The DUPLICITY Series: 46. "Waking the Dragon"
Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"River and Jordan have more surprises for Simon. Inara wakes up and realises that she is not the only one in danger. Badger and his father talk while Zoe decides it is time to act."


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

SUMMARY: "River and Jordan have more surprises for Simon. Inara wakes up and realises that she is not the only one in danger. Badger and his father talk while Zoe decides it is time to act." 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

* * * * *

Simon stared, barely able to take in what his oh so gifted sister was telling him. "You did what?"

"Gave it what it wanted. A host."

The smile on her face felt so wrong it physically hurt him. "*Shenme*? Are you insane?" He paused half a beat. "Forget that, of course you are."

"We wanted control."

"River, you can't gain control by giving up yours."

She shook her head. "*Ni bu dong*. We merged."

If anything, her explanation only increased his growing sense of panic. Horror heaped upon horror. What had she done? They were deep in the Black, the Alliance stealth pursuit craft leaving nothing in its' wake to indicate it had ever been there. River and Jordan had removed the more obvious tracking devices and a number of remote control switches and the control device had provided another very neat and specialised service for them. It had copied the craft's secure identification code into its' own matrix and when Jordan had armed it and placed it on the floor of the warehouse the energy signature of the ship had defaulted to the device leaving them free to take off while cloaked. The stealth ship now had no encoded transponder. It had been switched off. The only thing River regretted was that they had not been able to go back and retrieve what was left of the device. She would have liked a chance to reverse engineer it. After hearing the full story Simon was relieved that she hadn't been able to bring it with her. Something that powerful did not belong in human hands.

"*Ni cuode*."

"It's dangerous, *mei mei*." He said softly.

"It saved us."

He nodded, reached out and gently brushed the hair back from her face. She looked so intent, wanting, needing him to understand. "For now, but what about next time? What about when it falls into the wrong hands, River. What happens then?"

"It won't."

A disturbing thought crept into his mind. "It *is* destroyed, isn't it?"

"Burnt outer shell, inner membrane cracked and stressed."

"River, that isn't the same as saying it was destroyed in the explosion."

She stared at him for a moment until he wondered if she intended to answer him. "Damage is minimal."

A new horror almost robbed him of breath. "*Wode ma*! They'll find it. The Alliance will hunt down the signal, find the device. *Tian Yesu*, what were you thinking?"

Jordan had stayed out of the conversation, all his concentration seemingly on flying the small sleek ship. There was no turbulence and hardly any sensation of being in flight, only the low musical hum hardly audible. Paul and Natalie were sitting on the deck, their eyes flicking from the siblings to Jordan and then to the prone figure of the Captain lying on a bed of their coats and jackets on the floor. The man appeared to be sleeping though it was fitful at best. Simon had no medical supplies and nothing to give him for the pain but just being out of the hands of those *tamade hundan* had been the best pick me up the Captain could have wished for. Simon wished he didn't have the sinking feeling that things were about to get worse.

"We're safe, Simon."

"River, we'll never be safe and when they get their hands on that device..."

She cut him off. "They won't."

Curious, Paul turned his head towards them. "What do you mean, they won't?"

A sly smile slid across River Tam's face. "We reprogrammed the control device. Not only is it keyed in to our DNA, it was programmed to hide itself on detonation."

Paul frowned. "That doesn't make sense."

"It does if the material it's made of is virtually indestructible."

"Nothing's indestructible, *mei mei*."

That was when Jordan dropped his own bombshell. His voice so calm and normal that none of them were prepared for how his words would affect them.

"It is because it's made of the same material I am."

* * * * *

It was the false light before dawn and Inara Serra woke confused and disorientated. Where was she? What had happened and why did she feel like a recovering alcoholic on some bizzare fairground ride? She closed her eyes and this time moved much more slowly. It helped keep the nausea at bay and the flashing images behind her eyes began to resolve into muted shards of light and dark. Her eyelids cracked open just enough for her to know she was in a bedroom and not just any bedroom but the one at House Kermos.

