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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
It should have been obscene talking about the children as if they were no more than parts of a recipe but he had an ace up his sleeve. One long looked for and never found.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1912 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE
CHAPTER: 65. Sequel to "BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara
SUMMARY: "The Captain finds out what Badger has been up to
not knowing that is the least of his troubles. Tensions rise on the
ship as everyone waits for the Captain's decision before going on
their separate ways."
A "Firefly" Story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
With all that was going on the children found themselves left to their own devices. Davie Thomas gave a sidelong glance in River's direction. Even though River was no longer standing with them he knew she was aware of the thoughts of all three of them, quite a juggling act when they were not mind linked. The girl turned her head, her large eyes seemingly luminous and able to look right inside Davie's head. Then she flashed him a brief smile, words collecting in his mind quicker than he could form a response.
'*Fang xin*, I won't let any of you come to harm."
'How can you promise that?'
River opened her thoughts to the other two. 'A surprise is on its' way'
Startled, Suzie looked suspicious. 'What kind of *jingqi*?'
'Help unlooked for.' River paused as if receiving more information from a source which the other three could not tap into. It was more than a little disconcerting for them to be on the outside of their gift looking in. 'It will come at a cost.'
'Yeah,' thought Lucy drily 'but who will have to pay?'
Zoe was in shock. Once they had finished questioning Badger they let him sleep, the truth serum having sapped all the man's energy or mayhap it was just his conscience getting some payback. Simon had kept a remarkable poker face, not so Jayne Cobb.
"I say we vent him into the atmo! It's better than the piece of
*houzi outo* deserves!"
"*Wo tongyi*." Said the Captain mildly. "Only why should he get
off so lightly?"
Jayne frowned. The Shepherd seemed a mite relieved that the talk was moving away from killing even someone as loathsome as Badger in cold blood. "What do you have in mind, Captain?"
"Have to say I was more than a mite stunned by what Badger, Jerrod an' Polly got themselves into. I could see Polly doin' it, the money bein' too temptin'." He cut a slight look across at Jayne but not enough for the man to notice. "Would'a thought Badger was too cunnin' to be caught up in that net."
"Money talks." Said Zoe, her voice flat and unforgiving.
"Even so," the Captain continued slowly "sellin' little ones? Knowin' those *tamade hundan* were cuttin' 'em open to further their evil plans?"
"We don't know that Rufus, Jerrod and Badger knew about that." Book interjected, ever the Devil's Advocate.
"What about the Dust?" They turned their heads and looked at Donnie, having forgotten he was in the infirmary with them. "The Dust is the end product, *dong ma*?"
"That it is, your point bein'?"
Donnie gave Mal a shrug. He hadn't really thought any further ahead. "*Wo bu zhidao*, Sarge. Never did understand why anyone would wanna create somethin' that could destroy every gorram thing. Makes no ruttin' sense."
Zoe and Mal exchanged a look. Jayne was about to say something but Book spoke up before he could do so. "A lot of this is very confusing which isn't surprising when dealing with the Alliance."
"How long 'til our back-stabbin', lyin', piece of *shen goushi* comes to?"
Simon checked Badger's vitals before responding. "Two to three hours at most, Captain. If I may ask, what are you going to do with him?"
"Well now," said the Captain, his honeyed voice thoughtful but oddly more deadly for that "depends on what that *tamade hundan* has to say when he wakes up."
Jayne looked annoyed. "We already heard what he has to say."
The Captain locked eyes with his mercenary. "I'm thinkin' you're missin' my point, Jayne."
"You gotta point?"
Zoe hid a smirk, curious to see what her friend and Captain was getting at.
"We know Badger was in deep with Polly an' Jerrod, helpin' gettin' the raw materials moved. That means there's a connection or two with who did the orderin' an' payin' an' such. Not to mention the mysterious an' creepifyin' lady fittin' them with bombs in their innards which she could remotely trigger if they didn't do as she wanted. That's a powerful incentive."
The doctor looked concerned. "Are you saying this lady of theirs is the link between them and the Dust?"
"Not sure what the good gorram I'm sayin' just that we need a clear path to follow. Can't afford to jump to no conclusions, *dong ma*?"
"Don't have to jump when there's a path."
