The DUPLICITY Series: 47. "Swimming With Sharks"
Monday, February 9, 2009

"Badger enters a dangerous game with his father but even he doesn't know how high the stakes really are. Jordan reunites Simon, Mal and River with Serenity. Zoe wants to retrieve Inara but first there is the matter of their new friends."


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

SUMMARY: "Badger enters a dangerous game with his father but even he doesn't know how high the stakes really are. Jordan reunites Simon, Mal and River with Serenity. Zoe wants to retrieve Inara but first there is the matter of their new friends." 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

* * * * *

For several minutes Minister Tirrel did not speak. He was staring at his son: thinking. "What possible use could you be to me?"

Badger grinned. "I *know* things."

The Minister did not look impressed but that did not dim Badger's expression of barely contained excitement. His eyes glittered when he was scheming and his father's eyes narrowed. Son or no son he was nobody's fool. "If you attempt to manipulate me the next words out of your mouth will be your last, *dong ma*?"

"*Fang xin*. I got knowledge, see? Important stuff, secret even."

The Minister leaned forward very slowly. "What information?"

"Not sure you'll believe me, could say it's fantastical or somesuch, but it ain't no lie."

"Do not toy with me."

Badger heard the warning in his father's voice and tried not to appear as shaken as he felt. Made him think of them animals in the wild what ate their young. "It's high tech, see?" He cupped his hands together to indicate a ball shape. "Gleaming but not a metal I ever seen before. An' it lights up but no buttons or switches, just this kind'a hum."

The Minister's interest was fully engaged now. Badger could tell by the look in his eyes that the man not only believed him but knew the object he was talking about. All of a sudden he was not sure this was wise after all. His mother had insisted that you had to bait the hook with the truth and nothing but the truth. The lies could take care of themselves.

* * * * *

"*Rongyi*, it's alright Mal. Try to take short slow breaths."

"Huh, I ain't givin' birth here, Simon."

Even though the Captain sounded pained and cranky the words brought a brief smile of amusement to the doctor's lips but did nothing to ease his concern. The bleeding had started again and all Simon's efforts to stem the flow so that the blood could clot seemed to be only partially successfully. Simon frowned. The Captain should not be losing this much blood. It made him suspicious that something else was happening. He tapped the Captain's cheek as he saw the man's eyes close, his weakening body ebbing back towards oblivion.

"Captain, I need you to open your eyes."

He answered without opening his eyes, the single word slurred. "*Lei*."

"*Wo zhidao* and I promise you'll be able to sleep soon."

With a little more coaxing the Captain forced himself to teeter on the brink of consciousness, his eyes heavy lidded and propped half open by willpower alone. The doctor took a good look at the Captain's eyes, gently lifting first one eyelid then the other. Mal mumbled what might have been a half hearted protest but Simon ignored him. "I wish I had my penlight."

A nudge at his elbow distracted him enough to look to his side, surprised to see River holding a torch. She shrugged. "Couldn't find anything smaller."

He smiled and dropped a kiss on her cheek. "Thanks, *mei mei*."

The torch was too big and Simon didn't want to blind his patient. Looking around he found a cardboard box. It was empty and there was no indication as to what had been in it. Tearing off one flap he looked for something with an edge and punched a hole in the middle of it, working at the hole until it was the size he wanted, no more than a quarter of an inch in diameter. Returning to the Captain Simon turned and asked River to pry one eyelid open as much as she was able then putting the torch behind the piece of cardboard he switched it on and watched the pupil dilate. Simon repeated the procedure with the second eye then patted the Captain's good shoulder. "You can sleep now, Captain."

River sat cross legged on the floor and looked at her brother, well aware of what was going through his mind but staying silent while he worked it out. He looked confused and somewhat pained as if the realisation hurt him. "Why would they drug him? Wasn't torturing the man enough for them?"

She knew the answer but didn't want to say it. Reacting to her silence, Simon turned his head and pinned her with a look she knew only too well.

"*Ni zhidao*, don't you?"

"*Qu*. They were cruel and mean, knew they couldn't do much damage to you. Not if they wanted to get paid." She waved a hand at the now unconscious Captain. "So they used him for fun, hurting him and wanting to make it last. They got bored because he kept passing out and injected him with an anti-coagulant. Wanted to watch him die. Slowly."

Horror paled the good doctor's face. "That's, that's..."

"Brutal. Insane." River nodded. "They didn't care but it doesn't matter now."

He frowned. "*Weishenme bu*?"

