DUPLICITY Series: 31. "Dirty Little Secrets"
Monday, September 15, 2008

"Paul ends up on a seemingly dead planet. The Captain wakes. Zoe shares some disturbing information with the crew.


TITLE: "DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "FIGHTING BACK". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Paul ends up on a seemingly dead planet. The Captain wakes. Zoe shares some disturbing information with the crew." 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

* * * * *

Having little to no money, the clothes on his back and a few small possessions Paul had reverted to his natural fallback. Calling himself Tobin he had worked his passage off planet: loading, unloading, scrubbing decks, cleaning air filters, repairing faulty wiring. Turning his hand to whatever chore needed doing aboard ship to pay his passage. If he was lucky they fed him too. Luck held with him though as the ship made a brief stop on Astra. That struck him as funny. A blown out desert landscape of a world called 'star'. What twisted *hundan* thought that was fitting? They probably didn't even know it was Latin, it being one of the long lost languages from Earth-that-was but still. Paul knew it by another name and while the ship had stopped to effect a repair none of the ship's crew batted an eye when he chose to disembark on the seemingly inhospitable world.

The Captain just nodded as if glad to be rid of the odd stranger then as soon as the repair was complete the ship lifted off leaving him behind. Now, staring at the desert world like some kind of unexpected inheritance, Paul threw back his head and laughed.

* * * * *

"I think you should leave."

Inara was reluctant. It was the first time she had been able to stop off at the infirmary without Simon barring entry to her. She might have known he had only stepped out for a moment, probably to update Zoe on the Captain's condition. She stood next to the infirmary bed, one hand resting lightly on the Captain's right hand. "I just wanted to see him, Simon."

"He's sleeping."

She blinked at him. He really was the master of the obvious. "Then let me sit with him, *qing*."

"The last time he saw you..."

Inara cut him off, not needing to be reminded of her part in his medical set back. "*Wo zhidao* and I am sorry, I didn't know. I just..." She broke off, not wanting to beg, not knowing how to explain the tangled mix of emotions she had for Serenity's stubborn but noble Captain. "Simon, I know you think you have no reason to trust me but I don't want to hurt him. I don't want to hurt anyone."

"Then why are you here?"

"It's complicated."

The doctor began to check the monitors and watch Inara at the same time. "I'm listening."

"Simon." She broke off again and stared at Simon as if he could read all the answers in her eyes without her needing to verbalise them but he just stared back. Unmoved. Waiting. It was so unlike the usually polite and agreeable man that she felt a pang of loss, an almost physical pain at being the cause of his distrust. This unwelcome distance between them. Well, if Simon wasn't going to budge she would have to. "I've already explained about the wave about my brother and how I found out afterwards that it was fake. Sendhil didn't die in or after the war, he took holy orders."

There. A small flicker of surprise on Simon's face. Oddly encouraged, Inara continued, hoping to widen the chink in the doctor's armour.

"I went to see him and it was wonderful, Simon." She let the emotion show. "We talked for days but to me they passed like seconds. I couldn't see him, speak to him or listen enough to fill my need for his pressence. The reassurance that he really was alive and there with me. Yet he was and is. To my great shock and surprise he is happy." Inara paused and an unconsciously radiant smile transformed her face with joy as she remembered. It was as if she were back there, in the grounds of the Abbey, with her much loved brother.

Simon felt a twinge of empathy. Being so close to River he could easily put himself in her position and understand how she must feel but it didn't alter the fact that Malcolm Reynolds was his patient and the last time he had seen the Companion it had almost killed him. "*Wode duibuqi* Inara, but I must ask you to leave. When the Captain is awake and stronger I will tell him you want to see him."

She hesitated. "I can come back?"

"If the Captain agrees, yes." Her face lit up but Simon held up a hand. "And only if I am also present."

"Simon, I'm not going to hurt him."

"I'm his doctor and I must insist."

