DUPLICITY Series: 9. "Symbiosis"
Saturday, May 24, 2008

"While Kaylee and Jayne frantically try to fix Serenity, River does her best to stabilise the Captain. Meanwhile Badger is having something of an epiphany and Inara is given an unexpected mission."


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

SUMMARY: "While Kaylee and Jayne frantically try to fix Serenity River does her best to stabilise the Captain. Meanwhile Badger is having something of an epiphany and Inara is given an unexpected mission." 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

* * * * *

Once Kaylee ignored the impossibility of her task and broke it down into small doable steps the enormity of what they had to accomplish seemed less daunting. Jayne Cobb watched her bite her bottom lip, expression totally focused on the job in hand. Looking at Jayne she sighed knowing that the sooner they got started the quicker they could either find a temporary solution or know for certain that the mountain really couldn't come to Mohammed. "First we gotta dismantle this here part."

Jayne crouched and dipped his head the better to see the outer housing of the stabliser. From his angle it didn't look like it had taken too much damage. "You want me to..."

She cut him off with a shake of her head. "Nah, just hand me that spanner an' wrench."

The big man began to sort through the box of tools when Kaylee hissed and his hands froze.

"*Zhanzhu*! On the top, see? You go rumagin' an' I gotta sort through the whole gorram box again."

He grunted what might have been an apology and pushed the home made wooden tool box to her outstretched hand. Gorramit if she was gonna be that tetchy she could get it herself. Bending down to reach she picked up what she needed and shot him a sheepish smile.

"Didn't mean to yell, just, y'know..."

Jayne flashed a quick smile. "Ya don't like no one else touchin' 'em."

It was comical to see the surprise on her face melt into something sunnier and more Kaylee-like. "Yeah. Guess it's a bit like you an' Vera."

The mercenary nodded, understanding. "Well just do what ya gotta. An' point out what ya find as ya go along so's I can see what needs puttin' right."

They fell into a companionable silence, the only sounds Kaylee working to disconnect the outer housing so she could dismantle the damaged stabliser while Jayne quietly asembled his cutting and welding gear. Once the cover was off Kaylee got more chatty, explaining what the different parts of the stabiliser were, how each operated and affected the whole and in turn where the damage had torn gaps through it making some of the moving parts not fit right any more or had just been broken clean off. Once she had dismantled the damaged section she turned it over in her hands as if afraid to hurt it any more than it had been already. Jayne didn't mock her or sneer, a look of understanding on his face that was all kinds of reassuring.

"See this here?"

Jayne leaned closer. "Yeah?"

"That bit there? It's *bu hao*. All peppered an' twisted when weapons fire hit. Need a whole other part to replace it only this section is one piece, see? Gonna have to cut this piece out an' make a new bit."

"Nah, leave it. Be better to make the new piece an' weld it on. You cut that away an' then try to fit a new bit an' it won't have enough metal to give it the strength to hold in place once the gorram engine is turnin'. The first bit of shakin' an' rattlin' an' it'll fly right off."

She shot him an appreciative look. "You know engines?"

He shook his head. "Nah, just metal. It's all about stress an' strain."

"This ain't the on'y bit needs workin' on, Jayne."

"Yeah, can see three or four places got the same problem."

Their heads drifted closer, voices dropping like concerned parents discussing a wayward child. Simon paused as he was passing the doorway but neither of them noticed. Not understanding a tenth of what they were saying the doctor shook his head in bemusement and carried on to the infirmary. He had to make sure everything was ready for when they met up with his sister and the Captain. Zoe had been light on details only able to tell him that the Captain was hurt bad and had lost a lot of blood. Wash had already offered to donate blood and Simon wanted to check the records he had on the rest of the crew to see who else was compatible in case he needed more donors.

* * * * *

It was almost dusk, the darkening sky aided and abetted by fitful clouds made heavy with the threat of rain. River hugged the terrain as she came in low, easing into the valley and letting it close around her like the arms of a lover. Carefully she scanned the terrain and searched for somewhere to set down that would leave plenty of room for Serenity when the mother ship joined them. How long that would be she did not know, too many variables at present to accurately calculate their ETA. On either side of the valley was dense scrub, patchy grasses scattered across the centre as if the soil was too poor for much to grow. A few stunted and twisted trees looked like broken teeth as the world around her darkened into night. There were no city lights this far out and no moon yet it was not dark enough for the stars to pierce the sky above her head. At last they were down, the landing as gentle as kissing the earth.

