DUPLICITY Series: 26. "The Circle Broken"
Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Zoe informs the crew of Inara's efforts to contact them and shares some information with Simon which causes him more than a little consternation and concern."


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

SUMMARY: "Zoe informs the crew of Inara's efforts to contact them and shares some information with Simon which causes him more than a little consternation and concern." 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

* * * * *

Kaylee's eyes widened, a spark of hope taking root. "'Nara called?"

Zoe's expression was grim. Everyone had gathered in the commons room at her call, Simon reluctantly leaving the sleeping Captain to join them. "She did. Twice."

The mechanic's euphoria reined back a notch, confusion creeping into her face as what Zoe said sank in. "Twice?"

"The first wave was about an hour ago. Had a short conversation - cut her off. She contacted us again a few minutes ago."

It was obvious that the crew did not know what to think. Kaylee recovered first. "Why'd ya cut 'Nara off?"

Eyes narrowing, the first mate's expression hardened. "You forgettin' how she left, what she said?"

"No, but..."

Shepherd Book interrupted. "What did Inara want?"

"To speak to the Cap'n, apologise an' come back to Serenity."

A look of relief swept across Kaylee's face. "See? Told ya there had to be some mistake."


Startled the young girl stared at the first mate, not knowing why she was suddenly so angry with her. "*Shenme*? Just sayin' is all..."

"No, you're makin' excuses for her."

"No, I was..."

"*Bi zui*! Truth of the matter is Inara was here to spy on us, or rather the Cap'n. Before you say another thing in her defence Kaylee you best decide where your loyalties lie."

The tension in the room increased ten fold, looks exchanged among the crew as if waiting to see who would risk Zoe's wrath. Wash wanted to reassure Kaylee but his wife was right. As much as it pained him to admit it he could not see how they could really trust having Inara back on Serenity, though that decision would ultimately lie with the Captain.

"Could be we're not seein' the whole picture." Said Book after a few moments of silence.

Kaylee looked close to tears. "Don't see why you're bein' so mean to 'Nara."

Taking a deep breath to calm down enough to speak, Zoe gave all the explanation she was going to. "Inara ain't the innocent in all of this, Kaylee. She owned up to her part in bein' here an' her intention to bring harm to the Cap'n usin' us to isolate him. Ended up with her leavin'. Not sayin' I wasn't taken in as much as anyone but consider this. Inara is a self confessed spy for the Alliance. She used her Companion trainin' to make friends of this crew, some more under her spell than others. Could'a contacted us any time before now to put the record straight if there was any straightenin' to be done. Ask yourselves this: so why contact us now? Why would an agent of the Alliance want to know where Serenity is an' try to work her way back in our favour at the very time we had to flee Osiris out from under the noses of the Alliance?"

Simon's breath caught. Zoe was right but it gave him no pleasure to see the utterly miserable look on Kaylee's face. If anything, the first mate's expression became even grimmer. "Don't have the luxury of droppin' our guard a second time. Alliance catches us we not only lose the Cap'n, we lose Simon an' River too. Probably find the rest of us spendin' the rest of our lives in some remote Alliance *jianyu* an' Serenity seized an' broken up for scrap."

No one spoke. They didn't need to. Zoe swept her gaze over each and every crew member looking for any sign of dissent. Even Kaylee was quiet now but more disturbingly, River Tam had not said a word during the whole impromptu meeting. For some reason that felt more wrong than anything else. "River, do you have anythin' to say?"

All eyes turned to the Reader. Her expression was sad. "She knew we wouldn't believe her but had to try."

Jayne huffed. "Huh, she think we're *bendan*?"

The girl shook her head. "*Bu qu*, just doesn't know where to turn."

"River, is Inara in trouble?" Asked Book.

"Not how you think. Knows it's her fault and doesn't know how to fix it."

"Yeah, well I say good riddance. Least we can clean the smell outta the shuttle an' maybe rent it out. Make some cashy money."

Everyone stared at Jayne. He frowned.

"*Shenme*? Ain't like you weren't all thinkin' the same."

Simon shook his head. "How do you even manage to form sentences? Really, it's a mystery."

The big man began to get angry but Zoe stepped in before things could turn violent. "The shuttle doesn't need cleanin' out, you know that smell is incense Jayne so don't pretend otherwise but we can't rent it out either."

"*Weishenme bu, bao bei*?"

She gave a sigh. "We've already taken one spy unknowingly on board, do you really want to risk another Wash?"

His throat closed up and he shook his head.

Zoe nodded and everyone started to break up, Kaylee pausing to look at the first mate before heading for the engine room. Her eyes suspiciously wet and puffy though she had wiped her face with her hands. "You're wrong 'bout 'Nara."

"Wish I was but we can't take the chance, *dong ma*?"

