DUPLICITY Series: 13. "Before the Storm"
Friday, June 13, 2008

"The Captain slowly improves while the crew plans exciting new crime. Badger disappears and Inara makes the most of her time at the Abbey."


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

SUMMARY: "The Captain slowly improves while the crew plans exciting new crime. Badger disappears and Inara makes the most of her time at the Abbey." 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

* * * * *

Simon was relieved to see that the Captain was continuing to improve. Nothing earth shattering but monumental enough to send waves of relief through all the crew of the Firefly transporter. It didn't matter what mood they were in or whether their *shenjingbing* Captain was driving them further insane than usual each depended upon the man as if he was some important constant in their little 'verse. Not that Simon would ever tell Mal that he counted himself in that number. It wouldn't do to give the man's warped sense of humour another metaphorical stick to beat him with. Right now the Captain was trying to wheedle information out of him, frustrated by the doctor's vague replies and disturbing caginess. Not that he expected to be able to dance the light fandago any time soon but it would still be nice to have a timetable. Allow him at least to save up the coin for lessons.

The doctor rolled up the blood pressure cuff and neatly put it back in its' box. "You really want me to lie?"

"Only if it's pretty."

Simon rolled his eyes at the Captain's comment. Beside him Zoe gave him a steady look that told him nothing. "You might want to reconsider that plan, sir."


A dry smile morphed into a smirk on her face. "Think Kaylee's the only one wants to hear Simon's pretty lies."

It was amusing to watch the two men, both so very different, yet with identical stunned looks on their faces. But amusing as it was Zoe had an impatient and sex fired husband waiting for her and like a good wife she knew where her priorities lay.

"Might want to close your mouth, sir, unless you and the doc are figurin' on catchin' flies. We need protein but I prefer mine on the hoof."

"You sayin' flies ain't got hooves, Zoe? When you get so picky?"

She didn't answer and for a moment the Captain just stared at her retreating form as she shashayed out of the infirmary. A weariness creeping over him as if his small store of energy had been overtaxed simply by opening his eyes. The sound of the first mate's boots on the catwalk snapped both men back to the Here and Now. Mal blinked to hold the lethargy at bay and exchanged a wary smile with the doctor, both men more than a mite uncomfortable.

"That was creepifyin'."

"I have to agree."

They shuddered almost as if it was choreographed. "Maybehaps we should just agree this conversation never happened?"

It was funny to watch Simon relax just a touch. Too much and it wouldn't be Simon no more and Mal wasn't sure their shaky little corner of No and Where was quite ready for that. "What conversation?" Simon deadpanned.

The Captain felt a smile tug at his lips, his eyelids turning to concrete and too heavy to keep open any longer. Simon watched Mal lose his struggle to stay awake. While he was pleased with the man's progress he didn't know how much longer he could put off telling him about the amount of surgery he would require. And that was the good news. The bad news was gaining access to a suitable facility. Simon missed the trauma unit on Osiris not for the life he had led but for the equipment and level of technology he had once taken for granted. A life lived hand to mouth was a rude awakening in so many ways but the biggest shock to his system had been how much he preferred what he had now to what he had left behind. He wasn't sure what that said about him but didn't really have any regrets. His sister was free and happy and they had people who would look out for them. A rag-tag family of sorts who made up in backbone and affection what they lacked in coin and position. Yes, he had learnt a lot since turning to a life of crime yet felt oddly the better man for having done so.

* * * * *

He wished he could be free of her, really he did. But unremitting torture had a sobering effect on a man, even one as obstinate and bull headed as he had been. In the end it was to no avail. Mercilessly he railed against his own weakness. Capitulation a death sentence on every soul he had ever loved. Her laughter rang in his head long after it had faded from his auditory senses. Hands trembling with aftershocks it took him several attempts and a lot of pained perseverence to do up the buttons on his vest. By the time he had finished dressing he had to wash the sweat from his face and cling to the basin until a feeble semblance of strength returned to him. Bad enough that she had effectively neutered him without the whole damn 'verse knowing it too. Straightening he gazed stiffly with bloodshot eyes at the image in the mirror and wished he did not recognise the man staring back at him.

* * * * *

The commons room was subdued with tension. Zoe didn't like their options but until they could get Serenity back in the air they were in *shen goushi* that would only get deeper. Not to mention they would be sitting ducks should any Alliance ship accidentally fly overhead and spot them. Of them all only Jayne didn't seem put out by the plan. *Diyu* was only sense, if that gorram junkyard had what they needed to fix the ship and they didn't have the coin to pay then they should just take it. He didn't see what all the yapping was about.

