THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 58. "Another Door Closes"
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A cloth wrapped around his mouth he stumbled on doggedly and checked the bodies as he went. Five dead so far, three looking to turn critical but for now still breathing.


TITLE: "ANOTHER DOOR CLOSES" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 58. Sequel to "AS ONE DOOR OPENS" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: "Things become dire for the Captain and everyone on the freighter. Inara and Kaylee have to re-think their plans and shadowy figures lurk behind the scenes as everything goes to *diyu*."


A "Firefly" Story Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Kaylee could not understand what was happening. It did not make sense and yet everything that should not be happening was happening. She could barely hold back the tears, her voice trembling with anguish and emotion. "Ya were supposed to be friends!"

"Believe me if I had my way we still would be, Kaylee." Said Jerrod, the look on his face a strange mix of determination and sorrow.

Inara was less forgiving. "The Captain saved your life, yours and your crew. He didn't have to go back to Anaeron, put his own ship and crew at risk in doing so, all to try and save you and this is how you repay him."

"*Ni bu dong*."

Something hard and implacable flashed in the Companion's eyes yet she kept her voice level, her anger held in check. "*Jieshi*."

Jerrod took a steadying breath. He could not afford to show any sign of weakness before his men or they would not support him. As it was he could tell some were wavering. After all, they had liked Malcolm Reynolds and his crew and were grateful for their rescue. This action went against the grain but their loyalty to Jerrod was stronger. For now. "It's *fuza*."

"Complicated?" Inara's voice started to rise. "Do you think me so simple minded that I cannot follow a conversation?"

Jerrod flushed. "*Bu qu*, you misunderstand me..."


The crack of command as Inara demanded he explain almost unmanned him, yet she was right. His actions needed to be explained but how to do so without condemning himself and his men to *diyu*? In a sudden flash of insight he realised they were already there. There was no saving a dishonoured man.

* * * * *

The spiral was deadly but as Shepherd Book felt the control from the Alliance ship vanish he put all his strength into turning the bulky freighter away from the fast approaching ground below. Donnie added his strength then a few others just in time to make a difference. As they swept low and brushed the snow off the treetops before beginning to climb again, the whooping from Jayne and the Browncoats drowned out the Captain's swift words to River.

"We gonna make it, little one?"

Her nod was like the sun coming up in a dead sky even though she was not smiling. "Enough to fight again."

Only Simon heard the exchange and for the hundredth time he wondered at the odd, almost instinctive, understanding between his sister and Serenity's mercurial Captain.

Suddenly the Captain was flung across the deck as a last desperate salvo from the doomed Alliance ship caught the Cold Harbour and took out her engines before she could get clear. Lucky strike or not it made no difference. As the Captain painfully righted himself Book shot him an apologetic look.

*Duibuqi*, Captain. We're goin' down and this time we're not comin' up again."

Jayne swore. The Captain found something to hang on to and looked at River. "Thought we were gonna make it." He said just loud enough for her to hear. She did not tell him she had read his thoughts before he opened his mouth.

"Never said we wouldn't crash."

Then there was simply no more time. The Captain yelled for everyone to hang on they descended into a world on fire, the Alliance vessel impacting below them seconds before they followed it down. The explosions as the ship hit part of the *jianyu* below caused a bright fiery concatenation lighting up the sky and flaring in the path of the freighter as fell to its' doom. Book was not even able to steer the Cold Harbour enough to miss the flying debris from the Alliance ship.

Malcolm Reynolds had no love for the Alliance or its' works but not nobody should die a death like that. The Cold Harbour was of a much sturdier construction but a whole lot heavier. Between collision with the prison, the ground below and the sudden crushing weight of the freighter landing on top of them, the Alliance ship and her crew did not stand a chance. Any comfort that thought gained Mal was swiftly squashed as something impossibly heavy hit him and everything went black.

* * * * *

Inara stared at Jerrod Perkins in fascinated horror, her mind not sure how a seemingly intelligent man could be so utterly stupid. But then, he was a man. Allowances should be made though maybe not in this case. "You were keeping a PROMISE? To who?"

"Can't tell ya that, Miss Serra."

"Don't Miss Serra me, Jerrod Perkins. You haven't earnt the right!"

The man flushed, hardly able to meet her eyes. "We have to take over the ship now, ma'am."

Her eyes blazed. Behind Inara, Kaylee cried out. Inara ignored her friend for the moment. "You will do no such thing unless it is over my dead body!"

Jerrod looked distraught. "I got my orders, Miss Serra, an' I don't wanna hurt ya."

"Orders from who? And don't tell me you can't say."

