The DUPLICITY Series: 42. "Wolf In Lamb's Clothing"
Sunday, January 4, 2009

"The crew discuss what to do next but none of them are happy. Things for Simon and Mal go from bad to worse. Contrary to popular opinion River is the only one not worried."


TITLE: "WOLF IN LAMB'S CLOTHING" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "THE OTHER SHOE". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "The crew discuss what to do next but none of them are happy. Things for Simon and Mal go from bad to worse. Contrary to popular opinion River is the only one not worried." 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

* * * * *

It was odd sometimes the way non sequiters made perfect sense. Oblique questions and obscure answers seemed to be the order of the day.

"They didn't ask where the Captain or Simon was."

The little king-pin stared at Zoe. "Didn't 'ave to."

Vaguely Zoe was aware of the Shepherd trying to calm Kaylee down, Inara's soothing voice soft and pliable in the background. "*Ni zhide shi shenme'?"

"Ain't it obvious?"

Her eyes narrowed and darkened. "That would be why I'm askin'."

When had the others started to pay attention to the conversation and why were their expressions beginning to grow ugly? Badger tried to explain. "They didn't ask 'cause they 'knew', see?"

Jayne scowled, looking as if he wanted to tear the little man apart with his bare hands. "Ya mean ya told 'em."

"It's the device."

The others drew closer. Zoe frowned. "What're you talkin' about?"

"The device - it 'knows' things."

Badger was aware of Jayne laughing at him but didn't care. This was important. Why was he the only one who could see that? Shepherd Book's deep calm voice was like finding sanctuary when it was most needed and least looked for. It took the heat out of the fire being kindled to take him to *diyu*.

"Badger, the device is 'not' sentient, *dong ma*?"

"Not sayin' I can explain it but I touched it, see? Knows me but more than that. It's like it's got knowledge."

"River said it was a repository." The first mate offered slowly, as if the speed of her words matched the unravelling of memory. Choosing truth over leaps of logic that might lead to a dead end.

"I think it's much more than any of us could 'ave thought."

For a moment no one spoke. Mistress Barbette watched her son's face for a minute or two. "What did it tell you?"

He stared at her. "*Shenme*? Did I say the ruttin' thing could talk?" Instead of berating him as she would once have done his mother tried again. "You said it knows things, Stephen. Said that when you touched it, the device 'knew' you."

A weary defeated look washed over the little man's face. He sat slumped in a chair and rubbed a hand over his unshaven face. "Yeah, well, never said I knew everythin'. Scared the *goushi* out o' me if you wanna know."

"An' we all know there's a lot more *goushi* where that came from." Murmured Jayne.

Kaylee looked worried, her tear stained face wiped dry by Inara though the mechanic barely noticed. "We gotta get River back! Why did she do it?"

"I thought she was going to reprogramme the device." Zoe's dull voice drew every eye to her. Wash slid his arm around her waist, offering what comfort and solidarity he could. He did not understand but then he didn't have to. He was the husband. The unconditional love was his forte and that he could do.

The others exchanged looks. Shepherd Book's expression grew grave. "Are you sayin' this was planned?"

"*Bu qu*, not in the way you think. River was gonna try to influence the device."

Inara wanted to shake the first mate. It was unlike Zoe to do something so risky, so untried, but then no one had been given time to come up with a better plan. "And then what?"

Zoe stared at the Companion for a moment then gave a vague little shrug. Inara was sure the woman was not even conscious of her body language at that point. Truth to tell they were all in a little bit of shock. "*Wo bu zhidao* but River seemed confident. I... I trusted her to know what she was doin'."

"She's *shenjingbing*." Snorted Jayne. "Most of the time lost in her own head. Even her brother don't trust her." "That's a lie!" Kaylee cried, her hackles up and fury in her face. "Take it back, Jayne."

"*Weishenme*? It's the truth. Girls' touched, a moon-brain. You can't rely on her makin' any sense."

Shepherd Book held up a hand. "This isn't helping, Jayne. We need to come up with a plan."

"Ya mean like the last one?" Jayne sneered.

"Jayne!" Zoe's voice snapped, short, sharp and peremptory. "*Gou le*, fightin' amongst ourselves isn't the answer."

Kaylee seemed to deflate. Inara patted her hand trying to soothe the pain of loss in her friend's eyes. "Why'd she go?"

That was what had been troubling Zoe but she didn't want to share the possibilities with the others. Not unless there was no other choice. That way led to despair and darkness. Probably torture and maybe even death.

"I think we should give River time to do what she intends to do."

Zoe turned her head and stared at the House Mistress. "You don't make the decisions on this boat."

