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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal had an inkling something else was going on here, something he could not see. Was Badger trying to give him a clue, warn him or seal his fate forever?
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2505 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "DIRTY LITTLE SECRET"
SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE
CHAPTER: 50. Sequel to "ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara
SUMMARY: "The Captain is given a guided tour of his 'prison'.
Zoe finds out who the Shepherd was sending a wave to when
Jerrod's men sedated him and River complicates the situation
with information that makes things even more confusing."
"DIRTY LITTLE SECRET"
A "Firefly" Story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
The Lady heard her husband out in silence, her expression cold, her words when she responded were chips of ice that seemed to freeze in the air between them. A fury so bitterly contained that the permafrost of her regard even caused him to take stock, though there was no apology or sign of regret. Rather he seemed to savour her reaction.
He shrugged as if it was nothing. "Is business."
Her eyes flashed in depths few had the stomach or wit to fathom. Unafraid he seemed more amused than worried that he had offended her, after all he was the injured party. He liked the fact that she was feisty in her cold calculating way, it burned a slow excitement within him that he had caught and held this strong, enigmatic and sharply intelligent woman in thrall to him for so long. Though she would not agree to such a description it mattered not. She was his and that was fact.
"You are upset."
Her look said he was a fool to state something so obvious then clinically, and precisely the Lady told him just what she thought of his fit of pique. As they walked through the palatial corridors of their mansion house he stayed silent, letting her enunciate all of his failings and short comings as a family man. It mattered not to him, this was a lesson for other eyes just as hers was a rebuke for other ears. When she finally came to the end of her long dissection of his character he smiled, his eyes twinkling briefly behind glass as he offered her his arm to go into dinner. Without a word she took it and burying her displeasure they swept into the dining room to eat with the rest of their extended family. He allowed himself a small self satisfied smile as he took his place at the head of the table.
The Lady was once more composed, in command of herself, but inwardly still annoyed with him. Laughter sprang up around the laden table and she met her husband's eyes as he raised a glass to her. For a moment he thought she would refuse the silent toast but in the end she gave a cool nod and raised her glass back. His smile wrinkled and was lost in the lines of his face as he savoured a very special wine. Yes, she was his and as always she might argue his choices but he would always win.
* * * * *
Stunned, Malcolm Reynolds stared at Badger in shock and horror. "This is a gorram slave ship!"
Badger tutted at the Captain's outrage, his earlier unease a thing seemingly of the past. There was certainly no trace of it now. "*Bu qu*, not a slave ship."
"Then what you call all those folks rottin' below decks? An' don't try to tell me you're doin' them some kind'a favour."
The little King Pin's voice managed to stay conversational while something in his eyes grew harder. "You should be more respectful, talkin' to me like that ain't healthy."
The Captain was about to tell him where he could shove that expectation when Red Pole struck him hard across the side of his head with a massive closed fist, the blow so heavy he almost dropped to his knees. Magnus didn't say anything but glanced at Badger as if to see how far he wanted him to go.
"I'm thinkin' you need to learn a lesson, *dui*? Respect for your betters."
Mal almost choked on hearing those words come out of Badger's mouth. He spat out the blood and was grateful to find he still had all his teeth. "What in the nine hells you think you're playin' at, Badger?"
"Not playin', see? Deadly serious in fact. You need to pay attention."
Something in Badger's manner cooled the Captain's anger though he still wasn't happy with Badger. He needed to think clearly even if his head was ringing like a gorram bell at Matins. Mal had an inkling something else was going on here, something he could not see. Was Badger trying to give him a clue, warn him or seal his fate forever?
When the wave came Wash was not inclined to answer it but Zoe didn't care. It could be the Captain. To her surprise Monty Reynolds' bewhiskered face filled the screen like a worried walrus.
"Don't take this wrong Monty but I didn't expect to be hearin' from you any time soon. *Shenme shi*?"
Monty didn't smile or do any of the things expected of him. If anything the concern on his face deepened along with a hefty dose of sorry. "Would'a got here sooner but I was well on my way to that job I told Mal about."
Zoe blinked. "*Ni zhide shi shenme*?"
"Came fast as I could when I got the Shepherd's wave sayin' you had trouble."