Quickly River shut down then hurried to the Captain, her mind quickly rifling through his while he was unconscious, the better to see how he was faring. Then River checked his legs, alarmed at how much he was still bleeding. With a jolt she cursed herself. "*Wode ma* I'm a half witted fool!"

Carefully she reached down and undid the Captain's belt, sliding it from his waist with a steady tug then apologising to him while she wrapped it around the top of his right leg, tightening it as much as she could to provide a makeshift tournique. What she would use for the other leg she didn't know but this was no time to be choosy or squeamish. Hands coated in the slick greasy slide of his blood it took a couple of attempts to fasten the belt properly because her fingers had difficulty finding purchase then River hunted around the shuttle until she found some rope and used that on the other leg. Glancing down at the Captain his pale face frightened her. He was so still and there was so much blood. River shut her eyes and forced herself to breathe deeply and to calm down. The others would be here soon. All she had to do was keep him alive until Simon came. How hard could that be?

* * * * *

Back in her rooms Inara felt too faint to remain standing. Dazed she sat before she fell, the large luxurious bed cushioning her fall. She was unaware of it, saw not the velvet crush of the draperies, the exotic blooms placed artfully in crystal vases so large they sat upon the floor. The blooms so high they stood tall as any man. The French windows open to a view of picture book perfection that she did not see. She was numb, the shock still filtering drunkenly through her mind. Stunned that of all the things the House Mistress could ask of her it would be this.

As everything she had seen, heard and now read coalesced into the clarity of understanding she felt her hands begin to shake. The tremble seeming to come from her whole body not just her hands. A little icy shudder ran through her and Inara made herself look down. The buff folder was plain and unmarked, no warning upon its' cover of the revelation lurking within. Slowly, as if it took all her immense courage to do so, Inara Serra opened the folder and in the privacy of her rooms began to read once again. Not one word or phrase must be misunderstood or taken out of context. The import was too critical and too far reaching and if she made a mistake now the consequences for the innocent would haunt her life and soul for all eternity.

* * * * *

Everyone on the ship was tense. Shepherd Book did not like this. It was always a mistake for the crew to be separated but it had not been his decision to make and truly he could not blame the Captain for wanting to protect his ship and crew. Yet again Mal had surprised him with his fierce loyalty, that implaccable will not a thing to be taken lightly. That River had known this would happen and that the Captain would need help if he were to return to them was something of a reassurance, the girl slipping away to hide in the spare shuttle, ready to play her part and choosing to leave them in ignorance so none could stop her. Namely, her brother Simon. A man still held by his umbical chord to his baby sister as if they were twins still sharing one placenta. It was a wonder to him that one moment River could barely put sentences together and the next had more insight and knowledge than the rest of them put together. But it had a down side too. They came to expect her to predict all manner of events, the big and the trivial, the good and the bad, and that expectation was not a fair burden to place on one so young. So damaged.

He hung his head as if in prayer. Trying to see the way this path would unravel before his feet. His place in the tapestry that wove around him not clear but always there. A speck, a thread, a dash of colour augmenting his to their own, a binding that came with ties of belonging he had not expected and certainly not looked for. Book had thought himself unattached, an observer, a wise and sometimes integral part of the life happening all around him but it was not something he could detach himself from at will. And how did that happen? How did the man who wanted to walk in the world one more time come to sail endlessly across the black ocean of the 'verse with such as these and find himself better than content? God had placed him here, of that he was certain, though it was not always an easy place to be. These were good people but flawed yet each failing was a mirror to his own. How could he judge them for people as human in their frailties as he? Was this the great lesson he must learn? Was he reaching for humility or compassion? Or maybehaps a dash of both? The seasoning of life was so rich, so varied and to find himself part of it was exciting, uplifting, sometimes terrifying but always a challenge. What was unexpected about it was the genuine warmth of the company he found himself in.

