THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 64. "Be Careful What You Wish For"
Friday, July 25, 2014

The inclusion of what made the Gifted so special was the difference between an indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction and one that could be finely honed to frightening precision.


TITLE: "BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 64. Sequel to "EVERYBODY LIES" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara SUMMARY: "Jerrod's death throws an unwelcome spotlight on Badger's dirty dealings. While a replacement for Titan Station is well under way, different forces are coming into an unexpected alignment."


A "Firefly" story Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

At last Inara was able to get the Captain alone though she was in no doubt that it would not be for long. "*Ni juede zenme yang le*?"

*Fang xin*, 'Nara. *Wo hao danir le*."

"You had most of the skin burnt off your face, Mal, so don't tell me not to worry, *dong ma*?" The Captain sighed. He had not meant to upset Inara but with everything that was going on he had no time for hurt feelings except in Inara's case he was wont to make an exception. Her gentle hand fluttering above his cheek softening the sharpness of his reply. He caught her hand before it touched his newly mending skin. Simon did good work but even Top Three Per Cent didn't work that fast. "Hush now," he said softly "Not nothin' gonna happen to me, *xin gan*."

The Companion's look of concern hardened into a different kind of worry. Inara lowered her voice. "Mal, be careful with Badger."

"Simon removed the bomb..."

Inara shook her head. "That is not what I meant."

The Captain frowned. "There somethin' you're not tellin' me?"

"Come to my shuttle. I'll make us some tea."

It was on the tip of his tongue to say they were closer to the commons area but realised that whatever she had to say needed to be imparted in private. That alone put him on the alert. Realising he still held her hand the Captain raised it to his lips and kissed it, allowing a flicker of humour to dance in his eyes before they darkened. "Thought you'd never ask, woman."

Inara did not have to correct his assumption, the words were for any other ears listening in. What she had to say to him however was for his ears and his alone.

* * * * *

"What do we call this new 'outpost'?"

The Chancellor allowed the ghost of an oily smile to slide across his disingenuous face. It was there one second, gone the next. The humour, if humour it was, never reached his eyes. "We don't call it anything."

Eyebrows raised, looks exchanged. A frisson of disquiet swept around the board room. The speaker turned his attention back to the Chancellor, not in the least amused by this response. "*Jieshi*."

"Names, titles, co-ordinates." The Chancellor paused. "We cannot afford any such label. Systems can be breached, information stolen, copied, passed on by numerous devious means. If it has no designation there will be nothing for those who seek to find, *dong ma*?"

Minister Caval did not look convinced "Then how will we find it?"

"Those who need to go there will be escorted. The rest of us will be protected by our ignorance."

Another speaker raised a further concern. "We could still be betrayed."

A slow flash of bright shining teeth almost blinded them. The predatory glitter in his eyes putting them all on notice. "*Bu qu*, we will not."

Not one member of the committee gainsayed him. Ignorance, after all, was bliss.

* * * * *

Matthew James Wong waited patiently. The Lady was deep in thought mulling over all the intelligence her agents had so carefully and discreetly gathered. The picture revealed was not one wholly to her liking.

"We have suffered much loss from our ranks."

Wong said nothing. His expression impassive, the bright intelligent eyes reflecting only his mistress and waiting on her command. He was the blank slate on which she could write anything she so wished. The Lady considered her Tong's depleted ranks and knew those posts would be refilled soon but that could never replace what was lost. People could be counted but they were not just numbers, never that. In this regard she was diametrically opposite her husband's position not that the matter would ever be discussed. He had his secrets, the Lady had hers. At times like this their two worlds never met.

"How advanced are their plans?"

"The location has been chosen, materials are even now being brought together."

"The children?"

Her major domo almost smiled but managed to contain any trace of emotion from showing on his face. "*Bu hao zhao*, my Lady."

An eyebrow rose. "They have escaped?"


"Where did they go?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*."

Her look was keen but she did not press him on the matter. The Lady had an inkling, a mere suspicion, but if correct it would greatly please her. Not everything the Alliance did was to her liking and though childless herself she was not without a certain amount of compassion for the innocent. Carefully measured against her own needs and interests but there all the same. The Alliance had no such restraint.

"Can they rebuild the programme?"

Wong paused. "*Qu*. It is believed they kept the ashes of those they had previously taken, my Lady. As the children all died the culling was incomplete yet they needed to destroy all evidence of their actions while retaining what they could from the Hunter's collection. Much of what they sought was lost leaving only ashes."

