THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 70. "Milk Run"
Sunday, November 30, 2014

As they approached the infirmary they could hear voices inside. Both paused to listen before entering, a lifetime of caution that had taught them the value of gleaning information from each and every source available to them.


TITLE: "MILK RUN" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 70. Sequel to "INSIDE OUT" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: "Once Monty has left, the Captain heads for Amber. While he and Jayne hunt for the ammo store Zoe has more than a few reservations about Rosalie. Just what have they gotten themselves into?"


A "Firefly" Story Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Suzie looked upset. "We don't wanna leave. We wanna know how the story ends, *dong ma*?"

The Captain glanced at Monty but the big man's expression said it was his call so he would have to be the one explaining. Fine. Shiny. "I have a notion someone will be keepin' in touch."

For a moment no one spoke then Lucy tilted her head as if working something out. Or maybehaps she was just rifling through his gorram brain pan. "You mean River?"

Malcolm Reynolds' eyes widened just a little. "You been peekin', little one?"

Davie couldn't help laughing. The Captain was funny but there was also a kind of honesty about him that made Davie feel safe despite the man's underlying hint of steel. As if he was someone they could trust. Like Monty but not. Mal narrowed his eyes at Davie but the boy knew he was not mad at him.

"So you been peekin' too?"

"*Bu qu*, the door was already open."

That surprised the Captain so much that for a moment he couldn't speak. Monty stroked his whiskers, his look thoughtful. "What ya gonna do, Mal?"

The Captain took a steadying breath. "Finish this."

"I could help. Drop the kids off then come back an'..."

"*Xie xie ni*, it's a kindly thought an' one I appreciate but I still got the Browncoats with me an' everyone knows Jayne is a walkin' death squad his own self. This ain't a problem to be solved by numbers, Monty."

"Then how ya gonna take on the Alliance an' win? Serenity's a transport ship Mal, she ain't even armed."

The Captain flashed a grin, his eyes sparkling with a deep crazy fire that Monty knew only too well. It was the kind of look that put men on notice that if Malcolm Reynolds started fighting it would not end well. For them. "Not plannin' to fight hand to hand, *dong ma*? Jayne knows where there's a secret store of weapons."

"You already got guns an' if ya ain't goin' hand to hand what ya need more for?"

"Not talkin' small arms. This store got heavy ordnance, Monty, an' the kind'a high tech explosives that would'a won us the War had we had such on our side."

Monty sucked his bottom lip for a moment. "Mal," he said slowly "if that store is so well stocked an' high end it's gonna be protected, *dui*? Could be more trouble than it's worth."

The Captain shook his head. "It ain't. Apparently it's left over from the gorram War. It's location so outta the way not nobody goes there."

"Sooner or later someone will, nothin' stays hidden forever."

"*Wo zhidao* which is why we take our opportunity now, before it slips through our gorram fingers."

Just then Monty was hailed by his pilot, Danny, wanting to know what the situation was. Mal gave him a nod and Monty replied that they would be leaving soon but the Captain could tell his friend was finding it hard to leave.

"*Fang xin* Monty, it'll be a milk run."

Monty snorted, the brief flash of humour not quite hiding his worry. "You're forgettin' I know how most of 'em ended."

"*Wei*! Not my fault things don't always go smooth. An' with you takin' Badger off my hands things are like to go even smoother."

"About that..."

"Now, you promised you would help, *jide*?"

Monty stared at his friend, realised he could not refuse him and nodded though his heart sank at the thought of taking that slimey piece of *goushi* on his ship. He was like to have to scrub it top to bottom once they dropped him off. "Okay, but *Wo dui zheige bu manyi*."

The Captain nodded then gave a soft call. They heard Badger complaining before they saw him Donny and Jimmy looking heartily irritated at the annoying little King Pin. Every time Badger dragged his feet he got another shove to keep him moving. "Oi, I got my rights!"