For a moment it looked as if she would argue but then Inara glanced down at the prone man, a wealth of emotions on her face. When she looked up again it was to nod her agreement. Simon watched her walk to the doorway then turn and glance back at him. "*Xie xie ni*."

He nodded back and watched her go. Simon walked over to the door and closed it then returned to his patient. Automatically checking the monitor as he did so. "She's gone. You can open your eyes now, Captain."

"How'd you know I was awake?" "I'm your doctor. In medical matters I'm omnipotent, didn't you know?"

The Captain looked at him, his eyes clearer than Simon had seen in a long while. Those blue eyes regarded him with grave amusement. "Huh, like a God?"

Simon resisted the urge to smile. "No need to genuflect."

Eyebrows rose. "You think I'm gonna bow an' scrape to you, you've got another thing comin' Simon Tam. Top Three Per Cent or not."

Now he did smile, a rare open one. "How do you feel?"


The smile vanished. The Captain frowned, sorry to have chased the light hearted moment away but what could he say? He was a prickly and contrary sumbitch at best.

"*Fang xin* Simon, ain't gonna die on you."

"When did you get your medical degree?"

"Just know my body is all." The Captain's look became less sure. "How'd the operations go, doc?"

"*Hen hao*. Dr Foss is a gifted surgeon."

"Yeah, sure have been out of things for a while. Why d'you have to pump me with so many drugs?" "It's called patient care, Mal. Normal people are relieved when their doctors take measures to keep them out of pain and reduce any trauma from surgery. It's called gratitude, you might want to try it some time." "I am grateful just... Hate it when my mind's all fogged up, can't think straight. Leaves me at a disadvantage, *dong ma*?"

Simon nodded. He did understand. The Captain watched him check his legs and tried to see for himself but he couldn't do more than raise his head an inch or two and the angle gave no view. Leaning back he huffed in frustration. Simon did not look up from what he was doing. "You are healing well but it will be some time before I'll know how the new knee joints have taken. So far it looks good."

The Captain felt Simon gently poking around but he must still be on heavy meds because it was a dull distant sensation, as if the body did not rightly belong to him. He snorted softly at the notion, from what he had been told it wasn't his knee. Well. Now it was. Or would be if the series of operations were a complete success.

"What's so funny?"

"*Yiwusuoyou*. How long am I gonna be laid up?"

Simon finished his inspection and began to redress both legs. "We're talking months not weeks. You need to keep in mind that we had to rebuild leg muscle, sinew and bone mass as well as fit you with new knee joints. It's a delicate and skilled task and can't be rushed." "Operations are over you said."

"And they are but the really hard work comes with rehabilitation."

"Simon, I know it ain't gonna be an overnight recovery."

"Once you have completely healed I'll start you on physiotherapy. Nothing too taxing to start with. And Captain? You will not argue with me on this. If you ever want to walk again you will treat every word that comes out of my mouth as the word of God."

As tired as he was, Simon's words amused him. "Guess that's what you get when your doctor's omnipotent, huh?"

"*Duijili* and don't even think of trying to get any of the others to help you defy me. We've already discussed this and it won't work."

He wanted to argue, really he did, but his heart wasn't in it. He was tired and felt as drained as if he had done a marathon with Jayne on his back. Not that it wasn't good to be conscious because it was. Just hated how it was slipping away from him again, the dark of oblivion tugging at his eyes. Simon's voice was quiet but clear as the doctor leaned down.

"Next time you wake you'll need to decide about Inara."

Inara. His eyelids fluttered and with an effort he looked up at Simon. "*Weishenme*?"

Simon hated playing Devil's Advocate but someone had to. "She's worried about you." He said gently.

"You swallow that *goushi* story?"

He raised an eyebrow. "How much did you hear?"


"Apparently not."

"What d'you mean?"

"We all saw the footage, Mal. The House Mistress said different bits of film were spliced together to create a false record of something that never actually took place."

"Could'a told you that."