The Lady could almost taste Wong's dislike of what had been done to the children. The removal of their pineal glands had first puzzled then horrified her, especially when the children were then disposed of after the extractions. Only those who still had their pineal glands were kept in suspension tanks awaiting removal until even that hiatus had come to a sudden and violent end. She as yet did not know why. A hollow feeling echoed deep inside the Lady, sorrow not just for the loss of the innocent but also the waste of lives that could have held so much promise. That the input of the Gifted was necessary to produce the quality of Dust the Alliance craved amounted to using a blunt instrument with enormous collateral damage not only in the demise of the children thus used and discarded but also their families. The inclusion of what made the Gifted so special was the difference between an indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction and one that could be finely honed and to frightening precision. Much as she wanted access to the ultimate weapon the Lady realised that even for her, the price was simply too high.

Another way would have to be found. Something glittered like a dark diamond in her eyes, the sparks muted by an implacable will sharpening into tight focus. "You know what has to be done, *dong ma*?"

"I live to serve, my Lady."

Wong bowed low. When he straightened the screen was blank, the Lady had gone.

* * * * *

The Captain's expression tightened, his mood darkening as an inner rage boiled within. He just managed to contain his temper. He was not angry with Inara. "You sure about this, *bao bei*?"

The Companion nodded. "When River screamed I was bathing, Mal. It took me a few minutes to dry and dress which is why I was coming out of my shuttle when I saw Badger. He was moving slowly, keeping mostly to the shadows then seemed to grow more confident as he neared the airlock. I wanted to hurry to see what was wrong with River but some instinct pulled me back. I crept after him to see what he was up to."

"You realise what this means?"

Inara nodded. "Badger deliberately murdered Jerrod. What I don't understand is why."

"I'm thinkin' we need to address that sooner rather than later."

"Where is he?"

"*Fang xin*, Badger's not goin' nowhere. Had to walk away an' calm down before I killed him my own self, him bein' the only one unaccounted for when the deed was done. What you saw fills that gap. You sure it couldn't'a been an accident?"

"*Bu qu*, Mal. I couldn't hear everything he said but it had something to do with Rufus."

The Captain looked surprised. "Polly? What the good gorram could Badger ventin' Jerrod into the atmo have to do with him?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but my instinct tells me it was nothing good."

* * * * *

The Kingfisher docked with Serenity so smoothly that there was hardly a shudder as Wash brought them into perfect alignment. River waited impatiently for the pressure to equalise and the sealed door to open, the children hurrying through with Monty looming like a huge bear in their wake. The children ran straight to River, Zoe homed in on Monty.

"What in the nine hells is goin' on, Monty?"

Monty huffed into his whiskers. "Apart from three wailin' kids confusin' the *diyu* outta me?"

"Yeah, apart from that."

"They kept sayin' they were all dead. Couldn't get sense outta any of 'em then they said it was the children. Ones they wanted to save, too late somehow. How the good gorram did they know that?"

Serenity's first mate looked thoughtful. "River was the same. My guess is they all knew at the same time."

Monty's eyes were sharp, searching her face for answers to questions not yet asked. When Zoe said nothing further Monty looked over her shoulder then cast a glance left and right. He noted Jayne hanging back, Vera held in is hands, momentarily relaxed like a forgotten lover but eyes missing nothing. The mercenary chewing on an unlit cigar while he waited. Shepherd Book watched River herd the children away with her but didn't follow. Monty frowned, puzzled by the tension. "Where's Mal?"

"With Inara."

A bushy brow rose in question. Zoe shook her head to quickly cut off any misunderstanding. "Just talkin'."

At that precise moment the Captain's voice came over the com requesting everyone meet up in the commons area.

* * * * *

The Lady's solution was bold, innovative and not lacking in subtle sneakiness. James Morgan Wong approved of the oblique approach. The Lady would not want even the barest suspicion that her people had any connection with the plan. Attempts to contact Jerrod Perkins had proved impossible. Not even biosigns were coming back to them which could only mean that, for whatever reason, the device had detonated taking the man with it. It had not been activated from their end which left another puzzle. Who knew of its' existence and how might that knowledge affect their interests was a worry only heightened by the inability of her technicians to trace Badger by the same unique means. Did that mean he was dead also or had the two somehow conspired to remove the devices? The Lady did not like loose ends. She liked mysteries even less.

