DUPLICITY Series: 25. "Prime Movers"
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Inara discovers that regaining the crew's trust is going to be even harder than she imagined. The Captain drifts in and out of consciousness while Zoe tries to keep ship and crew one step ahead of their enemies."


TITLE: "PRIME MOVERS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "LIES, TRUTH, AND ALL PORTS IMBETWEEN". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Inara discovers that regaining the crew's trust is going to be even harder than she imagined. The Captain drifts in and out of consciousness while Zoe tries to keep ship and crew one step ahead of their enemies." 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

* * * * *

She could feel herself shaking in reaction. China Rose gulped down breath after breath until she managed to slow down the shuddering beat of her chaotic heart. What the *diyu* was the matter with her? Leaning against the cubicle she finished her ablutions, flushed the toilet and emerged into the rest room. The cold water was refreshing and helped to ground her as she washed her hands. Afterwards she stared at her reflection as if her mirror image could explain the unreasoning panic that had overcome her. A quiet click behind her made her turn her head, startled to see the man who had stopped her in the corridor now standing inside the ladies' restroom as if he had every right to be there.

"This is the ladies' restroom." She said without thinking. The stupidity of stating the obvious did not hit her immediately, her mind too numb to get beyond the possibility that the man had somehow made a mistake. He did not reply, nor smile, or offer any kind of explanation for being there. China would have stepped back but the row of sinks were behind her and he was blocking the only exit. Slowly he withdrew his hand from his pocket. She blinked. What was that and why was he wearing thin blue gloves? Before she could ask what was going on he pressed the side of a thin rod and she watched as two thinner rods emerged from either end. Her mind was fuzzy. Odd how even thinking had become an olympic event. China blinked, felt wetness on her cheek and a buzzing in her ears. Seemed as if the noise was coming from the inside of her head only that wasn't possible, was it? Slowly she raised a hand to her face and when she looked at her fingers the bright crimson shine did not connect in her brain.

Then she was falling. As China crumpled on the ground her last thought was: blood. Why was she bleeding? The man closed his device and returned it to his pocket. His expression was emotionless but he did not leave immediately. Crouching down beside the dead body he tilted his sallow face and reached out a gloved finger to touch and prod the skin around her right ear. It had started to peel back. Just a little. Most people would not have noticed but he was a trained observer, a man for whom detail was everything. The touch of his fingertip unwound the mask a little further. Satisfied that he had found the spy he straightened and went to the cleaner's cupboard. As he exited into the corridor he closed the door and left the 'out of order' sign swinging gently from the doorknob.

* * * * *

After Inara's wave Wash looked at the grim expression on his wife's face, not sure how this would play out. "She did sound sorry, *bao bei*."

Dear tender hearted Wash, always wanting to believe the best of people. Zoe knew better. "Cap'n said she told him she was a spy."

Wash tried to turn it into a joke, anything to lighten the leaden atmosphere. "Whacky fun, she was probably just teasin' him, you know how Inara likes to rile Mal. Fightin' an' bickerin' is what they do best."

Zoe did not look amused. "*Zhangfu*, how many spies tell the truth?"

The pilot shrugged, not liking the direction this conversation was going in. Zoe leaned on his console, her eyes not leaving his.


"You think Inara's lyin'?"

"Soundin' sincere ain't the same as bein' sincere, Wash. Lyin' is a Companion's stock in trade, as natural to them as breathin'. They lie to their clients, tell them what they want to hear. Flatter an' cajole."

He could see that he really could, but... "A spy?"

"Who better? Can't think of no one with easier access to folk at all levels of power an' I'm not just meanin' Alliance."

Wash's eyes widened. Zoe nodded, her words cold as ice.

"Durin' the War they milked both sides of the conflict."

A horrible thought began to take root in the back of Wash's mind. Just considering it made him feel sick. "What do you suppose she really wants?"

"Don't know an' don't care. Inara Serra is never gonna set foot on this ship again."

He was taken aback by his wife's uncompromising stance. "Isn't that a little... harsh?"

The first mate just stared at her husband, daring him to fault her logic. What was more disturbing for Wash was that he could not think of a single thing to say in Inara's defence. The Companion had left burning her bridges behind her. One of those bridges had been any store of trust his wife had in her. Sadly he wondered how long it would take their former friend to realise just how much she had lost in turning on Serenity's Captain.

* * * * *

Mistress Barbette breathed a sigh of relief when Dr Munroe finally arrived. The Core bred doctor was in his middle fifties and experienced enough to allow nothing to surprise him. He was also not given to a loose tongue. The House Mistress had met him several times and was grateful it was not one of the newer doctors, the young ones always did find it difficult to control their curiosity. Unfortunately that also meant they couldn't stop talking and speculating about the things they saw. Munroe's professionalism and discretion eased her concern at him being called out in the first place.

