The DUPLICITY Series: 52. "Honour, Duty and the Company of Friends"
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"The clean up after the death of Niyan Shair goes into high gear. Shepherd Book is distressed to hear about his friend. Zoe wants nothing more to do with the control device but the decision is out of her hands."


TITLE: "HONOUR, DUTY AND THE COMPANY OF FRIENDS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "SECRETS AND LIES". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "The clean up after the death of Niyan Shair goes into high gear. Shepherd Book is distressed to hear about his friend. Zoe wants nothing more to do with the control device but the decision is out of her hands." 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

* * * * *

John Ridgeway Foster was not the kind of man to set worlds on fire with either his dazzling heroics or wit. An Alliance Captain of impeccable service record he was the last person among the unified planets to ever upset the status quo. At least that was what everybody who had ever known or had contact with him, in or out of his military career, had thought. But Captain Ridgeway was not only a good officer and military man, he was also very loyal. The unexpected and generous furlough given to himself and his men after Commander Shair had inexplicably been summoned to see Minister Rosenbaum had not seemed incongruous at first. He and the rest of the men thought it a reward for a job well done even if they had come too late to save the majority of the people who had died in the burnt ruins of the Tam Estate. So why did he feel so unsettled? A creeping feeling in his gut that kept him on edge and unable to relax as if an unknown danger lay just around the corner.

His wife, Mary, called him on it and forcing a smile to his face he helped her put the children to bed. Read a story to his young son while his wife tucked in their daughter. The quiet comfort of their modest home reassuring. Just as he put the book away and tip toed out of the boy's room the sound of an incoming call echoed distinctively from the small study downstairs. Mary poked her head out of Jenny's room. "Leave it, John. You're on leave, *jide*?"

Shaking off the feeling that something was wrong he gave he gave his wife an apologetic shake of the head. "*Duibuqi, fengmi*. It might be important." Mary huffed but joined him on the landing. "It's late, whoever it is can ring again in the morning."

That amused him. It might be Commandant Shair and if that was the case he didn't want to put him off. The rest of the brass though could wait. Even as he was thinking that he knew he would not ignore the call. Duty was embedded in him heart and soul like lettering through a stick of rock from Earth-that-was. "I won't be long. You get ready for bed *xin gan*, I'll be up in a minute."

The kiss was light, a down payment for later. With a sigh Captain Foster hurried down the stairs and into the study. As soon as he accepted the waiting call he was surprised to see Junior Minister Alec Durrel staring back at him. "Sir?"

Durrel did not apologise for calling so late at night. "Captain, I'm glad I managed to reach you. The Minister needs to see you on a matter of the utmost urgency."

He raised his eyebrows in surprise. "*Wo bu dong*, what matter is that?"

"I am sure you understand that anything of a - shall we say - sensitive nature, cannot be discussed over an open cortex channel?"

Captain Foster knew that, of course he did. "Sir, I'm on leave."

"Yes, yes, and any time loss will be reinstated afterwards. A transport is on its' way to pick you up as we speak. And Captain?"

He bit back the temptation to tell the man to go to *diyu*. "Yes, sir?"

"This conversation never happened."

Before he could respond the connection was cut and he was left staring at a blank screen. The unsettling feeling had grown much stronger. Some instinct telling him to gather up his family and get the *guai* out of the area before his transport arrived but Foster was not simply career military, the chain of command was virtually engraved into his DNA at a cellular level. Disobeying an order or ministerial directive was not an option. No. His mood was just a reaction to the terrible sights he had witnessed at the Tam Estate. It had absolutely nothing to do with his requirement to present himself, with all due haste, before the most powerful Minister in the government. With a sigh he went upstairs and wondered how to break the news to his wife.

* * * * *

Badger was released from the infirmary within 48 hours of having been rushed into it. That had to be a record by anyone's measure. Mistress Barbette kept seeking reassurance from Simon that her son really was out of danger. Inara wanted to hit her over the head with something, not because of her concern but because she just wanted the woman to leave the infirmary so she could have a few moments of peace with Mal. The Captain watched with vague amusement, his sympathy more with the doc than Cyan. That was one lady who had always been able to look after herself. Simon though, might need help.

Simon paused and pinched the bridge of his nose, every line of his bearing bespeaking a weariness held barely in check. "For the last time, there is no trace of the chemicals in his blood stream."

