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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Now they had that girl out of the escape pod everything had changed and not for the better neither. Who knew how long he had before his gorram cover was blown?
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1957 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "INSIDE OUT"
SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE
CHAPTER: 69. Sequel to "A BETTER WORLD"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara
SUMMARY "Nothing is quite as it seems. Having
left Lilac behind the Captain has to decide how far
he can trust Rosalie."
A "Firefly" Story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
It was weird but he could not shake the feeling he was being watched. If Jayne noticed he showed no sign of it. Quickly they squared the supplies on board so Wash could take off. The Shepherd watched Jayne leave the cargo bay and waited until the mercenary had climbed the metal staircase and was gone from view. Why in the nine hells was he so jumpy? There was no reason for it except he was used to acting on instinct and right now every fibre of his being was thrumming with a subtle but irresistible warning. Gradually he was aware that others were on the periphery of his senses and was not surprised when Donnie appeared with one of the other Browncoats. Jimmy Howard he thought the man's name was but it was hard to keep track of which names fit which faces when Donnie seemed to be the one who interacted with them the most. Or rather, with the Captain. Yet he had noticed what a cohesive force the men were, how tight a group and no doubt loyal unto death. It would not do to put himself on the wrong side of their radar. Book allowed an easy smile to settle into place.
"Come to help with the supplies?"
Donnie seemed to tilt his head slightly without actually moving. Neat trick. "Do you need help, Preacher?"
Something cold settled in his back brain as if they were having an entirely different conversation. Book patted a boxed crate. It was one he had freed from the rest which were still lashed down, good and secure. "Thought Jayne would help but I guess he'd rather eat than sort through the supplies."
"I'm sure he would've had you asked him."
The words were mild, almost throw away lines only they weren't. Had Donnie been watching him? Listening in even? Yet none of the Browncoats had left the ship when Wash landed on Lilac to drop off Jerrod's crew. Was that the source of the itch in his back brain?
"It must've slipped my mind. I only really need this box for now. We still have some herbs and plenty of protein but fresh produce is always welcome." Book had the lid off now and after a short but careful rummage lifted up two chicken carcasses, his face breaking into a genuine grin. "Can't remember the last time we had fresh meat."
Donnie gave Jimmy Howard a slight nod and the man stepped forward and hefted the open crate onto his shoulder as if it was an empty plywood box leaving Book holding the poultry. "Where you wantin' these supplies, Preacher?"
"If you'll just follow me to the commons room I can make a start. I think we could all use a hearty meal, *dui*?"
His hands were numb and swelling from pounding on the airlock hatch. Gorramit he knew it was a waste of time but panic was no respecter of common sense. Badger wiped the sweat from his face and dropped to the deck, his body like a marionette with the strings cut. For a long time he just sat there with his back to one wall and considered his fate. How much his bloody life sucked. It was all that Malcolm Reynolds fault. If he could he'd stuff that Balls and Bayonet Brigade down his ruddy throat. Sideways if they'd fit. The internal rant was not as satisfying as it should have been, probably due to the fact that Badger knew this was his own fault. All he had to do was play possum, let Serenity's starchy doc keep an eye on him and all would have been fine only he knew it wouldn't, not really. Now they had that girl out of the escape pod everything had changed and not for the better neither. Who knew how long he had before his gorram cover was blown?
Badger thought about his dealings with Reynolds. Man was definitely psychotic but also a man of his word. Had to give him that. Maybe he could have a parlay? Talk himself out of this unpleasant situation? Preferably before the girl put the kybosh on everything. Or maybe they would just vent him into the atmo and be done with it.
With a sigh, the little King Pin leant back and closed his eyes. He might be currently powerless but that didn't mean he couldn't do some plotting and scheming. Take a leaf out of his nemesis's book. No giving up on this boat.
* * * *
Rosalie sat crossed legged on the infirmary bed while Simon finished checking her over. At last, satisfied, he gave the Captain a nod and put his medical equipment away. Rosalie already knew that he would not be connecting her back up to the monitoring equipment. So far, so good. Now it was all up to the Captain.