Her smile was wide and sharp as knives. "Got what they deserved only it wasn't slow enough. Quick, painful and permanent."

The words chilled him. River sounded sad and regretful. It was a side of his sister he tried to ignore existed but every now and again something would happen to spark off her protective instincts and the gloves would come off. It reminded Simon all too clearly of what the Alliance had done to her. A tap on his arm drew his attention to Paul Rinkman, the man now crouching down on the other side of the Captain. Natalie watched but made no move to join in the conversation.

"Is there anythin' I can do to help?"

Simon shook his head. "Not unless you carry a clotting agent in your pocket along with a blood transfusion kit oh, and the same blood type as the Captain. Some pain killers wouldn't go amiss either."

Paul blinked. "That bad?"

He was about to say worse when Jordan half turned in the pilot's seat. "Which one of you wants to wave Serenity?"

It was almost comical seeing the relief wash over Simon Tam's face, lifting the worry and concern into something much smaller that he could manage. "Are we that close, Jordan?"

Jordan gave a rare smile. It was brief and gone almost before it registered but Simon didn't care. "Almost close enough to touch."

He scrambled to his feet and noticed his sister smiling softly to herself as she took his place, one hand resting on the Captain's shoulder and Simon knew as surely as he knew his own name that she had known where Serenity was all along. Quickly he sent the wave, waiting impatiently until the com filled with the welcome and surprised sound of Wash's voice.

"Simon, is that you? Aren't you an' the Cap'n supposed to be at Burnt Cross?"

The doctor laughed, not caring that he was sounding a mite manic. Jordan flicked a switch and Wash's face appeared on the screen. "Burnt Cross wasn't the holiday destination we were led to believe from the brochure. I'm thinking of suing."

Wash laughed back though his eyes were curious, asking questions that he knew would have to wait until they were face to face on Serenity. "Where are..." Wash broke off and blinked down at his console as Jordan switched off the stealth mode so that the other pilot could not only read their energy signature as a solid contact on his sensors but also see them. In real time. Out of the front gorram window. Jordan enjoyed the way Wash's eyes widened like saucers as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing. "You're on board that... that..." Wash broke off and leaned forward to see better. "What is that?"

"I'll explain everything when we dock. Oh and Wash?"

The pilot looked a little dazed. "Yeah?"

"The Captain isn't doing so good, can you ask Shepherd Book to get the infirmary ready? He's going to need a transfusion sooner rather than later."

"*Wode ma*, that is definitely a bad vacation spot."

"And Wash?"

A look of wariness crept into Wash's good natured face. As if he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Simon tried to give him a reassuring look. "We have a couple of friends with us."

He blinked, taking that tidbit of news in. "Friends friends or, you know, the other kind?"

Simon smiled. "The kind we don't want to shoot, *dong ma*?"

Wash grinned and was about to cut the transmission when River leaned into view of the screen. "Also? We brought food."

Her brother shot her a look of surprise. "We did?"

"The ship is fully stocked. A lot of fresh food too - vegetables..."

"Fruit?" Asked Simon hopefully.

River knew he was thinking of Kaylee and smiled. "*Qu*. Pears, apples and some pressed figs and dates but no strawberries. *Duibqui*."

His grin was matched by the one on Wash's face. "That's *hao ba, mei mei*.

As the communication was being cut the last thing they heard was Wash shouting "Hey, it's Simon an' Mal, they're back an' they've got River with them an' guess what? They've brought FOOD!"

Was it just Simon's imagination or did their friend sound more excited about the food that seeing any of them?

* * * * *

Getting out of the house was not as hard as she expected. To her surprise the window in her room was not locked and opened out onto a balcony leading to a terrace. The location of House Kermos was on a short but high promontory which gave fabulous views as if they were sitting high up in an eyrie but this also meant the only safe way in or out was through the front door. To all intents and purposes it looked like a very fine house, its' position and grand appearance proclaiming the ultimate in luxury, whilst in reality it was a fortress. In years gone by the Guild had not always been free from interference to ply their trade. Only by marrying their own interests with that of the political climate of the day did they enjoy a favoured status unparallelled by any other group in the 'verse. Successive House Mothers and Guild Officials had worked hard to consolidate that hard earned position, ensuring that they had experienced Companions contracted out to all levels of the Alliance political and military hierachy. To cover all eventualities they had also done the same with the Independents.

