THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 63. "Everybody Lies"
Thursday, June 12, 2014

As he closed his eyes he could feel his body relax, his heartbeat slowing as sleep began to steal over him when suddenly his eyes sprang open as a piercing scream rent the air and set his heart pounding.


TITLE: "EVERYBODY LIES" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 63. Sequel to "TWO STEPS BACK" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: ZoeWash Kaylee/Simon Inara/Mal SUMMARY: "River and the children become distressed. Badger seeks information while afraid of what he may discover and an evil thought vanquished stirs again."


A "Firefly" Story Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

It felt strange, the atmosphere aboard the ship was subtly different. Badger didn't know whether it was just his imagination but it put him on edge. That and the continued presence of Jerrod Perkins. All the while he had been incarcerated along with his men in the airlock Badger had felt confident they would stay there until Serenity dropped them off on Lilac. Now that ground had shifted under him and he had to wonder why. What was Malcolm Reynolds really looking for? He had overheard Zoe saying it was because of the gorram bomb they had been injected with but that didn't make any sense to his mind. After all his had been removed. Even had the shiny vanishing scar to prove it. A nasty little smile settled with smug satisfaction on the little King Pin's lips as he remembered how that good deed had literally blown up Reynolds' face. Oh, life was good. The fact that Serenity's second in command had isolated Jerrod by removing his crew, allowing that bunch of fools and misfits to wander about the bloody ship, was a puzzle that niggled away at his backbrain like a deadly parasite. Zoe never did anything that wasn't the express wish of Malcolm Reynolds so once again he had to wonder what the *diyu* was the *shenjingbing baichi* up to?

Badger sat up slowly on his narrow bunk. He was still sore but getting stronger by the gorram hour. Whatever else he might complain about Serenity's doc did good work. He paused to listen but around him the ship had seemingly settled into the night cycle. Not that there was any day or night in the Black but when the crew were sleeping the ship's lighting was dimmed. With Jerrod's crew now out of that rutting airlock where would they sleep and who would watch over them? Badger was confident none of Jerrod's crew would come looking for him, after all they didn't know about his links with Rufus Pol but some no doubt knew he at times had dealings with Jerrod. What was more worrying was that with Jerrod also carrying a bloody bomb you wouldn't have to be a rutting genius to realise the two of them were linked plus he knew first hand just how poisonous any ties to the Lady could be.

The paregoric Simon had given Badger had been a welcome relief taking much of the pain away while leaving him just a mite light headed. Yet as he rested that too passed. Now his curiosity had come to the fore along with the ever present need for self preservation. The question was whether to wait and see what happened next or take the gorram iniative. With a sigh Badger eased himself back onto the bed and decided he needed more information before taking any action. As he closed his eyes he could feel his body relax, his heartbeat slowing as sleep began to steal over him when suddenly his eyes sprang open as a piercing scream rent the air and set his heart pounding.

* * * * *

Eyes wide, Monty stared, hair disarrayed, woken from a sleep he had only just drifted off into but had drifted deep. The thunder of boots running towards his bunk underlined that this was not a nightmare. Whatever it was he imagined the word TROUBLE hanging over it in letters ten gorram feet high. The hatch swung open and Danny stuck his head through. He looked alarmed and wired which oddly enough made Monty feel a mite better. Just a mite though. Already on his feet the big man was strapping on his sidearm.

"*Shenme shi*? We under attack?"

White faced, Danny shook his head. "It's the kids, they just all woke up together an' started screamin', *laoban*. Have to tell ya it's the creepiest gorram thing I seen in forever."

Monty frowned then paused as he stamped his feet into his boots when the screaming came to a sudden and abrupt end. As if it had not so much stopped as been cut off. He wasn't sure what was worse, hearing that rutting racket or the weird assed silence when it stopped. Quickly he hurried out with Danny in tow, other crew members looking wide eyed and worried as they looked to him for guidance. He noted all of them were armed which was something to be glad of at least.