"What can you tell me?"

"He turned up at our door, asked to speak to me then collapsed."

The doctor did not so much as raise an eyebrow, his attention on the young man he was examining. Daniel Hunt stirred slightly but did not wake. It concerned the House Mistress more than she would willingly admit.


Her eyes narrowed in concern. "How bad is he?"

Dr Munroe huffed. "Given the amount of abuse he has obviously endured over a long period of time I am surprised he could walk sufficiently to make it to your door, Mistress Barbette." He did not ask her if she knew him and she volunteered no information beyond the obvious.

"Will he recover?"

The doctor sighed, his demeanour somewhat saddened. "He needs long term critical care, *dong ma*? But even with the finest medical attention much of the damage has already been done."

She flicked a worried glance from the still unconscious Daniel to the doctor. "Will he die?"

Dr Munroe looked up at her. "Tut, tut, no, no. Contrary to how he appears he is a strong one. I would guess this young man must have a will of iron to ignore the pain and stress on a body so traumatised. No. As foolish as he was to push himself this far that same obstinacy will also be his salvation." He paused and gave the House Mistress a not unkindly assessing look. "He will not be walking anywhere soon though. What he needs is bed rest and good food. Plenty of fruit and fresh vegetables and once he is feeling stronger a little exercise. Nothing too demanding."

It struck her that the doctor was assuming they would nurse him at House Madrassa. "Doctor, *ni bu dong*. This is a Guild House, we cannot care for him here."

His smile was as warm and knowing as it was unexpected. "Dear Lady, you have already been caring for him." Pausing his expression clouded. "To tell you the truth I am anxious not to move him, not even for the benefit of an intensive care unit."

The House Mistress paled. "He is that ill?"

Dr Munroe nodded. "Whoever did this to him did not expect him to be able to go far or perhaps survive much longer. You may want to consider informing the authorities."

She did not respond and he did not persue the matter. Carefully the doctor laid out the medication he would need and began to write instructions for how they should be administered and when. In silence the House Mistress watched and waited, not speaking again until Dr Munroe closed his medical bag.

"The poor man can hardly walk."

He nodded. "Ah yes, the club foot. Did you also notice how the bones were malformed in his legs and arms? I judge that almost every bone in his body has been broken at some time or other, some several times, and not once have they been allowed to knit properly."

"You think his parents are responsible?"

The doctor shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe he fell in with villains?"

"Or is trying to escape from them."

A small wry smile settled on the doctor's lips, his eyes twinkling softly. "I knew I would be leaving him in good hands."

"You will call in again?"

"Aye, once a day to start with. Call me if there is any deterioration. I have set up an iv and there are also some vitamins in fluid form along with the medication. Try to elevate his head and shoulders a little so that if any fluid starts to build up in his chest it will not affect his breathing. This other line is liquid morphine."

"He has pnuemonia?"

"*Bu qu* but it is not unusual for it to develop in cases like these. Keep him warm and feed him up. A good hearty broth and lots of fluids. Nothing solid until he is stronger."

"We will."

Then with her thanks ringing in his ears the doctor left. Mistress Barbette turned to look down at the man now well and truly handed into her care. Her lips flattened slightly. "You can open your eyes now, Daniel, the doctor has gone."

It took a moment or two then the quiet stuttered breathing evened out and heavy lids cracked open revealing sharp blue eyes. "How did you know?"

She took a seat beside the bed and gave a great sigh. "I have been a Companion all my life. We learn to read the body as accurately as we read between what is spoken and what is left unsaid."

He moved slightly, lines of pain tightening on his face with the effort but not a breath of complaint on his lips. "You came."

"You asked to see me."

The nod was barely there but she saw it, knew even that tiny motion had hurt him.

"Why are you here?"

Daniel Hunt took a moment to reply, as if he wanted to choose each word with care. Knowing that once spoken he could never take them back. The mere voicing of what he had to say would change the world they knew forever.

* * * * *

Simon fussed and hovered, anxious eyes flicking from monitor to patient and back again. In the corner of the infirmary River sat curled up in a chair, silent but watchful. A soft moan from the bed made Simon freeze, all his attention on the prone man. When the Captain showed signs of stirring Simon moved close, his voice modulated to ease and calm the man into waking. He knew he would be sluggish and still feel out of it but the heavy medication was necessary. "*Ni juede zenme yang le*, Captain?"

Mal swallowed slowly as if the roof of his mouth was stuck to his pallet. Simon eased a glass straw between the Captain's lips and let him take a small sip of water. The glass vanishing before he could take another. The Captain frowned slightly but even that little effort seemed to drain him. "*Bu tai shuali*. Where am I?"