"Inara saw the wave her friend sent her and believed it. That was why she acted as she did."

The Captain fought the drag of sleep but it was getting harder to stay awake. The pull getting stronger and more insistent. "You believe her?"

The hesitation was so slight he almost missed it. "*Qu*. I do."

The Captain drifted off and Simon couldn't tell whether he had heard the answer or not.

* * * * *

The fire was raging so fiercely that for several minutes Commandant Shair stood transfixed to the spot, his men waiting for further instruction. The Tam Estate was not a vast one but it had been impressive and laid out over several hectares of ground. Now he could only watch in frustration as the roof of the house collapsed, the walls crumbling and wooden timbers breaking up into charcoal. Even though he believed it to be a lost cause the Commandant ordered his men to search the grounds, the black smudge of smoke in the grounds already an indication that the house was not the only structure being reduced to rubble and ash.

It took a couple of hours to confirm that no buildings had been left standing. Almost two days before fire crews had finished and Alliance investigators could sift through the remains. No bodies were found in the house but it was a different story in what remained of the medical centre. The single storey hospital building had been state of the art. No expense spared on either equipment or the quality of the medical professionals who worked there. Fifteen bodies. Charred to a crisp but with enough tiny details to identify most of them as the doctors, nurses and auxillary staff from the complex. He felt sick.

Even some of Shair's men were upset. It took just one coded call back to Parliament to establish that this work of unspeakable evil had not been commited by some terrorist group but on the orders of one of their military officers. He had no doubt that the man's brief had been clear and unequivocal. The only good news, if it could be called that, was that Gabriel and Regan Tam had not been at the estate when it was raised to the ground. Had this act been in retaliation? A spiteful addendum to a mission that had failed? Or was it a warning? An example of what would happen to anyone who crossed the Alliance? Gabriel Tam wasn't some young reactionary. No poitical hot head or Independent rebel leader. Up until his retirement he had been a member of the social elite, a leading light in the cause of Unification. In fact the Alliance had thought so highly of the man that when he retired they had personally funded the hospital in the grounds of the estate. Now, with a fickle flick of the wrist, what had been given had been spectacularly destroyed. Perhaps in a fit of pique.

Unsettled, Commander Shair did not give his full report for some hours. He needed time to think and to clear the stink of smoke and burnt flesh from his nostrils. Then. After a good strong shot of whiskey or two, he would ask himself whether the Alliance he had loved and followed all his life was the same beast whose work so graphically illustrated an alarming and uncaring fall from grace. Ordering his men back to the cruiser he had the ship placed in geosynchronous orbit while he took the time to mull over recent events. He would need a clear head before he made his report and an even clearer notion of what he should do after that.

* * * * *

The role call was short, truncated even. Mr White twisted his lips and gave a brief scowl. "Where are the rest?"

General Armitage gave a little shrug. "They were less than compliant and paid the price."

The sombre man stared at him, no expression now upon that lean sallow face. His colleague looked more curious than alarmed. "What happened?"

The General's lip twitched downwards in distaste. "They resisted, refused to believe the truth."

"And the premises? They were searched?"

The new voice was unwelcome. General Armitage had not seen the man enter the room behind him. That anyone could walk so softly was alarming especially given his own excellence in that field. He viewed the Operative warily. "Yes, sir. If there had been anything on the premises it was gone by the time we got there."

"And the hospital?"

"The same."

"Medical records?" "All of the computers and hard drives were siezed along with all the camera footage. I had the buildings raised to the ground."

The Operative nodded his approval. It was good to know that his instructions had been adhered to with such efficiency. "How many of the staff were taken into custody?"

"Five, sir."

The Operative looked at the two men in their charcoal suits. No expression on their faces, no colour in their pale almost translucent skin. They looked like waxworks, figures not animated by life and yet they lived. After a fashion. "Have they been interrogated yet?"