"They got cameras, Jayne."

"So we knock 'em out."

Shepherd Book shook his head gently. "It's a direct feed."

Jayne frowned at him. Zoe explained, not wanting to get bogged down in lengthy explanations later. "Shepherd means the images go straight to the monitorin' station. Cut the feed an' it just sets off an alarm an' alerts the last people we wanna attract attention from, *dong ma*?"

"Then we take the monitorin' station out first."

Zoe was about to snap at him when she paused, her mind calculating and reasoning out just how practical it would be. She glanced at Shepherd Book. "What do you think, Shepherd? Think it can be done?"

"It's possible but it'll be tricky."

"How tricky?"

"Well," he paused thoughtfully "timing will be everything. Taking out the monitoring station is only half of the equation."

"What's the other half?"

River spoke before Book could answer. "We have to take the cameras out at the exact same time." They looked at each other, every face sombre with the full weight of the risk involved. Wash didn't like it but what could they do? "How many cameras are we talkin' about?"

"We're lucky, most of them are inside the office and store rooms. They rely on the alarmed fencing to alert them to anyone trying to get in to the yard itself but there is a camera on the front door and one at the back."

"None in the yard?" Asked Zoe.

River shook her head. Kaylee felt her spirits lift. "Ain't so bad, can take out two cameras easy peasy."

"Kaylee, it isn't the fact that there are only two cameras it is timing everything to the exact second. We need to take those cameras out, disengage the alarms on the fencing AND take out the monitoring post at the same time."

"Uh uh, no we don't."

Everyone stared at Jayne. Simon had been pouring himself a coffee and now joined them around the big oak table. Weary as he was he had been listening to every word. "*Weishenme bu*?"

"We can dig under the fencin'. Means we can use the cover of darkness, get a hole dug big enough to crawl through so when the cameras an' monitorin' station is taken out them that needs to get the parts can crawl under the wire an' grab the stuff. Less time we spend makin' it more complicated the better chance we got of gettin' away 'fore anyone notices."

"That's actually a very good idea, Jayne." Book praised. The mercenary flashed him a grin. "Ain't just a pretty face."

Kaylee smiled but everyone else just stared at Jayne. He frowned. "*Shenme shi*?"

Zoe shook her head, they didn't have time for this. "*Yiwusuoyou*. If we're gonna do this we need to move soon. River, how far did you say the monitorin' station was?"

While the details were being finalised Simon felt a little prick of conscience at how eagerly he wanted the job done and over with. Zoe got up and everyone started to split up when River's words stopped them in their tracks. "This will work but we can be smarter."

The first mate's eyes narrowed and the others gravitated back to the table. Wash looked impatient but one glance at the tension on his wife's face stilled his tongue. "Smarter how?"

"Once we do this and Kaylee fits the new stabliser we will be able to take off but most of the night will be lost."

"Yeah but we'll be gone."

"Gone yes," River explained to Jayne "but not gone gone."

Jayne blinked. "Gone gone? What the *guai* does that mean?" He turned to glare at Simon. "You up her ruttin' meds?"

He shook his head. "River's not on any medication. She hasn't needed any for some time now."

Shepherd Book was curious. "River, what do you mean not gone gone?"

"We'll have taken off so gone from the planet but we'll still be in sight, visible. Not gone gone. With the end of night approaching people will be stirring, more likely Serenity will be seen."

"Yeah, but not for long."

"No, Jayne, you're missing the point. We can be smarter. Just seeing a ship take off won't necessarily make anyone too suspicious but if they see the hole under the fence it will arouse attention then someone is likely to link Serenity taking off with the break in."

"So how can we be smarter, little one?"

River beamed at Zoe. "When we come back under the fence we fill the hole in behind us. Cover our tracks."

Kaylee frowned. "But that'll take time."

"*Qu*, but not much and it will make everything look right. We also need to reconnect the cameras and the monitoring station."

"*Shenme*? We ain't got time for that kind of *fei hua*. We gotta be up an' away."

"I think I know where River is going with this, Jayne." The Shepherd calmed the big man down. "Why do you think it is necessary to be so careful, River?"