"What if you have missed something?"

The doctor looked up, his eyes changing shade just a touch as his demeanour stiffened. It was all very polite and subtle but both Mal and Inara knew that look. Sure enough, when Simon spoke his words were painfully polite and clipped. "Your son is quite well and suffering no ill affects or do your own extensive medical qualifications argue to the contrary?"

She stared at him, her eyes blinking slowly as she registered that his finite patience was a hair's breadth from snapping. A light flush tinged her cheeks as she sought a way to gracefully back down, she had not meant to insult him. "I was simply worried about Stephen, naturally I trust your medical judgement Dr Tam."

"Naturally." His voice was emotionless and without warmth.

For once Badger did not enter the fray and Simon could not decide whether it was because he didn't want to get caught between the two of them if it came to blows or whether he didn't want to leave the infirmary and be alone with his mother. Simon suspected the latter though he had no sympathy for his former patient. The man couldn't be trusted at the best of times. It was with a sigh of relief that he watched the two of them leave. Jayne waited a few minutes before he got up and left, not wanting to make it too obvious why he had stayed in the infirmary to begin with. Simon knew but the idea was to make sure the Captain didn't. He would be mad as *diyu* if he thought the mercenary was keeping an eye on Mistress Barbette. The Captain's voice startled Simon.

"*Wei*, doc, you look about ready to fall asleep on your gorram feet. I'm thinkin' you might wanna call it a night."

"And when did you get your medical degree, Dr Reynolds?"

Mal chuckled, his voice warm and almost affectionate and not at all offended by the sharp retort. Simon wondered if it was the effect of Inara's presence or if he had given the man too much medication. Whatever the reason he wasn't about to argue with anything that mellowed the man. "Just observin'. Kind'a hard not to when I'm stuck in here."

"Are you complaining, Captain?"

"No, no, just..."

"Observing?" Prompted the doctor drily.

The Captain gave a wan smile and Simon's look sharpened. A small flicker of annoyance crossed Mal's face before he could mask it. Gorramit, Simon was too sharp for his own good.

"How long have you been in pain, Captain?"

"*Fang xin*, ain't but an ache. See? It's goin' now."

"I'll be the judge of that."

Mal frowned as Simon began to check him over, Inara turning her head so the Captain wouldn't see her smile but he knew. Not no way he could miss the hunch of her shoulders as she silently laughed at him. His attention was brought back to Simon as he finished checking the monitor and taking his pulse and such. The doctor fiddled and fussed then injected something into the iv line. "What's that?"

"Just something to ease the pain, Captain."

"You ain't puttin' me to sleep?"

Simon sighed. "As tempting as that would be I don't make a habit of abusing my medical expertise to silence annoying patients."

"You sayin' I'm annoyafyin'?" It was on the tip of his tongue to correct the Captain's grammer but he stopped himself. Knowing Mal he was probably doing it on purpose and he was tired.

"You look dead on your feet, Simon. Despite what you may think *wode ganji* for all you've done for me. I ain't the easiest patient an' bein' idle don't sit well with me, *dong ma*?"

Simon looked at Inara. "I don't know what you've done with the real Malcolm Reynolds but please don't swap them back while I'm gone."

"Huh," the Captain muttered sulkily while Inara walked Simon to the door "everyone's a gorram comedian."

At the door the two paused. Inara smiled at the doctor. "Mal's right, you look ready to drop. Go. Get some rest, Simon. I'll let you know if you're needed."

"You should rest as well, Inara."

"I will, now go before I call Kaylee."

That brought a smile to his tired lips. Inara closed the door after him and went back to the Captain's bedside. He tilted his head. "You gonna tell me to sleep too?"

Her smile was mischievous, her eyes dancing. "Someone's feeling much better."

"What can I say? The doc works miracles."

It seemed as natural as breathing for her to reach for his hand, her touch gentle and mindful as she cradled the bandaged hand in hers. "Mal, I wanted to say I'm sorry for before."

He cut her off. "Let it go, 'Nara. It's been explained, you were bein' used an' the lie can't hurt you no more."

"*Bu*, but it did enough damage at the time."

"You still got your brother." He said softly. Her eyes lit up with a joy that warmed him heart and soul to see. "*Qu*." A thought occurred to her. "We could visit Sendhil for Winter Fair."