"You wanna blow up some gorram planet we ain't never heard of?"
"Better if no one hears of it, Cap'n. The place is beyond deadly."
"An' you would be knowin' this how?"
Something flickered in the girl's eyes almost too fast to be seen. Zoe stiffened but the Captain remained alert but relaxed, or at least that was how he projected himself. Naturally the girl knew different. River and the children were silent eyes and ears but Rosalie felt their presence as keenly as if the sword of Damocles hung above her head. Not that she feared they would do her physical harm. No. Her fear lay in a totally different direction and one that they would never unmask. "I can help but only if you let me."
"You mean trust you?" That was Zoe. The scepticism was easy to detect and the girl welcomed it. Better an open enemy than a faithless friend.
"*Qu*. It has no name but I know where to find it. You would call it a manufacturin' base, Cap'n. It's already operational but not yet complete."
"How can it be one an' not the other? No playin' with words now, *dong ma*?"
Rosalie almost smiled but did not want to be misinterpreted. "They have the base up an' runnin'. Bringin' materials in as cannon fodder to create what you call the Dust. But it is not an infinite resource even when refined as the very act of creation is caused by constantly feedin' on the material an' itself until only the finest powder is left."
"An' that does what?"
"*Yiwusouyou*, by then the cycle is complete Cap'n an' the Dust is inert but no less deadly."
"Once reduced to a powder the Dust will not do anythin' unless reintroduced to new material however if the Dust gets into your lungs..."
"I'm all aware of that nightmare, *xie xie ni*."
The girl's eyes widened slightly but that was her only reaction. River knew Rosalie had plucked the incident from the Captain's memory. Zoe gave the girl a thoughtful look.
"You intend to help us by findin' the base?"
"Where is it?"
"Doesn't work like that, I have to show you."
Immediately suspicion set in. "You settin' us up?" Asked the Captain, his voice deceptively mild.
"*Bu qu*. I know where it is because I see it in my mind. No co-ordinates, *dong ma*?"
"You sayin' your mind's like a gorram map?"
"Trust me, I can find it."
"An' we would be believin' you why?"
"She's telling the truth." Said River.
The Captain stared for a minute at River Tam. "You see it too?"
"*Bu qu* but I can tell when she's lying."
"Can you tell the location from that little peek?"
"It doesn't work like that but *fang xin*, we'll be going with her."
"Not no way did I say that was gonna happen. Don't wanna put anyone at risk that don't have to be in the line of fire an' if you come too who the good gorram is gonna look after your brother?"
Simon stirred. "Hey!"
They all ignored him. Rosalie glanced at the three children, all silent and all of them watching her with impassive expressions on their young faces. Yet she could not feel them in her mind so why were they here? It was River who answered for her. "They don't trust you." At Rosalie's look, River explained. "None of us do."
Inara wanted to speak to Mal but he was always talking to one or other group and now he was sequestered in the infirmary questioning the girl from the escape pod. Being a Companion, Inara Serra was very sensitive to other people, the non verbal cues their bodies gave without them being aware, the way the atmosphere changed incrementally from moment to moment and person to person. Right now her hackles were rising and she did not know why. Could not pinpoint where the unease was coming from or what it meant.
It was a weird ass situation as far as the mercenary was concerned. Happy as he was to see Jerrod's crew get off at Lilac he had to wonder why Mal let the Browncoats stay. What was that all about? Was he taking them to their home world or was there another reason for having them on board? Not that he had anything against them it was just kind of creepy the way they followed Mal's lead, often without a word being spoken between them. Come to think on it Zoe had the same way of communicating with the Captain. The voice in his ear almost made him physically jump but Jayne spun round with his gun drawn in less than a gorram heartbeat.
Donnie ignored the gun in his face, his eyes meeting Jayne's as if they was equals. "Been watchin' you, Cobb."
The irritation he sometimes felt around these folk was sliding into deep dislike. "Sneakin' up on a man is like to get ya killed."
Donnie ignored Jayne's words and gave him an assessing look. "Was tryin' to figure why the Sarge would take a mercenary on his crew." He paused and watched Jayne's eyes narrow. "I'm guessin' you must be pretty good with that gun, probably a fair tracker too."