Now Wong was faced with orchestrating a kind of intelligence coup in reverse. Almost he smiled but success was not yet guaranteed. Carefully he made his way to the Tong stronghold and wondered at the delivery method. He just hoped that the chosen one was up to the mission for there would be no second chance.

* * * * *

"It was an accident, see? Just wanted to talk to him."

"An' I can see how broken up you are." Said the Captain.

Badger tried to look offended but could not quite keep his spine straight and his eyes from sliding away from the fury in the Captain's eyes. Aware that he was surrounded on all sides by people not friendly to him he tried another tack.

"I thought I was shuttin' off the com, talk over. Got the fright of my bloody life when the outer door opened an' Jerrod got sucked out!"

"Not shocked enough to tell anyone." Growled Jayne, leaning close to the little man.

Jerrod's men stirred like a slowly rousing hornets' nest, Billy Parker just managing to keep them from pushing through the throng and throttling the life out of the little King Pin there and then. Howdy shot a questioning look at his friend but Billy gave a tiny shake of the head. He wanted to see how Serenity's Captain handled things before demanding Badger be given a taste of his own medicine.

"Badger," the Captain paused only long enough to ensure the slimy little piece of *goushi* was looking at him. "What did you wanna to talk to Jerrod about?"

Badger straightened the lapels on his jacket as if that would make him seem more presentable. His story more believable. It did neither. In the end he prevaricated. "It was private, see?"

"What about Rufus? Was that private too?"

The little man's eyes widened in shock before he could hide his reaction. How in the nine hells did Reynolds know about Rufus Pol? Unless... His lips twisted. "You been spyin' on me?"

The Captain put his hands on his hips, his right hand settling on the butt of his hand gun. "My boat, my rules, an' you didn't answer my question."

"Like I said it was *siren*. Don't answer to you."

Shepherd Book's deep rolling voice seemed the very voice of reason as he came to stand next to the Captain. "I don't believe Badger is going to tell us anything, Captain."

Mal nodded. "I do believe you're right, Shepherd. Looks like we need a visit to the infirmary."

Badger frowned, this was not the reaction he had been expecting. Donnie whispered something to Billy Parker and the two moved quickly to grab him. "*Wei*! What'cha doin'? I got rights!"

Just then Zoe, Monty and the children joined them. Mal and Zoe exchanged a look.

"Simon's ready, sir."

Clearly terrified, Badger tried to break free without success. "I saved your life, Reynolds! Back on that prison ship. You owe me!"

"An' you've put my life in danger more times than I've saved your worthless, lyin' hide."

"You can't kill me, that would be murder *dong ma*?"

The Captain turned swiftly on the spot and pushed his face up close to Badger's, white hot anger ready to burst and engulf the little man as everyone momentarily halted. "An' you ventin' Jerrod into the atmo wasn't murder? An' don't," the Captain raised a hand in warning "tell me that was a *shigu* 'cause I know different. You were seen Badger."

All the colour drained from the little King Pin's face.

"I'm gonna get the truth outta you, *dong ma*? Even if I have to let Jayne peel it off a layer at a gorram time."

* * * * *

Rosalie Hopkins didn't understand a lot but knew this was important. Just nine years old but ancient in ways that were more than a little creepifying. James Morgan Wong knew the girl was special. Not only had she escaped the Hunter's grasp she was also completely intact. All the moving and non-moving parts in perfect, if baffling, working order. How the Lady had found her he did not know and would not speculate. Rosalie wanted to go home but no longer knew where home was only that an immense danger threatened and she was one of the few who could do anything to divert the impending disaster. Time meant nothing, outcome was everything.

"My family..."

"Are safe, *nu haizi*. You know why you are here?"

A nod was her only response, eyes glued to Wong's. He wondered briefly whether she was flitting through his memories or simply reading his mind. Not that either would help inform her beyond what she needed to know.

"It is time to get ready."

* * * * *

If Malcolm Reynolds wasn't so angry it would mayhap be funny, entertaining even. The infirmary was full to bursting with Simon having to insist that the lynch mob wait outside. That still left too many people in the room for Badger's liking, none of them feeling a mite friendly or sympathetic towards him. Had to wonder if the doc intended to inject some kind of rutting poison in him. From the doorway Wash stage whispered in his wife's ear as if channelling the little King Pin's fears.

"Are we gonna kill him?"

"Not yet, *zhangfu*. Depends on what Badger has to say."

Wash turned to stare at his wife. "You know we can't trust a word Badger says, *bao bei*."