"Badger, this is how it is." The Captain gave the Browncoats a little nod of thanks. "It's either the airlock or goin' with Monty. Your choice."

"That ain't no choice Reynolds an' you know it."

Just behind Badger Donnie growled low in the back of his throat and the little man swallowed and took a quick step towards Monty. Maybehaps the Captain was right, he might be safer on the Kingfisher but that didn't mean he had to be happy about it. Leaving Serenity was a complication he had not anticipated. The Captain hooked his thumbs in his gun belt. " Best go now while you can."

"Then what? You gonna get your war buddy to kill me?"

"If I wanted you dead," said the Captain, his voice dropping into that soft and deadly cadence all who knew him were wary of "you'd already be dead, *dong ma*? Now go before I change my gorram mind an' let you chew vacuum."

"That would be murder!"

Donnie gave the man an evil grin. "An' who ya gonna tell?"

The Captain gave a sigh of relief seeing Monty, the children and Badger off his boat. Only when the Kingfisher broke its' seal with Serenity and left to plot its' own course did his spirits rise. Donnie moved to stand beside him. The unspoken solidarity almost palpable settling something deep inside that had no name. It was a goodly feeling. One he hadn't known he had missed.

"Still think we should'a vented him, Sarge."

"Don't think I wasn't tempted."

They shared a look that said it all then without another word turned and headed for the commons room, Jimmy and the other Browncoats tagging along in their wake as they went. it was time to lay out the gorram Plan. Malcolm Reynolds just hoped that being simple would mean there was less that could go wrong.

* * * * *

It took 16 hours to reach Amber and when they arrived the Captain stared at the barren lumpy mass of rock as if he was seeing things. The disappointment left a bitter tang in his mouth. Jayne Cobb couldn't see what the problem was.

"It's a gorram meteorite!"

"No, it ain't."

"Jayne, not no-way no-how could you call that a planet!"

"Don't have to be big to hide stuff on it. Why ya so upset? Said it was small, *jide*?"

The Captain huffed and made a conscious effort to calm down. Jayne was right but it didn't stop him feeling all manner of cheated. "How d'you even know it's still there?"

The big man flashed a quick grin. "That's why I prepped us a couple'a suits. Cunnin, huh?"

Mal stared at him. Really. Sometimes there were no words for a man like Jayne. Wash turned a mild look on the Captain, deliberately playing things low key. "Couldn't hurt to look, Cap'n. After all, we came all this way."

Ignoring Wash the Captain turned to his second in command, the only other person on the bridge and his only hope for some kind of sanity. "What do you think, Zoe?"

"We should check it out, sir. Just to know one way or the other."

He nodded, accepting from Zoe what he would not accept from anyone else. "We'll take the spare shuttle. If the store is still there an' it's intact we'll take what we need an' come right back. You have the ship, Zoe." As Jayne followed the Captain off the bridge Zoe went with them. The Captain caught sight of her out of the corner of his eye. "*Shenme*? You wanna come too?"

Zoe shook her head. "Just wanna lock down my ship once you're gone."

"You know this is temporary, *dui*? We will be comin' back."

"Whatever you say, sir."

"Jayne, put those suits in shuttle 2."

Jayne pulled a face. "Ain't ya comin'?"

"Gotta speak to the girl first."

"Huh, don't see why we're listenin' to that itty bitty thing."

"She ain't a thing, Jayne. She's a person."

"Yeah, like a griswold. Don't look much but still small an' deadly."

The Captain stopped in his tracks which meant Zoe did too. "*Ni zhide shi shenme?"

"Just sayin', we on'y got her word that she knows where this manufacturin' place is. Ain't even gotta name. An' how'd she get a peek at the place in her brain pan an' just know where the ruttin' *diyu* it is?"

"What're you sayin'?"

"She's lyin' an' it's *shenjingbing* to trust her."

"This ain't got nothin' to do with trust, Jayne."

Jayne looked confused. "It ain't?"