Once it was clear which side would win the war support had tipped in favour of the Alliance, information gleaned from their contact with the Independents finding its' way to the eager self-important ears of those in government. A government only too willing to reward loyal service. The symbiotic relationship had helped to propel the Guild to a position of security and discreet but formidable power. Companions were seamlessly embraced into the upper echelons of society as status symbols and a measure of the sophistication and civilisation of the newly formed Unification of Planets. The Alliance looked after its' people. Flattered and fawned, funded and gave privileges to those who upheld their views and supported Unification. Those who rebelled in either word or deed became the Great Unwashed: the flosam and jetsom, an unwelcome scum on the tide of Alliance popular opinion. Reviled and kept underfoot by heavy taxes, economic sanctions and the staple of every Dictatorship: physical oppression.

Inara knew the history but when she had been just a girl the Guild had represented everything good and beautiful and to be desired in life. A chance to break out of the mundane cycle of life that otherwise would have kept her on the fringes of moneyed society. She knew it was not perfect but to her young eyes it seemed better than anything she could otherwise have dreamed of accomplishing. She was given expensive training in the best schools, taught to hold her own academically, musically and politically. Languages became second nature to her and mathematics a climbing frame for a mind longing and thirsting for more and more knowledge. Bigger and greater intellectual challenges. Inara learnt poise and how to read a person's body language as easily as the words tripping off their tongue, the said and the unsaid revealed to her sharpened insight. She learned how to put a man or woman instantly at ease, to anticipate their wants, needs and desires and to supply that lack with a grace and charm that garnered her prestige and admirers by the score. Now here she was, little more than a prisoner. A bird in a gilded cage. It mattered not that the cage was open because the only door that mattered was locked.

Inara had no idea why the House Mistress had turned on her or why she was being kept here but at least the drugs were wearing off. Her mind was still sluggish but it was her own again. She needed to get out of here but how? Inara gazed out across the balcony then looked over the ornate railing. Even in the dim light of pre-Dawn she could tell that it was a long way down, at least fifty feet. Because of the design of the building it would be impossible to climb down without falling but the railing was sturdy. It would hold a rope. Or. Inara turned and darted back into the room, casting a critical eye over the furnishings in the hopes that she would find something sufficient to the task. Naturally there was no rope but there was an elaborate corded bell pull and the curtains had matching tie backs. Then there were the high quality sheets. Some were pure silk but the rest were of the finest cotton. 400 percale threadcount at the very least. Inara smiled to herself and began to strip the bed. It would not be elegant but it would have to do.

* * * * *

Burnt Cross had been set up as a Safe Haven, a Sanctuary, a Place of Safety. Now it's very purpose, if not it's existence, was in jeopardy. Infiltrated by the very kinds of people they were supposed to be protected from. There was a side of human nature that would always be ugly but usually there was an element of balance, standards and upbringing that held the worst excesses in check so that notions like fairness and honesty had a chance of finding good if not fertile soil. To try to ensure that element was prevented from finding a foothold in the burgeoning community Curtis had made it a rule that no weapons were allowed. Anyone attempting to enter while armed would be swiftly dealt with but that didn't mean folk couldn't enter unarmed yet full of bad intentions. Enemies posing as friends. Seeing all, hearing all and passing it on.

Jed Hutchins squatted on the floor next to Curtis Morgan and helped him sit up, gently bathing the head wound and ignoring the pained hiss of breath while dabbing away the dried blood to get a look at the damage to the back of his skull. "*Wei*, lucky you're so ruttin' hard headed."

Curtis shut his eyes and let Jed work in silence for a moment or two, biting his bottom lip when short stubby fingers gently prodded around the wound.

"Hmm, gonna need stitches."

His eyes opened a crack then more fully when everything around him stopped spinning. "What I need is my gun."

Jed put a square meaty hand on his friend's shoulder. "They're gone, Curtis. Ain't nothin' to be done about it now."

The words stung more than the alcohol Jed was using as antiseptic. "Should never have let those *hundan* take 'em."

"You were unconscious!"

Curtis drew back his head and glared at Jed. "An' the rest o' you? Were YOU all unconscious too?"

He swept an angry glare around the cave, watched heads dip and eyes slide away from meeting his own. Shame self evident in the hunched shoulders. Jed tapped his shoulder and leaned close as Curtis turned his head. "Now you listen here, *dong ma*? These're good folk. Ain't their fault they ain't used to gun totin' or the kind of scum that hauled off the doc an' Reynolds. An' if you hadn't made it a policy for folk to come in unarmed maybe them as could have done somethin' would'a."

"*Diyu* Jed, *duibuqi*. Ain't your fault."

"Don't apologise to me, tell them!"

