DUPLICITY Series: 6. "Divisions"
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"The Captain does the only thing he can to prevent things going from bad to even worse. Zoe decides she needs some proper answers from Inara and isn't going to stop asking until she gets them."


TITLE: "DIVISIONS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash, Kaylee/Simon. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "LEFT AND RIGHT HANDS". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "The Captain does the only thing he can to prevent things going from bad to even worse. Zoe decides she needs some proper answers from Inara and isn't going to stop asking until she gets them." 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

* * * * *

Zoe was beyond anger. Having already run the gamut of the more depressing emotions she was currently working through frustration and a rising tide of impatience with her long time friend and Captain. "Sir, this don't make sense."

The Captain finished settling the cargo in place on the spare shuttle. For now the rest of the crew were giving them a wide berth, assuming the first mate was going to give their Captain an ear blistering talking to. None of them wanted to be caught up in the middle of that. "Ain't discussin' this, Zoe. We do what we have to do."

"Even if it means handin' yourself over to gorram pirates, sir?"

"They ain't pirates, Zoe. You know it an' so do I."

That caused a slow raise of her eyebrows, her look keener than ever. "What are they then?"

He shrugged. "Mercenaries most like."

Something flickered in her eyes but the Captain was shaking his head.

"Jayne don't know every mercenary in the Black."

"How'd you know what I was thinkin'?"

A silent stare was her only answer. Despite the dire circumstances a grim smile tugged briefly at the corner of her mouth. It vanished quick as a cot death. A reminder of the near telepathic connection they had formed through the War, that silent thread of steel saving their lives on many an occasion sometimes in ways that were near miraculous. It was a sobering thought knowing that it wouldn't save them now. Her voice dropped to a whisper. "There has to be another way."

"I'd take it if there was. Ain't lookin' to be no sacrificial lamb."

"Maybe we could..."

"Zoe, *gou le*, ain't got time. Need you to look after the ship an' crew, *dong ma*?"

Unable to say the words she just gave a grim nod and at the Captain's shooing motion stepped back through the shuttle's hatch. Just as she was turning away from him the Captain's parting words froze her in her tracks.

"Don't need you to be landin' on Sihnon now. This thing 'tween me an' 'Nara got nothin' to do with the rest of the crew. Till I come back the ship is yours."

She turned and tried to read his expression. "What if you don't come back?"

He paused a beat before replying, stopping just short of the hatch. "Don't let Jayne take over the ship."

Zoe wanted to say something, offer some kind of hope that this would not be the last time they would be seeing each other, but it was as if her throat was swelling up and the words couldn't make it past the blockage. The Captain gave a short nod then the hatch slammed shut in her face. Stunned, she could only stare at it as the locking mechanism cycled into place. Fighting back the prick of tears, Zoe pulled herself together and forced herself to head for the bridge. Her heart heavy but not as dark as her mood.

* * * * *

On the Cumberland Declan Mountjoy could scarce believe his eyes. That dumb *hundan* of a Captain really was coming over in a gorram shuttle. Tristan didn't say anything, the look of glee on Mountjoy's face more than a mite unsettling knowing the man's penchance for violence. He hoped it would not now come to that. They could pick up what they came for and get the good gorram out of here. Deliver said Captain and cargo and have a mighty fine pay day.

"Keep the rail gun trained on that sumbitch. He twitch wrong an' you fire, *dong ma*?"

Tristan didn't say anything, just nodded. Not that he had any intention of firing on an unarmed shuttle that appeared to be doing exactly what his *shenjingbing* Captain wanted. A call from the engine room distracted Mountjoy. "What is it, Caine?"

"Nothin' to worry about just yet, *laoban*, but we'll be needin' to do some maintenance once we get back to Persephone."

Mountjoy's face twisted up into a scowl. "What kind'a maintenance?"

His engineer didn't have much in the way of patience and the two men often butted heads because neither were inclined to back down. "One engine needs a decoke an' our aft stabliser's got a slow leak."

"How serious?"

"We got no problem gettin' to Persephone, can even go to a full burn for part of the way, but beyond that wouldn't be smart."