Everyone turned to stare at River Tam, none of them having seen or heard her join them. The Captain could feel a headache coming on. "What're you sayin', little one?"
Her smile was an ambient light illuminating her pale face from within. The thin material of her dress fluttered around her as she moved, her bare feet making no sound on the cold deck plates. Simon would have drawn her to him but even when River's focus was not on her brother she always knew where he was and managed to stay just out of reach. She was a free spirit and Simon's constant need to look after her, to love and care for her, too often clipped wings that were meant to fly.
The little ship was cloaked and carried the pilot, one passenger and one escape pod. The girl had been silent since the ship had set off on its' new co-ordinates. Rosalie kept out of the way of the pilot, craving a quiet space where there was none. The hum beneath her feet echoed in the deck plates and skin of the ship. Everything was black. The interior and exterior devoid of any other colour or markings. It made Rosalie feel as if she were in a hole just waiting for it to close in on top of her. Buried alive but with the tremor of the ship's engine mimicking a heartbeat that would never match her own.
The pilot cut the thrust and allowed the vessel to drift along its' prearranged course, the end now in sight. Concealment a temporary condition until his cargo found its' new home. The girl's eyes were closed as if in sleeping but he knew she was awake. He hesitated, reluctant to disturb her until she was ready. Rosalie cast her mind in a narrow net, touched on lives not her own and sifted through what was and what was not. Her eyes snapped open and she nodded at the pilot.
"Best get to it then." He said gruffly.
The girl did not nod back or thank him but followed dutifully. The pod was small and reminded her of an egg with her being the one curled up inside waiting to hatch. Purly Evans paused before sealing the hatch on her, a strange expression on his mournful face as if he was doing something he did not want to do.
"Know what you gotta do, *nu haizi*?"
He never called her by name. Rosalie nodded,, her breathing slowing and bringing her racing heartbeat into line. Soon, it would barely be registering a beat. "*Fang xin, wo zhidao*."
With a curt nod he closed the hatch which sealed with a hiss. Seconds later the escape pod was launched, the little ship waiting only long enough for the pilot to be assured it was on the correct trajectory to intersect with its' target. Silently he wished her luck then turned the ship around and left.
Malcolm Reynolds was frustrated. Never did like folk fussing over him even when their intentions were good. Inara soothed his irritation with a hand on his arm, her smile gentle, eyes knowing. The infirmary was now empty of everyone except the two of them and Simon. Jayne Cobb lingered in the doorway to watch.
"Huh, never knew you was a plastic surgeon, doc."
Simon did not look up but continued examining the Captain's face. "Not per se though I have done some facial reconstruction."
The mercenary stepped through the doorway as he craned his neck to see better though the big man did not look too impressed. "Think ya can make him look less ruttin' pissed off?"
"I'm a doctor not God."
Jayne guffawed and Mal pulled away from Simon to turn and glare at him. "Think you need to go now, Jayne."
It was on the tip of the mercenary's tongue to argue but one look at the Captain's face and Jayne backed off. Huh, man weren't no fun. Simon glanced at Inara. "Perhaps we should close the door?"
Inara smiled at him then closed and locked it. Her eyes caught Mal's and she was relieved to see him finally relax just a little.
"The dermal layers are recovering nicely Captain though you will have to be careful not to rub your face or peel the old skin off if you want to avoid scarring."
"That why it's itchin' so gorram much?"
"*Qu*, and before you complain Captain it's a good sign. It means it's healing. However, I can give you something to reduce the itching." He handed Inara a jar. "Just use a little of the ointment in the morning and again last thing at night. The old skin will flake off on its' own."
Mal wanted to say he could put the gorram ointment on his ownself but one look at Inara told him to keep that little notion to himself. Woman could be right stubborn when she had a mind to be. He gave Simon a nod. "*Xie xie ni.*"
"*Mei shi*. Just try not to get blown up again, *dong ma*?"
The Captain glared sourly at him but Simon had turned away. Inara gave a tug on Mal's arm and the two left. Once they were gone River slipped into the infirmary. "Thinks you're mocking him."
Simon finished putting his things away and gave his sister a loving smile, his eyes twinkling. "I was."