As soon as Inara recalled the Guild House on Helena everything else snapped back into place so quickly it almost made her sick. She squeezed her eyes shut until she could calm herself down and restore a semblance of equilibrium. Carefully she opened her eyes again, fully this time, her senses stretching tentatively while she took in as much information as she could. She had been drugged. Obviously. But why? She was no threat to anyone here besides which she was a respected member of the Guild. Why would her own people turn on her in this way? Inara stopped short and sat up. These were *not* her people. They were members of the Guild, yes, but that didn't make them her friends. Friends. Something clicked. Her whole reason for coming to Helena had been so that Mistress Barbette could pass messages to and from Serenity without anyone knowing she had any connection to the Firefly. It was not to keep the House Mistress safe but to safeguard her friends on Serenity. The ragtag dysfunctional crew that had become family. It could only mean one thing: they were in danger and she was being kept out of the way so that she could not warn them. But warn them about what? She had no information and no idea what the woman was up to and why had Mistress Barbette taken her son with her? To an Alliance world? Wasn't Badger's life in danger?

Inara sighed and put a hand to her head. It hurt to think, not so much actual pain as the effort it took to try and piece the puzzle together. She had always known that Cyan Barbette was devious and extremely cunning but lately had been convinced that the woman really was only interested in protecting her son. It had humanised her somehow, made Inara let down some of her defences and push back her reservations. Now all those nagging little suspicions stirred back into life, sharp and prickly as they prodded away at her consciousness. She could not stay here, that much was clear, but more than simple escape Inara had to find some way to contact Serenity.

* * * * *

"I'm thinkin' we should work together."

Minister Tirrel did not reply immediately. Pouring himself a drink he took his time, slowly sipping the tawny liquid as if to savour its' taste as it burned then warmed the back of his throat, allowing his fertile mind to visit all the possibilities. "You are assuming that I will want to keep you alive." He said mildly.

Badger resisted the urge to let any panic show. He would have to go carefully with this man. Blood or not he was still an enemy but one who could be priceless if he could convince the man that his best interests lay in keeping the familial bond intact. "Like I said, *fuqin*, why would she keep us apart all these years? You got a right to know about me, *dui*? An' why bring us together now?"

The Minister's eyes narrowed. "Your point being?"

"Not makin' no point as such, just suspicious is all. I know that for twenty years of my bloody life the most contact I had was an odd wave. Short, usually cryptic, an' more unsettlin' than welcome, *dong ma*? Wasn't like I got a warm an' comfy feelin'. Could say she left me more wary than loved."

"And now?"

"Ah, now." Badger paused and sat forward in his chair. All his movements slowed down as if he knew that even in this room he was not safe. Especially not in this room. "Now after years of on'y odd waves she pops up, large as life, all maternal an' anxious for me. Can't get rid of her but here's the thing, she makes sure I can't go nowhere without her either. Even locked me in a room a time or two. You can see how it would make a man suspicious. It bein' unnatural an' all."

"And yet Cyan was very particular in insisting no harm be allowed to come to you."

Badger laughed. A short rusty bark completely devoid of humour. It made Tirrel want to kill him right there and then but curiosity was a powerful thing and his had not been sated yet.

"Don't be misled, *dong ma*? She came when I was most needin' help, see? Made out she was worried, tryin' to help me. Even began to believe her but then I got to thinkin'."

The Minister did not prompt his son. He knew how this game was played and waiting was part of the politics of the life he led.

"Puttin' the pieces together, 'ow did she know where to find me, what was happenin' on the *inside* of the gorram Alliance? All them secret bulletins an' such, information goin' back an' forth but never to yours truly. Nah, she knows too much an' tells too little. Has some connection to that ruttin' *baichi* Reynolds an' then this. Bringin' us together an' leavin' us in limbo. Makes a man wonder what her game is."

"So once again," said the Minister putting his glass down "why should I keep you alive?"

Instead of looking shocked or frightened Badger grinned. "Wouldn't you rather know what the *guai* that little *pofu* is up to?"

Minister Howard Tirrel stared long and hard at the scruffy little man who shared his genes. No one could say the man lacked balls but he didn't know Badger. Had no more reason to trust him than his former lover and yet what he was saying made a curious kind of sense. A mystery to unravel. Layers to peel back on a enigma that had long captivated him and not least for her sexual inventiveness. Age notwithstanding he would still take her to his bed were the offer to present itself but this man. This issue of that sporadic pairing. He spoke like gutter scum yet with flashes from a sharp, bright and cunning mind and that sparked his interest. Not that he would trust him, trust either of them, but the knowledge that he could kill his son any time he pleased actually stayed his hand. No. Not yet. First he would find out just what in the nine hells the two of them were up to. Then, when the time came to make his move he would act swift and make his revenge slow.