* * * * *

Serenity had become a sudden hive of activity. Badger found it easy to make his way unseen to the airlock. He paused and waited, hearing the shouts and clatter of boots on the deck plates as people hurried to find out what was going on. Badger didn't care. Once over the initial shock he quickly realised that River's outcry had given him a perfect opportunity. One that would not come again.

* * * * *


Kaylee groaned, her sated and sluggish brain wanting to wallow in delicious post coital bliss a little longer. Hearing her friend's name on Simon's lips was not what she had been expecting but then the scream penetrated her sex addled brain and she sat up in alarm, eyes wide as saucers. Simon was already out of bed and throwing some clothes on. He was halfway up the ladder before Kaylee rushed to join him.

Emerging from Kaylee's bunk they quickly realised the whole ship was now awake including Jerrod's men. Kaylee had a fleeting worry that one of them had done something to River but quickly discounted it. The Captain had given them the freedom of the ship but kept Jerrod in the air lock. Jerrod's men were being shadowed by the browncoats they had rescued from the Cold Harbour before everything had gone to *diyu* so whatever had happened they were not likely to be responsible which begged the question: what the good gorram had happened?

They found River Tam sitting cross legged and crying as she rocked back and forth on the top of the metal staircase, tears streaming down her pale face with the kind of heart wrenching grief that sent shivers of dread down every spine. Shepherd Book was kneeling next to her, trying to calm her down but River was not listening. On the other side of her was Inara. After trying to speak to River and not getting any response the Companion simply wrapped her arms gently around the traumatised girl. Simon pressed through the throng and knelt in front of his sister.

"*River, *mei mei*, what's *cuode*?"

He had to repeat himself a couple of times before she looked up. "They're dead, Simon."

Confused, Simon tried to hide how her words unsettled him. "*Shei*?"

"ALL of them!"

"All of who?"

Shepherd Book eased back to let the Captain take his place. Malcolm Reynolds glanced at the throng of people crowded around them. "Don't you got places to be?"

Slowly the crowd broke up and the Captain turned back to see what had upset his little albatross so badly. A glance at Simon, Inara and Book quickly told him they were as clueless as he was. Behind him Kaylee hovered, anxious and worried but wanting to be there for her friend. "River, you said they were all dead, *dui*?"

River nodded through her tears.

"Who's dead? Folks we know?"

She shook her head. "Like me but lost. Gathered up and experimented on then discarded."

Simon felt a shock go through him. "You mean...?"

"Yes, Simon. They were gifted. Now they're gone." River paused and got to her feet, her eyes now fixed on the Captain. "I need to go to them."

"Thought you said they were dead, little one?"

River nodded. "They are but I don't mean them. The children heard their cries too, I need to go to them. Help."

"Do you mean the children on Monty's ship, River?" Asked Inara.

The girl nodded, her pale face sad but resolute. "Need me now."

"I'll speak to Wash." The Captain paused. "You know who did this deed?"

Something settled in River's eyes that gave the Captain a chill but whatever it was she was not about to share it with him. "*Bu qu*."

* * * * *

It was silent as the gorram grave when Badger reached the airlock but he was still cautious. Couldn't be too careful. The last thing he wanted was for anyone to see him. After a couple of minutes he moved up to the viewing window and shoved his face up close, eyes rolling until he locked on his target. Jerrod Perkins must have seen the movement in the glass or else some instinct told him someone was watching him. He rose from where he had been seated hunched up on the floor and moved a step or two towards the sealed door.

Badger flashed a disingenuous grin and hit the com. "Just wanna talk, *dong ma*?"

Immediately Jerrod was suspicious but he was also more than a mite curious. "*Weishenme*?"

"You work for the Lady."

Jerrod tilted his head. "So do you."


"*Shenme*? What're you talkin' about?"

"Simon cut me open, see? Took the bloody bomb out."

That was news to Jerrod. When he said nothing Badger continued.