Kaylee nodded. She understood, she really did, but the knowing of it didn't bring her a lick of comfort. Simon waved a hand towards the door. "I need to get back to the infirmary. The Captain should be regaining consciousness soon."

"*Deng*. Kaylee, I'd like you to sit with the Cap'n a while. Need to speak to Simon a moment."

The mechanic nodded and left to do just that, River tagging along behind her. Wash hurried back to the bridge and Jayne mumbled about going to do some lifts, the Shepherd falling into step behind him to spot him. Soon the only ones in the commons room were Zoe and Simon.

"What did you need to speak to me about?"

Automatically lowering her voice, Zoe moved to the seated area just off the commons room. Simon followed as if he was on a piece of string. "How much do you know about Dr Foss?"

The question halted him in his tracks. "*What*?"

"Dr Foss." Zoe crossed her arms and stared at him, biting back her impatience. Not wanting to raise her voice and draw any of their curious crew back into the room. "Simple question Simon."

"I uh, never met him before my father called him. *Weishenme*?"

"So you'd never heard of him before?"

"No, I didn't say that. I've heard of him, *dang ran*, I'm just curious as to why you are asking."

Her expression looked pained and for a moment a spike of fear sent little shock waves rippling through his body even though he had no reason to expect bad news. It just seemed to follow this ship and crew around like a curse. "Did some diggin', Simon. Was wonderin' about that warnin' he gave us, the Alliance havin' people on the way an' his order to delay the operations for three days 'til they could get to us."

Simon nodded, his anxiety lessening. "We were lucky. He's a good man."

If anything, Zoe's expression actually hardened a touch. "Those two sentences don't necessarily go together, Simon."

For a moment he just stared at her. "What are you saying?"

"Think you'd better sit down."

"No, I'll stand if it's all the same to you."

"Dr Foss left before we did, Simon."

"*Wo zhidao*. I'm just grateful he could help us as much as he did."

"Oh, he helped more than that."

Simon's eyes widened as Zoe explained. The more he heard the less he understood. Without realising he had done so, Simon sank into an armchair, Zoe taking the sofa and watching his reaction. Slowly the blood drained out of Simon Tam's face. "*Wode ma*! Who else knows?"

She shook her head. "No one else for now though it's possible your sister has an inklin'."

"Did she tell you...?"

Another headshake. "*Bu qu*."

"Then how did you find out?"

"I know people who know people."

His eyebrows rose at the cryptic reply. A ghost of a smile flickered on her face and like a guttering candle flame winked out.

"Shepherd Book used his connections."

"I don't know what to say."

"Somethin' just didn't feel right but I couldn't my finger on it. Then when we were leavin' I remembered him slippin' away. Didn't think much of it at the time but you know how a thing can niggle at the back of your mind? Shepherd noticed I was distracted an' asked what was wrong, when I told him he offered to see what he could find out."

Simon was so stunned it took him a moment for his thoughts to progress beyond his intital shock. When they did he sprang to his feet, a look of alarm on his face. "*Tianna*, my parents! I have to warn them!"

Placing a surprisingly gentle hand on his arm, Zoe urged him to sit down again. "*Fang xin*, already got that covered."

He was dazed. "You have?"

"Book has connections to a monastery on the West side of Osiris..."

"*Qu*, I know it."

"They are sendin' word an' a little more practical help than we can do."

His look became suspicious. "What kind of help?"

She patted his arm and stood up, Simon automatically doing the same. "The less you know the better."

"Why can't I know?"

"Trust me to do the right thing, *dong ma*?"

An irritated look settled on his face. "Now you sound like the Captain."

That produced a genuine smile. It struck Simon that it was the first he had seen on her face since everything had gone to *goushi*. "Right now I'll take that as a compliment. An' Simon?"


"This is just between us for now."

He wanted to argue, to say that everyone deserved to know but he knew Zoe was just trying to protect them. That the normally reticent first mate had told him this much should have been reassuring but watching her leave he could not help wondering what other fun little surprises the 'verse had in store for them.

* * * * *

Paul Rinkman glared at Gillion. "What do you mean it's gone?"

His friend looked apologetic and more concerned than Paul had seen in a long time. "We're not pickin' up her transmitter no more."

"Could it be broken?"

'Only if she was' Gillion thought, though he did not voice that possibility to her distraught husband. "Unlikely."

"Maybe she's in a part of the buildin' that's shielded?"

"It's possible but..."

Anger flashed in Paul's eyes, annoyed that Gillion seemed to be giving up hope. "The Parliament building is a maze an' you know it. Full of secret passages an' so on, they probably have all kinds of hidden rooms an' chambers an'.."

"Paul. The transmitter is cuttin' edge. It doesn't work on ordinary radio waves. Just bein' in a basement wouldn't block the signal."

"What if it's lined with..."