Seeing his blank look, Inara used her free hand to brush the fringe off his face. The Captain held his breath.

"You've never been to a Winter Fair have you, Mal?"

"Didn't have such fancy things on Shadow."

"When the first snows come before deep Winter sets in a celebration is held of all that the year has given. It is a time of blessing, of coming together and sharing all that we have, of giving to those who have not. There will be feasting and dancing and..."

"Where's all this merrymakin' gonna take place? Have to say Serenity ain't that big for such a shiny shindig."

Her smile lit him up inside. "We'll see how you feel in six months time."

"Inara," he said softly, his voice serious "I ain't gonna be able to dance. Be lucky if I can stand upright without fallin' flat on my face."

"How is that any different from normal, Malcolm Reynolds?"

He opened his mouth to protest but she was ready, her mouth closing over his and stealing all his air. It was done so sweetly he couldn't complain even if he had the breath left to do so. Outside the infirmary Zoe paused and smiled. Glad to see that one complication had been resolved. Quietly she turned and walked back the way she had come. No need to trouble them with Natalie and Jordan's bombshell just yet. Things would hopefully look a little less worrisome after everyone got a good night's sleep.

* * * * *

Howard Tirrel was not really surprised when his son did not return. Perhaps he had given him more of the drug than was wise and now he would never find out what Stephen and Cyan had been planning. Though the mention of the control device had whet his appetite he had to weigh that up against the dubious source. He had always been a careful man. Meticulous and thorough in all his dealings. Some called him ruthless but he just liked to think he was extremely efficient. Plus he knew in no small measure how Cyan's devious little mind worked. Once it had amused and excited him. On occasions even impressed him. But the control device? No. It had to have been a lie to get him to listen to them though obviously Stephen had either seen it or had it described to him by someone who had. He mused over it for another minute or two then shut it from his mind. There was no sorrow at losing a son though he knew sooner or later he would have to deal with the odious swaggering little man's mother.

A slow nasty smile twisted his features, distorting what might once have been a handsome face. Anticipation for the day when he would meet Cyan again sharpened in his mind with some very painful and inventive ways to exact a most fitting revenge. He was not in a hurry though. No. This would be something to draw out and take slowly, savouring every last hitch of pained breath, every shudder of agony teetering on the brink of unbearable ecstasy. Cyan Barbette had her little toys which she used to heighten the sexual experience and he had his. Hers however, were not designed to create a drawn out and messy death.

* * * * *

"It's too dangerous."

Natalie nodded to Zoe. "*Wo zhidao*. That is why we have to retrieve it."

Zoe scowled. "Are you not listenin'? You already said no one would find it so why not leave well alone? Hasn't it caused enough harm already?"

Jordan shook his head and stepped in. "*Ni bu dong*, what has happened is but a fraction of what would happen if it falls into the wrong hands."

"*Back* into the wrong hands you mean." Corrected Shepherd Book.

Jordan turned his head and stared deep into Book's eyes. "Does the Keeper of Secrets wish to share his own?"

It was just Zoe, Natalie, Jordan and Shepherd Book. Paul had retired early, too drained by recent events to want to spend half the night talking. Simon had been dragged off to get some sleep by Kaylee, Jayne had caught a look in Zoe's eye and left to keep an eye and ear out for Cyan and Badger, and Wash had been sent to set in a new course. For the nearest habitable planet without a Guild House on it. While Zoe was keen to drop the pair off she didn't want to make it easy for the Mistress of House Madrassa to start meddling and causing trouble using the Guild. Time enough for that once Serenity was far, far away.

"What will you do with it if we let you go through with this?" Book asked.

Natalie and Jordan exchanged a glance. Zoe didn't like the fact that she had no idea what it meant, their emotions held firmly in check, but something passing between them that was almost alien. Were they both telepathic? Was that what it was? Like River? Thinking of the girl made her realise she had not seen her for a couple of hours now.

"It needs to be deactivated." Natalie explained.

Zoe wondered what she was missing. "Thought you said that the device and Jordan were linked?"

"We all are. Some through flesh, some through technology."

"Not the answer I was hopin' for an' you know it. Speak plain, *dong ma*?"

Natalie nodded. "The control device has the matrix for the creation of artificial intelligence. Not the appearance of it, not a hybrid but the real thing. Jordan is the result." "I thought it was a repository?"

