overtaken him now and was racing off towards the bridge. Cursing under his breath, Malcolm Reynolds quickly caught up with her and as they got to the bridge slapped his hand on the com to raise Wash, careful not to make it a ship wide broadcast at River's insistence. Within seconds he could hear Wash and Zoe's footsteps rushing to the bridge. He gave River a look. "Okay River, you wanna tell me why the hurry an' why in the nine hells you wanna keep that fact secret?"

* * * * *

The sub-space signal was triple encrypted and sent on a phantom wave even so it wasn't smart or high tech enough to completely escape detection. Book had been waiting, was ready when it came and knew better than to tamper with the transmission or seek to alter it in any way. It was enough to quickly scan its' content. Lips thinning into a grim unforgiving line he put his small hand held unit back in the bottom of his case and put it under his bed. Time to notify the Captain. Quietly he opened his door and paused but everything was silent except for the ever present hum of the ship. So far so good. As he stepped through the doorway hands grabbed him and a cloth was placed over his nose and mouth. He struggled and having no way to get through them dropped suddenly into a backward roll dislodging the cloth and parting his assailants but he was not able to take them out before a needle was pushed into the side of his neck.

As the contents rapidly began to numb him, the after effects of the chloroform added to his lethargy. His brain refusing to move as quickly as his now useless limbs should have done. Speech was no more than a long low rumble of protest, his eyes trying to focus but already closing while many hands lifted him and carried him swiftly away.

* * * * *

"Mrs Burke?"

The large stocky woman eyed him suspiciously. "Who wants to know?"

"I'm a friend of Arran's."

Her eyes narrowed even further just before the barrel of a rifle was shoved under Badger's chin. "My Arran's dead, are you the scum that killed him?"

"No, no, wasn't me! *Pengyou*, see? But I know who did."

The woman didn't let up her pressure on the rifle so Badger talked fast, quick before she ran out of her tiny store of patience.

"Man named Malcolm Reynolds."

"Never heard of him. Who're you? An' don't even think of lyin'."


Something flickered in her eyes and the rifle lowered just enough to let him breathe easy but close enough to take his face off if she didn't like what he had to say. Rutting *diyu*, she was almost as scary as her *baichi* son. "Now," she said with slow icy calm "I wanna know how he died an' why then I wanna know what in the nine hells you're doin' skulkin' around my place."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin) *lese* = crappy *dong ma* = understand? *weishenme* = why *guai* = ghost/devil *yige biaoge* = cousin (a male cousin older than oneself) *jianyu* = prison *diyu* = hell *ling ren jusang* = depressing *goushi* = crap/dog shit *hundan* = bastard *congming* = clever/wise *shenme* = what *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *chunren* = fool/jerk *gouo le* = enough! *wo zhidao* = I know *shei* = who *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wei* = hey! *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *pengyou* = friend *baichi* = idiot


Monday, May 6, 2013 10:50 AM


Getting serious with that prison and betrayal on Serenity itself.

And of course Badger, who I really wonder how any of this ties in with getting back at that lady and why he has any interest in setting someone after Reynolds.

Monday, May 6, 2013 1:42 PM


Yes, things are starting to get more serious, Bytemite. As for Badger, he just can't resist being treacherous. Thanks for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, May 6, 2013 5:37 PM


I'm also curious about how Badger's storyline ties in to the other action in this story. Now who has chloroformed Book and knocked him out? And what was his discovery? Did River and the kids not notice that going on, were they too distracted with what needed doing on the bridge? You did well conveying the sense of urgency in this chapter.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 12:43 AM


And another shoe drops.... this thing must be a octopus with how many shoes it keeps dropping.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 2:14 AM


Not all threads are obvious Ebfiddler as Badger will discover. As for River and the children more to come on them soon. You'll find out more about Book including the why and the who. I did chuckle at the octopus wearing shoes, Nutluck. Great mental image! Thank you both for the shiny comments, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, May 19, 2013 6:31 AM


oh man, what the hell, who grabbed Book? What does River know? Damn that rat-bastard Badger, I know he'll get his sooner or later...SOONER please :) so many things going on, awaiting the next installment without ANY patience, xie xie 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.