"No, Captain Reynolds does but he isn't here, is he? I may be a less than welcome guest but I am not the enemy, Zoe. If River is as gifted as all of you have been saying then this may not be the tragedy it appears."

Inara wasn't sure what to think but Wash was curious. "The Alliance have just taken River Tam, a young gifted girl they first got into their clutches through lies an' then tortured her, cuttin' into her brain again an' again to make her into some kind of assassin an' you think it's good they got her back?"

She shook her head. "I didn't say that and just as importantly didn't mean any such thing. There has to be a reason why she just walked off with them. I can only think she has her reasons."

"Probably get herself killed." Said Jayne.

Inara looked worried, her eyes locking on Zoe's. "What are we going to do?"

"For now, we wait. Wash, I want you to monitor the sensors. Try to keep track of the ship they used for as long as possible." The pilot tried to give his wife a reassuring look then hurried off to the bridge.

The Shepherd looked surprised. "We aren't going to follow them?"

Reluctantly, the first mate shook her head. Right now she felt about a hundred. Just one of many reasons why she was glad Mal was the Captain not her. "Wouldn't do us much good, Shepherd. They obviously have stealth technology of some kind. We didn't see them until they wanted us to an' by then it was too late."

"That being the case, what is Wash going to track?"

The look on Zoe's face was a tired whimsey. "Maybe nothin' but just in case they don't cloak right away we just might get a notion of the direction they head off in." "Could change course." Said Jayne.

She nodded. "That they could but it's all we got, Jayne. If anyone's got a better suggestion I'd like to hear it."

The silence that followed was deafening.

* * * * *

The little ship was scruffy and smelly but apparently space-worthy. Mal didn't get a chance to get more than a passing glance at the innards before he was dragged down a passage and into a room in the bowels of the ship. He could hear the good doctor complaining and trying to reason with the men but no one was taking any notice of Simon Tam. At least, not in a good way. The Captain had noticed how their captors had looked at the doctor and didn't like it. Made his skin crawl and his mind scream for him to do something but he was barely conscious his own self, the healing wounds on his knees bleeding through his trousers, the pain the only thing keeping him from blacking out though he had a notion it wouldn't have that dubious honour for long.

When they threw him to the metal deck plates a riot of pain shot through him. Much as he wanted to be silent and stoic the cry from his lips could not be held back. Laughter floated back at him, faces blurring in and out of his vision as he was manhandled and dragged over to a thick heavy pipe. The rope binding his wrists was cut but before he could relish the chance to get his circulation going again in his hands he was tied to the pipe. The only trouble was the pipe was hot and it scalded his skin. He tried to pull away but they were too strong, just gorram bullies too twisted and mean to have a single spark of compassion between them. Not that he was looking for it but still. He could feel his flesh burning, blisters rising to meet the heat, the pain in his legs joining in as his exhausted body flagged. One of the men hunkered down in front of him and jerked the Captain's head up by his hair. It was the man with breath so putrid it could kill a horse at twenty paces. Wasn't doing much for Mal either.

"Best make the most of this, *dong ma*? Today you rest, tomorrow we play."

The way the man stressed and dragged out the last word filled Mal with foreboding but his ability to care was fast deserting him. As the man drew back to spit in his face, the Captain lost consciousness.

* * * * *

"Are you sure this is the right place?"

Natalie beamed at him. "Right place, wrong time."

Uh oh. "Natalie?"

Her laugh trailed off into a giggle. "You worry too much."

Paul felt uncomfortable. While he had hated being on that transport ship it felt wrong to be left on an Alliance planet right in the heart of the Core. He felt naked and vulnerable and hated it. "We aren't safe here."

She shrugged. "Safety's over rated."

"That's only comforting to people who have never been safe." Paul paused and blinked, did he just say that? What was wrong with him? They should be going to ground not discussing how screwed they were.

"Not screwed yet."

He frowned, his irritation building. "Will you stop picking thoughts out of my mind?"

"Sure, just stop thinkin' 'em."

Glaring at her didn't work. In fact most things didn't. He had to keep asking himself why he was doing this. Oh yeah, had to save the others. Or at least, the few that were left. Always supposing of course that Natalie had been telling him the truth and wasn't going to betray him. He shouldn't really be thinking such things but he was tired and cranky and if the girl wanted to go digging around in his thoughts then she couldn't expect to hear good of herself. Might teach her to respect a person's privacy. He caught a look on her face that made him swallow real careful and slow. Or not. There was no laughter now. No twisted teasing and black humour. It was crazy but he missed it.

"Maybe you're the one who needs to learn some respect." She said.

* * * * *

"You want to WHAT?"