It was amazing to watch how the man relaxed just at the reassurance that he was back on his ship.

"You've had a good deal of surgery Captain so should try to get some sleep."

"Huh? Didn't you just wake me up?"

A smile tugged at the corners of Simon's mouth. "*Duibuqi*, I didn't intend to. I was checking your condition."

"So how'm I doin', doc?"

"*Hen hao*."

"Am I gonna lose my legs?"

"*Shenme*? No, why would you think that?"

The Captain was having trouble keeping his eyes open. "Dunno, just can't feel 'em."

"Believe me Captain, right now that is a blessing." There was no reply. The Captain had passed out.

"Recover first, revenge later."

Simon's head snapped round, his eyes fastening on his sister's. "*Mei mei*, the Captain's in no condition to go anywhere."

Her eyes were wide and luminous. "Don't always have to go looking for it, Simon."

"What do you mean?"

She unwound gracefully from her chair. "Sometimes it comes to you."

Before he could question her further River walked out of the door leaving her brother to muse on what she had said.

* * * * *

The second wave from Inara came as no surprise. Zoe answering it did. "Cap'n said you're a spy. Seem to recall you agreein' with him."

"*Qu*. It's the reason I rented his shuttle to begin with."

Zoe's eyes narrowed dangerously, her body tensing.

"The Alliance was worried that Mal would be instrumental in fomenting a rebellion."

The first mate blinked. Tempted to laugh only what Inara said wasn't funny, just startled her was all. "You've seen how we live. Does it look like we're plannin' another War?"

"They weren't reassured when the Captain named his ship Serenity."

Zoe folded her arms across her chest and waited for Inara to get to the point.

"It didn't take long for me to realise that their fears were unfounded."

"So why didn't you leave, crawl back to your political masters?"

It was the sort of comment she would have expected from Mal. Hearing it from Zoe illustrated just how far she had fallen in the crew's regard. "I am not making this wave on anyone's behalf but my own. I owe the Captain the truth and an apology."

Zoe just stared at her, not sure what to make of Inara's assertion or even if this time she would be telling the truth. Inara Serra was a Companion. Lies and womanly wiles were her means of commerce, familiar tools of her trade. Was she trying to manipulate her now? Zoe didn't know and that decided her next actions. As much as she had once admired the Companion she couldn't afford to believe her now. With the Captain out of things for the forseeable future and the Alliance looking for them, the last thing they needed was to open their doors to a self confessed spy. Inara had said she would not rest until everyone reviled the Captain as much as she did. Was this another step in achieving that aim? If so, Zoe was not going to become an accomplice either knowingly or not.

"You still wanna speak to the Cap'n try again in a month or two. Or, if you really mean us no harm, *bu bi hua dianhua*."

Inara stared in shock as for the second time in as many hours the transmission was cut on her. She could not quite grasp what had happened. Hands tightening into fists her mind went from numb to angry then tumbled into a powerless dispair. Sagging back into her seat Inara stared at the darkened screen as she realised that no matter what she said Zoe would not believe her. Did Mal feel the same? Was that why she could not get him to answer a wave? And if she could not speak to him how could she apologise? How could she explain that they had *both* been manipulated?

Putting a trembling hand over her mouth, Inara felt the burn of tears as a surfeit of surpressed emotions rose to the surface. How could she have been so stupid as to think any of them would listen to her now? She should have shown Mal the footage when she had received that wave and demanded an explanation there and then. After all, she was a Companion and one look at his face would have told her the truth of it. But no. Anger and grief had blinded her and ruled her actions, lashing out before verifying the seemingly damning evidence. Now there was really no way to regain the ground she had lost.

* * * * *

"Why are you here?"

He did not pretend to misunderstand but took a few moments to collect his thoughts. As much as his body pained him it was the kind of agony that had become so routine that like a background noise he had learnt to shut it out. Unfortunately every so often his body would simply fail him. Like now. "To warn you."

Mistress Barbette stared at him. "*Ni shi shenme yisi*?"

"*Ni zhidao*."

She shook her head. "No, I don't."

"I was supposed to kill you."

The House Mother's eyebrows rose. Few things surprised her but the frank confession shocked her. Of all the would be assassins her mind could conjure Daniel James Hunt was the last person in this life who would ever make that list. "Is this some kind of joke?"

Daniel closed his eyes momentarily and waited for a fresh wave of pain to pass, when the sharp spike dulled to a throbbing ache he reopened weary eyes. "*Mei you shenme ke daxin de*. I never had any intention of carrying out the plan."

"Then why come here? You said it was to warn me but wouldn't that put your own life in danger?"