Irritated that Book had not said anything to her about waving Monty, Zoe pushed that fun little tidbit to the back of her mind and filled their old friend in on everything that had happened including the fact that with their engine shot to *diyu* they were not going anywhere. She watched his eyes narrow dangerously.
"You sayin' this was Badger's doin'?"
Zoe nodded grimly. "That's the size of it though it was kind'a odd."
"We always knew Badger was a turncoat, *bao bei*." Wash put in.
"It's not that *zhangfu* it's the Triad bully boys he had with him. Just don't sit right is all."
"Nothin' about this sits right." Growled Monty. "Do you know where they took Mal?"
Zoe and Wash looked over their shoulders. Neither of them had heard River come onto the bridge, thought she was still in hiding with the children. Zoe was about to ask her what she was talking about when she realised Monty was speaking to the girl.
"Never heard of no planet called Rome."
River shook her head. "Not a planet, drawing parallels. We were going to Titan Station."
Monty raised his eyebrows. "*Weishenme*?"
"Following the Dust."
Monty looked to Zoe and Wash for clarification. Zoe sighed. "It's a long story, Monty. Best you come on over."
The big man nodded and the screen went blank. As Zoe got to her feet she found River staring at her.
"You woke up angry."
"You have no idea, little one. When I get my hands on Jerrod Perkins an' his treacherous crew..."
"Not all of them."
Wash looked baffled. "*Shenme*?"
"Not all of them agreed with Jerrod. Some tried to help."
Zoe snorted. "Well you can see how that turned out."
"*Ni bu dong*, they didn't do this."
A horrible suspicion started to burn in Zoe's mind along with a powerful urge to shake Jerrod Perkins by the throat until either the air in his lungs expired or the truth popped out. "Not got time for riddles, River."
"This is what they were running from."
After all that time freezing in the open yard the heat of the cauldron seared a red hot path behind his eyelids, sweat sizzling as it oozed from his pores and was immediately fried burning his overheated skin. Ryan McFarlane lifted another shovel full of dust and felt his muscles bunch, sore and over used but unable to rest. The guards were watching, eager for him to make a mistake and give them an excuse to beat on him again. He could sense his friend Elliot in the weary line behind him and knew this was no time to think only of what he wanted. He still could not believe that Ryland Wilkinson had deliberately left them out in the frozen yard and watched while so many had died, their frozen corpses at last free of the deprivations and cruelty visited upon them. As they were the only workforce Titan Station had it made no sense but Wilkinson had wanted to send a message.
Up on a gantry, Dyer watched with some concern. Careful to keep any emotion from showing on his face he nonetheless wished there were some way to rein in Wilkinson's hard line stance with the prisoners. They were down to twelve and he was working them twice as long and hard to make up for their colleagues that had died in that freezing cold yard. Open to the hostile elements they were lucky all those men hadn't died but Dyer knew the Chief Guard did not believe in luck and cared even less about the survival of the prisoners which could mean only one thing. More of the doomed souls were on their way. Fodder to feed a spite that would never be satisfied. He was sick of it but too many of the other guards were only too eager to follow Wilkinson's lead. On Titan Station a man had to be careful of his sympathies. Wilkinson wasn't above burying a guard or two if they stepped over that line.
Simon loved Kaylee for so many reasons not least her indefatigable optimism and sunny disposition but there were other things too. It was not true that only Companions had wiles and right now Kaylee was deploying hers with a skill and cunning that were leaving him breathless, his words hitching as she brought him dancing on the edge of orgasm again and again.
Her grinning face was evil, her hands and fingers an exercise in perpetual motion. "Uh huh?"
"Y... y... you're k...killing....me here."
A throaty sexy laugh made him tingle all over as other parts of her body rubbed against him. "You want I should do somethin' about that, Doctor Tam?"
She paused then flicked her thumb under his cap causing Simon to buck in her hand, his gasp swallowed up in a kiss that fair sucked the last of the breath out of him while she expertly positioned herself. Simon tried to get some leverage but Kaylee had it all, and when she was ready the thrust of her hips impaled him deep inside releasing a heartfelt groan of want and need and pleasure about to be released only Kaylee's hand had followed him in and a different groan seeped out of him in frustrated agony. Her lips pulled back from their kiss, his flushed face staring at her with eyes partly out of focus. Kaylee loved him so much but was careful not to laugh, bringing Simon to the throes of passion was all manner of exciting but it wasn't just the joy of sex that she was after. She wanted to time their orgasms to come together.
