THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 57. "As One Door Opens"
Sunday, December 8, 2013

A slim manicured hand pointed to the two stricken ships. "The impact will set in motion a chain reaction that will destroy not only the people aboard both vessels but also everyone left on Titan Station. I call that a pyrrhic victory, don't you?"


TITLE: "AS ONE DOOR OPENS" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 57. Sequel to "TANGLES" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: "Kaylee and Wash put their plan into action. Minister Heyerdahl is far from happy with the Alliance. Just as things start to look good on the freighter it all goes to hell and even Serenity isn't out of the woods."


A "Firefly" Story Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

It was exciting but also traumatic. Kaylee watched as Wash put the finishing touches to the plan. Fingers crossed, all her hopes placed on a successful deception. It seemed hard to believe that the small but effective thrusters from the Cry Baby could do the same job for the doctored engine. Timing was critical. At last Wash was satisfied and looked up, his eyes glittering with nervous excitement. Eager to put the plan in action but worried that the slightest error would be catastrophic. Kaylee nodded, her eyes egging him on. Wash held up a hand and began the count down with his fingers. Both in their respective positions they acted in concert, the connection between the monitoring equipment and Serenity severed and re-routed to the Cry Baby. The tricky part was then getting the engine piggy backed to the Cry Baby to the hold. As the loading bay hatch was opened releasing it into the atmo Wash shut and sealed the loading bay doors with visible satisfaction.

Kaylee could not hide her anxiety. "Do ya think it'll work?"

Wash beamed back at her, any reservations he might have hidden by a determination that only positive thinking would get them through this. "Should do but either way we need to get out of here, *mashang*, Kaylee. If it doesn't work they'll know we're on to them in minutes."

They shared a look of hope mingled with optimism. It would work because it had to. Wash gave Kaylee a nod then hurried up the stairs to the bridge. Kaylee quickly returned to the engine room and could not help but smile. Seeing her girl moving again and feeling that distinctive thrum through the deck plates was everything she could have wished for and more. With sure hands Kaylee checked that everything was working fine then hit the com. "Serenity's purrin' fit to bust Wash, wanna go to full burn?"

"Hold on, hold on." Wash paused as he watched the monitor then whooped so loudly that Kaylee would have heard him without the com. "It's workin'!"

Kaylee broke into a grin and patted the metal wall of the engine room, her face a wreath of happiness and pride. "There's my good girl."

"Okay Kaylee, let's work her up to full burn. We'll go to half then three quarters before openin' her right up, *dong ma*?"

"*Wo dong*."

As Serenity turned and laid in a course to go in search of their missing Captain, Wash could not resist crowing over the com. "I am a leaf on the wind, nothin' can stop us now!"

Just then Inara came into the engine room. Her face was flushed and she looked in disarray. Alarmed, Kaylee could not imagine why her friend was so distressed. "Inara, *shenme shi*?"

"They're gone!"

Confused, Kaylee stared at her. "*Shei*? Who ya talkin' about?"

"Jerrod and his crew. They aren't in shuttle two any more."

Horror stole over Kaylee's face. "How could that happen? They were locked inside."

"*Wo bu zhidao*, all I know is they aren't there now."

* * * * *

Mervyn Gunnerson was discreet, quiet, and fearsomely observant. He had all the attributes and none of the negatives of a first class ministerial aide. The most important of which was his loyalty. He was also very protective of the Minister whom he had now served for more than twenty years. William Heyerdahl knew that there would be no lie or slight of hand that could pass muster with him nor would he have wanted that. No. He needed all of the man's impressive but underplayed skills as well as the friendship time had forged between them. A friendship formed on well deserved trust.


"Yes, *shifu*?"

"I feel the need for some air. A night drive would be most pleasant."

His aide nodded. "How do you wish to travel, *shifu*?"

"I think we'll take the flyer. A trip over the lake would be good."

The lake was a huge expanse of land locked water owned by the Minister and his family over generations. They had a lodge on the waterfront though calling it that was a disservice given the state of the art building with all its' hidden security. Built to blend in and evoke past eras no one would expect the high tech interior, the deep subterranean levels and various secret exits both below and above ground. His grandfather had been a powerful but brusque man, always rubbing people up the wrong way even when he had no intention of doing so. It was his abrasive personality and his intolerance of those not on his level that had given rise to so many enemies. Since his grandfather's passing things had become easier, ruffled feathers allowed to lie, old grievances if not forgotten then certainly no longer paraded like an open declaration of war. His father called his mother the Universal Panacea, pouring oil on troubled waters and soothing even the most vexed and vexing of brows. Both now were long gone and the Minister's own children had grown up, lived, loved and moved on. His wife Icena had died some years ago but the memories were happy ones. The lake evoked so many of them. A balm for the soul.