"This isn't a Core world but it is a key outpost. The monitoring station is part of an Alliance network, any problems raise the wrong kind of attention. But if power is interrupted then restored quickly it becomes a simple glitch, nothing to worry about. If it remains unconnected they send Alliance ships to check, soldiers and the eyes of more people looking in this direction than we can afford."

"An' people start puttin' two an' two together." Added Wash.

Simon looked impressed. "That's very clever, River."

"We do this right," said Book slowly "and they may not even know the junkyard had a break in." Kaylee grinned, eyes bright. Suddenly their risky venture was looking a whole lot more likely to succeed. And if they could do it without any of them getting shot or caught by the Alliance all the better. "Shiny!"

* * * * *

Despite her mixed feelings Inara was enjoying her time at the Abbey. Sendhil's calm acceptance of his situation was beginning to rub off on her and she had to admit he was obviously happy and at peace with himself. The only time he became upset or anxious was when he worried about her. It took a lot of soul searching before Inara was ready to admit to herself that she was being selfish but Sendhil understood.

They sat once more in the inner courtyard, the other monks automatically giving them the privacy they craved without making it too obvious. It was all so gentle, loving, orderly. It was nothing like Inara would have expected yet enough that to crave more would have shamed her. For a long time they sat in silence, quietly drinking in each other's company and savouring the luxury. After a while Sendhil took her hand in his and gazed into her eyes.

"You are very quiet, *jiejie*."

Inara smiled, the gentle curve of her lips lightening his heart. "Just *gaoxing*. I want to cherish every second we are together."

"Inara, *bao bei*, this is our last day. You must know that, *dui*?"

A flicker of pain marred the flawless beauty of her face. "*Qing*, let's not speak of parting. Not just yet."

"Very well, since it seems I can deny you nothing." They exchanged smiles. "I have told you of my life, *jiejie*, but I know so little of yours."

A flippant response rose to her lips but remained unspoken. The ascerbic and sometimes witty banter she shared with Mal had no place here. Sendhil's was a far gentler soul. "I am still a Companion."

"Not House Mistress yet then?" Her brother teased.

"*Bu qu* though for a time it was a distinct possibility."

Intrigued he peered at her intently. Inara found herself enjoying his undivided attention. It had been so long and she had missed him so much. "What happened?"

"I wanted to have more autonomy than House Madrassa could offer me."

His eyebrows rose. "You left the Guild?"

Her laughter was merry and bright as if the very idea were absurd but comically so. "No, I spread my wings."

"And to where did you fly, sister dear?"

"I hired a shuttle on a transport ship and as her Captain would say, I sailed the Black."

"Then you must tell me all your adventures!"

Inara could not hide her pleasure while trying not to make it too obvious. Sendhil watched her face light up, animated as she regaled him with tales so diverse and seemingly far fetched that had he not known her for the truthsome person she was he would have disbelieved her. Once Inara started to talk the stories tripped off her tongue to be greedily devoured by her brother's stunned ears. Captivated, he listened and let his rapt silence encourage her long into the night. At last Inara realised how late it was, the air cool where it had been warm, the lights of the Abbey shining into the tastefully illuminated courtyard. Inara looked shocked and a little self conscious. "*Duibuqi*, Sendhil, you should not have let me bore you."

He laughed. "You could never bore me, Inara. I just wish I could meet these colourful characters for myself."

"Who knows one day you may."

He shook his head, amusement in his eyes. "I think not." Sendhil glanced around at the Abbey. "Somehow I cannot see your ship's crew finding a home within these walls."

Inara laughed. "You are probably right though we do have a Shepherd on Serenity."

That surprised him. "You do?"

"His name is Shepherd Book, he came originally from Southdown Abbey."

Amazed he stared at her for a moment. "And what is a Shepherd doing on a ship full of smugglers?"

"Sendhil, they are not smugglers!" Inara paused and realising what she said coloured a little. "I mean, not all the time."

He laughed, a merry sound that fed her heart to overflowing with joy. "Then they are smugglers some of the time?"

"You are twisting my words."

They smiled at each other then Sendhil gave her a solemn look, the humour for the moment gone from his face. "Is it dangerous, Inara?"

She wanted to tell him of course not but Inara did not want the last words she spoke to her brother to be lies. "Sometimes. The Captain and his second both fought for the Independents during the War and finding work since has not been easy for them. They take what work they can transporting goods from place to place."

Sendhil looked at her for a moment or two in silence. "Are you happy, *jiejie*?" He whispered, his voice so soft and full of care that she had to resist the urge to cry.