Mountjoy grunted, cut the com and stared at the slowly approaching shuttle. He did not seem to take notice of the way in which it was keeping between the Cumberland and Serenity. "That Firefly must have an engineer, wouldn't you say Tris?"

"Probably just good enough to keep 'em flyin' but a Firefly ain't a Cumberland."

"Think I'll have to be addin' an engineer to my demands."

His pilot tried to hide his look of alarm. "We got an engineer, Cap'n, an' one thing Caine knows inside out is this ship. That *lese* pile of *goushi* Reynolds' got don't rightly derserve to be called a ship."

Tristan's comments momentarily disrailed Mountjoy's line of thought.

"'Sides, what we need is parts for a Cumberland an' nothin' on that pile of *goushi* is like to fit." The pilot paused and checked the shuttle's progress. "Shuttle's here, *shifu*. Do I let it dock?"

The pirate Captain nodded then opened the com and yelled into it. "Hobbs, Carey, Style - meet me at the docking port *mashang*. We got us a visitor to go 'welcome'."

* * * * *

Tension aboard Serenity made the crew unnaturally subdued. Jayne was still muttering and complaining about how dumb the plan was but at least he was doing it quiet-like, as if instinctively knowing that bringing any kind of criticism to Zoe's ears right now would be asking for instant and painful death. Mercenary or not, a crazy mad Zoe was scary.

Everybody except Inara crowded up on the bridge to watch. Shepherd Book was unhappy, this did not look good. Kaylee twisted her hands and looked from grim face to grim face. "We got a plan don't we? Tell me we got a plan."

"We got a plan." Zoe dead panned.

Kaylee began to nod, trying to convince herself that people could survive voluntary suicide. Just had to have a little faith.

"Not a good one though."

Before Kaylee could ask what she meant Zoe turned and stomped off the bridge. Kaylee stared at Simon but he didn't know what to say. Wash could see the little mechanic was close to tears. "Kaylee, why don't you see what you can do to fix Serenity, *dui*?"

Seizing on his words like a lifeline she nodded then clattered off. Jayne waited until she was gone. "What we gonna do?"

Wash shrugged. "Not much we can do, Jayne. Serenity ain't goin' nowhere an' shuttle two has just docked with the Cumberland. Right now all our cards are in the other ship."

Disgusted the big man scowled unhappily. "Told that ruttin' *ben dan* this was a stupid idea."

"While I can't condone the Captain's actions," Shepherd Book said in a calm soothing tone "there wasn't really much else he could have done, Jayne. Had he argued or tried to make a run for it that ship would have reduced Serenity and everything in it to debris."

"Ya don't know that."

"No, I don't, but I do know people like that Captain. Merciless men who don't think twice about hurting people just because they can."

Wash looked puzzled. "*Wo bu dong*, if they want the cargo why didn't they just board us an' take it."

"Ah, but they didn't just want the cargo did they, Wash?"

It was Jayne who said what Book didn't. "They wanted the Cap. Now they got the cargo as well an' we're floatin' dead in space. Like I said, stupid plan."

* * * * *

Stepping board on that gorram ship was like one of Malcolm Reynolds worst nightmares brought to life. As soon as he did so a great hulk of a man patted him down to make sure he was unarmed then finding nothing pushed him away from the entrance to the shuttle. The man glanced at Mountjoy. "He's clean, Cap'n."

Mountjoy nodded. "Shiny. Go help Carey get the cargo."

The big man, Style, lumbered off to do as he was told leaving Hobbs and Mountjoy with Serenity's Captain. Mal had to admit to feeling a mite naked without his sidearm but given his reception was glad he had left it in his bunk. Had lost enough this day without losing his pa's gun. Had carried it right through the gorram war and wasn't gonna lose it now. Mountjoy looked him up and down, a slow nasty smile covering his face like a greasy film. Made Mal want a shower just looking at him.

"Cargo better be intact, *dong ma*?"

"It is. Ain't had a chance to deliver it."

A call from the open shuttle reached their ears. "It's all here, Cap'n!"