The flight was uneventful, the silence comfortable and soothing. Heyerdahl leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. Gunnerson handled the craft smoothly and even when they reached the lodge and he set the vehicle down beside it Heyerdahl did not open his eyes. Slowly the aide taxied the flyer into the hangar, sealing it up once they were safely inside. Heyderdahl listened until all the activity of shutting down the flyer was done then opened his eyes. Gunnerson was sitting in the pilot's seat patiently waiting for him to speak.

"A friend has a problem and I seem to have made things worse not better."

"Hard to believe, *shifu*."

"And yet it is so." Heyerdahl paused to sigh then straightened in his seat. "I am intrigued by the hawks that are flying above her and what it is they seek to hide."

Gunnerson frowned slightly. "If I may ask, what did your friend do?"

To his surprise the Minister chuckled. "My friend had the temerity to break down in the Black. She called on me in her hour of need and I despatched a replacement engine for the craft that carried her." Heyderdahl leaned forward, his look thoughtful, mind sharp. "That small act of kindness or friendship, call it what you will, has brought the hawks out of cover. I have to wonder why. What are they hiding way out there, I wonder?"

For a moment neither man spoke then a thought occurred to his aide. "Is your friend in danger?"

"I think not. Her standing and status should protect her but I cannot speak for her friends."

Gunnerson raised elegant brows and just looked at the Minister. Now he understood why the Minister had taken this trip. To the one place where their conversation could not be overheard, the one place of safety impregnable to anything the Alliance could throw at them in a fit of pique. Even the hangar was shielded. The Minister gave his aide a low ghost of smile, one void of actual humour.

"Perhaps it would be prudent to make some preparations, *dong ma*?"

His aide felt his heart rate quicken with anticipation though being the consummate professional that he was nothing showed on his face.

* * * * *

For all the Shepherd's many skills he was no Wash. Fortunately the clumsy yawing of the freighter as it rolled and spun in a sluggish downward spiral was more than convincing. The Cold Harbour was going down. Not once had they turned the freighter's weapons against the Alliance Dreadnought. Simon looked worried, an air of panic creeping into his voice.

"We're going to crash!"

The Captain spared him a swift look. "*Fang xin*, Book knows what he's doin'."

Simon wanted to ask the Captain if he was *shenjingbing* but realised he already knew the answer from dozens of crazy situations and near death experiences with the man and his crew.

Around them, the walking wounded had seated themselves on the floor and just grabbed hold of whatever they could as things got bumpy. Simon had at first found their silence a little unnerving, it did not seem natural, but then he realised they were acting out the roles they had taken up when they had fought the Alliance in the War. Silent they might be, but sharp eyed as they watched the Captain. Ready to act the moment anything was required of them. Shifting carefully Simon once again turned to their hurts and did what he could. The worst had already been moved to Monty's ship leaving the more able bodied aboard the freighter. Book turned his head until he could catch the Captain's eye, the ship's controls juddering in his grip as he strained to keep her on course.

"We have to break away soon Captain or it will be too late."

The Captain nodded, Donnie standing at his shoulder like a big steady rock. "Do it!"

Just as they began to turn out of the spiral a loud wailing assaulted their ears and Book found it all but impossible to exert any control. "She's not responding!"

River hung down almost causing Book to let go in surprise. She kept appearing and disappearing like a jack-in-the-box from Earth-that-was. Un-phased, the girl's eyes darted quickly across the controls. "They've over ridden the ship's controls. Should have suspected something like this, it was too easy."

"*Rongyi*?" Growled Jayne. "We're all gonna die an' you say it's too easy?"

"Not all."

The mercenary paused and stared at her as his brain caught up with what she had just said. "So I might live?"

Simon did not look up from where he was bandaging one of the Browncoat's chest. With nothing to suture the gash closed he was binding the wound as tightly as he could. "I feel so much better knowing that you're worried about the rest of us, Jayne."

"*Wei*, I ain't no hero."

River twisted in the air and landed on her feet. "Yes, you are"

"No, I ain't. A hero's someone gets other folks killed."

Simon finished what he was doing and looked at Jayne. "Jayne, we're all on this ship together."


"You can't not be involved, *dong ma*?"

Jayne opened his mouth to reply but the Captain spoke before he could get out a sarcastic word. "Book, can you turn the ship just a little?"

The Shepherd was struggling something fierce with the controls and not gaining much if anything. Sweat beaded on his face from the effort. The Captain nodded to Donnie. "Help him."

Donnie added his strength and weight and between them they managed a small deviation, hardly much at all but it was movement. The Captain looked at River to see if it was enough and when she nodded back raised his voice to one of command. "Fire! Everythin' we got *mashang*."