And now there was the news that the Alliance Cruiser had not left as they supposed but waited, watched, beyond the periphery of Serenity's sensors. For what? River had warned them, assuring them she had the Captain with her, injured but alive. That had been a blessing and he thanked God for it, but what was the Cruiser still doing here? He could only surmise that it was under orders and it worried him what those unknown orders might be. Were they waiting and watching to ensure no aid came to them? Or were they waiting for another ship to join them, to lead them to the stricken Firefly and her benighted crew? As the last thought struck him his heart missed a beat. Certainty rang out and his pulse began to race. That was it! They were in danger and the child had known it. Book hurried to the bridge. He had to speak to Zoe and Wash immediately. Before it was too late.

* * * * *

The face upon the screen look unamused. Sour, if he was inclined to feel kind. He wasn't. Badger was not happy. He had expected her to at least appreciate his solution, not sit there on her high and mighty *pigu* looking down on him like something foul had died in front of her and she couldn't stand the stench. "You said you wouldn't kill him."

"I didn't."

She huffed. Huffed! What the good gorram did she think he could have done? "Semantics and you know it."

"He was alive when he was put on 'is shuttle an' that's better'n he deserves. Ain't the man's gorram keeper, *dong ma*?"

The angry lines of her face flattened out making it hard for him to judge her mood. "You said he didn't cheat you after all."

"Didn't know that at the time, did I? Should'a told me up front, see. I can be reasonable. His own fault, bein' all secretive like an' missin' that deadline. I ain't runnin' no gorram charity."

For a moment she just stared at him. "A financial penalty would have been sufficient."

"Yeah well, he ain't dead yet. Knowin' Reynolds he'll survive."

Her eyes narrowed on his face. Though he longed to squirm in his seat Badger sat tight. "What if he comes seeking revenge?"

Badger laughed. Oh, this was pricelesss! Revenge? He could hardly keep the laughter out of his voice. "He'd 'ave to crawl to do it an' that I'd pay to see."

"What did you do?"

Her voice was quiet now, almost hushed. Such a change from his expectations that the laughter fled. "What's it to you?"

"A lesson you said you would teach, no more."

Badger shrugged, wanted to end the call. *Diyu*, wouldn't have taken it if he knew who the caller was but what was done was done. "Injured him, that's all. Hurt 'is gorram pride an' not before time neither. Ruttin' *tamade hundan*, always lookin' down on me, thinks he's better than." Badger paused in his little tirade, the sour look vanishing and the sunshine of a genuine smile breaking through. "Can't look down on me now."


His eyes flashed at the note of censure in her voice. Anger and irritation both. "Told ya not to call me that!"

She smiled. Icy and amused but also sharp with intelligence. "I can and will call you by your given name as and when I please."

Badger knew he should not push her. Not when she was more than able to squash him into nothing should the fancy take her. "Look, I meant no offense, see? It's just me an' Reynolds we got a history an' we ain't exactly friends."

"Your spite one day will be your undoing, Stephen."

He winced. God, he hated that gorram name but yelling at his mother to drop it would only make her inclined to use it more and next time it might in front of others. Folks who would fall on that little snippet with glee and torture him with it ever after. "About that." He paused, licked his lips and tried not to show his unease. "Why you so interested anyway?"

"You are my only son."

He waved a hand, careful not to let it look like he was being insolent. "Nah, not that. Why you askin' about Reynolds? What's he to you?"

"Someone you should not cross."

A finger of ice slid down Badger's back. He scowled. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means, greater things are at play than your little schemes. The Alliance is involved and everything that happens aboard that ship is of interest to them." Now he was truly intrigued. Badger sat up properly. "*Weishenme*? That cargo's legit."

His mother smiled, a frosting on snow. "It has nothing to do with your dealings with them but something else they carry."

"Yeah? What's that then? Must be contraband to get the Alliance so twitchy or maybe it's somethin' else. Maybe they got secrets."

"Everybody has secrets, Stephen."

Badger did not like how his mother's eyes had become hooded. Even as a child the larger part of his life he had always been quietly terrified of her. Not that she had touched him ever, nor even nursed him. His father he never knew and good riddance, but his mother had made sure he had a nurse maid of sorts, a roof over his head and enough contact that he should know where he came from when it mattered. But not enough information to be able to use that knowledge. It was frustrating. Made him wonder if he came from money, maybe the son of some high and all powerful official in the government. Who could tell? Certainly his mother could play the lady better than anyone he knew but her contact was always short and the times she called were far enough apart that between times he completely forgot that her existence had brought his own into the 'verse. Every now and then she would remind him and he would be left with sleepless nights, fractured dreams and too much wondering for his peace of mind. Like now but this time was worse.

