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AMDOBELL

THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 59. "Fallout"
Sunday, March 9, 2014

It was almost comical except it really wasn't. The situation was obviously desperate but the fires had at last burnt themselves out leaving the desolate, charred and broken remains of what had once been the maximum security *jianyu* hidden in the last place any living mortal would look to find it.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2371    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "FALLOUT" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE" CHAPTER: 59. Sequel to "ANOTHER DOOR CLOSES" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: "Jayne discovers that the freighter crashing is not the worst news. Meanwhile Monty and his crew are hurrying to come to their aid unaware that several sets of unfriendly eyes are monitoring their every move."

"FALLOUT" A "Firefly" story Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

The first thing Jayne became aware of was a weird shrieking sound. Not a cry as such, more like something not human dying. Not sure where he was or what in *diyu* had happened the mercenary opened a wary eye and found himself peering through a thick pall of smoke. A sound close to his left ear had him instinctively turning a body that ached in places he had forgotten he even had towards it. That movement probably saved his gorram life as a big hunk of metal landed where his head had been. The shudder as it landed kicked up a flurry of debris that jolted his memory and squeezed a groan of pain out of him.

"Don't try to move, Jayne. You've been injured, *dong ma*?"

The big man wanted to laugh. Injured? He had a feeling all of them would be sporting injuries every bit as colourful as his own but he was still breathing and able to move even if it was a mite painful. He called that a win. "Where in the nine hells you been?"

Simon was carefully checking him over and didn't seem too happy with Jayne's left leg or a wound on his right shoulder that was bleeding freely. Quickly the doctor began to pad and bandage the shoulder as he answered, his hands expertly flying through the task through years of experience. "In case you've forgotten this ship has a great many injured on board."

"Bet it hasn't got so many now." Jayne growled.

Simon paused but refrained from giving a sharp retort. It was true, many of the wounded had not survived the crash and some that had were perilously close to joining them. Jayne pointing out the obvious did not make him any happier. They needed to get out of here *mashang* but right now that was not possible. He should have paid more attention to his sister. They all should have.

"Where's the Cap?"

"Still unconscious. He has a head wound so I won't know how bad it is until he regains consciousness."

Something in Simon's voice put Jayne on the alert. He gave the man a keen look. "What ain't ya tellin' me?"

Simon straightened his back as he finished with Jayne's shoulder and paused before moving on to get a better look at his leg. The man looked exhausted. "We have to dig him out first."

Alarmed, Jayne went to get up without thinking when pain shot through him so bad he almost passed out. Simon sighed and began to clean the debris from his leg wound. "I would tell you not to make any sudden moves but I can see how well that would have gone down."

"Did I ever tell ya how annoyafyin' ya can be?"

"Only a hundred times a day now don't move until I come back."

Simon rose quickly and Jayne fell a sudden panic at being left alone. "*Wei*, where ya goin'?"

"The leg's broken, Jayne. I need to find something I can use to make a couple of splints."

"Just bind it real tight, *dong ma*? Like ya said, we gotta get outta here."

"Not on that leg you won't and you're too heavy to carry." Something felt more than a little wrong with the ship being so gorram quiet and little sign of anyone else apart from him and the doc. Surely the others weren't all dead? "Where is everyone?"

"Trying to find a way out of the ship."

"Huh, that don't make sense."

Just then River drifted in through the twisted doorway passing her brother on his way out. Even covered in dust and debris the girl looked other worldly. At times it almost creeped Jayne out. "It does if you don't land right side up."

Jayne blinked then took a good look around him, realising that what he took to be the deck beneath him was actually the ceiling. Gorramit, the whole rutting ship was upside down. River tilted her head and grinned down at him as if a very slow witted child had just caught up with the rest of the class.

"Also, we're a bit squashed."

The mercenary just gave her a blank stare. What in the nine hells was the moonbrain talking about now? River looked up and Jayne copied her, noticing as he did so that there was less height than he remembered. "What the *diyu*?"

River put her two hands out flat, one above the other then closed the distance. "First we spun, then we fell. Incoming fire tore us up and flipped us. We crashed on the *jianyu* below with the Alliance ship on top of us." She paused and put her hands together. "Squish."

"Ya sayin' the Alliance ship crashed?" As River nodded he whooped with joy. "So they's all dead, *dui*?"