"It is, Shepherd Book."

Zoe was frowning. "So you're sayin' it's all things to all people?"

"We're not tryin' to trick you. It is a depository. The control device holds the details of all the students held at the acadmey. Everything about them, their skill level and psychiatric evaluations, intimate information even their birth parents don't have."

Zoe looked at Book. "We should get Simon here."

Jordan shook his head. "That would be a mistake."

"If that device has any information on it that could help Simon help River..."

"She dosen't need fixing!"

Everyone turned towards the doorway. River was barefoot, her hair hanging in unwashed tangles, her eyes so wide that if Zoe didn't know better she would think the girl drugged. River walked towards them, a little shiver going through her that had nothing to do with the thin dress she was wearing. A different kind of chill was affecting her.

"Simon thinks there's a cure. A way to make River a normal girl but I wasn't normal even as a baby in the womb. Too smart, too intuitive, too *knowing*. Perfect for them to take and tinker with but never normal."

"River, I didn't mean..."

She raised a hand and Zoe stopped speaking. "She knows, she understands but she doesn't comprehend. You're worried. Afraid the technology is so advanced it'll turn on you but it won't."

Zoe wasn't sure whether she was talking about herself, the control device or Jordan. River raised her head the better to see Zoe through the strands of lank hair, her eyes clear and bright. "How do I know that, River?"

"That's why it has to be destroyed."

Shepherd Book moved closer, he looked intigued but also a mite wary. "I thought the only way to do that was if it was programmed to self destruct?" At her nod he continued. Aware of a new tension. "What's the catch?"

"I'm the only one who can do that." Said Jordan.

"*Wo bu dong*, I must be missin' somethin'. How is that a problem?"

"Because," Jordan explained calmly, his voice mild, almost soothing "when it self destructs it will take me with it."

"How is that even possible?" Book paused. "Surely you can find a way to remote control the detonation?"

"*Bushi*. We're connected, the device is like my heatbeat. No matter how far we are apart it keeps my systems functioning to optimal levels."

"Is there any way we can find out what the academy did to River before the device is set to self destruct?"

River was getting agitated now. "You're not listening, Zoe! They cut into her brain, over and over and over again."

"*Dubuqi*, I'll get Simon..."

"*Bu*!" River calmed immediately. It was almost as if a switch had been thrown. Zoe found it more than a little disconcerting and given their current conversation wondered if Jordan had done something. He caught her eye and gave a tiny shake of the head. Zoe flushed slightly realising that with three readers in the room she shouldn't be surprised that they knew what she was thinking almost before she did. "I don't need fixing. No medicine for a miracle cure. No poking with needles. River's fine, she's here, and we have to decide this now."


River looked at the Shepherd her eyes saddening. He was not sure what that meant but it couldn't be good.


The girl turned to Zoe. "We don't have much time. If we wait for a committee we'll all be caught. The fate of millions in our hands."

For several moments no one spoke. At last Zoe cleared her throat, glanced at Book who nodded slowly, his expression solemn but decided. She took a steadying breath then nodded her agreement. "Okay. Let's do this."

"We need to be alone," Natalie explained "just for a few minutes. Jordan needs silence and no interruptions so that he can make contact with the control device."

Zoe wanted to refuse, to demand they stay together so she could be present but River was shaking her head, her eyes pleading for the first mate to trust. If not Natalie and Jordan then her. With a curt nod Zoe gave her agreement and watched Natalie and Jordan take their leave. When they were gone Zoe turned her attention to River. "Where are they goin', little one?"

"To their room in the passenger dorm. You should try to sleep, we'll know by morning."

She wanted to argue but decided it was probably best to do just that. A few hours in the arms of her husband was just what she needed to feel human again. "*Wan an*, Shepherd, River."

They nodded back and watched her leave then River walked over to Shepherd Book. He had been about to go to his bunk but something in the girl's eyes rooted him to the spot. That and the fact that the girl was now blocking his way. River? Was there something else?"

She nodded, her expression so sad that he inwardly wept for her. What was wrong? Was she hurting? Did she see something terrible happening to the crew? "We need to talk."

Not getting more explanation than that the Shepherd held back a sigh and went to put the kettle on. Looked like this was going to be a long night.

