DUPLICITY Series: 24. "Lies, Truth, And All Ports Imbetween"
Sunday, August 17, 2008

"Badger is frustrated by his confinement. The operation is stepped up in a race against time to get the Captain in a condition where he can return to Serenity. Parliament discovers they have a spy in their midst."


TITLE: "LIES, TRUTH, AND ALL PORTS IMBETWEEN" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "THE HEART DOES NOT GRIEVE". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Badger is frustrated by his confinement. The operation is stepped up in a race against time to get the Captain in a condition where he can return to Serenity. Parliament discovers they have a spy in their midst." 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

* * * * *

Badger stared at his mother. A mix of emotions churning inside him. "You sayin' I gotta stay shut up in this room?"

Her eyes narrowed, Cyan Nicole Barbette found herself once again reviewing her sanity in helping her son out of his predicament. An act that she was sure she would pay for time and time again. Always supposing she lived through her folly. But what was done was done. "*Qu*. It is too dangerous."

"For who?"

"Stephen, do not forget who is after you. They have eyes and ears everywhere, *dong ma*?"

His voice dropped to a whisper. "Even here?"

"Especially here."

Closing his mouth Badger felt his heartbeat increase and fought to keep a steady and calm countenance but knew his mother saw right through him. "Then I have to go, I have to..."

Patience snapping, Mistress Barbette closed the distance between them and hissed angrily in his face. "You have to do as you are told! I have risked a great deal to aid you and once my part in doing so is discovered my life will be forfeit, *ni dongle ma*?"

He stared at her. Realisation hitting him hard that every word she said was true. It shouldn't have shaken him so but it did. They had never been close but now he was seeing a side to her that made him rethink everything he thought he knew about the distant and haughty woman who had once given birth to him. It was on the tip of his tongue to make a smart comment but the part of him committed to the life long passion of self preservation kept him silent. After a moment or two he nodded to show he understood. "*Wode duibuqi, muqin*, just ain't used to all this maternal concern. Been alone too long, see?"

Mistress Barbette sighed, she did see. More than Badger evidentally realised. To his surprise his mother sat on the bed next to him, her tone dropping. Automatically he found himself paying close attention to her every word. A trick he had never acquired his own self, being too impatient to master his own emotions. "There is also a further complication, my son."

He blinked, not sure what could further complicate the *shen goushi* he found himself up to his gorram neck in. "What complication?"

She stared him straight in the eye, her dark brown eyes locking on to his. "A stranger has been taken into this house while I was away."

"*Moshengren*? Thought this was a whore house not a hotel?"

"He was injured, barely conscious and asking to speak to me when he collapsed."

Now his eyes narrowed, a feeling of dread creeping down his spine. "Who is he? Alliance?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*. No one I recognised."

"What's 'is name?"

She just stared at him as if he was stupid. Irritated he snapped at her.

"Might know 'im is all." His lips twisted as he spoke. "You gonna tell me or is this another little secret you're gonna keep from me?"

Her eyes flashed, the sparks warning him that he was pretty much relying on her for everything from giving him a place to hide, to food and a possible means out of this nightmare. But Badger was never one for holding his tongue long when something was on his mind.

"No one you know."

Badger didn't like the sound of that. "'An 'ow would you know? You gorram psychic all of a sudden?"

"Just take my word for it, Stephen, and restrict yourself to these rooms *dong ma*?"

Alarm shot through him when she stood up. "Where you goin'?"

"As House Mistress I have many duties plus I also need to find a way to get you to more permanent safety."

His heart sank, oddly bereft at the thought that she couldn't wait to send him away.



"I wouldn't be doing any of this if you meant nothing to me."

"Could be just words."

"Words don't risk bullets, imprisonment and violent death."

He had to admit she had him there. His shrug was awkward, the nearest thing to an apology that he could manage. Badger watched her go to the door, speaking softly just before her hand wrapped around the doorknob. "*Xie xie ni*." He paused awkwardly. "I am grateful y'know, just, ain't used to no one carin', see."

A small smile settled on austere lips, this time it reached her eyes. "I always cared, Stephen. I just didn't know how to show it."

Then she was gone and he was left staring, stupified, at the closed door.

