The DUPLICITY Series: 39. "Demonic Forces"
Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Badger finally gives in to temptation with terrifying results. The Captain begins to suspect that the little sanctuary in the mountains is not all it is cracked up to be."


TITLE: "DEMONIC FORCES" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "THE LULL BEFORE THE STORM". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Badger finally gives in to temptation with terrifying results. The Captain begins to suspect that the little sanctuary in the mountains is not all it is cracked up to be." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

They found him curled up in one corner of the cargo bay. Hands over his head as if trying to protect himself. Jayne wanted to shoot him then and there but Zoe wanted answers. Shepherd Book intercepted Mistress Barbette. "Best let Zoe speak to him first."

His mild kindly voice would have been reassuring had River not told them what Badger had done.

Zoe kicked Badger's foot, startling a cry from the little man. She frowned. *Not* the reaction she was expecting. "Get up!"

The mumbled crying was unsettling. In all the years they had known the slimey little king pin she had never known him cry. Wasn't even sure he had tear ducts. Disturbed, she nodded to Jayne to get Badger to his feet. The wail of terror and agony when Jayne hauled him upright startled them all. Badger stood hunched over, face hidden by this hands, but as Zoe stepped closer she could see his hands were tinged with blood. Her eyes widened, the grip on her mare's leg tightening. At his feet, lying on the ground like some blinking time bomb, sat the control device. Not one of them wanted to touch it.


The man shook his head, mumbling between sobs. Kaylee had been so afraid, hands twisting together, but seeing their sometime employer cowed and terrified she could only feel pity. "*Wei*, it's alright. Just need to know what happened, *dong ma*?"


The mechanic ignored Zoe's warning to stay clear, edging closer with a hand outstretched. When she reached him, Kaylee touched his shoulder lightly and the little man wailed and shook. Mistress Barbette strode past everyone and put her hands on her son's shoulders. She could feel him trembling beneath her touch. "Stephen? *Qing*, look up. We know you took the device, switched it on. What else?"

Shaking so hard only her hold on him seemed to keep him upright, Badger raised his head. The crew gasped in shock and horror. Kaylee put her hands over her mouth and felt the prick of tears, sympathy welling up in her heart for someone normally despised. Badger's face was a wreath of red stained tears, his eyes wide and hardly seeing, lines of crimson running from his nose and eyes, his ears similarly bleeding though they could see no outward sign of injury. Jayne stumbled back, alarmed and not understanding what the good gorram was happening.

"*Goushi*, he possessed?"

The calm detached voice of River Tam echoed eerily behind them. "Took what wasn't his. Activated it. They know where he is now."

The crew exchanged anxious glances. Mistress Barbette cradled her errant son in her arms, the low murmur of her voice not translating into words for anyone's ears but his own. Both were ignored, the crew turning to River for an explanation. Her eyes flicked over Badger without a glimmer of emotion before tilting her head back to look at Zoe. "Payback's a bitch."

In silence they watched her turn around and calmly walk towards the metal staircase. Jayne watched with a frown then looked at the others. "What we gonna do?"

* * * * *

Paul Rinkman had done things in his past. Selfish spiteful things. Usually in a fit of temper, seldom when calm and in the cold light of day. He was no saint and not quite a sinner but like every soul who ever lived he had his demons. Nightmares that knew his name. But never in his complicated life had he expected to see one face to face. To feel the blood coagulating in his veins with something so close to terror it could have been an identical twin. Her bloody touch made him flinch, the recoil of his senses enough to shake him out of the stunned moment trapping him in her regard.

"W...what do you want with me?"

Her grin was disconcerting. Red teeth flashed back at him, crazy eyes homing in on his like heat seeking missiles only the look in them changed. A subtle shift from a madness directed at him to one shared. It chilled him even as he recognised that perhaps a tiny, infinitessimally small sliver of humanity still remained in the woman.

"I want what you want."

Paul blinked. Forgot for a moment that the nightmare could walk and talk. "An' what is that?"

A flicker of irritation drew back the death head's smile that so creeped him out, yet seeing it vanish raised another alarm bell. Steady. He had to keep her calm, not push her over the edge with an unthinking word. Fortunately she still had some grasp on mental acuity, no matter how twisted and warped. "The others. Have to find them, *dong ma*?"

His heart wailed. No, no, no! What was she going to do? Kill them? Eat them? Something softened in those harsh angry features.

"I'm not a monster, Paul."

That shook him. Not her assertion but the use of his first name. Her voice as normal as if she was regular folk not a lunatic missing from a rutting asylum. At his look she seemed to give herself a mental shake, the rictus smile vanishing as the anger drained out of her.

"Well, I *am* a monster - obviously - but of *their* makin'. So *they* have to pay!"