Behind Jerrod his men were muttering, none of them sounding happy. If ever there was a telling moment when he was about to lose what control he had over them it was now. The man felt himself crumple inside. Being forced to give in was actually a relief though Jerrod knew it would cost him dear. "Don't know her name as such, folk just refer to her as The Lady but she's powerful. One of them high an' mighty folk with fingers in every pie an' terrifyin' too."

Inara frowned. The Lady? "When did she order you to turn on us?"

Jerrod flinched but answered anyway. "While we was in the Black. Didn't wanna take the call but ignorin' it wasn't an option."

Kaylee looked a mite confused. "*Weishenme bu*?"

"*Ni bu dong*, could say she's got a hold over us. We don't dance to her tune an' there ain't no after."

Inara and Kaylee exchanged a look. "Are you saying you're being blackmailed?"

Jerrod laughed only it was not the funny kind. "Nah. When we first did jobs for the Lady it was straight forward an' always through her middle man, *dong ma*? Then she got so she was wantin' us to be exclusive which we ain't. Called for a meetin' an' when I got there I got injected with somethin'. The Lady did a demonstration to show what was in it an' how with a tiny remote control she could set off the charge to stop my gorram heart. Never been so frightened in my ruttin' life! Said it was nothin' to worry about just so long as I stayed loyal."

"Why would this Lady want us dead?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*."

Something occurred to Kaylee that made her go cold inside. "They want all of us dead or just some?"

Jerrod could not look at Serenity's mechanic, he felt that ashamed. "The Lady didn't say."

"An' the ship? What did she want with Serenity?"

"Said she wanted it stripped right down to the nuts an' bolts but only once we got it to one of her chop yards. You ask me none of it made sense."

"Chop yards?" Kaylee forgot to be afraid, every cell of her being exploding with indignation. "Why'd she wanna tear our ship apart?"

"Maybe she's lookin' for somethin'. Don't know what."

Kaylee realised the Lady must be looking for River but how in the nine hells did she know about her? And if the Lady was after River was she also looking for Simon? Suddenly sick to her stomach, Kaylee could only be grateful that both River and Simon were not on Serenity right now. "What're ya gonna do now?"

Jerrod turned to Inara and straightened as best he could. "Miss Serra, I'm sorry for what we done an' what we were gonna do." Jerrod turned his hand gun around and offered it butt first to Inara. "Best you take temptation outta my way. Me an' my men won't give you no more trouble."

Inara took the gun. "What about the Lady?"

Jerrod shrugged. "I'm a dead man now anyhow."

"Maybe not." Said Kaylee thoughtfully.

Jerrod turned to Kaylee. "You don't know what you're sayin'."

"Maybe we can get our doctor to look at your innards when he gets back. If he can remove the device you ain't gonna die are ya?"

For a moment the man just stared at her. "How can ya offer to do that after all I done?"

Kaylee smiled. "Never thought ya was evil, turnin' your gun over to 'Nara proves it."

Lionel Rhodes was standing behind Jerrod next to Stan Evans and being a man of few words let his grin speak for him. Wasn't nothing Kaylee could do but grin back. The atmosphere immediately lightened and Inara silently thanked Buddha and all the Gods that ever were for the blessing that was Kaylee Frye.

* * * * *

Monty had done exactly as Mal asked and kept well back, now he was stunned by what he picked up on the sensors. A small voice piped up behind him.

"We have to hurry before its' too late."

Inwardly he cursed himself for forgetting about the children. Davie didn't give a good gorram about that and the clamouring of Suzie and Lucy in his head just urged him on.

"They need our help, *mashang*!"

"How d'you know what they need, son?"

Suzie stepped around Davie, a determined look on her face. "We saw the ship fall, could hear people cryin' out. *Qing*, we have to help!"

"*Fang xin*, was gonna do that anyway, just all manner of creepifyin' how you know things like that."

"We can help." Added Lucy in her small piping voice.

Monty looked from one little anxious face to another then growled at Danny who was grinning like a loon from the pilot's seat. "What're ya grinnin' at? We got folks to save, *dong ma*?"

"Yes, *shifu*, Cap'n!"

Danny threw him a sloppy salute, still grinning, then spun round and quickly put the Kingfisher on course for the Big Damn Rescue. It was only when they got close and saw the sky filled with smoke and debris that they took in the horror of the carnage. All trace of humour fled from the pilot's face. How the good gorram could anyone survive that?

"*Wode ma*, we're too late *laoban*."

Monty leaned heavily on the console next to his pilot and felt his heart miss a beat. "Take us down, Danny. Maybehaps it looks worse than it is."