* * * * *

Many hands helped get the Captain to the infirmary where Shepherd Book had a pouch of blood hooked up ready to start a line. Since the crew often returned from jobs with a variety of holes in their bodies Simon had made a point of storing emergency supplies of their blood. There were substitutes he could use as alternatives but he preferred the real thing whenever possible. He was a traditionalist like that.

"Wode ma*!"

Simon glanced at the Shepherd's horrified face as he rolled up his sleeves to scrub up. "It seems there were people at Burnt Cross passing information on about who was coming and going. They must have realised who I was and well, the rest is history."

Book couldn't help feeling guilty. After all, he had recommended the place to the Captain and Simon as a safe haven. Zoe shooed the others out of the infirmary and shut the door. "Ain't your fault Preacher."

"Yes, it is. I shouldn't have relied on old information. I should have checked."


"I could have sent a wave."

Simon dried off his hands and snapped on a pair of surgical gloves then began to check on his patient, hooking Mal up to a heart monitor and checking his life signs. As soon as the blood transfusion was started he set up an iv line. "How would you like to swap guilt for a needle and thread?"

The Shepherd nodded, relieved that there was something he could do. Might not be able to undo what had happened but he would do whatever he could to help get the Captain stable again. Zoe watched the two men work. Simon quietly and efficiently cleaning out the reopened leg wounds then re-suturing and stitching them back up again, happy to find that none of the grafted blood vessels had been damaged. It took hours of painstaking work, the stitches so neat and tiny they could have been done on a machine. Zoe had always admired that about Simon. His ability to focus on one thing to the exclusion of everything else. It was part of what made him such a good surgeon. River was a genius but Simon was gifted too and they were lucky to have him.

When he got to the Captain's hands Zoe winced and stepped up to the side of the infirmary bed. "Good gorram, what in the nine hells happened down there?"

Book helped Simon gently bathe and sterilise the blistered hands then coat them in a cool gel. "Once the thugs appeared we were tied up and taken aboard a ship." He paused. "Remind me never to say disaparaging things about Serenity again."

"That bad?"

"Let's just say the bacteria on that ship had been there so long it was evolving language skills that could compete with Jayne."

"So, basic single cell cultures?"

Simon chuckled at the first mate's attempt to lighten the mood. The flash of humour soon vanished again, his expression serious and pinched as he gently bound the blistered and burnt hands. "Once they had us on board we were seperated. I got off lightly, it seems they couldn't afford to damage the merchandise because they already had a buyer for me but the Captain..."

"*Tian Yesu*," muttered Book "what they've done is inhuman."

"Not only did they continually beat the Captain up, they also tied his hands to a boiling hot pipe and left him there. Then, when he passed out from the pain and his injuries they injected him with an anti-coagulant so that his blood wouldn't clot. The reopened leg wounds have been bleeding for over a day now. I have no idea how much blood he's lost but if you hadn't met up with us when you did I'm not sure Mal would have lasted another 24 hours."

The silence that followed was dark and heavy. Book's expression was one of cold anger. When Zoe finally spoke, her voice was low and deadly but Simon could detect a slight tremor of barely contained fury. "You know any names to go with those that did this?"

Simon straightened and checked that he hadn't missed anything. Noting with a sigh that the Captain also had a couple of broken ribs but fortunately neither of his lungs had been punctured. He thanked God for small mercies. "You don't need to worry about revenge."

Her face tightened, eyes going black and hard as granite. "Wasn't askin'."

The doctor shook his head, peeled off his surgical gloves and threw them in the bin before turning back to her. "*Bu qu*, ni bu dong*. Our new friends took care of them."

Two bushy brows rose and Book could not hide his curiosity. "They did?"

"*Qu*, though to be honest I have no idea how they knew what was going on or why they went to so much trouble to save us."

Zoe and Book exchanged a look over Simon's head. Zoe straightened up from where she had been leaning back on the counter. "Then best we go find out who these paragons of virtue are."

"Is the Captain going to be alright?" Asked Book, his expression concerned.

"I've done what I can for now but I think so. The Captain's strong and if willpower alone could heal him he would be up and about already. Fortunately, I intend to make sure his body is healed first."

* * * * *

"You get me the control device and you can have anything you want."

Badger's eyes glittered but he was still cautious. "How'd I know you're gonna keep your word?"

Minister Tirrel flashed a sharp disingenuous smile that made Badger feel as if his skin was being peeled back with a filleting knife. "You're still alive."

"For now but I ain't *chunren*, need reassurances *dong ma*?"