* * * * *

"*Qing*, you mustn't go to Helena."

If anything Zoe's look hardened. "Wasn't aware I was askin' permission."

Mistress Barbette tried to hide her frustration. It was Shepherd Book who picked up on something the others had missed. "What are you so afraid of?"

"*Ni bu dong*."

"We might if you ever get around to explainin'." The first mate responded sharply.

Kaylee slipped into the commons area and gave Jayne a look of query. She had been drawn by the raised voices and now was worried that something bad had happened. The big man grunted softly but kept one hand resting on the butt of his gun though Kaylee was relieved to see he hadn't drawn it. "Why's everyone so snippy?"

No one answered her. Wash looked worried but made himself busy looking for something to fix up for the evening meal. Mistress Barbette seemed ill at ease, something none of them had witnessed before and it was more than unsettling. "It isn't what you think."

Zoe raised her eyebrows at the soft words. "An' what is it I think?"

Mistress Barbette shot her an angry look. "I'm not the enemy, Zoe. More is going on here than any of you realise."

"Then suppose you tell us, bein' as we're all supposed to be on the same side."

For a moment it looked as if the House Mistress would clam up but then she abruptly sat down at the big old oak table. Zoe shot the Preacher a look before taking the seat directly opposite her. Shepherd Book didn't sit down but leant on the back of a nearby chair. Puzzled, Kaylee looked from face to face. "Why's everyone so mad?"

Without turning her head Zoe answered. "That's what we're about to find out."

Mistress Barbette didn't want this conversation. Not now, not ever. Yet she couldn't stay silent any longer, not with Inara at House Kermos and her son in the hands of one of the most powerful men in the 'verse. It mattered not that Minister Tirrel was his father. A shark could father offspring but it would still be a shark. "Inara is at House Kermos because there she will be safe. At least until Stephen has a chance to convince the Minister to agree to the next part of my plan."

Wash had been listening while making soup and though no one seemed much inclined to eat Kaylee went to help him ladle some into bowls which she passed around the table. He gave a shrug in apology as he carried a bowl over to Zoe then went back to get a bowl for himself. "Sorry there's no bread, *bao bei*. In fact, this is pretty much all we've got until we can get some supplies."

She gave him a nod but made no attempt to start eating. No one alive could out stare Zoe. "You gonna explain this plan, 'cause I'm guessin' it's not the one you originally shared with us. Not that we knew much beyond you needin' to meet the Minister presumably to find out what happened to River."

"It's... delicate."

Jayne snorted. "Hell, Vera'll take care of that. She ain't fussy."

Realising she really had no option, Mistress Barbette began to explain. It wasn't a long story but it had more than a few surprises.

"You sayin' Badger's related to your Minister friend? Ain't that against the rules or somethin'?" Jayne said as he dispensed with the spoon and brought the bowl to his lips so he could drink the soup as if the bowl were no more than an oversized cup. In a couple of deep swallows he had emptied the bowl. Jayne smacked his lips and looked around for more.

"Yes, it is. Which is why I went to great pains to hide his true parentage, even to the point where I arranged for another couple to raise him."

Zoe looked confused. "So worried that at the exact point where he is most wanted by the Alliance you hand him over to the most powerful Minister in the cabinet."

The House Mistress just managed to hide a flinch. "I never said it was a perfect solution, but given everything that is going on he is the one person who can protect my son."

"An' why would he do that? According to you he didn't even know he had a son."

Mistress Barbette wanted to put her head in her hands but this was neither the time nor place. "He would never have been told but for the circumstances. I am no longer able to shield him, do you understand what that feels like for a mother?"

"Sounds to me like ya ain't been a ma since he was born."


The mercenary looked at Shepherd Book but was unrepentent. He hadn't liked the House Mistress when she had first come aboard Serenity and he liked her even less now. "*Shenme*? Just sayin' she ain't been a ma all this time now suddenly she expects us to believe she's just tryin' to protect that slimely worthless *wangba dan*? *Laoshi shuo* I don't believe a word that comes out of her ruttin' mouth an' if you got any sense you won't either. She's been playin' us, played Mal too. All that *fei hua* about knowin' each other way back when. Seems to me if they were that close it wouldn't have taken all these years for her to turn up again, *dui*? So why now?"