Mistress Barbette was the very epitomy of calm. Badger could feel his heart hammering in his chest like it was trying to break out. Found himself wishing it would take the rest of his body with it, anything but listen to the *goushi* tripping out of his mother's mouth. They were in the commons room. Although it was meal time no one felt like eating so the Shepherd made strong coffee with the last of their supplies. No one in the mood for tea. The House Mother ignored her son and directed her attention to the others.

"It makes sense. If I can speak to the Minister we may be able to salvage something from this disaster."

Zoe frowned. "Didn't you change your mind about that?"

She nodded. "That was then, this is now. We don't have the luxury of picking and choosing, Zoe, and that is no slight on the lives you lead. I am merely referring to our current predicament."

"You ever gonna put a name to this Minister of yours?"

"Perhaps, but right now that isn't the important thing. We need to go to Osiris."

The first mate was about to refuse out of habit but then paused. The Tams were no longer on board but Badger was and if anything, the Alliance seemed to be just as keen to find him as the siblings. Why would Badger's mother take him within spitting distance of his worst enemies? Her eyes narrowed. "How much power an' influence does this Minister have?"

"That's what I intend to find out."

For a minute no one spoke, just stared at each other. Kaylee didn't know why everyone was so snippy, to her mind any plan was better than none. All she knew was that they had to get River back. Inara was watching the House Mistress like a hawk, her expression giving nothing away. Kaylee noticed her friend sit a little straighter in her chair as if she had come to a decision. "I'll go with you."

Shock. Suspicion. A flurry of conflicting emotions on faces that had never learned to school their expressions as much as they thought. Mistress Barbette raised her eyebrows. "I thought you did not approve of me, Inara?"

"I don't approve of some of your actions, Mother, but then I don't approve of some of mine either."

For a moment a warmth sparked between them excluding the others then it vanished.

"You don't have to do this."

The Companion nodded. "*Wo zhidao* but it would look suspicious having a House Mistress travelling alone."

"I won't be alone."

Shepherd Book rose from his chair. "A Shepherd still commands respect, I could accompany you."

Her eyes glittered with some deep amusement. "I do not need a father confessor, Shepherd."

That comment gave him pause. Was there something to confess? But Zoe was speaking now and he had lost his window of opportunity.

"Maybe you're not thinkin' straight because we may no longer have the Tams on board but we still got Badger an' right now every purplebelly that lives an' breathes has orders to hunt him down, *dong ma*? An' while we aren't wanted our own selves the Alliance got no love for the rest of us."

"Which is why Serenity will not land on Osiris."

Jayne frowned. "*Shenme*? You gonna take a shuttle down?"

The House Mistress shook her head. "*Bu qu*. One of Osiris's outer moon, Helena, has a Companion House. I am known there and can obtain transport to the capital."

"Parliament don't sit on Osiris." Said Jayne, his voice dark as if tripping her up in a lie. The small smile she spared him just made him want to shake her.

"I meant the capital of Osiris. They have a ministerial committee that reports directly to Parliament."

"An' your Minister friend is there?" Asked Zoe.

"He heads the committee."

Kaylee wanted so bad for the plan, whatever it was, to work but she was confused. "Why would the Alliance help us?"

"They won't but then I don't intend to be quite so direct."

"All the more reason for me to go with you."

The House Mistress shook her head. "No, Inara."

The Shepherd looked worried. "You surely cannot go alone." "I won't be alone." She turned her gaze to Badger. "My son will be going with me."

For the first time since the discussion had begun Jayne was happy. "I like this plan."

Zoe was suspicious. "Thought the Alliance wanted Badger so bad they were killing off all his contacts? That a lie too?"

"Yup," said Jayne, smacking his lips together in barely surpressed glee "good plan."

"Jayne, *bi zui*!" Zoe snapped.

Badger would have run away if there had been anywhere to run to but he was hemmed in. Could almost feel the Alliance chains around him and the deepest, darkest *jianyu* opening up its' ten feet thick walls to take him in. Swallow him whole where even the light of day would never again shine. Made a man shudder to the pit of his being just to think of it. "Ain't goin'."

Mistress Barbette gave her son a look that pinned him to his seat. "Yes you will. Enough people have died because of you, Stephen. Don't you want a chance to do something right?" "Ain't my problem."

Jayne surged forward to grab the little king-pin by the throat but the Shepherd quietly blocked his path, their eyes meeting. Jayne's full of fury and frustration, the Preachers' mildly and mutely asking him to wait until the House Mistress had finished. Not that Jayne expected it to make any difference but he liked and respected Book, counted him a friend and those were as rare as hen's teeth.

"*Wo bu zhidao*, how will takin' Badger with you be any kind of an advantage?" The slow smile on the House Mistress's face made the hairs on the back of Zoe's neck tingle. "All I ask is a means of communicating with you. Once you drop us off on Helena I suggest you find somewhere safe and wait for me to contact you."