Mountjoy turned his head to shout back but kept both eyes on Serenity's Captain. "Bring it aboard then secure the shuttle. Might find a use for it or cut it up as scrap."

Mal bristled but didn't dare say anything. For some reason Mountjoy looked more dangerous and unhinged now that he had what he wanted than he did when he was threatening to blow up Serenity. Carey and Style humped the last crate into the cargo bay then Style made sure that the shuttle was not going to come adrift. Mountjoy grinned at Serenity's Captain. "Tell Tris to get us outta here."

Carey left to do just that but the other two crewmen stayed. Mountjoy made no move to take Mal out of the cargo hold. Somehow that made him feel a mite nervous. "Told you it was all there. I'm sure we can work somethin' out no need to get tetchy."

Mountjoy pulled his gun nice and slow so Mal could see. Enjoyed watching as Mal's eyes widened. The shot sounded impossibly loud in his ears, almost drowning out Mal's cry of pain as his right leg gave way under him, the knee cap shot out. Agony rushed through him. Amid the pain and confusion one thought kept recycling through his brain pan. He was going to die. He barely heard Mountjoy ordering his men to roll him onto his back and hold him there, all he could focus on was the incredible pain exploding in his body as the madman shot out his other kneecap. Merciful blackness stole his consciousness. Pain he was in, he wouldn't be demanding it back any time soon.

* * * * *

If the crew thought Zoe was up tight and in a murdersome rage before it was nothing compared to her current fuge. Shepherd Book wanted to say something but didn't know how to put a positive spin on the fix they were in. He had a feeling any attempt he made would be like putting a light to the blue touch paper of Volcano Zoe. One glance around at the others told him he wasn't the only one walking on metaphorical egg shells. Inara stepped out of her shuttle and on to the catwalk just as Wash's tense voice came over the speaker.

No one spoke, just hurried to the bridge as fast as their legs could carry them. Zoe got there first, her eyes narrowed with concern and worry. Before she could say anything Wash half turned in the pilot chair. "It's an Alliance cruiser, *bao bei*, an' it's hailin' us."

Whatever she had been expecting it was not that. "Alliance? What in *diyu* are they doin' way out here?"

Wash didn't answer her straight away, he was peering around his wife. Zoe looked behind her just as Wash spotted Inara joining them. "They want to speak to Inara."

Everyone froze. Shepherd Book watched an odd parade of emotions flicker over the Companion's face. Interesting. Zoe, already tight as a bow string, looked suspicious. Kaylee had a hopeful look on her face as if Inara would be able to make all the bad go away. Sure that everything would be alright now that her friend was able to do something. The Alliance had to listen to her, right? She was a Registered Companion, an Ambassador of the Guild, and that had to account for something. Only Inara did not look as serene about it as Kaylee thought she should and Simon was giving her friend an odd look. Now she came to think about it they all were. Inara ignored everyone and moved up towards the console. Wash gave the Companion an apologetic look as if to say he really didn't know what they wanted. Inara gave a nod and waited.

With baited breath everyone watched as the connection was put through, a grim official looking Commander staring back at them. "Miss Inara Serra?"

"Yes, Commandant, I am she."

The man's expression relaxed and though he did not smile the relief on his face was obvious. "I am glad to have reached you in time, ma'am. The Guild contacted us with an urgent request to extend to you our aid."

Now every eye shifted from the cortex screen to Inara's face. Despite her training the Companion felt a pale blush begin to rise up her neck and colour her face. "*Duibuqi* Commander but I am quite well. We were attacked however by pirates, they took the ship's Captain and stole the cargo. The ship has been damaged and is not able to continue under its' own power."

"Are you hurt?"

Shepherd Book frowned. Was Inara hurt? What about the rest of the crew? However it appeared the Alliance Commandant was only concerned about the health and well being of the Companion. And that was just odd.

* * * * *

Happiness was a rare and fleeting thing. Usually found in a profitable job or a rare find when what looked like a worthless pile of *goushi* turned out to be anything but. This though. This was icing on his gorram cake. Badger could scarce keep the gloating grin from swallowing up his whole face. Pushing his very fine hat back he leaned in closer to the monitor and stared at the priceless image being relayed to him. "You did good, Mountjoy."