"Why the interest in Reynolds?"

A tiny shake of her head, steel grey hair framed a strong still handsome face. There was none of the look of the mother about the son except perhaps in obstinacy. "Better you do not know. If you see him again you will take pains to make amends."

He scoffed, affronted and barely able to believe his ears. Badger jumped out of his chair and stabbed a dirty finger at the monitor. "Make amends? I'm the one as needs amends."

A starchy eyebrow rose slowly. Silence stared at him as if no distance separated them. Badger swallowed slowly trying to slow the advent of fear from crawling under his skin.

"Yeah, well, I suppose I could be sorry like. Didn't know he 'adn't cheated me after all."

Still she said nothing. He was feeling hot, wished he wasn't wearing that stupid gorram tie but he was a businessman. Had appearances to keep up. He waited. Nothing. The eyes turned steely, waiting. And he knew she could outwait any store of patience he had ever owned.

"Alright, alright, what you wantin' from me?"

"You make amends, Stephen, and properly." A horrible thought crept into his noggin. "What if he dies anyway? Y'know, 'fore I can make them amends?"

"What did you do to him?"

"Not me exactly..."


"Uh, I might 'ave let one of my men get a bit too enthusiastic."

* * * * *

Zoe hated this. Everything was taking too long. Wash watched his tense beautiful wife and wished he could do something but until Kaylee got that stabliser fixed they weren't going anywhere and that was the sad frustrating fact. "What's takin' so long?"

He could have told her but right now Zoe didn't want to hear the why or how of it, she wanted the solution. "*Bao bei*, I'm surely Kaylee an' Jayne are workin' as fast as they can."

"Well it ain't fast enough."

Wash could not say anything to that. He watched her pacing, his mind racing for things to say to bring that ghost of a smile back to her lips or some story that would lift her out of the dark fuge swallowing up all the happy. He was as worried as she was - or rather, he was worried. Wash wasn't sure anyone actually understood the bond between his wife and his Captain. He glanced down at his instrument panel then noticed something. Quickly he flicked a couple of switches and honed in on Serenity's sensors. "*Wode ma, women dei zou le*!"

"That's what I've been sayin'."

He shook his head and stared at her, all wide eyed and fearful. "*Bu qu*, this is bad. Another ship is comin'."


"That'd be my guess." Zoe grabbed the com. "Kaylee! We've gotta go now!"

"*Wo hai mei nong wan*!"

"Ain't no more time, *dong ma*? You do what you can to give us our best shot, we got Alliance comin' for us an' no time to stall."

A stream of invective flowed back over the com but Zoe shut it off. There was no time for pointless exchanges now, all that mattered was getting away. The only good thing she could see was that if they couldn't get away at least the Alliance wouldn't get River. Hot on the heels of that thought was the realisation that they still had another Tam to worry about. "Simon."

Wash turned from his console but Zoe was already running off the bridge. Cursing under his breath, the pilot could only watch the progress of their doom as it drew closer. Frantically wondering how in the 'verse they were going to get out of this one.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*zhanzhu* = stop! *bu hao* = not good *wode ma* = mother of God *pigu* = bottom *dong ma* = understand? *diyu* = hell *weishenme* = why? *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *bao bei* = precious/treasure *women dei zou le* = we've got to leave *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wo hai mei nong wan* = I haven't finished yet


Saturday, May 24, 2008 3:27 AM


Yikes! Turning all the screws on this one, I see. Very intriguing!

Saturday, May 24, 2008 8:09 AM


I love the interaction between River and Mal. She is trying so hard to save the captain. This is really getting good. I love the action and the mystery!! Great job, my friend!

Sunday, May 25, 2008 6:41 PM


Badger has a mother? Well of course he has, but who or what she is of great interest. How will it all end? Not in tears, or too many anyways, I hope. Looking forward to more.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 11:16 PM


loved your insights into Book!:)

Sunday, April 17, 2011 1:58 PM


if I'd known I had 60 or more chapters still to go I'd have packed a lunch. so intriguing and engrossing


You must log in to post comments.



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.