He wanted to ask who they were but wasn't sure that was wise. Natalie was calm now and he was still alive. Why, he did not know. Was she connecting with him in some way or keeping him as bait? Her next words drove a stake through his burgeoning hopes that it was the former not the latter. Natalie crouched in front of him and leaned in, bringing her dirty and bloody face within inches of his own.

"We have to find them, work together. The ones you freed."

No, he couldn't. Wouldn't. She read his answer in his eyes before a lie could form on his lips and struck him.

"*Baichi*! Do you think I need you to track them?"

Paul just stared at her.

"I found you, *dong ma*? Found the other one first then the house but it was empty. Bird had flown the nest."

He swallowed hard, the palms of his hands sweating. His body clammy and heart trip hammering in a suddenly painfully tight chest. *Wode ma*, Gillion! "The other one?" He tried to stay calm enough to speak. "Natalie, please, what other one?"

Something in his tone gave her pause. Tilting her head she considered him, little trickles of sanity bleeding through the madness. Almost, he could imagine the girl she had been and a sadness touched the horror in his heart. "The other one, shared the house with you. Did you think I wouldn't know?"

A sob bubbled up before he could stop it, sorrow shadowing his eyes with a deep heart-felt pain. "You killed him?"

The grin this time was uncertain. "Kill them all. All the ones who hurt me!"

Paul had tears in his eyes. No more fear for his own safety. China Rose was dead and her brother had been butchered at the hands of this feral mad woman. He had no doubt that she had feasted on his brother-in-law's flesh or visited some equally fabulous horror upon him. "*Bu qu*, Natalie, you're wrong." He was crying now and he didn't care. "Gillion was a good man, like me. We were part of the underground, the resistance movement workin' against the Alliance an' Blue Sun. We were tryin' to FREE you. To destroy the facility so that they couldn't do to any other children what they did to you, *ni dongle ma*?"

She scurried back a couple of feet, her eyes glued to his. The import of his words seeping slowly through her consciousness as she read the truth, the shattered shards of her mind trying to piece them together in a puzzle that had no picture. Even though she could not imagine it some instinct made the jump for her. "Friends?"

The word was barely a whisper. A tentative hush upon red tinged lips. Her eyes wide and staring at him. Needing answers but fearing them at the same time. The beast within was momentarily stilled and for a moment the woman trapped within had a tiny window of light.

Paul nodded slowly. "*Qu*." He could feel his heart breaking. "Friends."

* * * * *

It was not so much a cave as an underground town. The entrance cave small, unremarkable and bare but it led by a downward spiralling path into a larger chamber and that one to others. As they progressed it seemed to get warmer. Being out of the weather was a relief but the Captain had no time to wonder. The men carrying him were quick and sure footed which told him that this was not just a hideout to them. It was Home.

The bustle in the main cavern met them before sound hit their ears. Belatedly the Captain realised their appearance had produced a stunned silence then a myriad of voices all began to speak at once. He shut his eyes, the babble not lessening but the sudden dizzyness dissipating a mite. Seconds later he was carefully set down on a flat lump of rock. A pat on his cheek caused him to open his eyes, startled to see Simon's face so close to his own. The concern in those eyes a more grounding effect than a bucket of cold water.

"*Ni juede zenme yang le*?"

"Dizzy. You okay?"

Simon blinked, one hand already gripping the Captain's wrist to take his pulse. "Me? *Hen hao*, you're the one I'm worried about Captain."


The doctor stared at his Captain. Could the man be any more stubborn? The thought raised a little smile on his face. The Captain frowned.

"What's so *you yisi*? Could use a good joke."

"*Yiwusuoyou*, I was just thinking."

"Thinkin's good. Sharin' the thought is better."

Simon shook his head and patted the Captain on his shoulder. "You're fine, just sit for a while and get your breath back."

He opened his mouth to ask a question but before he could do so Simon was whisked away. A small crowd of animated people asking him if he was really a doctor, then Mal lost sight of him. A flare of panic rose in his chest then someone was blocking his light. Looking up Mal saw Curtis watching him. He hated that but getting to his feet right now was not an option. He was tired and although Curtis's men had carried him it took very little for what energy he had to drain away again. It was all manner of annoyafying.

"We need to talk, Mal."

The Captain nodded, sparing a moment to take his first good look round. Startled by the sheer numbers of people in the cavern and just how big the place was. What struck him most though was how orderly it all was. No one panicking just folk going about their business all quiet-like and efficient. "Gotta lot of folk here."

Curtis hunkered down in front of the Captain and locked eyes with him. "Why are you really here, Mal?"

The whispered words shivered down Mal's spine. So. Push had come to shove already? Huh. Thought the lull would last a mite longer somehow. He tried not to let his disappointment show. "Told you, need a place to lay low."