Everyone stared at her. The House Mistress knew she had no way out. Stuck on this *lese* ship she couldn't even count on Malcolm Reynolds to speak up for her.

"An'," said Kaylee, her voice ringing clear in the silence "what does all this have to do with 'Nara?"

* * * * *

Things were not going well and now, what had been a discreet piece of housekeeping was fast becoming a serious security issue for the military arm of the Alliance. Blue Sun could claim prior interest all they wanted but the fact remained that they were suffering unacceptable losses, a highly valuable and experimental stealth vessel and now an Alliance destroyer. As well as the men on the ships being considered MIA, presumed dead, the technology of the stealth vessel was a particularly thorny point. Then there were the two lost operatives and personnel from the Blue Sun Directive. Shock waves were beginning to ripple through the corridors of power.

It was not unusual for certain high placed officials to wear more than one hat. Buddha knows they had their fingers in every conceivable pie. Wherever there was profit or the opportunity for financial manipulation you would find some Alliance interference. And where there was no interference you would find the scum of the 'verse, Rim dwellers and pirates, freelance traders with loyalties to no one especially the Alliance and the unified planets within its' hegemony. Like the Browncoats they had defeated in the war those independent thinkers were anathema to every major corporation and business that the Alliance funded, held shares in or controlled. A constant irritant in the back of the minds of those holding sway in the corridors of power. But like accepting that every world had cockroaches the problem had largely been ignored unless, of course, the cockroaches decided to do something monumentally stupid and upset the balance of power.

* * * * *

The low moan of pain was both a welcome relief and a rising concern. Simon fluttered and fussed around the prone Captain. Pleased to see him regaining consciousness but worried because he could do nothing to assuage the pain. He had no idea where Jordan was taking them but the fact that his sister trusted the boy meant he would just have to accept that he was not about to betray them. He did not like to think of why River had such absolute faith in someone that was formerly the shining star of the academy. Neither did he like to think that his sister would have been an identical twin had he not rescued her.

"W...where am I?"

Simon leaned over the Captain and carefully wrapped torn strips of cloth around his bloody knee. Torn stitches that should have been well on the way to permanent healing now seeping blood that the man could not afford to lose. Especially when Simon did not have the means to replace the loss with a transfusion. Hopefully they would soon be reunited with Serenity and he could get the Captain safely ensconced in the infirmary. It might not be as well equipped as he would like but since joining the crew Simon had slowly been building up not only the supplies but also the equipment. He could do nothing about the heavy bruising and cracked ribs and inwardly lamented at the state of the Captain's burnt and blistered hands. It would be a long time before the man would be able to hold a cup or tend to his own needs let alone take up a gun. Why did every piece of good news always seem but another way to lull them into a false sense of security before the next calamity struck?

"Not a calamity."

He jumped, startled by his sister's sudden appearance, her face only inches from his own. Her ratty hair hanging down in twisted tangled strips where it needed washing and combing. She gave him a frown, her expression serious and not amused.

"We can wash when we get home, Simon."

He blinked and stared at her while his hands continued dressing the Captain's wound. "*Jia*?"

River's smile made something solemn and fatalistic in him acquire a lightness that against all the odds gave him hope. "*Qu*. Serenity."

A rough voice drawled quietly beneath Simon's hands. "Can't say I'll be sad to see that day."

She tilted her head and smiled down at him. "The worst is over."

The little look of surprise on the Captain's face made Simon realise he wasn't the only one wondering just how much worse their luck would get. "*Wo xiwang shi*, little one. Ain't quite up to all these rough games."

River dipped her head and kissed his forehead, startling him. "Time for all good Captains to go to sleep."

"*Wei*, I thought I was the *laoban* around here?"