"What I am ain't none of your business, *dong ma*?"
"It is if you don't do your job."
Fire raced through Jayne Cobb's veins. "*Ni zhide shi shenme*?"
Donnie leaned back and cast a calm look around him but Jayne did not let down his guard. He didn't know this man, had no reason to trust him. Just cause he was a friend of Mal's didn't mean he was a friend of Jayne's. Captain tended to be far too free in the trust department as far as the mercenary was concerned. "Keep him safe."
Genuine confusion left Jayne stumped for a second. "*Shei*?"
Jayne snorted. "Cap don't need babysittin'. If ya knew him as well as ya think ya'd know that."
The barb was ignored. "We won't be here long." Said Donnie quietly as if that explained everything, his words pitched for the mercenary's ears alone. Jayne had to wonder at that while inwardly celebrating the imminent departure of the Browncoats. He never fought in no war but that didn't mean he wanted bitter ex-fighters starting another one. "Need to know you can be trusted. Can you be trusted, Jayne Cobb?"
"I can drill a hole in your brain pan big enough to keep my cigar."
"But are you loyal?" Donnie whispered.
Jayne so wanted to pull the trigger but something in Donnie's expression held him in thrall, an instinct telling him that however it seemed the man was not trying to insult him. It was all manner of confusing to Jayne. "Why ya wanna know?"
"The Sarge may seem a mite..." Donnie trailed off as if hunting for the right word "slapdash but he's sharp, Jayne, an' he don't hire a man on he don't trust." He paused. "Just need to know that trust is in the right man."
"You ask the Preacher that question?"
Donna laughed, it was an oddly light freeing sound given how serious the conversation was. "Jayne, we both know that man's no Preacher."
Jayne blinked, the gun in his hand forgotten. "He ain't?"
"The Sarge is important to us, *dong ma*? Need to know when it's time for us to be on our merry that you'll look out for him, simple as that."
It was strange but Jayne believed him. Slowly he re-holstered his gun. Not that he was trusting Donnie but it seemed kind'a stupid to keep it drawn and not fire it. Too much like an idle threat and he wasn't wanting to give that impression. "I get you all fought in that gorram War but this seems more than that."
"You know where I'm from, Jayne?"
Jayne Cobb looked at him as if it was a trick question but the man just waited for a reply so the mercenary shrugged. "*Bu qu*. Don't know, don't care."
A sadness drifted over Donnie's face and settled in his eyes like the echo of a pain that would never go away. "Shadow."
Stunned, Jayne watched the man walk away. His animosity towards the Browncoat dulled by the first glimmering of understanding.
When Inara finally caught Mal alone the man was in a hurry. His long strides forcing Inara to speed up just to keep pace with him. "Mal, I was hoping to speak to you."
"Not now, 'Nara. You seen Jayne?"
The Companion blinked. "Jayne?"
Something in her voice made the Captain pause mid-stride which made Inara pause too. There was a flicker of amusement in his darkened eyes. "Big lumberin' mercenary, not too bright in the brain-pan department but right quick with a knife an' gun?"
"Mal, I know who Jayne is!"
He ignored the snap in her voice and tilted his head, his voice softening. "*Shenme shi, bao bei*?"
Now it came to voicing her concern Inara was hesitant. After all she had no proof that anything was *cuode*. "*Wo bu zhidao*, I just have a feeling something isn't right."
The Captain reached out a hand and rested it lightly on her right arm, eyes looking deep and serious into her own. "You sayin' Badger's on the loose again?"
"*Bu qu*, at least that's not what's worrying me."
"Then what? 'Cause I got a pile of things need doin' an' no time to get them done in, *dong ma*?"
"*Duibuqi*, I'll just..."
"Not what I meant, *xin gan*. You got a worry I wanna hear about it but not sure I can pin down a feelin'."
She felt stupid but inclined to caution him anyway. "Just be *xiaoxin*."
The Captain smiled at her making her knees go weak. "Always am." At the flicker of irritation on her face he quickly added an addendum. "But I'll be extra special careful, *hao*?"