Matthew James Wong wanted to ask the Lady about her plan. How wise it was to put her greatest hope in the hands of a renegade Firefly Captain. It was true that the man was incredibly resourceful, a constant thorn in the side of the Alliance and little more than a thief and a smuggler but he was more complex than that. Wong ruminated over the odd make up of the man's crew and the occasional flashes of something speaking to a sense of decency and nobility often at variance with his actions. That his Lady had taken a keen interest in the man was surprise enough, that she would hand him the girl baffled him almost into a coma.
His was not to reason why. His was to obey or die.
"We're behind schedule!"
Chancellor Owen Stark was calm, unruffled by Munroe's ill conceived impatience. "*Bu qu*. It will take as long as it takes. We cannot afford mistakes, *dong ma*?"
Robert Dryton Munroe tried to clear his throat. His voice was rough, crackling like dry leaves set alight by a fierce fire. "It will be years before we recover the ground that was lost."
"Then we must make sure that we use that time wisely. The Project will be better, improved but also more 'selective'."
Munroe snorted, not impressed. "We lost that pipe dream along with the Hunter, *jide*? How can we rebuild what was lost when we do not have all the ingredients?"
It should have been obscene talking about the children as if they were no more than parts of a recipe but he had an ace up his sleeve. One long looked for and never found. A slow smile oiled its' way across the Chancellor's face and something dark and unpleasant glittered in the depths of his calm dispassionate eyes. Even Munroe, who was being slowly eaten up with cancer, was touched with the chill depth of a malice that never slept but knew how to bide its' time. The realisation was like ice in his veins. His objections abandoned. Munroe could only nod in full accord and pity whoever stood in the Chancellor's way.
In Serenity's cargo bay folk were getting restless but were instantly attentive the moment the Captain joined them. Inara watched from the catwalk, vaguely troubled but not sure why. After all, Badger was no threat now but she could not shake the feeling that the Universe was not finished with them. She watched Zoe clatter down the metal stairs in Mal's wake as Jayne came and stood beside her. For once there was no lewd comment, no dirty leer, and for a moment Inara almost missed it. Uncouth Jayne she was used to. A thoughtful sharp Jayne put her on notice that he might act all loose limbed and relaxed but was on the alert. Or maybe Jayne was just being Jayne and she was the one with a heightened sense of awareness.
Donnie circulated quietly among the Browncoats then settled next to Walt Jameson, Ethan Riley and Rudi Morgan. Like the other rescued Browncoats Donnie wanted Mal to give the order to space Badger but it was the Captain's call and he would back whatever decision his former Sergeant made, didn't matter what it was. Jerrod's men wanted to go home to Lilac and Monty wanted to be away on his merry but until the Captain made a decision they were all in gorram limbo.
Monty blinked, as disconcerted by River popping up out of nowhere as her odd pronouncements. It was all kinds of creepifying how the girl knew what he was thinking. Without meaning to he found himself responding anyway. "Ni zhide shi shenme*?"
"Limbo is the borderland of *diyu*, assigned to the unbaptised."
"I ain't baptised." Said Monty, suddenly feeling a mite uncomfortable.
"Can also mean any unsatisfactory place of confinement or oblivion. An uncertain or intermediate state or a prison." River paused, tilted her head as she looked up at him then blinded him with a smile. "Luckily you're on Serenity."
Monty was not sure if that was much of an improvement.
Just then Wash's voice came over the com. "Mal, you might wanna come up here!"
The Captain responded immediately, Zoe falling into step as natural as his own heartbeat. Monty wanted to ask what was going on but one look at his friend's closed expression stopped him. Billy Parker and Howdy Marks had deliberately been keeping a low profile, not wanting to draw attention to themselves after the mess Jerrod had got them all into. Stan and Lionel glanced their way but no one spoke, all eyes following the Captain's progress before coming back to rest on the substantial frame of Monty. Over by the crates, Rudi Morgan exchanged a look with Donnie Donaldson, a question in his eyes. A tiny headshake was his answer. Ethan Riley seemed to be paying no attention but he was as sharp as the rest, his eyes canvassing the cargo bay and measuring the folk in it. For now, everyone was playing nice. Donnie watched Jayne Cobb stir up on the catwalk.
On the bridge Wash looked up as the Captain and Zoe joined him. "It's an escape pod."