River's face was replaced with Simon's. He had finished binding the troublesome leg and spent a moment or two checking that the leg brace was properly fixed in place so that it wouldn't rub against the tender healing flesh. He needed to keep his patient off his feet and from past experience Simon knew it would take all his cunning to get the Captain to stay still long enough to allow his body to heal. He was reluctant to remove the leg brace until he could get the Captain in an infirmary bed. Until then the brace stayed, just in case they had to get him upright in a hurry. Although he didn't like it they didn't have too many options. The physical therapy after that would probably make him a target for Mal's temper and future threats for years to come. But if his efforts put the broken pieces back together again it was worth it. His sister moved to the other side of the Captain and now patted the back of his hand gently, careful to avoid the swollen blisters on the palms of his burnt hands.

"You're Captain on Serenity not here."

They noticed he was tiring rapidly now and fighting to keep his eyes open. "That a fact?" He slurred.

"It is." Her voice had gentled to a soft whisper, her head lowering until she almost touched her forehead to the Captain's. "Sleep now." She hushed.

He wanted to refuse, to insist he needed to stay awake, but his body was a traitor. Dragging him into a warm darkness that welcomed him no matter how he fought the weakness. Simon looked at his sister. "You really have a gift for that, *mei mei*, do you know that?"

Her look was smug but not big headed. "*Wo zhidao*. He needed to rest and you were just keeping him awake."

Simon opened his mouth to protest then saw the laughter in her eyes and her mouth hanging open ready to tease him back. He closed his mouth and huffed, but couldn't quite hide the little tug of a smile at the corner of his lips. "You're still a brat."

Her smile imprinted on his cheek as she kissed him. "I learnt from the best."

Before he could think of a reply she was on her feet and turning to Paul and Natalie. "*Xie xie ni*. If you hadn't rescued them..."

Paul waved his hand as if to brush off the thanks. "No need. It was the right thing to do."

His words amused Natalie but she didn't speak. River turned her focus on the girl. "Why did you come?"

"He rescued me." She shrugged. "I was intending to kill him, come after you an' Simon."

River felt her brother stiffen behind her. "And now?"

The smile was oddly shy and tentative, as if the girl so rarely had a good emotion that she had to try it on for size first. "Paul explained. That was when I saw the sense of it, my jumbled memories so obscured by pain that everyone became the enemy." Natalie paused. "I touched his mind then his heart. Saw that you were like me but not, and him" she nodded towards Simon "so selfless." Her voice held wonder: her look, awe. "I was never loved, never regarded as anything more than fodder for the *tamade hundan* trying to create a Better World." Natalie snorted angrily and threw back her head. "I'm free of their schemes now."

Something bitter and unforgiving was glinting in her eyes and Simon had a feeling they were going to have to walk softly around this one. Even if you befriended a wild animal you had never to forget it was still wild. She flashed him a smile, bitter and warm. "I won't turn on you."

"Good to know."

The slurred voice of the Captain brought an amused smirk to Natalie's face. "Might have known you'd be a *ruanwo*."

"Maybe I'm just waitin' for the good drugs." He murmured back.

Simon patted the Captain on his uninjured shoulder. "*Duibuqi*, we don't have any supplies Captain."

"Wasn't complainin', doc. Just tryin' to remember when every inch of me didn't hurt."

"Sorry to interrupt but do we want to stay cloaked or de-cloak?"

The smile on River's face was a balm of joy to them all. "De-cloak Jordan. It's time to go let Serenity know we're coming home."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme* = what *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *ni cuode* = you're wrong *mei mei* = little sister *wode ma* = mother of God *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *tamade hundan*/*wangba dan* = fucking bastard *fuqin* = father *dui* = correct *dong ma* = understand? *baichi* = idiot *guai* = devil/ghost *pofu* = bitch *qing* = please *bao bei* = precious/treasure *fei hua* = garbage talk/nonsense *laoshi shuo* = frankly speaking/to be honest *lese* = crappy *jia* = home *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wo xiwang shi* = I hope so *wei* = hey! *laoban* = boss *wo zhidao* = I know *xie xie ni* = thank you *ruanwo* = soft sleeper *duibuqi* = sorry


Wednesday, February 4, 2009 5:30 AM


Oooo...Not sure how much I trust Jordan. As for Inara, well, that girl is just a magnet for trouble. I did love the interaction between Mal, River and Simon toward the end. Very very good. Ready for more?!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 8:26 AM


I still don't trust Mistress Barbette that much, but I don't trust the Minister at all. And I agree with Angellemarcs - the interaction at the end was excellent. I personally think Jordan is on the side of the angels, but we'll wait and see.


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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.