* * * * *

The files delivered to the right office, China Rose made a small detour. If stopped she would say she was going to the ladies restroom. It just so happened to be on the way to the Chairman of the Oversight Committee's office. Oddly enough, she felt naked not carrying anything. As if having something in her hand made her presence anywhere in the Parliament building official. It was stupid. A mental caveat that underlined how nervous this whole situation was making her. She had to keep it together. So far things were going pretty much as she predicted but she had to know what the Chairman's latest meeting was about before she went back to her office and completed her day's work. Who was in that room with him? What were they discussing? How would it impact on her efforts to keep Paul out of their clutches and complete their mission?

A door creaked open at the end of the corridor and an unreasoning burst of fear almost rooted her to the spot. This was ridiculous. She worked here, had every right to be in this hallway. Trying hard not to show any sign of nervousness, China decided perhaps it would be best to actually continue walking and go the ladies restroom. She would then have to come past the Chairman's office on her way back to the secretarial wing where she worked. As she past the Chairman's door she heard soft murmuring behind the thick wooden panneling. Her ears pricked up but nothing was distinguishable. Passing the next door she could now see a tall lank figure in a suit walking towards her from the far end of the corridor. Fear trebled her heart rate. This was stupid, why was she so frightened? It was just one of the many faceless people who worked in the Parliamentary building to help oil the great Alliance machine that ran the Union of Allied Planets.

As he drew nearer she felt her mouth go dry. The man was not remarkable. A thin sallow faced gentleman of indeterminate age. His face was pale and pasty as if he did not enjoy the best of health, his cheeks drawn, eyes too bright but not suspiciously so. She felt herself begin to breathe more easily. He was obviously a clerk of some kind, the ubiquitous business suit, white shirt and black tie a uniform in itself. Only he was not one she recognised. China Rose was wondering whether to give him a nod in passing or simply ignore the man when he stopped a couple of feet in front of her. Startled she was forced to look up. The man was just over six feet tall and towered over her. A look of polite interest plastered on her face she was about to smile then realised this man did not look the kind interested in simple pleasantries.

"Can I help you, *shifu*?"

There was no expression on the man's elongated face. "What are you doing in this corridor?"

Her eyebrows rose. He was not being rude but the abruptness of the question raised her hackles. Calming herself, China gave a small frosty smile. "I work across the hall but need to go to the ladies restroom."

His nod was so slight as to be almost non-existence. "Your job?"

It did not occur to her to ask who he was or what right he had to question her. Something about the man's manner instilled the need to answer his questions. "I am a clerical assistant to Mr Drummond. I was taking the minutes of an earlier meeting and some files he needed to Mr Bristow's department."

"There are facilites in your wing."

She nodded. "Yes, *shifu*, but I was already over here so wanted to use the ones here before going back to my office."

Dark eyes narrowed slowly, a measuring look that made her feel uncomfortable and mildly intimidated. What was wrong with her? Everyone knew the bosses in this building were paranoid, she should have expected to be challenged especially by someone who so clearly did not recognise her. "Also," the man added slowly as if moving in for the kill "those details should have been passed electronically. There was no need for you to physically pass copies on."

Now she did smile, more sure of herself. "That is of course our normal practice but there has been a fault with the equipment and Mr Drummond was anxious that there be no delay. He insisted they be delivered personally."

"I do not know of any fault. What is your name?"

China Rose told him and produced her identification. He seemed to examine it for much longer than was necessary. She was determined not to panic but could already feel the sweat begin to pool in the palms of her hands. "You have been with us for three years?"


"Where were you before?"

China listed her previous appointments. The man did not hand back her ID. Suddenly it felt like the height of foolishness to come back after recovering Paul. But it was too late to have any regrets. Besides, what was one more officious official? If the plan worked he would be just one more casualty on the periphery of their main objective. Only right now she was the one being eyed with suspicion. As she answered every question without pause or any attempt to deviate from what was requested, she saw the man begin to look bored. He handed her back her identification and gave a small tight nod. "Please, continue."

Too relieved to want to prolong the conversation China nodded back. "*Xie xie ni, shifu*."

As she walked past China did not look back. Had she done so she would have been alarmed to note the way the man's eyes followed her. The look sharpening as he stared at her face as she passed. Reaching the rest room had never felt more like an escape from a fate worse than death. Taking a moment to catch her breath, China paused with her hand on the doorknob then turned it and went inside. She found she really needed to use the facilities after all.