"Most of the time."

Her answer brought a frown to his face and Inara rushed to explain, trying to make a joke of it.

"When the *baichi* of a Captain isn't driving me to dispair."

"That, Inara Serra, I would pay money to see! I have never met the man who could better you. Just be happy."

"*Wo ai ni*, Sendhil."

"*Wo ai ni ye, jie jie*." * * * * *

The broken bones had knitted together well and the bruises were long gone yet still from time to time he could not stop the trembling in his body. Echos of the trauma he had endured which muscle memory would not let him completely forget. It was funny how that memory always kicked in whenever she put in an appearance. He tried to appear relaxed and in control but it was a thin facade at best and they both knew it. She eyed him critically, tugging his vest down so that it was smooth and not rumpled. Tilting her head imperiously as she walked round him. He resisted the urge to fidget. When she completed her inspection she came to stand in front of him.

"Do not fail me for as much as you have suffered it would be as nothing compared to the agony I can inflict until every pore on your body is a weeping sore and death replaces every dream of Heaven, *dong ma*?"

He did not trust himself to speak, his throat closing up, knowing her words were not an idle threat. Nodding he waited until she turned and left, closing his eyes and not daring to take a steadying breath until he was sure the bane of his life had gone.

* * * * *

Persephone had been Badger's adopted home for a long time and it had been a wrench to leave but one thing he did not allow to interfere with his decisions was sentimentality. All that emotional *goushi* just fogged things up. So quickly his den was gutted of anything of value then he and his men dispersed. Each finding a separate hole to hide in, far far away from the storm that was coming. While Badger did not understand his mother's sudden involvement in his affairs part of him was grateful. He didn't want to die. Didn't want to be ripped from the livelihood he had clawed his way up through the sewers of life to attain. Would hang on to what he had with both hands until Death came calling and broke his fingers to take it off him. Only the longer that inevitability could be kept at bay the better he liked it.

It looked even shabbier empty than it had when it was occupied. A business location that always looked temporary, thrown together, rags and bits of timber cobbled together to keep out the rain and unfriendly or just curious eyes. When the storm came it could not stand up to a different kind of scrutiny. Anger tore down walls that though flimsy had stood for years. The two sallow faced men at the epicentre of the small whirlwind of activity made sure it was a meticulous search. They found the hidden safe. Empty, of course. The two men exchanged a look. Hollowed out cheeks in pale faces looked even more anaemic in their matching dark suits. Tall and thin and utterly without personalities of their own yet with a deadly air about them. One was slightly taller than the other and seemed older. He called himself Mr Morgan though that was not his real name. His colleague, Mr Evans, mentally catalogued all they saw. The first one's eyes hardened when the Alliance soldiers under their command reported that the place was as empty as it appeared.

"Sieze the terminals then raise the place to the ground."

The man nodded and within minutes the deed was done. As their sleek government vessel lifted off Mr Evans edged closer to Mr Morgan. "He must have been warned."

Morgan nodded but did not speak. They had experts who would strip every last bit of information from Badger's computers and terminals. Every contact, every wave and every twisted little secret that for now was out of their grasp. However long it took, nothing would prevent the net from closing around River and Simon Tam.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenjingbing* = crazy *shenme* = what *diyu* = hell *dong ma* = understand? *weishenme bu* = why not? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *fei hua* = garbage talk/nonsense *shen goushi* = deep crap/dog shit *jiejie* = sister (elder) *gaoxing* = happy *qing* = please *dui* = correct *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *duibuqi* = sorry *bao bei* = precious/treasure *baichi* = idiot *wo ai ni* = I love you *wo ai ni ye* = I love you too *goushi* = crap/dog shit *guai* = devil/ghost *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *yiwusuoyou* = nothing


Friday, June 13, 2008 3:36 AM


loved it - great caper planning, nice scenes with Inara and i could FEEL Mal's fatigue... smashing:)

Friday, June 13, 2008 3:49 AM


Agree with Wytch. Though, I LOVED the scene with her and her brother. It added so much to her character. And Mal, poor baby, doesn't quite like staying still, does he?


Friday, June 13, 2008 3:35 PM


Very interesting progression here! I'm eager to read more, as always!

Sunday, June 15, 2008 9:57 PM


I like the caper planning, and the conversation between Inara and Sendhil was very real. Concerned about the other character who we don't know yet ... And I think Mal probably knows how bad it is, and how much work will be needed - he's not 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.