Danny gave his boss a sympathetic look. "Don't see how anyone could've survived." Silently he followed orders and brought the Kingfisher down in a slow descending arc, carefully avoiding the flying debris while praying that he was wrong. Malcolm Reynolds had always been a *xingyun shishengzi* but he would have to be near immortal to survive the inferno below.

Suzie closed her eyes though it was not the sight that pained her. She could hear the cries of the wounded and dying, not all of them their own.

* * * * *

Elliot didn't care about the wailing of the alarms, the thick smoke almost choking off his rutting airway or even the fact that they seemed pretty much trapped with no way out. A cloth wrapped around his mouth he stumbled on doggedly and checked bodies as he went. Five dead so far, three looking to turn critical but for now still breathing. Only one was still conscious but he kept fading in and out and the pulse was so gorram weak. Elliot paused and coughed brokenly, eyes squinting in the hot smoke filled air. A murmur caught his ear and spurred him on until he came to where his friend lay. Body at an impossible angle, head half buried where a pillar had caught him on its' way down.

"Gorramit Mac, why'd you always get yourself in the worst ruttin' situations?"

Ryan MacFarlane opened bloodshot eyes but it was doubtful he could see much. "Thought you was dead."

"Thought or hoped?" Grumbled Elliot, while his hands swiftly checked his friend to see how serious his injuries were. Ryan didn't stir beneath his questing hands and that worried Elliot more than anything.

"If I could see through this *yan* an' *huichen* I'd say you was a sight for sore eyes."

Ryan lapsed into a coughing fit, truncated by lungs too compressed by concrete to inflate properly. Elliot saw lines of pain crease his friend's face. "Seem to spend all my life patchin' ya up."

A hand flapped weakly over Elliot's and he froze. Ryan had one of those looks on his face, the kind he hated something powerful. "Can't feel nothin' beneath my ribcage, Elly."

"Probably shock."

"We both know it ain't." Ryan paused in an attempt to clear his throat. "You best get outta here before the rest of this place collapses. Grab anyone still able to walk or crawl."

"Ain't leavin' ya."

"That was an order."

Elliot huffed and got busy carefully moving what rock and debris he could off his trapped friend. "Ain't my commandin' officer no more. War's over."

"Maybe so but I don't want you throwin' your life away for a cripple that ain't gonna make it."

His words made Elliot mad but looking at the state of his friend his anger was superceded by frustration and sorrow. Elliot lifted his head and looked around them, the air settling somewhat and allowing them to see more clearly. It was not a pretty sight. "The exits're blocked."

"You check 'em all?"


"What about shafts?"

Elliot wanted to laugh. "They collapsed pretty much as soon as the pillars started fallin'. You'd have to be an itty bitty insect to fly up through the cracks."

Ryan fought to stay conscious. He had to give Elliot hope otherwise the stubborn *hundan* was like to lay down beside him and give up. "Elly?"


"Ya gotta try to find a way out. If'n ya can't try callin' up through them cracks. Maybe someone'll hear ya, get help."

"You really did hit your ruttin' head, didn't ya? All we got is them guards an' they want us dead anyway."

"Yeah, but I'm bettin' those still alive wanna live, *dong ma*?"

"How does that help us?"

"They'll need as many able bodied men as are left, Elly."

"Huh. To dig their own out maybe but not us."

Ryan coughed weakly, he was finding it harder and harder to stay conscious. "It's a start, Elly."

Elliot was about to tell him it would be a cold day in *diyu* before any of those *tamade hundan* reached out a hand to help but his friend was no longer conscious. With a trembling hand he checked his carotid artery and gave a sigh of relief. Ryan was still alive. Pulse was weak but it was still there. Suddenly lying there and giving up was not an option. His friend needed him and if that meant shaking hands with the *guai* that put them here in the first place then gorramit he would do it.

* * * * *

"What is that?"

The tall gaunt figure increased magnification, glad they had not yet decloaked. "It looks like a Kingfisher. Pretty battered, I'm surprised something that old is still flying."

Through the monitor The Lady's expression sharpened with interest. "What is the ship doing?"

"It looks like it's landing though what they expect to find down there is anyone's guess. Do you want us to bring it down?"

The Lady shook her head. "*Bu qu*. For now you are only to observe, *dong ma*? It seems we may not need to intervene after all."

* * * * *

"Gorramit Mal, wake the *diyu* up!"