Serenity's first mate had a grim look upon her face, enough to make stone killers take a step back. "Which is why Cap'n aims to make sure he gets the truth."

Wash opened his mouth to ask another question but the Captain glared at him. "Need you on the bridge, *dong ma*?"

The pilot gave a quick nod and vanished knowing his wife would fill him in on what happened later. Malcolm Reynolds turned back to Simon. "When you're ready, doc."

On the infirmary bed Badger tried to wriggle free but Donnie and the Shepherd had strapped him down. The panic on Badger's face didn't stop him trying to wheedle out a reprieve only no one was listening. The injection hissed as the contents were emptied into the side of Badger's neck. The man was hyperventilating now but gradually began to calm a little.

"*Ni zai zuo shenme*?"

The Captain crossed his arms over his chest. "Waitin'."

Badger turned his head from side to side but no one was speaking. His mind racing as if to find a way out but there were no exits and he had only himself to blame for his predicament. "Got nothin' to say to you, see?"

"How long will it take, Simon?"

The doctor was checking Badger's vital signs. "A couple of minutes, Captain."

Badger twisted his lips, panic resurfacing if a bit sluggishly. "You poisoned me?"

The Captain shook his head. "Poison's too good for you."

"Look, I told you, it was an accident, see?"

Anger flashed on the Captain's face. "You still wanna use that gorram lie?"

The little man tried to whet his lips. What the bloody *diyu* was wrong with his co-ordination? "You drugged me..."

"Lucky I didn't vent you into the atmo - accidentally."

Badger wanted to protest his innocence but couldn't wrap his tongue around the lie. "Knew too much." He mumbled, the part confession confusing and horrifying him. Hadn't meant to let anything slip out.

The Captain leaned in close. "What did Jer know that you didn't want us knowin'?"

He fought it, really he did, but his resistance was too slippery to grasp and the truth seemed to have a mind of its' gorram own. "About Rufus. Jerrod knew, didn't approve when he found out but we convinced him to keep his bloody mouth shut. An' o' course I sent work his way, kept him sweet, see? Everybody wins."

"What were you an' Rufus up to?"

* * * * *

James Morgan Wong used the pre-arranged code. The portable cortex flickered to life. The Lady said one word but it was enough. "*Nar*?"

As her major domo gave the co-ordinates and a slow grim smile spread across the Lady's face. "The child is ready."

Any reservations Wong might have had were buried deep where even the Hell-bound could not find them. The Lady had the total loyalty of her Tong, her every word made law the moment it was uttered from her lips. Wong had but one question. "*Shenme shihou*?"

"*Xianzai*. Suitable transport has been arranged. You will monitor from afar but not get involved once the girl is on board, *dong ma*?"

Wong did not ask what he should do if anything went wrong with the plan. After all, accidents in the Black happened and if there were no debris there would be no foul.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*ni juede zenme yang le* = how are you feeling? *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *wo hao danir le* = I'm feeling better *dong ma* = understand? *xin gan* = sweetheart *jieshi* = explain *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *bu hao zhao* = not easy to find *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wo bu zhidao* + I don't know *bao bei* = precious/treasure *diyu* = hell *goushi* = crap/dog shit *siren* = private *wei* = hey! *shigu* = accident *nu haizi* = girl *zhangfu* = husband *ni zai zuo shenme* = what are you doing? *nar* = where *shenme shihou* = when *xianzai* = now


Saturday, July 26, 2014 11:53 AM


oh the tangled web!! but does the Lady actually possess a heart!! black and shriveled it may be?? Next please, next chapter!
[the title Suffer The Children doesn't jive with what comes up when we open the page, just FYI :D]

thank you so much for yet another excellent series, AliD

Saturday, July 26, 2014 5:25 PM


The title of this chapter is "Be Careful What You Wish For". "Suffer The Children" is a much earlier chapter, Malsdoxy, Chapter 7. And yes, the Lady does have a heart but it is pretty hard and implacable in most respects. Glad you are enjoying the story and thanks for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, July 27, 2014 12:55 AM


Kinda curious where you are going to take things next. Normally I am fairly good at guessing at least with in reason. But I confess I really have no clue what you plan next.

Sunday, July 27, 2014 3:14 PM


Only a few more chapters to go, Nutluck, then all will be revealed. Thanks for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, July 28, 2014 7:51 PM


I like a lot! Thanks

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 5:41 AM


Glad you are enjoying the ongoing story, Buckshotpilot, and thank you for the shiny feedback! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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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.