He began to chuckle then wished he hadn't, pain wracked his body choking off his air supply. Swiftly, Mistress Barbette raised the head of his bed and pressed the button to release some liquid morphine directly into his veins. After a moment his face slackened with relief. "As you see my life isn't exactly a bed of roses, Cyan."

"Is that what you think gives you the right to take liberties with my name?"

Her indignation amused him. "You know I will not survive the next few days."

"I know nothing of the sort!"

"*Wangu* to the last." He sighed.

The House Mother leaned forward, her eyes drilling into his as if to peel back layer upon layer of subterfuge and lies. "I do not know you yet you speak with a familiarity that you have not earned."

"Are you so blinded, *tangxiong*?"

She stared, heart rate skipping a beat as she swallowed slowly. "Cousin?"

"Your father hated his Uncle Solomon. The family turning his back on him, refusing to acknowledge any kinship. I am not surprised you do not recognise his son."

For several moments she could not speak. It was true, her father had hated his uncle refusing to allow his name to be spoken in his house but was Daniel really Solomon's son or was it a ruse, a way for him to inch his way beneath her armour, to gain her trust? "Yet you call yourself Hunt."

A cough turned ragged and conversation stopped while she gave him water. Just a little sipped through a glass straw. Nothing that he would choke on. For all her wariness she would not see him come to harm, at least by her hand, and especially not within the walls of the Guild House. He nodded and waited until the glass was set down on the small side table. "I took my mother's maiden name."

"Why are you in this condition? And don't tell me you were attacked on the way here, many of these injuries are old and appear to have been repeated over a period of years."

"*Fang xin*, it doesn't matter."

Her eyes narrowed and hardened. "If you expect me to listen to you then I want to know."

Suddenly he looked so small and weary, his emaciated body a shrunken mockery of a man. A skeleton in the making. "*Weishenme*?"

She leaned in as close as she could without actually touching. "Because if we are family then this goes beyond these walls and into the wider world, *dong ma*?"

He was silent so long that the House Mother feared she had pushed too far too soon. Shifting a little he stiffled a moan and began to explain. His voice a dull monotone, his story unfolding like some twisted horror story. By the time he had finished Mistress Barbette had no doubt that every word spoken was true. The ring of it resounded through his story like a bell. "Your mother did this to you?"

Daniel tried to smile but it came out as a grimace. "She was always loyal first to the Alliance."

"And you?"

Her softly spoken question softened his eyes for just a second. "I was always more Independent. Every time I spoke against my parent's blind faith in the government I was *corrected*. By the time I was old enough to fight I further inflamed them by stating my intention to join the Independent forces fighting for freedom from Alliance rule. My father broke most of the bones in my body and do you know what he said?"

Mistress Barbette shook her head.

"He said if I could walk out the door he'd let me go." Daniel paused, his eyes sad. "I couldn't stand up let alone walk so I crawled. Inch by painful inch. Each time I forced motion into my broken body my father would strike out and hit me like I was a bug to be squashed underfoot. After he died my mother took over where he left off."

"*Wode duibuqi*."

He blinked, surprised. "What are you sorry for? You didn't even know I existed."

"No one deserves to be treated like that."

"Which is why you don't deserve what's coming."

There. He had said it. They were back to square one. "I think it's time you told me everything, Daniel."

He could not nod, so by way of agreement he softly cleared his throat and began.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dong ma* = understand? *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *diyu* = hell *ni juede zenme yang le* = how are you feeling? *bu tai shuali* = not too smooth *duibuqi* = sorry *hen hao* = very good *shenme* = what *qu* = yes (lit. go) *mei mei* = little sister *bu bi hua dianhua* = don't bother calling back *ni shi shenme yisi* = what do you mean? *ni zhidao* = you know *mei you shenme ke daxin de* = there's nothing to worry about *wangu* = stubborn *tangxiong* = cousin (son of father's brother) *weishenme* = why *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *wode duibuqi* = I'm sorry


Wednesday, August 20, 2008 11:00 PM


An interesting chapter. I feel sorry for Inara, but she has made her own bed, and at least for the moment she has to lie on it. Not sure what Mal's going to say when he finds out she's been trying to contact him, though. As for killing China Rose ... I'm not sure where all this is heading, but it's an interesting ride!

Thursday, August 21, 2008 3:40 AM


Still most intrigued as to how these story threads are being woven together. Very interesting!

Thursday, August 21, 2008 10:58 AM


Wow! This ride sure takes some twists and turns. Well, I am impressed at how you keep all your threads straight and Inara is going to have explaining to do when she finally gets in contact with Mal. Nicely done and ready for the next one!!


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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.

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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.

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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.

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Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

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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.