*Bu qu*. Girl says she can show us the way but has to come with us. Means we can keep an eye on her, *dong ma*?"

"An' if she's settin' us up?"

"We get a chance to find out who's pullin' her gorram strings."

"Should never have took that escape pod on board."

"An' if she's right, Jayne, then what?"

"She ain't."

"But if she is?"

"What do ya want me to say, Mal? I ain't gonna say sorry, she makes my skin crawl an' even if every word she's said has been true what about the ones she ain't?"

The Captain and Zoe blinked at him. Non-plussed. "*Shenme*?"

"She's a Reader, Cap. Even River couldn't pick up what she was thinkin'."

That had been worrying the Captain as well but he had not thought anyone else had picked up on it. Once again Jayne put him on notice that he was quicker on the uptake than people realised. Maybehaps smarter too. Oddly enough it was kind of reassuring. "I'll bear it in mind, Jayne. Now go, be there in a few."

Once Jayne had gone Zoe voiced her own reservations. "Jayne's *bu cuode*, sir."

"You too?"

"Just sayin' is all."

As they approached the infirmary they could hear voices inside. Both paused to listen before entering, a lifetime of caution that had taught them the value of gleaning information from each and every source available to them. Didn't matter a good gorram that they were on Serenity, old habits died hard especially when they were bound so close to survival instincts.

"You can't do that!" River's voice though hushed was loud enough to carry.

There was a short pause before Rosalie answered. "My life, not for you to choose what I do with it."

There was a pause then Rosalie raised her voice. "You can hear more if you come inside!"

Mal and Zoe exchanged a look. "Jayne was right, she's creepifyin', sir."

The comment was pitched low but even had it been unspoken the Captain just knew Rosalie would have heard it. He was beginning to wish the girl had gone with Monty but then how would they find the base without her? It was a gorram conundrum. The Captain stepped through the doorway first, his eyes fastening on Rosalie.

"You were supposed to come to the meetin'."

"Waste of time, everyone wanted to talk about me not to me."

"Be that as it may I wanted you there. Need to know where we're headin'."

The girl slid off the infirmary bed where she had been sitting swinging her legs. "*Wode hao le*."

"Not so fast. How'd you glimpse that gorram base? Know where it would be?"

"Too complicated to explain, Cap'n."

His voice hardened. "Try."

"Sometimes in my sleep, sometimes awake. It varied but was always the same."

The Captain put his hands on his hips. "That's a contradiction."

"The one doesn't mean the other."

"Speak plain, Rosalie, I got exactly no time for bein' fed a pile of *goushi*."

"The glimpses varied: different angles, altitudes an' so on but were always the same in that it was always the same base, *dong ma*? I'm not tryin' to confuse you, Cap'n."

"An' yet you do." He paused and glanced at River. "Cat got your tongue?"

River stuck her tongue out at the Captain then grinned. "Still got it!"

The Captain rolled his eyes. "Me an' Jayne are takin' the spare shuttle, shouldn't be gone long. When we get back we'll make our way to this base of yours."

Rosalie frowned. "Not my base."

"Not mine neither, but if this goes well? Won't nothin' be left for the gorram Alliance either."

For the first time since they had met the girl gifted them with a genuine smile. The happiness finally reaching her too solemn eyes and lighting up her face. Once River and Rosalie were alone again, Serenity's genius gave the girl a long assessing look. "You're going to have to tell him, you know that."

Rosalie did not nod or reply. River could hear the agreement singing inside her head, not in a beautiful melodic fashion, but more like a funeral dirge. It made River Tam shudder inside for she knew what it meant and while she could have told the Captain she understood and respected Rosalie's decision and why she had made it. Anything less would cost more lives than they could count.

* * * * *

Toby Porter was tired, hungry and cranky. He really hated this run, not so much being away from home for weeks on end but the secrecy, the feeling he was always being watched and constantly having his actions checked and double checked. Of course when he looked there was never anyone there. They were not in any recognised shipping lane or trade route and control of his ship's helm was in other hands. Distant, unknown hands that he had to trust on the sole word of his shadowy employer. Another creepy assed thing.