"Think he'll do the same for you?"

Jerrod shrugged. "I betrayed 'em, not that I'm proud of it. Why're you really here, Badger? Waitin' for the gorram bomb to go boom?"

"Nah, shiny as that would be I'm more interested in what you an' Rufus were up to."

"Rufus is dead."

"But you ain't, see?"

A thin humourless smile slid across Jerrod's face. He knew now why Badger was there and he was going to give the slimey little double dealer nothing. He stared at the face in the window for a minute then slowly and deliberately turned his back on the little King Pin.

"Oi! I'm talkin' to you!"

Jerrod ignored him and sat down, not even looking back in Badger's direction. Frustrated, Badger realised this was not going to work out the way he wanted. Oh well, if Jerrod didn't want to talk... He raised his right hand and hit a switch. With a hiss and a whoosh the sealed outer door opened and Jerrod was sucked out into the atmo. "Ooops!"

Quickly the little King Pin made himself scarce. If Jerrod didn't want to talk to him at least he would not be able to talk to anyone else.

* * * * *

The out lying proto-planet didn't have much in the way of atmosphere but the mountainous regions were rich in a variety of minerals and ores. The scientist nodded through his breathing apparatus and spoke slowly into the integral com unit linking their suits. "The location of this planet will provide a perfect test area, *shifu*. There are also a good range of aggregates."

"How much?"

Professor Linus Meltis didn't hesitate or ask why they would want such a huge control sample. "A minimum of 3,000 tonnes." The scientist paused, eyes narrowing slightly. "However, I hear the project has been shelved. Indefinitely, *shifu*."

The silky voice in his ear seemed warm, almost friendly, but Meltis was not fooled by the false bon homie. "Do not believe everything you hear, *dong ma*?"

"And the source material?"

An odd smile flickered on the face through the man's face plate. "Mostly intact."

Meltis suddenly did not want to know more. Buried the flare of pity for whatever poor souls had been culled to provide the final ingredient needed to produce the highest grade of Dust. Regrets were something his greed had rapidly outgrown but deep inside he knew there would be a reckoning. Just as surely as he knew he would not survive it when it came.

* * * * *

The hot slide of sweat slickened bodies made for beautiful, frictionless love making. Not so much with the urgent com call. Wash was buried deep, the pause as his shoulders hunched eloquently showing his frustration at the interruption. Zoe smiled into the side of her husband's neck and began to gyrate her hips. Wash gave a low throaty moan and responded, his rhythm stoked and egged on but at his wife's speed. The moan turned into a longer groan, bordering on agony as the com went again. The Captain's voice impatient and wanting to know what the delay was.

Unperturbed Zoe nudged the com with the side of her head, her hands much too busy. "Not the best timin', sir."

Zoe could imagine her best friend and Captain almost choking on the other end. Before he could splutter a response she promised they would be there shortly then killed the com. Wash stared at her as they built up to a mind blowing and utterly exhausting crescendo. Afterwards time, reason and all sense seemed to have fled along with the last of his energy but vaguely Wash was aware of his wife helping him dress and then they were making their way to the bridge. By the time they got there Wash was more or less functioning again, even as his body shuddered with delicious little aftershocks that he would treasure. Even the annoyed expression on his Captain's face could not kill the satisfaction he felt. Wash flashed his brightest, most insincere smile as he slid into the pilot's seat. Seeing the Captain's irritation go up a notch Wash's smile broadened into a huge shit-eating grin. Oh yes, it was good to be The Husband.

"Need to dock with Monty's ship, *mashang*." Mal snapped.

Wash was about to ask why the hurry when a flashing light on his console caught his eye. Immediately the grin vanished and his hands flew over the controls. Zoe leaned forward and put a hand on his shoulder.

"*Zhangfu, shenme shi?*"

Wash looked up with barely a glance at his wife, his eyes fixed urgently on the Captain as all the colour fled from his face. "The airlock's open!"