* * * * *

Zoe hated this. It was taking too long but she could not deny that the equipment and expertise available at the Tams' hospital were better than anything they could hope to find in the Black. Plus Dr Foss had said this last operation would finish the tricky work of rebuilding the Captain's kneecaps and adding muscle mass, tendons and reconnecting viens to keep the flow of blood uninterrupted while nature took over the healing process. As she understood it, he would be a long time in recovery and needing long term physiotherapy and monitoring before the operations could be classed a complete success. It made her anxious. Nervous. The enforced wait making her feel like a butterfly pinned to a display case where any Alliance *wangba dan* could just walk in and take her and the rest into custody. So it was with a great sense of relief that Dr Foss finally informed them that the Captain was ready to be moved to Serenity.

Simon hovered while his father carefully made up a medical care package to accompany them. For a moment it had looked as if Dr Foss was going to ask to accompany them and such was the crew's gratitude Simon thought they would have actually accepted, but the moment passed almost as quickly as it had flickered over the man's face. River told them the cameras would give them 24 hours before anyone monitoring the feed would get suspicious. Jayne didn't care, he just wanted off this eerie-assed world. Place gave him the creeps. Kaylee wished they didn't always have to be on the run or keeping under the gorram radar. Would be nice to be able to take their time and have a good wander around like normal folk but if the others said it wasn't safe then that was that.

Once they had the Captain on board Simon felt awkward, part of him eager to lift off and get deep into the Black but part of him not wanting to leave his parents behind. River summed up how he was feeling.

"Come with us. We have room and can take you anywhere you want to go."

Regan gave her daughter a hug then kissed her brow, unshed tears in her eyes. "We can't, *xin gan*. This is your world not ours."

"It can be yours too." Added Simon.

Kaylee squeezed his hand, happy that the siblings had at last made peace with their parents. Gabriel Tam hugged his daughter close then kissed her cheek as he drew back. "Just be safe, that's all we ask."

Still Simon could not quite let go. "What about you?"

Regan frowned. "*Shenme*?"

Simon swallowed then indicated back in the direction of their hospital. "Won't you get into trouble for helping us?"

"You're our children, you and River. We will just act dumb about anything else."


It was River who cut her brother off. "We have to go." Her voice was soft, apologetic even. He could see the tears rolling silently down his sister's cheeks and knew this was hard for her as well. "No time for discussion."

"What about the Alliance?"

She shook her head. "They don't want them, just us."

"You mean if we are gone..."

"They won't stay. Safer for all of us."

Regan was crying openly now. It was so hard after all that time without contact and then the guilt and distress of discovering that the Alliance they had so blindly trusted had betrayed them. To let go was the hardest thing she had ever done. But she loved them so much and this was the only way she could show them. River went to her mother and hugged her one last time, a gentle smile on her face. "Be happy for us."

"We'll miss you."

"We'll miss you too, *muqin*, but Captain Daddy will look after us."

She stared at River for a moment, not quite comprehending. Embarrassed, Simon explained. "It's what she calls Captain Reynolds. He took us in, protected us, gave us a home."

Gabriel Tam looked uncomfortable. Dr Foss left them to their goodbyes, knowing when a moment was too private for anyone outside of the family. Jayne and Book carried the Captain towards the ship on a stretcher, Zoe holding a pole with a bag of plasma hanging on a hook. Kaylee following in their wake with the box of extra medical supplies. Mr Tam tried not to be jealous. "You mean he did what I should have?"

"This isn't about blame." Simon said. "The past is past."

His look was sharp. "Is it?"

Simon nodded. "*Qu*, unless you wish to report us to the authorities?" A look of pain flickered over his father's face and Simon felt a stab of shame.

"*Wode duibuqi*, I shouldn't have said that."

"Yes, you should. I deserved that and more. I should have listened to you."

River tugged at Simon's hand. "Have to go now Simon, *mashang*."

His eyes widened. Didn't they have 24 hours? River shook her head.

"Someone moved the clock forward, *women dei zou le*."

Before Simon could say anything in response his mother gave him a quick hug and kissed his cheek. "Go now, Simon, and remember whatever happens we love you."