River was no longer standing beside him. Jayne turned as far as he was able but there was no sign of her or Simon. A wave of weariness came over him and the big man closed his eyes. If he had to wait and not move until Simon came back he might as well rest. Whether he wanted to or not.

* * * * *

"You know what you have to do."

"It is *weixian*, my Lady."

"Not as dangerous as failing me."

Her words echoed inside his head long after the monitor screen had gone dark. This was no longer a question of who might have survived. The Lady needed sharp eyes she could trust to get as close to Titan Station as possible without anyone being the wiser. They were to watch and record whatever events unfolded. Any concerns about being seen were now minimal judging by the destruction on the ground below but that did not mean they could come out of stealth mode. Not only was the *jianyu* badly damaged and compromised but the Alliance vessel had been flattened, its' back broken from the impact with the freighter as it crashed down on top of it. Fires had broken out all over the place and slowly the debris and dust began to settle revealing the true scale of the catastrophe. But wait, what was that? Something appeared to be moving below. Not bodies but an oddly shaped craft. The observers trained their scopes on it and discovered it was a ship, older model. The Kingfisher appeared to be scanning the wreckage but were they scavengers or rescuers?

The men exchanged a glance and came to a silent accord. The Lady's instructions had been clear and while they needed to get closer to Titan Station to evaluate the damage and what happened next, plain old human curiosity had them hanging back to watch the Kingfisher. If survivors were found the Lady would be interested and they would surely be handsomely rewarded. Keeping the ship's cloak in place they watched as the little ship set down not knowing that someone else was watching them. Someone with even more technology and cunning than they had at their disposal.

* * * * *

Monty didn't like it. From what he could see as they landed on what looked like the only clear patch of ground close to the crash site everything and everyone had been crushed or gone up in the huge conflagration set off by unspent fuel from the ships igniting. Danny had insisted on waiting to land until the last of the explosions passed. It was somewhat gorram disconcerting to see his pilot glance over at Lucy and wait for the girl to nod to say it was safe before setting the Kingfisher down. Wouldn't call it solid ground neither, everything around them had acquired a sense of danger and impermanence but this was Mal and Monty would walk through the fires of all nine hells to get him out. Just hoped to *diyu* that his *wangu pengyou* was still in the land of the living. He wasn't sure he would forgive him if he wasn't.

"Grab the fire suppressants, Morgan, an' pass 'em around."

Lucy looked up at the mountain of a man that was Monty Reynolds, her eyes wide but filled with determination. "They're sealed in."

Monty frowned and momentarily forgot he was talking to a child. "Ya mean the heat has sealed the gorram doors?"

Davie came up beside her and added his voice. A lot quieter but somehow more calming. "*Bu qu*, the freighter landed upside down."

"Didn't help," grunted Danny mournfully "that the Alliance ship then landed on top of 'em." Danny gave his boss an apologetic look. "Don't know how we're gonna get 'em outta this one, *laoban*."

Monty gritted his teeth. "We cut 'em out, *dong ma*?"

Knowing better than to argue Danny nodded, then it was as if someone had stirred up a hornet's nest with a couple of the men carrying the cutting gear while the others handled the fire suppressants, the children anxious to get to the freighter as if there was not a minute to lose. Danny pulled a face when he was told to stay with the ship. None of the ground looked too safe and Monty didn't want to find him and his crew stranded on Titan Moon. If it got too unstable Danny was to take off but remain close.

* * * * *

Coming to was a weird experience. Sound was distorted like a badly tuned gorram radio. Huh, even seeing was a mite fuzzy like his brain. All shaken and scrambled. "Gorramit, those *chusheng xai-jiao xiang huo* Alliance brought us down, didn't they?"

A figure stirred before him, covered in dust and bits of debris. It was like looking at Marley's Ghost if he believed in such things. All that was missing was the gorram chains. The figure paused then began to brush off the worst of the dust. The Captain found himself coughing uncontrollably. The newly revealed face looked a mite chastened. "*Duibuqi* Captain, I wasn't thinkin'."

"Book? *Fasheng shenme shir la*?"

"Before or after we crashed?"

The Captain shot him a dirty look. Book cleared his throat.