His oppo, Devon Peters turned to glare at him. "*Shenme shi*? You wriggle any harder in that gorram seat an' you'll rub all the shine off it!"

"Ain't got no shine, Dev. It's just like pilotin' a ghost ship, *dong ma*?"

"You scare too easily."

"Just 'cause you were a purplebelly back in the day don't make you smarter than me."

"*Fang xin*, it's just a supply run an' for the money we're bein' paid I'd do the trip with my eyes taped closed. Ears too if it would shut out your complainin'."

"Ain't complainin', just creeped out." Toby paused. "Somethin' stinks that's what."

His opposite number took a few quick furtive looks around, as if expecting their bosses to materialise out of the ship's superstructure and chastise them. "*Bei chao*, you wanna get us grounded?"

"I'm beginnin' to look kindly on the notion."

Devon drew back his lips and hissed through his teeth, his own anxiety making him short tempered. "Well don't. We get the job done, go home rich, *dong ma*?"

Toby nodded but didn't say what he was thinking. That you had to be alive for the money to do you any good. They had been given the promise of a fortune, to be paid once the job was completed. Why did that thought not reassure him?

* * * * *

It was weird. The further they got from Malcolm Reynolds' ship the calmer and happier Badger felt. Made no ruttin' sense, what with him having failed in his gorram mission. That evil witch was like to skin him alive or have her partner do the deed for her. As frightening as she was, he was ten times - no, a million times - worse. For the umpteenth time the little King Pin fingered the object sewn into his pocket. Would be easy to activate it but to what end? The longer he left it alone the more time he had, though what he could hope to do to get himself out of this mess he had no clue. At least not yet. He took his hand out of his pocket, lost for a moment in thought. Something would turn up, it always did. And if it didn't? Well, he was a fine upstanding citizen. Pillar of the gorram community and one thing he knew better than anything else was how to turn a situation to his advantage.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *xie xie ni* = thank you *dui* = correct *wo zhidao* = I know *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *wei* = hey! *jide* = remember *goushi* = crap/dog shit *wo dui zheige bu manyi* = I'm not happy about this *shenme* = what *ni zhide shi shenme* = what do you mean? *diyu* = hell *shenjingbing* = crazy *bu cuode* = not wrong *wode hao le* = I'm ready *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *bei chao* = not so noisy


Sunday, November 30, 2014 7:56 PM


You have me on the edge of the seat here! I get the feeling that Jayne gets a bit more respect in your tale here, I like it he deserves it as the master merc he is. Great goram tale!

Monday, December 1, 2014 4:58 AM


This is how I see Jayne, Buckshotpilot. When he is paying attention to something he is sharp, missing pretty much nothing, but if a subject bores him he switches off. Yet even then I think part of him is keeping tabs. In his profession there are times it pays to let others underestimate you, gives you an edge, and Jayne would take advantage of that. He is a bit like Mal's secret weapon. So happy you are enjoying the story and thanks for the shiny feedback! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, December 3, 2014 6:31 AM


Welcome to Firefly Fans, xxChilmanxx, always a pleasure to welcome a new Browncoat to the ranks. I am really happy that you are enjoying my story, you will find tons of wonderful authors to delight you on this site so enjoy! Thank you for the shiny comment, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, December 7, 2014 3:36 PM


Don't mind sayin', would've preferred seein' that snake Badger vented to the atmo, just this once :D Rosalie is confoundin' me some but it's all percolatin' in my brain pan...i think...great chapter, AliD, more when you can please and xie xie

Sunday, December 7, 2014 8:16 PM


Did have to smile at you wanting Badger vented into the atmo, Malsdoxy. He does have that affect. As for Rosalie more starts to become clearer in the next chapter. Thanks for the shiny comments, always appreciated. 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.