Despite shaking the prone man and yelling in his ear there was no response. Fear began to overtake the mercenary's frustration. What with the tangle of bodies broken and damaged equipment and so on, he was worried what would happen if he got out alive and the Captain didn't. Zoe had told him to stick close to Mal no matter what and that is what he had done but it hadn't stopped the man getting injured. Jayne reached out to shake him again when a big meaty hand covered his, only the deep resonance of the voice stopping him from striking out.

"Jayne, the Captain's unconscious."

"Huh, *wo zhidao* but we gotta get him outta here *mashang*. Moonbrain says thngs're gonna start explodin'."

Now that Jayne was looking at him the Preacher didn't look too good either. The way his left arm was hanging it was either broken or his shoulder was dislocated.

"You break your arm, Book?"

"*Bu qu*, shoulder's dislocated."

Jayne brightened up. "I can help with that."

The Preacher opened his mouth to say that wasn't necessary but he was not quick enough. For a big man Jayne Cobb could move rapidly when he was of a mind to and in a move so practised that he had to have done it dozens of times Jayne braced then yanked the shoulder joint back into place. There was a loud crack and a surprised cry of pain. Jayne stepped back and grinned at his friend.

"Told ya, good as new."

Not having the breath to reply Book nodded his thanks. Then Donnie was muscling his way through. He looked battered and a little bloody but otherwise in one piece. Around him River was flitting like a deranged butterfly, hardly staying in one spot long enough for Jayne to focus on her. "Hurry, hurry, not much time!"

Jayne frowned at her but she was gone again before he could say anything. Donnie sank to his knees beside the Captain. Shepherd Book gave the man a reassuring smile. "The Captain's unconscious but I don't think anything is broken, at least as far as I could tell. We'll know more when Simon gets a good look at him."

Donnie nodded but still looked concerned. "Don't like the head wound."

"They bleed like a pig." Said Jayne helpfully.

River flitted passed them again and something bright and diaphanous floated down to them in her wake. River turned her head just before disappearing again. "Bind the wound, keep it clean. Now move, no time to tell you again, *dong ma*?"

Several hands helped to lift the Captain, a low moaning and groaning sounding as they did so. Everyone froze. Donnie frowned, Book bent over the Captain but he did not stir. Just then a voice they all recognised but wished they could forget began to complain loudly as Badger wriggled free from under the fallen Captain.

"Took your bloody time, I could'a suffocated under there!"

Jayne could feel his hands itching to do the little King Pin major damage. "Pity you didn't." He growled. "Had enough of your ruttin' bitchin'."

Before the two men could get into a shouting match Book called to a couple of the Browncoats to escort Badger out with the walking wounded. Not happy they did as they were told, anxious eyes flicking back to where Malcolm Reynolds was being carefully manhandled.

"We'll be bringing the Captain out right behind you." Book assured them.

A short nod then everyone was moving. Jayne looked around for Simon but could not see hide nor hair of him. With all the wounded on the freighter it was likely the man was running himself ragged trying to help as many as he could in the limited time they had left. Jayne might not always agree with the man but when it came to doctoring there was no one the mercenary trusted more with a knife.

In the corridor the pitch of the ship was more pronounced and they had to take care to keep their footing but no one dawdled. Jayne limped, favouring his right leg, but didn't let it slow him down. With the evacuation under way River Tam had somehow discovered a speaker system, her dulcet tones ringing out happily over the airwaves and telling them they had twelve minutes and forty one seconds before the fuel that was leaking from the reserve tank inside the ship reached the large stores of ammunition. In the background they could hear Zoe's voice ordering River to take her own gorram advice and get moving. It made Jayne grin just seconds before the first explosion wiped it off his face.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Madarin - Pinyin) *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *jieshi* = explain fuza* = complicated *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *diyu* = hell *duibuqi* = sorry *jianyu* = prison *weishenme bu* = why not? *dong ma* = understand? *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *qing* = please *Fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *shifu* = sir *wode ma* = mother of God *laoban* = boss *xingyun shishengzi* = lucky bastard (not an insult) *yan* = smoke *huichen* = dust *qu* = yes (lit. go) *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *guai* = devil/ghost *wo zhidao* = I know *hundan* = bastard


Saturday, January 18, 2014 11:25 PM


aw geez, it ended too soon!!! "Around him River was flitting like a deranged butterfly"
LOL perfect description!! more please, AliD, love this tale

Sunday, January 19, 2014 10:38 AM


So happy you are enjoying the story. You've got to love River, Malsdoxy, with or without a butterfly net! Thank you for the feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, April 19, 2014 1:28 AM


Nice, been away awhile and nice to come back and find several new chapters.

Saturday, April 19, 2014 10:10 AM


Good to see you still enjoying the story, Nutluck. Hope you had a good time while you were away. Thank you for the 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.