For a long moment Curtis just stared into his eyes. Normally Mal wouldn't have stood for it but this was important. Curtis had power here, was something of a leader. Mal noticed that the others had wandered off to give them a little privacy but not everyone was giving him friendly looks. It made something in the pit of his belly turn cold. "How long?"

Mal shrugged. He could lie but why risk it? Truth was he didn't know his own self. Serenity would contact him when they got back and that was a whole other 'verse of worry right there. Being parted from ship and crew was like an amputation and necessary or not he didn't like it. "*Wo bu zhidao*. Things're kind'a complicated, *ni dong*?"

Curtis stepped away and returned moments later with a rough hewn chair. The Captain blinked and almost smiled. The chair was very rustic and heavy, obviously home made, yet solid enough to hold an elephant with a baby on its' gorram back. He watched Curtis fold his tall narrow frame onto it. "Best uncomplicate 'em, Mal."

"Can't do that without conferrin' with my folk an' they ain't here."

"I'm here, Mal, an' I need to know why me an' mine should help you."

There it was. Said flat out and plain, no artifice, and Mal couldn't even blame him. He gave a long deep weary sigh. "Then best you help me up."

"*Weishenme*? You look like a baby's breath would topple you over."

"Ain't stayin' where I ain't welcome."

A wince flashed across Curtis's face. "You know if it were just me I wouldn't be askin'?"

"An' if it were just me I'd be tellin'."

The men stared at each other for a minute or two. The noisy folk around them like a distant murmur on the outskirts of their attention. "Where will you go?"

The Captain shrugged. "Can't get off planet 'til my boat returns an' don't know when that'll be but I'm guessin' if you folks can find a cave or two so can we."

"Noticed you brought a pile of medical supplies with you. You really that sick?"

He shook his head. "Nah, figured if you had injured folk we could maybe do some good. On'y way we got to pay you back for the shelter."

Curtis sucked his bottom lip. After a couple of minutes he spoke again. "If I let you go out there you won't last more'n a few days, Mal. Can't eat medicine. Body needs real food an' heat an' shelter."

"Which we'll have to find our ownselves. Heard you the first time."

Now Curtis looked annoyed, watching the Captain try to get to his feet unaided. With nothing to hang on to and no sign of his crutches Malcolm Reynolds wasn't going anywhere but Curtis waited for the realisation to hit the Captain. "If you can't go an' you have to stay," said Curtis slowly "then best you stay with us."

"I surely do appreciate..."

"*Bi zui*!"

The Captain was so surprised to be cut off that his mouth snapped shut. Curtis lowered his voice and leaned closer. "You stay you live by my rule, *dong ma*? No smart talk or crazy. Got some folk a mite flighty an' nervous on the trigger."

Whole layers of warning lay in those words. "Alliance?"

"An' others."

Now Mal's voice was so low it looked like he was barely breathing. "Spies?"


"*Tian Yesu*! How'd that happen?"

"A soul at a time, Mal. A soul at a time."

It was hard for the Captain too find adequate words. No wonder Curtis was walking on egg shells. Gorramit, the whole ruttin place was a nest of gorram egg shells. He briefly wondered which was which then decided he didn't want to know. He would treat all of them as suspect and mind his words and actions. As soon as he could get a quiet word with Simon he would caution him to do the same. If any of these folk found out who Simon really was this whole laying low plan would blow up in their faces. He felt sick. "Shepherd said this place was safe."

"An' so it was up to a twelvemonth ago."

Mal looked at him. Knew the Shepherd had all manner of contacts. "How come he didn't know things had changed, Curtis?"

"Didn't happen overnight, Mal. Like a creepin' sickness, *dong ma*? We got infiltrated a little bit at a time. Funny thing was all the time we acted like we didn't know, we were safe, so I got a notion about that."

"They were waitin'?"

"Yup, my thoughts exactly."

Suddenly Mal wanted out of there as fast as his non working legs could take him. "For us!"

* * * * *

The ship was quiet. It was almost as if Serenity was holding her breath. Inara was watching the House Mistress like a hawk. Badger was confined to quarters with Jayne checking in on him a couple of times a day no doubt to taunt him and remind the *hundan* of what he wanted to do to him. After Zoe and the Shepherd ensured he wasn't badly injured and cleaned him up, Jayne had escorted him to an empty crew bunk so they could lock it down. The passenger rooms while fine enough to sleep in were *lese* when it came to security. Way back when they had locked Dobson in one, his hands had been tied because the lock wasn't that special. Still left a bad taste in the mouth when Zoe thought back on how that had gone down. So crew bunk it was.

As for the device, that was a harder decision to make. At first the consensus was to dump it into the atmo or better yet, fire it into the first gorram sun they came across. Trouble was, both options had drawbacks as River was quick to point out.