"The Alliance got off a last barrage of shots as I was bringin' us out of a nose dive. Lost all control." Malcolm Reynolds noticed that the ceiling was a mite closer than it had been. Shepherd had to duck just to partially stand. "What happened to the ceilin?"

"You're lyin' on it."

The Captain blinked and Book could see the moment the truth dawned on the man. "You sayin' we ain't right side up?"

"*Qu*, an' that isn't the worst of it. The Alliance ship came down just after we did. Crashed right on top of us."

"Don't you got no good news?"

Shepherd Book gave one of his trademark slow amused smiles. The kind that changed the aspect of his face. "We're still alive."

"Speak for your ruttin' self!"

Mal wanted to close his eyes and curse their luck. Bad enough to crash and have who knew how many dead and injured but it was piling on the agony to discover one of the gorram survivors was Badger. He had always suspected it but now he knew for sure that the Universe hated him. Just at that moment River appeared, her face beaming like a newly minted sun.

"Help is on the way but we need muscle."

"You whabba what?"

River looked at the Shepherd. "And cutting gear."

Book raised dusty eyebrows "What makes you think I know where we can get somethin' like that?"

The girl shook her head. "*Mei shi*, already found it. Just need the muscle."

Malcolm Reynolds felt a wave of dizziness threaten to unman him. No way was he going to throw up over his own self just because Badger wasn't standing near enough. "I'd offer but..."

Book patted his shoulder gently. "Best if you don't move Captain until Simon has seen you. *Fang xin*, I'll take Badger with me."

It was almost worth it to see the look on the little King Pin's face. "Don't take orders from you, *dong ma*? I look after number one, see?"

All humour fled from Book's face as he leaned in close to Badger. "You want to get off this ship, *dui*?"

"Do I look *sheningbing* to you? 'Course I do."

"The ship is upside down Badger which means access to the doors isn't possible and the cargo doors aren't an option either, not with the Alliance ship on top of us. We'll have to make our own door."

"Not a welder either."

River danced in close to Badger's left ear. "Hope you're a fast learner."

Badger turned to look at her. "*Weisheneme*?"

"You wont get out unless you are."

* * * * *

It was almost comical except it really wasn't. The situation was obviously desperate but the fires had at last burnt themselves out leaving the desolate, charred and broken remains of what had once been the maximum security *jianyu* hidden in the last place any living mortal would look to find it. That Malcolm Reynolds had done so and been followed by an Alliance ship was unusual enough, that both had ended up crashing on TOP of Titan Station beggared belief. The monitor flashed an incoming priority call and quickly the Lady was put through.

She watched impassively as footage of the scene below was relayed to her.

"Closer!"

The images were magnified then scrolled through until after several viewings the Lady leaned back. The cloaked ship observed the crew of the Kingfisher picking their way through the rubble to where the Cold Harbour lay like a broken backed behemoth with the Alliance ship in smouldering pieces on top of it. If anyone was still alive they would not be getting out of that mess any time soon. The Lady was about to tell them to abort their mission when something caught her eye and she commanded the ship's monitors be turned to the far end of the prison complex. That was when they saw it. Such a slight movement and yet it seemed to be growing, the thick damaged walls of the prison slowly crumbling inwards as if dissolving. An impossible scenario but one she was now witnessing with her own eyes. Her spies had been right, the Alliance experiments had been successful.

Magnus respectfully asked the question burning in his mind. "Shall we destroy them, my Lady?"

The Lady shook her head. "*Bu qu*. They are trapped. Let Nature take its' course."

"And Reynolds?"

"Pray his rescuers reach him before..." The Lady waved a hand in the direction of the doom slowly devouring the once impenetrable fortress of Titan Station. In a way it was quite hypnotic to watch. "If not, the question is a moot point, *dong ma*?"

* * * * *

Elliot Carr tried to revive his friend, but Ryan McFarlane was obviously dying. His pulse was so weak that Elliot could not stop the tears from falling. All the prayers in the 'verse would not save him but Elliot was determined to at least bring his friend to the surface. Let him die beneath the open sky not buried down here in the pit of *diyu*. He left Ryan for a moment and worked his way to the nearest shaft but it was so gorram narrow. Yes, he could see daylight - either that or it was the dull glow of fading firelight - but it would not admit his thin malnourished body let alone allow him to haul another with him. It was hopeless. They were doomed to die here. Just then he heard a noise, just a slight sound yet it pricked his senses and made him turn around just as Spit Henson appeared out of the rubble, covered in white grimy dust. The man grinned at him with madness in his eyes.