"*Shenme*? Any life signs?"
"*Qu*, just one. Almost missed it, the distress beacon is pretty weak."
The Captain didn't like what he was hearing. "You think it's been driftin' a while?"
"*Wo bu zhidao*, Mal."
Whenever Wash was particularly concerned or puzzled he tended to drop the Captain. His wife never did.
"Think it's a trap, sir?"
"If it is whoever sent it is usin' live bait."
Zoe rested a hand on her husband's shoulder. "There must be some way of knowin' where it's come from."
"That's what bothers me, *bao bei*. There's no ship in the area an' I don't see how it could get this far out on the drift."
The Captain's lips tightened. "Then it was gorram put there but by who an' more important *weishenme*?"
"Sir, if there's someone aboard we may find our answers in that pod."
"That means bringin' it on board an' I'm none too happy with that notion." The Captain turned back to Wash. "You say you got life signs, they strong or weak?"
"That's just it, they keep fadin' in an' out."
"An' just the one?"
"What're you thinkin', sir?"
"I'm thinkin' we need more information. Wash, open a channel. Time to see if this life sign can speak."
* * * * *
The party was muted, the wine free flowing but tongues guarded. It was always this way when her husband entertained. Rare as those occasions were no one was under the illusion that they had been invited for their wit and personality. The Lady sipped judiciously, her dress as elegant and refined as she was. Despite her years there was an ageless quality about her that seemingly defied the passage of the years. Her husband laughed a short bark of humour, his lined face like some ancient map showing every road he had ever travelled. The eyes were sharp pin points trapped behind glass that missed nothing. He noticed his wife's distraction even in the midst of negotiations.
Once the last of their guests had departed he moved to her side, in her orbit but not touching. When had their intimacy become so distant? The things that bound them so deadly?
"You seem distracted, *weishenme*?"
"Just *lei, zhangfu*. You know how these things tire me."
Something flickered in his eyes but he did not call her on the lie. Perhaps it was weariness nothing more but his instincts were as keen as his intellect and part of him was not convinced. He would let it pass. For now.
"I have missed you lately."
She did not mistake the words for affection. Knew well the hint of displeasure he hid behind a disingenuous smile, as if her absence were a deliberate affront to her position as his wife. A prize to be flaunted not hidden away and yet, in his way, he did love her.
"You have been busy, my love."
The Lady was well versed in keeping her emotions in check and allowed a slow smile to tinge the weary facade. "The search for precious antiques is an endless challenge. So often the trail is long cold before I even hear of it and yet some treasures are still to be found."
A genuine smile brightened his face. Her husband linked an arm through hers, allowing real affection to show through. Her words pleased him. "Then come, perhaps you could show me what has you so distracted that you are almost asleep on your feet, hm?"
* * * * *
Kaylee almost bumped into Simon as he rushed out of the infirmary with his medical case in hand. "*Duibuqi*, Kaylee, I didn't see you!"
Her smile was sunshine on a stormy day, enough to lighten any heart. "What's got ya in such a rush?"
The doctor paused. "The Captain called, it seems an escape pod's been detected and they're picking up life signs."
Kaylee's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Escape pod? Thought we was the only ones out here?"
Simon eased passed her and dropped a kiss on her cheek. "I have to go now, *xin gan*."
Then Simon was gone. Kaylee gazed after him in a daze, what in the nine hells was an escape pod doing all the way out here in the middle of No and Where? Walking back towards the engine room Kaylee did not notice that inside the infirmary, Badger began to stir. He lay still for several moments as his eyes fluttered open. That crafty scheming brain of his stepping up a gear as he regained consciousness.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *jinqi* = surprise *houzi outo* = monkey vomit *wo tongyi* = I agree *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *dong ma* = understand? *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *shen goushi* = deep crap *nu haizi* = girl *wo zhidao* = I know *qu* = yes (lit. go) *xie xie ni* thank you *mei shi* = it doesn't matter *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *jide* = remember *ni zhide shi shenme* = what do you mean? *diyu* = hell *shenme* = what *bao bei* = precious/treasure *weishenme* = why *lei* = tired *zhangfu* = husband *duibuqi* = sorry *xin gan* = sweetheart
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