"Yeah, but it's better than us gettin' blown up!" Yelled Jayne.

"Won't blow up." Everybody stared at River's calm assertion. She shrugged. "Doesn't have a detonator."

"So, it can't self destruct?" Asked Wash, his mood lightening considerably at the notion.

She shook her head. "Didn't say that."

Irritated, Zoe wasn't in the mood for twenty questions. "What can it do?"

"It's primary function is to protect the data."

Shepherd Book was thinking. "So if the device is tampered with...?"

River puffed out her cheeks then let the air out in a little rush, her hands miming the actions. "Boom!"

"That isn't very reassurin', River." Wailed Kaylee, her hands twisting together.

"As long as we don't meddle with it, it won't meddle with us."

Zoe frowned. "What the *diyu* does that mean?"

"Just wants to be left alone."

"It's a machine, ain't a person." Said Jayne. The gorram crazy girl was talking like the bomb had feelings and that was all kinds of wrong. Ruttin' crazy folk, should have ditched her and her prissy brother first chance they got.

"If it is a repository for information then how is it supposed to be accessed?"

River beamed at Book. "It's coded."

Now Kaylee looked more interested, fear forgotten when presented with a problem that maybe she could solve. "Ya mean like a Chinese puzzle?"

"*Bu qu*. Not that kind of puzzle."

"Then what kind is it?" Asked the mercenary.

Mistress Barbette and Inara listened but didn't speak. The House Mistress was silent because she was mulling over what to do about her errant son and whether they could get to the Minister in time for it to do them any good. Inara's face was expressionless but all her focus was on the House Mistress. Quietly and carefully reading what she could from the woman's body language. Something else was going on here and Inara was determined to find out what. With the way she had messed things up herself the Companion was anxious not to let anyone else hurt her friends. And perhaps, somewhere along the way she could mend the bridges she had broken.

What none of them mentioned though was how to turn the rutting device off. If it was not armed to explode there was only one other possibility: it was transmitting. The whom and the where almost as terrifying as the possible repercussions. Kaylee liked a puzzle as much as the next person but for once she was beginning to think Jayne was right. They should fire the rutting thing into the nearest sun then get the *diyu* as far away as possible.

* * * * *

"You are certain?"

The technician nodded. Mr Morgan shared a glance with his counterpart then waited until the technician had gone. "The location is being acquired as we speak."

The other figure in the austere metallic room stirred. A slow amorphous movement of well trained and highly skilled muscle barely rippling in motion.

"This time we will have them all."

The boy was maybe sixteen, no older, but his body had the bulk of manhood. The muscle and sinews of an athlete. His eyes the pain of lost civilisations worlds over. When he looked up the eyes cleared of all emotion, all memory, but this. His mission.

"He will not like it."

Mr Morgan did not shrug but the hint of one was in his voice. "He is an Operative of the Parliament. His is not to reason why..."

"But to do or die."

Eyes locked for a fraction of a second, minds in perfect synch. "He has been given too much autonomy. The boy will remind him and be an extension of our will."

The boy did not speak or ask any questions. He stood, silent, patient and ready for whatever they commanded him to do.

"You know what you must do when you have retrieved the device?"

A slow even nod, eyes unblinking but shining with some fell light of their own. Reflected in those vacant orbs was the gathering certainty of death and destruction. "No survivors."

Mr Morgan's voice softened an octave or two. "And the Operative who will take you there?"

The boy did not blink. "No survivors."

Satisfied, the call was put in to the Operative. He would be with them shortly, then the mission would start and a mistake rectified. All were acceptable losses when building a Better World.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wei* = hey! *dong ma* = understand? *qing* = please *goushi* = crap/dog shit *baichi* = idiot *wode ma* = mother of God *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *ni dongle ma* = do you understand? *qu* = yes (lit.go) *you yisi* = amusing *ni juede senme yang le* = how are you feeling? *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *hen hao* = very good *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *ni dong* = you understand *weishenme* = why? *bi zui* = be quiet/shut up tian Yesu = sweet Jesus *hundan* = bastard *lese* = crappy *diyu* = hell


Sunday, December 14, 2008 1:21 PM


I love the way River explains things.

"As long as we don't meddle with it, it won't meddle with us."

She just has a way with words. Love this, though now I am a bit worried about our BDHs.

Monday, December 15, 2008 3:16 AM


I really hope Inara can redeem herself, and Mistress Barbette isn't telling the whole truth. I'm with Angellemarcs, though - definitely worried for all our BDHs.

Sunday, December 21, 2008 6:17 PM


Oddly enough, my favorite part of this chapter was the Paul Rinkman scene. Very well done indeed!


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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.