The only trouble Badger could see was that Malcolm Reynolds was unconscious. The amount of blood all over the floor and the state of the man was a nice touch but Badger was always a greedy man. Why have enough when he could have more?

"Wake 'im!"

Mountjoy was only too happy to oblige. He didn't go for subtle, just kicked Serenity's Captain in the right knee. A deep moan of agony wept from Mal's lips, the pain long past excruciating made it impossible to think straight.

"Wakey wakey, Reynolds! Rise n' shine!"

He knew that voice. Where the good gorram did he know that voice from? Pain made it hard to marshall his thoughts and the way Mountjoy's two thugs were pulling him about wasn't helping. With a sudden lurch he threw up, the big ape manhandling him stepping back with a string of curses that would have made Jayne proud. The other thug didn't let go, neither did he seem put off by the mess half decorating Mal's front and his jacket. Instead a fist connected with the side of Mal's jaw snapping his head back against the deck.

"*Wei*, not so enthusiastic now!" Yelled Badger. He didn't want Malcolm Reynolds pummeled into so much of a pulp that his gloating would go unappreciated. A man had to have an audience to savour the truly special things in life. "Want him awake an' conscious not comatose, *dong ma*?"

Mountjoy told Style to get a bucket of water then Badger settled in to enjoy himself while his dogs hounded his prey. As the cold water hit him in the face, Mal roused enough to crack his eyes open. At first all he could see was Mountjoy and his thugs but then he noticed the monitor set up with a face he would long remember to hate grinning back at him. He spat out the blood that was pooling in his mouth, the side of his face uneven where the bruising and cut was darkening. "Badger! Might'a known you was behind this."

"Thought you could cheat me an' I'd look the other way?"

It took an effort to reply. Would rather skip the niceties and just strangle the life out of the little man but he had neither the energy nor the wherewithall for either. "Wasn't cheatin' nobody, just a little delay."

Badger's face now filled the screen, the little King-pin pretty much pressed up against his side of the cortex link. "An' why is that? Thinkin' to do a deal on the side?"

"*Bu qu*, just had a drop off. Member of crew."


He wanted to refuse to answer he really did but another kick made him faint with agony, another faceful of water stopping him from passing out again. He had to shake his head to clear his ears then wished they were fuzzy again.

"I said," Badger stated with exagerrated calm. "Who was you droppin' off an' where?"

It didn't matter anyway, not now, and though Mal would have liked to deny him the knowing of it he wasn't sure Badger wouldn't have him killed outright if he riled him further and he wanted to live. Long enough to get his two hands around that smug *tamade hundan's* neck. Wanted to squeeze hard enough to pop out those beady eyes. "Inara. Sihnon."

Genuine surprise startled the grin from Badger's face, mind racing, joining up imaginary dots. "A visit or leavin'?"

When Mal didn't answer Badger threw back his head and laughed. Mal closed his eyes. Might have to hear the nasty little King-pin, didn't mean he had to look at him.

"She left you didn't she?" He crowed. "Always knew she was too classy for you, just surprised it took her so long to see it."

God must have taken mercy on Malcolm Reynolds because he had passed out again. Mountjoy nudged the prone Captain with his boot but the man didn't stir. "You want me to wake him again?"

Badger shook his head. Happy enough now to be magnanimous. "You get my cargo?"

*Qu*. Checked it, it's all there."

A flicker of surprise flashed over Badger's face. So. Reynolds hadn't sold any of it on. He gave a slow nod. "Nah, let 'im sleep. I got what I want."

"You want him flushed out the air lock? Need to clean the bay."

Badger shook his head, a mite sorry now that he had over reacted but oh - it was such a pleasure to wipe that smirk off Malcolm Reynolds' face. Now though he knew he would have a very pissed off crew to deal with if ever his involvement got out. While spacing Serenity's Captain might solve his immediate problem he knew that they would figure out eventually what had happened and he didn't want someone like Zoe or Jayne tracking him down in search of revenge. No. He had what he wanted and if Reynolds had any kind of smarts at all he would leave it there but Badger knew that wouldn't happen. No. He needed to think this out. Make sure that his little bit of payback didn't bite him in the arse. What he needed wasn't distance but insurance.