His father leaned back in his leather padded chair and tented his fingers, a thoughtful expression on his face. "What kind of reassurance?"

"I want the price on my head lifted. Call off the gorram dogs an' I'll get your trinket." Just as the Minister was about to agree Badger forestalled him with a raised hand.

"An' I don't mean no temporary reprieve. Want it all down in black an' white, an amnesty you could say. Wanna be able to trade again, business man, see?"

He could see that his father didn't like that addendum but if he wanted the control device he would have to agree. Minister Tirrel's eyes narrowed, telegraphing the cunning that crouched deep inside where nightmares were crafted. Badger could almost hear the sound of a hundred tormented souls screaming. Made his gorram skin crawl, inwardly praying he wouldn't end up one of them. "I could promise. Lie. Hand you a fake then kill you."

Badger shrugged. "Why go to the effort? This way you get what you want, I get what I want. *Rongyi*, see?"

For several seconds they just stared at each, neither breaking eye contact. The Minister blinked slowly and folded his hands in his lap. "Very well. You will fetch the device and bring it to me."

"Or I could give you the location. Would be a mite quicker, *dui*?"

"You may be flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, Stephen but I don't trust you."

Badger drew back his lips in a grin that was almost as feral as his father's had been. "Feelin's mutual an' that bein' the case I ain't comin' into the lion's den. I'll get your device but we make the exchange somewhere neutral. Make sure neither of us is settin' up the other."

"Where do you have in mind?"

The little king pin rose to his feet and jerked on the lapels of his jacket as if to reassert his standing and smarten up his rumpled suit at the same time. "I'll call you. 24 hours."

Minister Tirrel stood up and walked around his desk. When he was no more than a foot from his son he extended his right hand. "It is still custom in many places to shake hands when a deal is struck."

Badger hesitated but knew he had little choice. He was too close to mess it up now because of nerves. Jerking his chin out he clasped his father's hand, his eyes widening in alarm at the sharp prick in his palm. He tried to pull his hand away but his father tightened his grip and closed the last few inches between them. His eyes were hard and flat. "A little insurance, Stephen. I know your mother sent you and while you may make a simple agreement I regret to say that Cyan was always a lot more, shall we say, convoluted? She always had a sharp eye for the main chance but so have I."

"W...what d'you do to me?"

The Minister was smiling now. Dark amusement shining in his eyes. "It's a poison. Slow acting but deadly."

His mouth opened in shock and distress. He wanted to rant and rave at his gorram mother for letting the *tamade hundan* kill him. But no, the man was still speaking.

"You have your 24 hours, Stephen. I suggest you use them wisely and make no attempt to double cross me. I am the only one with the anti-dote."

Letting go of his son's hand, the Minister stepped back and watched Badger stare at his hand, all the blood drained from his face. "H... how long I got?"

"24 hours, Stephen." Minister Tirrel walked calmly around his desk and re-took his seat. "You know your way out."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand? *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *lei* = tired *rongyi* = easy *wo zhidao* = I know *mei mei* = little sister *dui* = correct *ni zhidao* = you know *qu* = yes (lit. go) *weishenme bu* = why not? *wode ma* = mother of God *duibuqi* = sorry *hao ba* = all right/fine *wei* = hey! *hundan* = bastard *diyu* = hell *zenme* = how *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *chunren* = fool/jerk *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard


Monday, February 9, 2009 5:37 PM


Wow, I just caught back up after a long absence from the site, and all I can say is that you have surely been busy crafting this convoluted, intriguing tale! Beautifully done! :D

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 2:43 AM


Hey, welcome back slumming! Hopefully this means we will soon be seeing some more little masterpieces from you (hint, hint - no pressure). Hope you enjoy the rest of the ride. Hugs, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 3:59 AM


Okay, the last part of this story was just so creepy. 24hrs...that's not nice....even if it's Badger.

You are spinning this web and I am definitely caught up in it. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 4:08 AM


If you think this bit was creepy Angellemarcs hang on to your halo! Glad you are still enjoying the story, my friend. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 1:07 PM


At last Mal's home, and can be treated properly. I love how you crafted this, by the way - bookending with Badger and his fathe worked really well.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 1:13 PM


Badger is pretty much stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea in this story Jane0904, what with his scary father on one side and his scheming mother the other. Thanks everyone for the feedback, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, April 8, 2011 4:13 PM


He blinked, taking that tidbit of news in. "Friends friends or, you know, the other kind?"

LMAO! quintessential Wash! I love it, stellar series, AliD


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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.