"Then I have to come down with you." Inara stated. At the look on the House Mother's face she smoothly explained. "I will stay at the Guild House on Helena. When you need to get in touch you can reach me there, I can then let Zoe know. It will be safer than you being found with a com unit on you which could connect you to Serenity."

Although Mistress Barbette clearly didn't like it she could hardly argue with the logic. Reluctantly, she gave the Companion a nod. Badger was squirming, almost crawling out of his gorram skin. Why in the nine hells did he think his some-time mother would protect him? Now he could see it all, he was just a ruttin' pawn in some scheme of hers. Would explain why she'd come out of the woodwork, seekin' him out, sneakily wormin' her way into his trust, his gorram affections. Weren't right to be so used. What was that sayin' from biblical days about thirty pieces of silver? Yet even as his heart twisted at the thought of such betrayal another part of him knew he deserved no better. But still. She was his gorram mother! Weren't nothin' in this 'verse sacred no more?

* * * * *

The Operative should have been feeling a sense of satisfaction. A job well done, the deed accomplished, and with minimal death and destruction. But something was nagging at him. River Tam had surprised him, giving herself up without so much as a murmur of protest, the control device sitting in the palms of her outstretched hands. Did she think that making a gift of one of the most powerful weapons imaginable would buy her freedom? No. Whatever the girl was she clearly was not stupid. Traumatised perhaps but bright enough to know that nothing would prevent what Blue Sun had in mind for her now.

He longed to talk to her, question her motives. Get a feel, a sense, of what was going on in that brilliant but chaotic mind. Obviously that was out of the question. The Alliance had what they wanted but would tolerate no one else knowing the secrets the device contained. He could guess at some of it but not the rest. Still. His was not to reason why. He was a cog in the machinery of something so large that were his life extinguished with his next breath it would make no difference. He had done his duty and could be content. As the Operative turned he was not surprised to see the boy standing just inside the doorway to his private room. The boy had his hands behind his back and slowly smiled.

Before the Operative could ask him what Jordan wanted the boy moved his hands in front of him, the control device sitting in the palms of his hands. The Operative could not take his eyes off it. What was this? Hadn't it been placed in the secure lined box? As he looked up the boy's smile changed. Not by much but just enough to let him know that something fundamental had changed.

"You get your wish."

Puzzled, the Operative opened his mouth to ask what he was talking about but no words came out. Breath slowed like a sluggish vapor trapped in his lungs. Face reddening, the Operative found all his thoughts concentrated on chasing the illusive elixir of life. His blood began to heat, veins and arteries swelling, body aching and scorching from the inside out. His eyes widened in something close to terror, an emotion he had not felt since the Alliance had turned him to their will. All memory of his past had been wiped, 'clensed' they had called it. Now flickers of that past made a random precis of a life gone wrong. Twisted and manipulated out of all recognition from the dreams of his boyhood and the betrayal of every desire for good that had ever been his. A Better World. Concepts melded onto a nightmare like coating a bitter pill so that it could be swallowed whole, no thought of questioning what was in it or what it would do to him and those around him. Everything willingly sacrificed to that one aim.

Jordan watched, using the control device to slow the march of death. Deliberately painting pictures and sounds inside a mind too mute from the horror of its' own destruction to block out the truth. Horror flooded what was left of the Operative's mind. The ragged remnants of all that had once been good now fiery tatters being consumed by flames that burned inward using his own body as fuel. On Earth-that-was there had been a phenomena referred to as Spontaneous Human Combustion. A mystery and a feared outcome of some evil devil's art, poorly understood but devastating in its' gruesome finality. It was many years, decades of research, before it was discovered that the cause was the build up of phosphorous in the human body causing it to implode and consume itself. This, while not natural, mimicked the effect. The result would be almost indistinguishable. Jordan liked it not because of that fact but because it was elegant. And for all the Operative's culture and learning, the beast he had become would burn like all the rest.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*ni zhide shi shenme*? = what's the matter? *dong ma* = understand? *diyu* = hell *goushi* = crap/dog shit *shenme* = what *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *shenjingbing* = crazy *weishenme* = why? *gou le* = enough *wo zhidao* = I know *bi zui* = be quiet/shut up *jianyu* = prison


Sunday, January 4, 2009 3:32 PM


First off, the title is just perfect for this chapter.

I am sure not sure of Mistress Barbetta. She is quite the character and Badger just keeps getting himself deeper and deeper. And the device talkin' please more.

Sunday, January 4, 2009 10:56 PM


You have so many threads going, but I think I can see them finally coming together a little. But I just know there's a lot more to come. And really good stuff, too! Just so long as Mal doesn't get any more hurt than he is already ...


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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.