"Complete the drop for now, sooner that cargo gets where it's goin' sooner we all get paid."

"What about Reynolds?"

"Keep 'im alive for now. Might have a use for 'im."

* * * * *

As soon as the transmission ended Zoe turned on Inara. "What the good gorram was that about? An' how come an Alliance Cruiser is all of a sudden at your beck an' call?"

"It isn't like that."

Zoe looked a hair's breadth from punching Inara in the face. That frightened Kaylee more than anything. "Then what is it like, 'cause I'm thinkin' you got some explainin' to do."

Inara swallowed, hating the confines of the bridge but knowing she could not avoid this confrontation. "I called the Guild and asked for help when the pirates opened fire on Serenity."

"That was smart thinkin', 'Nara." Said Kaylee, relieved and happy that there wasn't anything more sinister about it. But when she glanced at the others she could tell they were not so happy. "Wasn't it smart thinkin'?"

When Zoe glowered at her Shepherd Book hurried to reassure the mechanic. Kaylee getting all upset before they knew what was really happening would not help anything and what they really needed was more clarity and less volatile emotions. "Yes, Kaylee, it was good thinking but I am curious why you didn't tell us Inara."

"I didn't know they would send an Alliance Cruiser."

Simon looked curious. "What did you think they would do?"

She looked at him then shrugged. "Honestly? *Wo bu zhidao*."

"Maybe she was expectin' a whorin' ship to come an' offer us a different kind'a help."

The Shepherd resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Jayne, that was uncalled for."

"*Shenme*? Just sayin'..."

"Well don't." Zoe paused. "I think we should take this discussion to the commons room. Kaylee?"


"Best put the kettle on."

"I can do that." Put in the Preacher. Zoe pinned him with a look that froze him in place.

"Might need you for somethin' else."

Book raised an eyebrow but with the first mate not being more forthcoming he could only nod his acquiessence. Not for the first time he wondered what in the nine hells was really going on. Wash seemed to be the only one worried about what to do if the Commandant called back. Zoe put a hand on his shoulder as if to reassure him but her expression was anything but calm. Her eyes were like flint set in stone. The coldness of her gaze chilled him. "Let him wait."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*gou le* = enough! *dong ma* = understand? *hundan* = bastard *laoban* = boss *shenjingbing* = crazy *lese* = crappy *goushi* = crap/dog shit *shifu* = sir *mashang* = on the double/at once/immediately *dui* = correct *ben dan* = moron *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *bao bei* = precious/treasure *diyu* = hell *duibuqi* = thanks *wei* = hey! *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *shei* = who? *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *shenme* = what?


Wednesday, May 14, 2008 9:42 AM


I like the end. Book and Zoe could make for an interesting team.

And I'm noy sure I believe Inara.

Wonderful writing! Such goodness!! Want for the next adventure!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 9:39 PM


And you say I like hurting members of the crew! Mal's going to need a lot of surgery to pull through this and keep his legs. Now you wouldn't be so cruel. Would you?

Thursday, May 15, 2008 12:25 AM


the zoe / mal connection is something i really find hard to get down on paper - coz so much is in the acting on screen. i think you did it here really well:)

Thursday, May 15, 2008 4:08 AM


Thank you for the feedback folks. I have to smile Jane0904 at your comment because you are right though the violence isn't gratuitous. And no, our good Captain will not lose his legs, mayhap his temper but not his legs. Angellemarcs, more is going on with Inara than we see here. As for the dynamic between Zoe/Mal wychcroft, that is one of the sheer pleasures of Firefly and Serenity. Appreciate all your comments, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, May 16, 2008 3:43 PM


Just caught back up with this story! Excellent, as always. Now I have to go and nurse my knees back to health---sympathy for our favorite Captain, I'm thinking! :D


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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.