The DUPLICITY Series: 61. "Lesser Evils"
Saturday, May 9, 2009

"Captain Foster is informed of the 'accidental' cremation. Simon is having nightmares while taking tentative steps to repair his relationship with Kaylee. Inara returns to House Madrassa but not for the reason anyone thinks."


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

SUMMARY: "Captain Foster is informed of the 'accidental' cremation. Simon is having nightmares while taking tentative steps to repair his relationship with Kaylee. Inara returns to House Madrassa but not for the reason anyone thinks." 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

* * * * *

Minister Rosenbaum was a naturally cautious and suspicious person. He liked to have his finger on the pulse of every heartbeat in the organisation but as that was impossible he settled for monitoring everything and everyone. When he tried to access the feed to the mortuary he was alarmed to find that it appeared to have been disabled. Immediately fearing that security had been compromised he took a couple of guards with him and went to see what was going on. What he found stunned him. Recovering quickly he dismissed the guards and waited until the door shut behind them.

"What do you think you are doing, General?"

General Franks did not seem troubled to see him there. The man straightened and wiped his hands on a cloth, a look of grim satisfaction etched upon his face. "Sorting out our little problem, *shifu*."

The Minister's eyebrows rose. "And that necessitated disabling the cameras?"

"*Bu*. The cameras were taken off-line temporarily so that the footage could be scanned in more detail. It was fortunate timing."

"If you do not immediately explain yourself, General..."

The General calmly raised a hand and watched the Minister's mouth shut with a very distinct snap. "*Dang ran*." Franks paused and indicated for the mortuary technicians to leave them alone before continuing. "*Shifu*, we have but a small time window in which to dispose of the body. It cannot be left until morning, *dong ma*?"

"What have you done?"

"The body of Commandant Shair appears to have inadvertently been cremated, *shifu*".

Rosenbaum blinked. "*Shenme*?"

"I came to check on the body to ensure it was ready to be transported back to the family home with Captain Foster tomorrow." The look of apology and muted sadness was belied by a dark glitter in the man's eyes that flattened out as the Minister stared at him. "Obviously we will make profuse apologies to the family for the error and take the necessary steps to suitably reprimand the technician responsible for the error, *shifu*."


The General nodded. "A mistake, obviously."

"And the cameras?"

"In checking to see who came in and out of the facility it was necessary to disrupt the real time recording."

The Minister almost smiled. Very clever and a suitable explanation for having no record of *when* the cremation took place. They could simply quote a convenient time and day before Captain Foster had arrived with his request to take the body back for burial. "Where are the ashes?"

"They should be cool enough to extract from the furnace in a couple of hours, *shifu*."

Nodding, the Minister felt his good humour reassert itself. General Franks was certainly a useful man to have on his side. Giving him a thin smile Rosenbaum nodded. "It is truly regrettable. Please ensure the ashes are placed in a suitable urn and a plaque inscribed with the Commandant's details. Any personal effects are to be checked through then placed with the urn ready for Captain Foster tomorrow."

"Yes, sir."

The Minister walked to the door then paused and half turned, his eyes meeting those of the General. His nod was curt but tinged with a grudging respect. "Your service to the Alliance is admirable, General."

Franks nodded and watched the Minister leave, an unreadable expression upon his face.

* * * * *

He shouldn't laugh, it wasn't funny, but there was something inordinately entertaining in seeing Malcolm Reynolds tumble head over heels, arms wheeling ineffectually to save himself. With a start, Simon realised what he was seeing was not a comedy routine but the very real possibility the Captain would not only hurt himself but undo months of painstaking surgery. Healing be damned, he was going for damage limitation control. As he moved it was as if everything else was in slow motion. Simon Tam raced across the deck, big wide steps accentuated by speed and something close to panic. The Captain was near the top of the steel staircase. *Tianna, tianna, tianna*! As Simon half lunged and half stumbled in the falling man's path it seemed as if the walls had grown a plethora of arms. They came out of the walls, the decking, the body of the ship. Elongating and wrapping around the falling man, keeping him upright and safe until Simon could get to him. When he finally did, the relief was overwhelming. With a start he woke, his face and neck bathed in sweat, his heart hammering in his chest as if from some horrific nightmare.

Stunned, Simon sagged back on the narrow bed and stared up at the ceiling. He couldn't believe it! Now he was dreaming about their *wangu* Captain having a near fatal accident and *he* was the one hyperventilating? He lay there for a minute and shook his head. This was definitely what going mad felt like.

The tap on his door was hesitant. Simon rubbed the sleep from his eyes and got out of bed, surprised to find Kaylee's anxious face staring back at him when he opened the door. Immediately his face flooded with concern. "*Shenme shi*?"

Simon stood in his sleep pants and nothing else. Kaylee stared at him, words a foggy cloud in her suddenly inarticulate head, all the wrong emotions jumbled up with want and need wrapped up in a longing she had tried to ignore. When she didn't speak, Simon's worry grew.

"Kaylee, what is it? Has something happened?"

Her mouth opened and shut a few times before Kaylee managed to raise her eyes from Simon's bare chest to meet the worried look in his eyes. She flushed and began to stutter, suddenly nervous and feeling ridiculously embarrassed, her hands twisting together. "I...I...heard shoutin'....thought somethin' was wrong."

"*Shenme*? You thought...." His words trailed off, the memory of his nightmare crashing in on him. He must have been calling out, yelling in his dream. Now he was the one who was embarrassed but at least he remembered his language skills. "Um, *duibuqi*, I was dreaming. Having a nightmare actually."