"*Shenme*? How in the nine hells could that happen?"

Wash shook his head. "It couldn't not unless..."

Zoe frowned, not liking where this was going. "Someone must have deliberately opened it, sir."

"Then Jerrod..."

Serenity's pilot re-checked his console. He looked sick. "He's gone, Mal. Vented into the atmo."

With all the ruckuss caused by River earlier everyone on the ship was still wide awake, some in the commons room hands wrapped around mugs of tea while others were hanging about in the cargo hold. Jayne had put his weights away, not wanting any of their temporary visitors to start taking liberties with his things. It took only minutes for the Captain to get everyone all together in the hold. Donnie noticed how grim the Captain looked and all his fellow browncoats sharpened up as soon as they saw his expression. Inara wanted a word with Mal but knew that now was not the right time. Shepherd Book cast a slow assessing eye around the assembly, quietly ticking off those present to see if anyone was missing. Even Badger was there though the man didn't look too good. Must be suffering the aftereffects of his recent surgery. Simon wondered what had gone wrong now. Kaylee anxiously scanned all the faces then turned to Simon.

"What d'ya suppose is goin' on?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but it doesn't look good."

The Captain cleared his throat and all the muttering stopped, every eye fixed on him. Even Serenity seemed to be holding her breath. "There ain't no easy way to tell you. Somehow Jerrod has been vented into the atmo an' before anyone asks the obvious question me an' mine didn't do it. I need to know where each an' every one of you were when River screamed."

One of the Browncoats held up a hand. The Captain nodded for him to speak. "What's this gotta do with the screamin', Sarge?"

The Captain put his hands on his hips. "I'm thinkin' someone used the distraction to push that button which means we got a murderer on this boat. Not nobody goin' nowhere 'til I find out what piece of *goushi buru* would do a thing like that. Maybehaps we'll send whoever pushed the button out through the airlock to bring the body back."

Several heads turned at the sudden choking sound. Badger had gone completely white. Before anyone could reach him the man collapsed, unconscious before he even hit the deck.

"Well," said Jayne drily as he looked down dispassionately on the rumpled heap that had plagued them for so long. "Now we know who the ruttin' culprit is."

Shepherd Book stood next to Jayne as the others parted just enough to let the Captain through with Simon Tam in his wake. Book had a thoughtful look on his face. His eyes met Mal's and locked on as Simon dropped to his knees and checked Badger for a pulse. "The greater mystery Captain is why? Jerrod wasn't a danger to anyone."


Heads turned, eyes widening at the sight of a red eyed and disconsolate River Tam. She easily evaded her brother's anxious attempts to reach for her as if her body was on auto-pilot while her mind walked much darker places than any of them could imagine. She looked down at Badger, her voice toneless and devoid of emotion. A dispassionate judge passing sentence. "Everyone has secrets. Everybody lies." River looked up and fastened her gaze like a limpet on the Captain. "Take one from the other: surprise, surprise!"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *shenjingbing* = crazy *baichi* = idiot *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *laoban* = boss *mei mei* = little sister *cuode* = wrong *shei* = who *dui* = correct *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dong ma* = understand? *weishenme* = why *shenme* = what *shifu* = sir *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *zhangfu* = husband *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit (ie. lowest of the low) *bushi* = not so


Thursday, June 12, 2014 2:28 PM


Wow! River runs deep

Saturday, June 14, 2014 7:06 AM


You said it, Buckshotpilot. I don't think anyone will be wanting to change places with Badger right now. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, June 16, 2014 7:12 PM


oh man, that was riveting and ended way too soon!! with every chapter 1000 new questions...why you gotta write so well, huh?? More, PLEASE! Thank you, AliD xoxoxo

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 4:28 AM


Hello Malsdoxy, so happy you are finding the story riveting. There is more coming, your patience will be rewarded! Thanks for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 8:41 PM


Yep kinda what I thought, Badger was about to do something stupid.


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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.