Gillion held up a hand. They had been talking about this for over an hour now and he was weary, holding back a wall of grief of his own. "The transitter has one other function." He added quietly.

It was the oddness of his friend's tone that made Paul's look sharpen. "What function?"

Gillion whet his lips, suddenly nervous of being the one to have to tell him. "If for any reason the carrier dies the transmitter sends a last short burst before self destructin'."

"Are you sayin'..." Paul could not complete the sentence. His hands were trembling and his legs had turned to rubber. He sat before he fell.

"Picked it up an hour ago."

Paul rubbed a hand over his face. "She could still be..."

"*Bu qu*."

"Nothin's foolproof Gillion, there has to be a way."

"*Wode duibuqi*, we've lost her."

"I won't believe it until I see her body, *dong ma*?"

Now his friend looked sick. "There won't be a body."

The whisper might as well have been a shout for all the impact it had on Paul Rinkman. "What do you mean?"

"It's a failsafe. We all have them."

Paul began to shake his head but Gillion interrupted him.

"You too."

"*Shenme*? I didn't give my permission..."

"Yes, you did. Implied not implicit. Every transmitter has the same protocols. Once severely compromised as in the death of the carrier the transmitter self destructs but also sets off a rather unique chain reaction which basically causes the breakdown of the physical body."

"*Shangdi*, that's grotesque."

"Yes, it is, but better than havin' the Alliance technicians dissect the bodies of our loved ones lookin' for clues."

Paul stared at him, really stared. It was as if he was seeing the man for the first time in his life. "Clues?"

Gillion nodded. "Yeah. Without the final protocol it's possible the techs at Blue Sun could use our own tecnology to find us. If they were to do that no cell would be safe. The Underground could, for once and all, be completely crushed."

After a long silence Paul looked up, the defeat in his face almost too much for Gillion to bear. "What happens now?"

This. Gillion reflected. Was going to be the hard part. "You need to see somethin'."

"Gillion, I got no time or patience for games. Hasn't this day been hard enough?"

"I would spare you if I could but it's important. I need to show you China's last transmission."

Paul blinked. What was this? And if his wife really was dead why was he only hearing about this now?

* * * * *

He could hear crying. Didn't matter that it was all kinds of muffled he would know those sniffles anywhere. Even before he could unstick his eyelids, the Captain managed a few slurry words. "Kaylee? *Shenme shi*?"

Startled out of her miserable mood by the Captain's return to consciousness, Kaylee leaned on the bed, a smile breaking through. "Cap'n, you're wake! I have to go get Simon."

"*Wei*, don't go!"

She caught the flapping hand with ease, alarmed at how weak he was. Swallowing back her worry, Kaylee dragged a chair as close as she could then sat next to the bed. River moved around to the other side and stood there, her eyes on the Captain. Kaylee tried to think of something hopeful and uplifting to say, anything to cheer the Captain up but after Zoe's bombshell she couldn't think of anything else. As the Captain's eyes fluttered open Kaylee blurted out everything that was on her mind.

"It ain't fair, Cap'n! 'Nara called but Zoe cut her off. Not once, but twice! Didn't even have a chance to talk to her."

Malcolm Reynolds stared up at his crying mechanic. She was wringing her hands, looking more and more distressed as he lay there trying to wrap his head around the flurry of words tripping over themselves as they poured out of her mouth in sobs. Seeing anything but a smile on that face was so wrong it hurt.

"I know she said bad things but it ain't like 'Nara to be like that. Zoe said she wanted to speak to you on'y ya ain't exactly been conscious." The Captain blinked as if that was somehow his fault only Kaylee wasn't waiting for him to contribute anything to the conversation. "Didn't even let me talk to her! I'm sure if we just heard her out we'd find out it's all a mistake an'..."

"No mistake, little Kaylee." The Captain slurred.

Kaylee paused and stared at him. "I know what she said, what you said too, on'y I don't think that's everythin'. Has to be more. If you'd just speak to her Cap'n..."

He wanted to shake his head, tell her that wasn't going to happen while there was breath in his body but he never got a word out. Kaylee grabbed his hand again, squeezing so hard he wondered where she got the gorram strength from.

"Ya can't stay mad at her forever, Cap'n."

"Not his fault."

That was when Mal realised River was also in the room. It hurt to turn his head but he could do it, in increments. River moved closer from her side and leaned over him, her upside down face serious, as if she were assessing him inside and out.

"Not hers' either."

Now that was downright confusing. "It ain't?"

River shook her head.

"Then who's fault is it?"

"Behind the scenes. Voices without faces, puppet masters pulling all the strings."

"Ain't no one pullin' my strings, little albatross."

Her smile was an unexpected gift. "Pinocchio."

He tried to frown but couldn't seem to get his body to obey him. Was all kinds of happy he could at least form words. "Ain't no puppet neither."