"Nothing beyond the prelimary questions asked at the estate. They claim to have no knowledge of the whereabouts of Mr and Mrs Tam or their children."

"And our contact?"

The General paused just long enough to mask the sneer that tugged at his lips. "He will not be experiencing any further twinges in conscience."

* * * * *

The crew gathered in the commons room. Simon had wanted to stay in the infirmary but Zoe insisted he attend. Wash was sent to keep an eye on the Captain. She had already discussed the findings with her husband but no one else yet knew. They listened in stunned silence. Inara put a hand over her mouth in shock. Although she had not been with them when Simon and River had turned to their parents for help for the Captain, it shook her as much as it did the crew to hear what Zoe had found out.

Simon's face paled. "*Wode shangdi*!"

Zoe gave him a stern look. "He wasn't a victim, Simon."

They stared at each other for a moment or two.

"You mean..."

Zoe's voice dropped. "Where do you think he learnt his expertise?"

"He's a doctor." Said Simon faintly, still not able to believe what he was hearing.


That one word sent a shudder through Simon. The others looked in equal parts horrified and disgusted.

"I'm not sure I want to know the answer but I have to ask."

The first mate nodded and continued explaining sensing how hard it was for Simon to discover that the man he had respected for so long was not worthy of the accolade. "Dr Foss wasn't actin' under any orders, Simon. He was the one giving them. It was *his* camp. What he learnt became standard practice in Alliance torture and interrogation techniques."

"But he's a good man. He 'helped' us!"

"Yeah," Jayne shifted, a mean look on his face "until he turned us in."

Shepherd Book had some sympathy with Simon but none with Foss. "He helped us because he was ordered to."

Still the truth felt like a puzzle piece that didn't fit. Maybe because it made such an ugly picture. Simon shook his head, still stunned by the list of Dr Foss's war crimes. "It doesn't make sense."

"Sadly it does." Said the Shepherd.

He stared from Book to Zoe. "What do you mean?"

"He needed bodies, cadavers. Unsurprisingly people didn't volunteer so durin' the war some of the Independent soldiers taken captive ended up under his knife. Always the ones that had some injury to start with. That way they could later claim that despite Alliance help they had died durin' surgery. Also explains why we couldn't find out what happened to some of our men after the war. No blame to the almighty Alliance an' kudos for tryin' to save the lives of their enemy. An' when there weren't enough prisoners there were always political activists."

Kaylee looked like she wanted to be sick. "All them people!"

Zoe shrugged. "Alliance didn't see 'em as people, Kaylee."

"Someone must have noticed." Protested Inara.

Jayne huffed. "Who they gonna complain to? Alliance don't care an' I'm guessin' the most vocal ones were next, *dui*?"

"Yes, Jayne, they were. An' don't go thinkin' that Parliament didn't know Inara. This wasn't some renegade Alliance supporter actin' on his own. Authorisation came from the highest level."

Mistress Barbette had been listening in silence but now she had a question of her own. "How do you know this?"

Several of the crew noted that she did not refute any of the information just wanted to know who had passed it on. Interesting. "Let's just say not everyone was happy with maintaining the status quo."

"So you have an informer?" Badger crowed, his eyes shining with interest, as if he was getting pleasure out of knowing the almighty Alliance didn't have a stranglehold on all its' people. "Ain't that shiny." His mother glared at him. Badger shrugged. "*Shenme*? Can't I 'ave an opinion? Alliance ain't never done me no favours."

It was on the tip of her tongue to say that the Alliance had kept him in business but caught herself just in time. What her son didn't know wouldn't hurt him. For once they had more in common with Serenity and her crew than the government of the day. It was a sobering thought.

For a moment no one spoke. River had been sitting with her legs folded under her, staring down at the big oak table top as if she was miles away. Suddenly her head came up, her eyes bright and in focus. Simon took a step towards her in alarm. "River?"

"He's awake. Hungry. Needing answers more than food and Wash won't talk."

A brief grin flashed across Zoe's face then River turned to her.