Gabriel clapped a hand on his shoulder and told him to hurry. Then everything was a blur, River half cajoling, half dragging him to the aging Firefly. Their goodbyes called to each other as the distance between them grew. River not pausing even on the ship's ramp but hitting the button the moment they were just inside. Regan sniffed and couldn't stop the tears rolling down her face, Gabriel moving close enough to wrap an arm around his wife's shoulders as they watched the ship lift off the ground. They stood in the cool evening air, a stiff breeze rifling their hair. Watching until the transport ship was lost to view. Regan turned her head, her eyes shining with tears. "Do you think we'll ever see them again?"

He tried to be brave for her. Confident and strong but even as he answered his voice broke. "If there really is a God in Heaven, yes I do."

* * * * *

Paul Rinkman couldn't help it. Being cooped up while his wife had gone back to that oh so cultured den of thieves was killing him. Gillion watched without a word, knew nothing he said would reassure or calm the man down. Truth be told he didn't like it either but when you were part of the Underground you learnt to follow orders without question. You left the arguments and hesitation behind you otherwise the whole gorram network would fall apart at the seams. Once you let fears and worries eat at your confidence orders became shaky concepts hard to grip in the mind and even harder to adhere to. They were disciplined and unbending, their commitment to the cause unyielding. Paul should know that better than most but he was still slowly reintegrating his original memories with the current ones. You couldn't wave a magic wand and make him whole in the blink of an eye.

"What's takin' so ruttin' long?"

Gillion shrugged and lit the gas under the kettle. "It takes as long as it takes."

Paul spun round and glared at him. "How can you say that?"

"Because we've all been in this position. You know that or you will when you remember."

"I...I do. Remember that is. Flashes, some complete, others fragments." He paused and gave Gillion a sober look. "You've killed for me."

"Nothin' you ain't done for the rest of us."

"Wish I could know for sure..."

"Know what?"

"I don't blame you, any of you, but I feel as if I was born this mornin'. These flashes? Could be dreams, nightmares, wishes, whatever. Until I can reach out and touch what I think is true it just doesn't seem real."

"It will, just give it time."

With a sigh Paul took a seat at the table and tried to clear his mind. Gillion let him be, the quieter the boy was the quicker he would adapt to the returning memories. The easier it would be for them to slot into place and make sense in his reckoning of the timeline. It wouldn't be long now if he was any judge. Paul was getting snatches, would quiz Gillion about incidents from the past, each time colouring in more details himself without having to ask first. Now he was starting questions which he aborted halfway through as the answers painted themselves inside his head. It was kind of creepifying but also reassuring. As the trickle became a flood Gillion began to relax, the surety of the man before him grounding them both. Two hours later everything had clicked into place.

"*Wo jide*."

Gillion smiled. "Knew you would."

"Alliance are huntin' down the ones that got away."

"Figured as much."

Both men were serious now, a deep darkening gloom descending on them. "How many are still at large?"

Gillion sucked his teeth for a moment. "Five, maybe six."


"One of our more successful extractions."

Paul frowned, not seeing how being a fugitive from the Alliance was a plus sign. "How so?"

"Got herself a pile of people to help her now."

That at least was a surprise. "Oh? *Shei*?" "You ever hear of Malcolm Reynolds?"

"What? The Browncoat?"

His friend chuckled. "Yeah, as good a description as any on'y now he's got a ship. Firefly class, called it Serenity would you believe?"

"After the battle?"

"Uh huh, the big one they lost. Go figure."

"What's he got to do with River Tam?"

"After you got word to her brother he got her out, they ended up on Reynolds' ship. Far as I can tell they're still there."

Paul whistled. "Either that Browncoat's a *chunren* or *shenjingbing*."

"Way I heard it he's equal parts both." At Paul's horrified look Gillion laughed outright. "*Fang xin*, he's got no love for the Alliance. Reckon that was enough of a reason for him to take 'em on."

"Still, a man would have to be insane to take on such a burden."

Gillion gave his friend a fond look. "You did."

The man huffed and resisted the urge to look at his watch for the hundredth time. "I have a team behind me."

"So does Reynolds."

"Yeah, well, I'd be happier knowin' those siblings were worlds away from this system."