Kaylee frowned from one to the other, her defence of Inara momentarily derailed. "Who's Pinocchio?"

"A little boy of wood who couldn't stop telling lies."

Three heads turned to the door as Simon walked in. Though he was pleased to see the Captain awake he wasn't happy to see his sister and Kaylee pestering the man.

"Not pestering. Captain needs his crew. We're crew."

Simon ignored the Captain's smirk and admonished his sister. "You shouldn't here, *mei mei*. I have to do some tests on the Captain."

Though he was talking to his sister Simon was looking at Kaylee. It made her feel uncomfortable as if he knew what she had been saying. Kaylee didn't want to go but knew she could hardly confess the real reason she wanted to stay. Simon wouldn't be happy with her if he knew and given Zoe's sharp words earlier she couldn't bear to be in his bad books as well. "It's okay, I'm goin'." Kaylee turned to look at the Captain and gave his hand another squeeze. "Ya get better soon, Cap'n, an' remember what I said."

"Do my best."

Then Kaylee was hurrying out of the door. River didn't budge. Simon closed the infirmary door and walked back to the Captain, automatically checking his patient's vital signs while watching him with guarded care. "*Ni juede zenme yang le*, Captain?"

"Like I ain't bein' told everythin' on my boat."

Simon stopped halfway through taking his blood pressure. He stared at the Captain for a moment then resumed, his eyes flicking to the monitor to check the result before removing the cuff and getting his stethoscope. The Captain just lay there and watched the doctor open the front of his scrubs, the cold metal on his chest producing no reaction. Patiently he watched Simon's face as the doctor listened to his heartbeat, letting the man complete his examination before speaking again.

"Ain't you got somethin' to tell me?"

Simon deliberately misunderstood him, putting the equipment away as he replied. "You're doing very well, Captain. All three operations were successful and with luck you won't need another transfusion. Now let me change the dressings, I need to see how the bone and skin are knitting."

"Didn't answer my question, doc."

"Did you ask one?"

The Captain huffed in frustration then closed his eyes as a spike of pain went through him. Simon froze, eyes on the Captain's face, hands moving carefully, trying to find out what was wrong. "*Gandao tengtong ma*?"

Blue eyes fluttered open with a haze of disbelief shining through the pain. "You tryin' to be funny? If so doc, don't give up the day job." "I have a day job?"

The Captain sighed, trying to hide that he was fighting for breath. "Huh, I have a comedian for a doctor."

"And I have a domineering psychopath for a patient."

When Mal stared at him in shock Simon fitted an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose and carefully adjusted the correct mix. Sometimes the Captain forgot just how sharp the young man was, even so his glare made Simon redden. Seeing that little flicker of guilt decided the Captain against telling him off for the gorram mask. Not that he needed oxygen or anything even if his breathing did calm down right quick with the pure infusion of air into his flagging lungs. "Um, *duibuqi* Captain. It just came out."

"Huh, heard rapists use the same gorram excuse."

It was funny watching the doctor's mouth open and close but no sound come out. He heard snickering and Mal could just see River grinning from ear to ear out of the corner of his eye.

"You should rest."

The Captain pulled the mask down off his face. "First I wanna speak to Kaylee."

Simon was about to protest but seeing the stubborn look on the Captain's face gave up. He could use a cup of tea anyway. "I'll be back in half an hour. Make sure you use that mask if you need it. The medicial equipment is not a prop but there for a reason, *dong ma*?"

The Captain didn't have to wait long after Simon left for Kaylee to return. For a moment neither spoke but just stared at one another. The Captain's expression was serious now, not a flicker of humour left on his face. Noticing how chastened she looked he deliberately softened his tone. After all, this wasn't about making his mechanic feel bad. "Now, little Kaylee. What's all this fussin' over Inara?"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme* = what *bi zui* = be quiet/shut up *jianyu* = prison *deng* = wait *bendan* = stupid (lit. stupid egg) *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dong ma* = understand? *weishenme bu* = why not? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *weishenme* = why? *dang ran* = of course *wo zhidao* = I know *wode ma* = mother of God *tianna* = Oh God! *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wode duibuqi* = I'm sorry *shangdi* = God *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wei* = hey! *ni juede zenme yang le* = how are you feeling? *duibuqi* = sorry *gandao tentong ma* = do you feel any pain? *goushi* = crap *mei mei* = little sister


Sunday, August 24, 2008 10:50 AM


This is getting more and more intriguing the closer people get to the truth.

Sunday, August 24, 2008 12:29 PM


Loved Zoe in this. And loved that Wash backed her up, despite his misgivings. Good job!

Monday, August 25, 2008 5:59 AM


Zoe and Wash make such a great team. Loved them. Great work and am intrigued as to what will be happening toward the end.


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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.

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.

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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.