"Won't be able to fend off the questions for long."

Zoe nodded. "We're about finished here anyway an' this is somethin' the Cap'n needs to hear."

"Are you sure that's wise?"

"Simon, he's still the Cap'n. This is his ship, his crew."

"*Qu, wo zhidao* - I just don't want him alarmed or upset."

An elegant brow rose. "Believe me, he'll be more upset if we keep this from him."

Not having an answer to that Simon could only sweep out of the room in her wake, the rest of the crew hanging back and looking at each other. Kaylee turned to Jayne, her hands twisting together uneasily, eyes big as saucers. "What d'you suppose it means?"


Mistress Barbette looked at the big man but said nothing. Catching her eye Jayne sneered then sent a venemous glance in Badger's direction. "An' I'm still wonderin' why we're luggin' around dead weight. Seems to me this ship would fly faster without so much useless ballast."

Badger straightened and glared back at him. "You bein' the heaviest pile of *goushi* best you go first."

Jayne began to move towards him but the Shepherd intervened, his voice mild and calm but leaving them in no doubt that there had been enough stupidity over the last few weeks to last them all a lifetime. No need to add to the tally. Jayne didn't agree but he liked and respected Book. Couldn't say the same about their unwelcome passengers though.

* * * * *

He didn't want to activate the beacon. Knew it could be worse than dying a lonely horrible death in the desert. But he didn't have many options. He thought of China Rose and felt a smile touch his lips that burned right down through the pores of his skin to his heart. He missed her like an amputated limb. Like sunshine and roses, like every good thing that had ever happened to him. Astra was pretty much an unlivable world. No rivers or lakes to speak of. No mountains or forests. Nothing but barren wasteland and burning sands for as far as the eye could see. He didn't need to travel to the other side of the planet to know he would be looking at a mirror image but it had one advantage over every populated world in the known 'verse, within and beyond the Rim. It was one of the few places where he was completely unobserved. No one able to monitor him or spy on his actions. No one to know he was there, where he had come from or - more importantly - where he was going. But. That would all change if he activated the gorram beacon.

Paul stared at the small innocuous looking device. It sat in the palm of his hand like a chubby flattened disc. Shiny and featureless. Maybe four inches across by one and half inches wide at the centre, tapering to a half inch at the circumference. He could activate it to call aid or set it to self destruct. The one meant hope for his own survival, the other for a generation as yet unborn. It was no contest. Just as he was about to make his choice he cocked his head. Listened. Then carefully put the device back in his inside jacket pocket. It seemed there was going to be a third way after all.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*qing* = please *wo zhidao* = I know *wode duibuqi* = I'm sorry *xie xie ni* = thank you *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *hen hao* = very good *dong ma* = understand? *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *duijili* = exactly *weishenme* = why? *goushi* = crap/dog shit *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wode shangdi* = my God! *dui* = correct *shenme* = what


Monday, September 15, 2008 7:28 AM


Very much enjoyed the exchange between Mal and Simon. Well done, as always!

Monday, September 15, 2008 7:30 AM


And the plot just gets deeper and deeper. I also liked the exchange between Simon and Mal. I could picture the scene in my head perfectly. Very nice!!

Monday, September 15, 2008 2:12 PM


Loved the Mal - Simon sniping - it suits the characters well. At least one mystery is resolved, many more to go.

Monday, September 15, 2008 9:53 PM


Mal/Simon - wonderful. And maybe our beloved Captain isn't quite so ready to forgive and forget. Not sure I want him to - after all, she was far too ready to believe the worst of him without talking to him.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 2:13 AM


I liked the scene between Mal and Simon too! I suppose Mal must feel a bit strange seeing as it's Simon who controls things now and I think that'll lead to some funny comments like

"I'm your doctor. In medical matters I'm omnipotent, didn't you know?"

"Huh, like a God?"

Gold =)

Keep flying ;)


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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.

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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.