When she judged he was where she wanted him and her own release was about to burst forth she let him come and the howl could be heard all the way down the corridor to Jayne's bunk. Jayne shoved his pillow over his head but couldn't be mad at the girl. They had to find a way to get the Captain back but without a new engine Serenity was going nowhere. At least she was doing something useful and fun with her time. He waited until all the racket had eased off then threw his pillow down and sat up. Was no way he would get to sleep now. With a sigh Jayne dressed and climbed up his ladder. Maybe lifting a few weights would ease the tension in him, that or wrapping his hands around that back stabbing *tamade hundan* Jerrod Perkins.
Closing the hatch behind him Jayne was surprised to hear Zoe, Wash and Book's voices coming from the direction of the commons room so made his way there instead. They stopped talking when he walked in. Jayne frowned. "What y'all doin'? Did Kaylee's sexin' keep ya up as well?"
Zoe and Wash exchanged a look. "*Bu qu*, got a wave. I was gonna wake you."
"Yeah, well I'm here now. Who was it?"
Jayne had reached for a mug and been about to pour some of the stewed coffee into it when he froze. The Shepherd explained.
"I sent a wave asking if he could make his way to us *mashang* only Jerrod must have had a way of picking up my signal. I think that's why I was attacked and sedated."
"That don't explain why he drugged me an' Zoe."
"Oh, I think it does. Once he had sedated me it would be only a matter of time before the Captain and crew realised there was a problem so he took the imitative and decided we all needed to be put under."
"Yeah, well that went well."
"He didn't figure with River." Said Zoe. "She came an' found us, raised the alarm."
Jayne's frown deepened. "What I don't get is if moonbrain knew Jerrod's plan where is he?"
Shepherd Book smiled, it was a mite smug if Jayne was any judge. "She locked him and his crew in the spare shuttle."
"*Shenme*, you mean they been there all this time while we was searchin' the gorram ship?"
He broke off and stared at Zoe wondering what he had said wrong. His tone sounded aggrieved. "She should'a told us, Zoe. Got a score to settle, *dong ma*?"
"I think that's why she didn't tell you." Said Wash. "River didn't tell any of us at first, afraid that we might over react."
Jayne could feel his anger bubbling to surface but Zoe spoke up before he could really let rip.
"All of which is beside the point. Best we go meet Monty."
"Yeah, well that'll be a neat trick with no engine to speak of."
"Monty is comin' to us, Jayne" Explained Book, his tone dry but a hint of humour in his eye.
The smell and stink of her reeked so bad that Malcolm Reynolds had to battle to control the urge to throw up every time he took a step. If anything it got worse the more they progressed through the hulk of the freighter. Only as they descended did he see why and then his heart was driven beyond pity to a sorrow so deep it could bury a man. Many of these poor souls were as good as dead, already passed the point of saving, their bodies rotting in the old iron worked cells that filled either side of the long depressing corridor. And this was but one of three such decks. He wanted so bad to put a cloth over his nose and mouth but he couldn't do it to these men. Their despairing eyes staring out of haggard faces, some more alive than others but all looking as if they were devoid of hope.
Without turning his head the Captain addressed Badger, his voice a pained whisper. "*Wo bu dong*, these folk are dyin' Badger. Why they here?"
"Everybody's on their way to somewhere."
That caused him to stop in his tracks and look over his shoulder, his eyes meeting Badger's. "Then you're on the road to *diyu*."
Badger sensed Red Pole getting ready to hit the Captain again, maybe beat on him for a good long while to teach him when to hold his tongue. Badger raised a hand and the big man stayed put. "I didn't do this, Reynolds, but you have to understand each man has his destiny, *dui*?"
"To die an' rot in his own filth, no water or food to speak of an' no clean air or such? Call that livin'? Ain't any kind of destiny I want a part of."
"Well now, that's where you're *cuode*."
The Captain's eyes narrowed. "You tellin' me this is my gorram fate?"
"Not the dyin' part, not if you're sensible."
Barely keeping his anger in check, Mal jerked his chin in the direction of the long corridor of cells and their miserable cargo, his hands stilled cuffed behind his back. "Like these poor souls? That what you mean? Badger, I know you for a despicable low life but this, ain't your style. You're a business man not a gaoler."