The kiss was meant to be quick but deepened for both of them. When they parted, Inara had to still the rapid beat of her heart so she could hear what Mal said. His reassurances ringing in her ears as she watched him step passed her yelling for Jayne as he went.
Turning out his pockets only made Badger feel more depressed. Good gorram, he didn't have a single thing that might help get him out of this pile of *goushi* he was landed in. While he didn't think the Captain would vent him into the atmo he couldn't speak for the rest of the man's crew. As soon as his pockets were turned out Badger carefully felt along the lining until he came to the round flat object sewn into the bottom of it. Unlike the tracker that had been injected into him this was passive. He could remove it but doing so would trigger the kind of alarm he could not afford. In its' inactive state the Lady would not know for certain whether or not the bomb had killed him. The solution however was not as simple as changing his clothes. The device was keyed to his bloody DNA. That crafty witch never missed a trick but then he liked his women smart, just not too tricksy.
With a sigh Badger put his things back and gave further thought to the task she had set him. The one he had wanted to ditch but now could not. Oh, he could run and for a time he could hide himself but sooner or later one of her gorram lackeys would spot him and the word would be out. No. He needed to play this smart, use the time he had to his advantage. Complete the bloody mission and earn a nice big fat bonus. After this she would have to take him seriously, treat him with gorram respect. First he would have to find a way out of his makeshift *jianyu*.
"You wanna what?"
"The name of that planet with the Alliance hidden store of ammo, Jayne."
Jayne perked up. "Amber. What ya wanna do?" For a moment his grin froze and his eyes narrowed. "Ain't gonna start another War?"
"*Bu qu*, an' just so you know I didn't start the last one."
Jayne followed the Captain as he made for the bridge. "We goin' there now, Cap?"
"Seems like the thing to do."
As the Captain stepped onto the bridge, Zoe and Wash stopped talking. Zoe stood up. "Problem, sir?"
"*Bu qu*. Wash, you ever hear of a planet called Amber?"
"Yeah, but it's more of a planetoid. Tiny little thing with hardly any atmo, *weishenme*?"
"Seems the Alliance gotta hidden ammo store there."
Wash looked surprised. "They do? If it's hidden how'd we know about it?"
The Captain looked at Jayne. The mercenary shrugged. "Never been there myself but remember Book mentionin' it some months ago."
Zoe exchanged a look with the Captain. "The Shepherd told you about it?" She said.
"Yeah, *weishenme*? We was just talkin'. Always meant to go there, check it out."
"Wash, set a course for Amber, *mashang*."
"We in a hurry, sir?"
"If the girl can show us where that new manufacturin' base is I wanna have enough firepower with me to blow it to *diyu*."
"An' if she's lyin'? Could be we're bein' set up."
"River says she was tellin' the truth, Zoe."
"That may be but is she tellin' us the whole truth?"
For a moment no one spoke then the Captain started to leave, pausing in the doorway for a last word. "If the part she told us is true it's worth checkin' out. Can't afford to let the gorram Alliance create the ultimate weapon. We've seen what that Dust can do, almost destroyed us. Might not get away next time they use it so let's make sure they don't get the chance, *dui*?"
Zoe was surprised when Jayne didn't follow the Captain off the bridge. "Somethin' you want, Jayne?"
"Huh. Cap said he wasn't gonna start another War."
"We blow that new base an' we'll be stoppin' the Alliance startin' another one."
Jayne still looked a mite troubled. "Yeah, but won't they come after us?"
Wash looked over his shoulder at Jayne. "How? You know how that stuff reacts." Wash mimicked a huge explosion. "There won't be anyone left to come after us."
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*dui* = correct *qu* = yes (lit. go) *dong ma* = understand? *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *xie xie ni* = thank you *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *ni zhide shi shenme* = what do you mean? *shei* = who *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *cuode* = wrong *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *duibuqi* = sorry *xiaoxin* = careful *hao* = okay *xin gan* = sweetheart *goushi* = crap/dog shit *jianyu* = prison *weishenme* = why *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *diyu* = hell
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