The Alliance vessel was still following them but keeping a little distance, not wanting to find themselves unable to pull out at the last minute as the Cold Harbour went down. What they had not expected was for the stricken freighter to open fire on them. The salvo was sustained and hit the pursuing vessel taking out one of the engines and damaging the other. Jayne whooped with joy, the Browncoats cheered. The Captain was watching Book and did not relax until the Shepherd nodded to Donnie that he could let go now. As Donnie moved away the Shepherd smiled and was able to turn the ship out of the death spiral, skimming lower than any of them would have like above the inhospitable land below. River stared with interest as they passed over Titan Station.

One of the Browncoats who had been watching closely, Rudi Morgan, was kind of puzzled. "*Wo bu dong*, Sarge, not that I'm complainin' but how'd we get control back?"

It was River who answered. "The Alliance ship was jamming our controls which is why I didn't realise they had done anything to the control system. It wouldn't show up until they activated it from their ship."

The Captain smiled at River then patted Book on the shoulder. "May not be fancy flyin', Shepherd, but you've done a good job."

Looking down at the view below, River's voice quietly cautioned him. "Don't speak too soon."

Puzzled the Captain looked back at their pursuer and noted with satisfaction that it was now in the kind of dive that not even the Hand of God could pull their enemies out of. He was about to ask what she meant when just as they were pulling clear the Alliance ship threw every bit of ordnance at them that they could. A lot of it missed but enough hit the Cold Harbour to undo all of Shepherd Book's good work. As the freighter began to drop like a stone, River's quiet voice sounded like the pronouncement of their doom. "Going down."

Irritated, Jayne snarled at her. "Why can't you say somethin' useful?"

Her look was cloudy, something else going on behind those gifted eyes. "I was, you just weren't listening."

The Captain's voice cut in. "Brace for impact!"

No one heard anything after that.

* * * * *

Kaylee Frye tried to control her panic. "*Wo bu dong*, where could they go?"

Inara had been thinking the same thing. A sudden, horrible thought occurred to her. "Maybe they didn't go anywhere."

"*Ni zhide shi shenme*?"

The Companion lowered her voice while hoping desperately not to panic her friend further. "I think they're still on the ship, Kaylee."

"But you just said..."


Kaylee paused mid-sentence, her eyes going wide as she realised what Inara was implying. "Ya mean..."

Inara nodded. "They're still here, probably in hiding which means we have to be very careful, *dong ma*?"

"What we gonna do?"

Something in the Companion's demeanour hardened. "We have to find them." Inara paused and put an elegant finger to Kaylee's lips. "And we have to warn Wash."

When Kaylee spoke, her voice was very small, her hands twisting together as she tried to control her panic and not burst into tears. "Ya think they're gonna try to take Serenity?"

Inara nodded. Kaylee glanced ruefully at Serenity's engine, the beating heart of the ship. Her look sad: they had only just got her operational again.

"I suppose I could always shut the engine down, make it so's they couldn't go nowhere."

The loud click of a gun being cocked behind them made them both freeze in horror.

"Wouldn't do that if I were you. Might have to put you ladies outta the air-lock. How gentlemanly would that be?"

* * * * *

The cloaked vessel witnessed the unfolding drama while those aboard watched in silence. At last a voice spoke.

"Ingenious but flawed."

"Nothing can save them now."

"A pity."


The tall gaunt figure stared back impassively. "They would have made most interesting subjects in our experiment."

There was an inelegant snort. "Your experiment is about to be terminated." A slim, manicured hand pointed to the two stricken ships. "The impact will set in motion a chain reaction that will destroy not only the people aboard both vessels but also everyone left on Titan Station. I call that a pyrrhic victory, don't you?"

A third voice spoke up. "We will have to start again."

"A long but necessary process." The gaunt man agreed without emotion.

"Not if the situation could somehow be salvaged."

The men turned questing eyes on the Lady. "You have a Plan."

"I do. More importantly I also have a Price."

Silence fell then the men slowly inclined their heads in agreement.

"If you are going to act," said the gaunt man mildly "you should do so now."

Slowly the Lady smiled. Enough to chill the blood. "I already have."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *dong ma* = understand? *wo dong* = I understand *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *shei* = who *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *shifu* = sir *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *rongyi* = easy *wei* = hey! *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *ni zhide shi shenme* = what do you mean? *weishenme* = why?


Monday, December 9, 2013 3:55 PM



Thursday, December 12, 2013 7:06 PM


what Nutluck said!! the music would be downright ominous right now and kinda creepyfying!! whoa, what now? keep'em comin', AliD, weave that magic

Thursday, December 12, 2013 9:10 PM


Thank you for the mood music Nutluck! Glad you are finding it all getting a bit ominous and creepifying Malsdoxy. All manner of things yet to come so hang on tight and thank you both for the feedback, shiny! 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.