* * * * *

Wash stirred as Zoe finished undressing and slid into bed beside him. His warm hands caressed her back as she began to relax against him. His half lidded eyes opened fully. "You're tense, *bao bei*."

"Have a lot on my mind, *zhangfu*."

His eyebrows rose in invitation. Zoe didn't want to talk about it, she wanted to forget and knew just how to keep the curiosity from spilling out of Wash's mouth. If she played her cards right he wouldn't be capable of speech for hours to come.

* * * * *

The commons room was quiet. Book poured them both a mug of tea then sat at the big oak table. River took the seat next to him. Tonight was a time to let down barriers not erect new ones between them even if they were only made of wood. She watched him take a cautious sip of his tea, blowing softly to cool it first. "You're waiting."

"I am?"

"You'll wait and wait but it won't make any difference."

"River, what are you talkin' about?"

"He doesn't blame you, he wants you to know that."

A cold sliver of apprehension slid down his spine. "*Shei*?"

"He was your friend. The differences didn't matter. Love, respect, friendship - they gave you understanding. Insight."

Book went from apprehensive to cold. "Who is this friend?" "*Ni zhidao*."

"The name?"

"He gave his life to the Alliance but they tried to take it from him anyway."

"*Tian Yesu*. Please tell me you aren't talkin' about Niyan?"

She shook her head, unable to lie to him. Not when he needed the truth so badly. "A good man in a wicked 'verse."

The Shepherd could not disagree with her but he needed more information. "I need you to tell me what happened."

Her eyes were wide, gathering in all the light they could as if it would hold back the darkness. "Vindictive man. Believes everyone is working against him. That they have secrets - plotting, planning, and scheming."

"Does this powerful *hundan* have a name?"

"You don't know him but he knows you. By reputation. Knew you and Niyan were friends. Thought there was more so he peeled back the layers."

Book could hardly breathe for the pressure in his chest. Eyes pricking with the threat of tears. "Where is Niyan, River?"

"Gone." She paused. "He didn't tell them anything."

The Shepherd closed his eyes, his lips moving in silent prayer. When he opened them again his eyes were shiny with tears. "*Wode ma*, are you sayin' he was tortured?"

"*Qu*. Searched for things that weren't there but in the end he cheated them. Took his own life. Wants you to know he's sorry."

The tears were now running unheeded down Book's face. So many memories adding a sting of sorrow to his tears. "*Wo bu dong*, what did they think he knew?"

River didn't answer and a for a long time they sat in silence and let their tea grow cold. When Book at last stirred he had only one thing on his mind. "Who did this to Niyan, River? I need a name."

The look she gave him was bleak but not judgemental. After all, who understood suffering better than she did? "It won't help."

"No, but it's a start."

So River told him. "Jacob Rosenbaum. A Minister with too much power and no compassion." She watched the Shepherd's body tense, his hands squeezed into tight fists. "Doesn't want you to kill him. Keep your distance."

"I make no promises."

"But if you do?" River waited until Book looked up and their eyes met. "I'll help you hide the body."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*jide* = remember *duibuqi* = sorry *fengmi* = honey *xin gan* = sweetheart *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *diyu* = hell *guai* = devil/ghost *bu* = no *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wei* = hey! *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *wode ganji* = I'm grateful *dong ma* = understand? *wo zhidao* = I know *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *bushi* = not so *weishenme* = why? *wan an* = good night *bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband *shei* = who? *ni zhidao* = you know *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *hundan* = bastard *wode ma* = mother of God


Tuesday, March 3, 2009 3:19 AM


I'm glad that River and Book have a connection in this. And the Mal/Inara bit was sweet, especially since it is obvious he has forgiven her, even if she hasn't forgiven herself. As for Jordan ... he will sacrifice himself, but hopefully he won't have to.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 4:25 AM


A very interesting developement that keeps us on our toes. Zoe was definitely not a happy camper in the decision and I'm thinking they should have listened to her.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 7:48 AM


Thank you for the feedback, always appreciated. We're coming up to the last few chapters. A number of surprises to come so hope you have been paying close attention. - Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, March 5, 2009 8:16 AM


Very much enjoyed River's conversation with Book. Vividly drawn! :D

Thursday, March 5, 2009 3:16 PM


Thanks for the feedback slumming. It'll be a couple of days until the next part is ready as I have been out with friends celebrating my birthday. I know, another year younger! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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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.