"*Ni bu dong*, my friend."


"There is no world away from this system."

On that bleak note both men fell silent, lost in their thoughts.

* * * * *

No one breathed properly until Serenity hit atmo, even then Wash was limiting his intake and out take of breath as if he expected at any moment that they would vent oxygen. The firm steps coming up onto the bridge steadied his thoughts, Zoe's hand coming to rest on his shoulder and calming him better than anything else he could imagine.

"Anyone followin' us, *zhangfu*?"

"Not so far as I can tell, *bao bei*."

"No waves?"

He shook his head then flashed a grin back at her. "Not a one."

She nodded and squeezed his shoulder before letting go. "Let's keep it that way, *dong ma*?"

As she headed off to the infirmary to check on the Captain, Wash called her back. Turning swiftly she hurried back to the bridge. "*Shenme shi*?"

"We've got a wave comin' in."

Zoe frowned and wished she hadn't mentioned waves a second or so before. Hoping she hadn't jinxed their luck she held her breath. "Who is it?"

Wash adjusted their incoming feed looking for a cortex address. His expression lightened a little. "It's from Sihnon."

"The Guild House?"

He took a moment to look for confirmation then shook his head, a slight frown on his face. "*Bu qu*."

The first mate hesitated. It could be Inara but after the way she had left how likely was that? Besides, wouldn't she be calling from House Madrassa? Wash gave her a look, waiting for his wife to make a decision one way or another. Zoe took a breath and nodded. After all, there was only one way to be sure. "Put it through."

The cortex flickered for a second then Inara's face came up on the screen. Wash and Zoe stared at her in surprise. "Wash, where are you? I've been trying to reach Serenity all day."

Zoe leaned over the pilot's shoulder to speak before her husband could answer. "Depends on why you wanna know."

A slight flush swept over Inara's face. Mystified as to the cause Zoe waited. Wash mouthed 'this should be good'.

"I need to speak to Mal, *mashang*."

Zoe frowned. "Don't think that's such a good idea, Inara."

"*Ni bu dong*, I made a mistake."

"You just figurin' that out now?"

Inara tried to ignore the bitterness in the first mate's voice. "*Qing*, Zoe, this is *hen zhongyao*."

Zoe and Wash exchanged a look. "What do you think, *zhangfu*? Can we trust this traitor not to stab us in the back?"

Wash cut a glance at the screen in time to see Inara wince. She certainly did look contrite, worried even. In the end he didn't have it in him to stay mad at Inara. "Might as well hear what she has to say."

"Okay, you got five minutes."

When Zoe made no move to get the Captain, Inara frowned. "I said I wanted to speak to the Captain, Zoe."

"An' I gave you five minutes. Either you tell us why or this conversation is over, *dong ma*?"

The Companion took a deep steadying breath. It seemed no one was going to make this easier for her. But she had been wrong and knowing what she now did her pride was the least of her worries. "What I'm about to tell you is going to sound fantastic but I assure you it's true. If Mal let's me return to Serenity I can prove it."

Zoe said nothing, just stared at her. Face like stone. Waiting. Inara took her courage in both hands and decided she had better start at the beginning.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*qu* = yes (lit. go) *dong ma* = understand? *ni dongle ma* = do you understand? *wode duibuqi* = I'm sorry *muqin* = mother shen goushi = a lot of crap/deep shit *moshengren* = stranger *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *xie xie ni* = thank you *shifu* = sir *wangba dan* = fucking bastard *xin gan* = sweetheart *shenme* = what *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *women dei zou le* = we've got to leave *wo jide* = I remember *shei* = who *chunren* = a fool/jerk *shenjingbing* = crazy *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *zhangfu* = husband qing = please *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *bao bei* = precious/treasure *hen zhongyao* = important *shenme shi* = what's the matter?


Sunday, August 17, 2008 1:57 PM


Very interesting how you are weaving all your plot lines together. Hoping for a happy ending!

Sunday, August 17, 2008 4:42 PM


You are such a wonderful writer, especially when it comes to 'weaving' your plots and characters into this tapestry. It is so awesome waiting for the next twist in the plot.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 10:59 PM


But how is Inara going to react when she finds out Mal was so seriously injured? Like the others, I want to see where all the plotlines are headed!


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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.