Elliot saw the broken end beam in Spit's massive hands a fraction of a second before it impacted with the side of his head. The cry that spilled from his lips was hardly a sound at all. Spit Henson laughed, a dry ragged unhealthy sucking sound as if something was broken inside. He watched Elliot crumple without seeming to take in what he was seeing. The beam dropped from numb fingers and Spit staggered a couple of steps before falling to his knees. He was having trouble breathing and the sight in his eyes was fading fast. As flagging lungs clamoured for breath Spit gagged on air that was going nowhere. The last bit of light in his eyes went out as he fell, stone dead.

* * * * *

"Too slow, too slow, we have to hurry - *mashang*!"

Monty grumbled into his whiskers. "Gorramit, goin' fast as we can."

Lucy was not listening, her only concern was in getting to the side of the freighter as quickly as possible. Davie lost all colour from his face but managed to keep up with Lucy and Suzie, their tentative connection needing all three of them to keep the contact strong.

"Nearly there." Murmured Suzie.

Morgan was helping Monty carry all the equipment the children had insisted they bring along. The heavy cutting equipment was kept in excellent condition fortunately. A Captain never knew when he would have to make heavy repairs to his ship. Behind them other crew members lugged the rest of the supplies while Lucy darted forward and ran to and fro along the side of the downed freighter then stopped suddenly and put her hand gently on one spot. Lucy went completely still and the men found themselves holding their breath as they watched and waited. The girl turned and looked at Monty, a smile touching her lips with satisfaction. "Here!"

Monty's sharp shooter gave his *laoban* an odd look. "How'd she know where we gotta cut?"

"Trust me, Morgan, she knows"

What Monty and his men could not know was that River Tam was instructing Jayne Cobb to do the same on the other side. By co-ordinating the cutting they could break through much quicker.

* * * * *

The Minister watched with cool calculation, curious to see what would happen next. His state of the art ship was the only vessel able to detect the Lady's craft and so it was he noticed what the people on the ground failed to see. He watched the cloaked vessel go closer to the far end of the doomed prison complex and hover over it, noticing with disbelieving eyes the way in which everything was crumbling in a slow but inexorable disintegration. So. That was what the Alliance were hiding way out here? His eyes flicked back to the downed freighter and the broken Alliance ship sitting on top of it and wondered whether the rescuers would get Inara's friends out before both vessels were likewise reduced to dust.

As Minister Heyerdahl mused over the dire predicament facing the people below his head jerked back towards the far side of the prison, noticing the cloaked ship head off at speed. His instrument panel followed the ship's trajectory but could not ascertain the registration. It took but a moment to make his decision. There was nothing to be done on the ground that the rescuers were not already doing. Better, to his mind, to find out where the cloaked ship had come from and who it served. Seconds later the air around them rippled and they were gone.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *dong ma* = understand? *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *wei* = hey! *jianyu* = prison *dui* = correct *weixian* = dangerous *wangu pengyou* = stubborn friend *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *laoban* = boss *chusheng xai-jiao xiang huo* = animal fucking bastard *duibuqi* = sorry *fasheng shenme shir la* = what has happened? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *mei shi* = it doesn't matter *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *shenjingbing* = crazy *weishenme* = why?

COMMENTS

Sunday, March 9, 2014 4:16 PM

MALSDOXY


well this is a fine mess you've gotten us into...geez, Mal just cannot catch a break. the minister...can't decide if he's good/bad. i really really do not like 'the Lady', the kids will probably save the day , please stop me, i'm ranting!! excellent chapter, AliD, TYSM...NEXT!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014 6:45 PM

AMDOBELL


Fine messes always seem to find Mal, don't they Malsdoxy? As for the Lady, your instincts are spot on. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, April 19, 2014 1:37 AM

NUTLUCK


Watchers, watching the watchers.

Saturday, April 19, 2014 10:11 AM

AMDOBELL


Yep, gotta have eyes in the back of your gorram head, Nutluck! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, April 19, 2014 10:11 AM

AMDOBELL


Yep, gotta have eyes in the back of your gorram head, Nutluck! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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