"Flattery will get you nowhere, Reynolds. Now move along, you're holdin' up Destiny."
He wanted to argue but with Red Pole and the other two Tong bully boys just spoiling for a fight it was not worth what it would cost him. He needed not only his wits about him but also his strength. What he couldn't figure was what Badger's role was in all this and why the good gorram he had been taken from his ship. Whatever the answers were he just knew they would not be good.
The meal was exceptional. As always. The Lady ate sparingly, a little of everything but a surplus of nothing. Her head inclined towards her meal yet missing nothing. At the opposite end of the table her husband ate his meat rare with delicacies to savour as he saw fit, the sweet with the sour, just as in life.
The younger family members chatted in muted tones back and forth across the table, careful not to get too rowdy or carried away but less able to deal with the silences of their elders. Where silence made them awkward, wary, and oft' times unsettled it calmed the adults and sharpened the senses for more orderly thinking. But you couldn't put an old head on young shoulders.
It was much later that the Lady mulled over the things that were not discussed and in those omissions were buried many sins.
* * * * *
Zoe couldn't put into words how good it was to see Monty and appreciated him coming across with four of his men. All of them were armed but none of them were smiling. So, that must have been some conversation he had with the Shepherd.
"How come you got betrayed?" The big man growled.
Zoe resisted the urge to wince. "Jerrod Perkins an' his crew turned on us. Still don't know the why of it."
Monty was looking left and right. "Don't see no blood, you let 'em live?"
"Like I said before, they're locked in the spare shuttle an' so far they ain't talkin'."
A bushy eyebrow rose in mild query but it went unanswered. Monty glanced passed Zoe, his frown deepening. "Where's Mal?"
"After Book waved you we got attacked by a freighter. Took out our engine. They took the Cap'n."
Monty's new sharp shooter, Morgan Price, gave them an incredulous look. "With a gorram freighter?"
"It was modified." Book explained. "Rail guns and heavier pieces, looked to be scavenged from the War."
"Can't believe you just let 'em take Mal an' not one of you with a scratch on you."
Something hard and deadly set on Zoe's face, her back stiffening just a little at Monty's rebuke. "Nothin' me an' Jayne could do, we were out cold an' the others were out numbered an' outgunned."
Monty nodded and took a breath, his attitude softening a mite though he was inwardly mad as *diyu* and anything but happy. "They take anyone else?"
Zoe shook her head, knowing the ship seemed way too quiet just to be missing its' Captain. "*Bu qu*. Shepherd did some fast talkin', convinced 'em me an' Jayne were in quarantine."
Monty Reynolds' look was disbelieving.
"But that ain't the worst of it, Monty. Badger was runnin' that gorram freighter an' he boarded with several Tong, all armed to the teeth."
The big man whistled then slowly stoked the whiskers of his bushy beard. "Badger? Since when's he had the balls to go up against Mal?"
"Don't think he has, think that's where the Tong come in though what they want with the Cap'n I don't know."
"They wanted you as well." Book reminded her.
"You mean me an' Jayne."
The Shepherd shook his head. "Badger wanted only two people, the Captain and you."
Monty frowned, his mood blackening. "He was after Browncoats."
Even though Wash had been listening carefully it still didn't make sense. "I don't get it, Badger didn't fight in the War did he, *bao bei*?"
"No, *zhangfu*, he didn't. Which makes me wonder what the Tong are up to roundin' up Browncoats if that is what this is."
"You any idea where they took him?" Asked Monty.
Before Zoe could reply, River joined them with Lucy, Suzie and Davie in tow. "Rome."
At the look of confusion on their faces River explained in her inimitable way.
"We were going to Titan Station, that's where they're headed so we have to go too."
Jayne stared at her as if the girl had finally lost her last thread of sanity. "What's that gotta do with Rome?"
Her grin look incongruous but her eyes were sharp. "All roads lead to Rome, it's an old saying from Earth-that-was but in this case it's true."
"Huh," grumbled Jayne "An' you couldn't just say that, moonbrain?"
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dui* = correct *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *ni zhide shi shenme*? = what do you mean? *diyu* = hell *bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband *weishenme* = why *shenme* = what *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *qing* = please *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *dong ma* = understand? *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *cuode* = wrong
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