Kaylee stared stupidly at him. "*Yige emeng*?"

Simon stepped back and turned to pick up a top and slid it over his head. Kaylee watched, blinked and seemed to recover her senses. "So no one's hurt?"

She shook her head. "No, everybody's shiny."

"Even the Captain?"

She stared. "Um, yeah, *weishenme*?"

There was no way Simon was telling Kaylee he had been having nightmares about the Captain. Still. It couldn't hurt to check in on the man once he'd had a wash and dressed. Simon waited but Kaylee hadn't moved. "Kaylee?"

"Um, yeah?"

Simon waved a hand behind him. "I need to wash and get dressed."

It took a moment for her to get his meaning then she flushed a second time, the rosy glow on her cheeks reminding him just how pretty she was. How much he had missed this. Maybe they could...

"I'll just go, let you get dressed, you know."

She was backing from the door, embarrassed and on the verge of fleeing. Simon stepped forward quickly. "Kaylee!"


"If you don't mind waiting for me we could go and get some breakfast - together?"

The change was like a life altering event. Kaylee's face lit up with pleasure, eyes wide and sparkling. "Okay, I can do that. Wait, I mean."

Simon smiled. He loved it when she was as hopelessly inept as he was, even if that didn't happen nearly as often to the young mechanic as it did to him. Top Three Percent and he could still put his foot in his mouth more times than the population of Persephone. Kaylee watched Simon close his door and could hardly contain her happiness as she waited outside his room, bouncing on her toes with excitement. Simon wasn't mad at her any more. He had smiled at her, asked her to go to breakfast with him! Biting her bottom lip Kaylee made herself calm down. This time she wouldn't say anything to ruin the moment and maybe, just maybe they could go back to more than just friends. The very thought had her grinning like a loon.

"Missed you too."

Kaylee jumped and spun round to see River gliding passed. The smile on the girl's face matched the twinkle in her eyes. Kaylee laughed then her friend was gone. A couple of minutes later the door opened and there stood the man of her dreams. All washed and dressed in his day clothes - white shirt, dark trousers and shiny blue and silver waistcoat. The clothes had seen better days but they were clean and looked perfect to Kaylee. Not for what they were but because of what was in them.

* * * * *

It was strange but not creepy. As unlikely as *diyu*. A dream not a shiny reality and yet when he blinked his eyes it was still there. Badger pinched himself. Real. Beside him Liam was getting restless.

"We goin' inside or standin' here all day?"

Badger glared at him, more for ruining the moment than for what he had said. "No one's tellin' you to stay."

Liam's eyes widened. "Ain't what you said when you all but begged me to come wiv you, now is it?"

All the reasons it had been a bad idea to dig up his half-brother crowded in like braying donkeys in Badger's head. Or was it gorram hyenas? Those ancient Earth-that-was creatures that laughed their asses off while bigger, badder beasts ripped them limb from ruttin' limb? Made no never mind now. While Liam was annoyafyin' he was kin. All Badger had left in the 'verse an' truth to tell he wasn't ready to be on his own again. Not just yet.

"Hold your horses." "It's just a gorram bank, Steph. Seen one, seen 'em all."

Badger spun round to glare at him. "*Bi zui*! I'm thinkn', see?"

His brother's eyes narrowed a little. "You ain't never opened an account 'ave you?" Liam would have laughed out loud, was tempted to in fact, but they were drawing too much attention. People having to walk round them to go through the highly polished bullet-proof plexiglass doors of the Alliance Central Bank. If they hesitated much longer security would take an even closer look at them. "If you're gonna do it do it, if you wanna think about it let's go get somethin' to drink. I'm parched, *dong ma*? Not to mention my stomach's shrivelled to half it's size waitin' for you in that gorram shuttle."

The little king pin hid a sigh and fumbled in his jacket pocket, pulled out a couple of Alliance bills and shoved them into Liam's hand. "Go, get outta my ruttin' hair. Have a drink, in fact have THREE."

His brother paled. "Where'd you get..."

Badger shoved his face up close, stale breath meeting stale breath, irritation bubbling just a touch away from violence. Something neither of them could afford. Not here, not now. Not yet. "Got an inheritance, see? Need to open a gorram account."

Liam blinked. "Did she...?" He swallowed hard, cutting himself off. Not quite able to bring himself to ask if Cyan Barbette had left him anything. But Badger had seen his face, caught the glimmer of a hope that should have been strangled at birth and understood. Oh yeah, he got it. How could he not? The twin to that feeling had carried him through life like a bad taste on the back of his pallet. Not that he would tell his brother that.

"Just go." He urged, voice more of a hush now, less threat and more understated understanding. Liam paused.

"How you gonna find me?"

"Just pick a window seat. 'Ave a drink or two then when you order food make it for the both o' us."

His brother looked down at the notes in his hand and Badger could easily read what he was thinking. Huffing, he dug into his pocked, pulled out another couple of bills and shoved them at him. "That should be enough but don't expect more. Ain't got enough to throw about, need some to open the account."

To Badger's surprised Liam didn't ask any more questions just nodded mutely and turned around, walking off towards the bars and restaurants dotted about the thoroughfare. Badger watched him for a moment then took a couple of deep breaths and headed straight for the bank doors. No one stopped him though one or two people looked, their eyes like glancing blows that he ignored. The new suit wasn't the best fit but it was good cloth and better still, was cheap. He could spend more when he knew how much his mother had left him. The best bit though was the shiny new hat. Fidgetting with it to set the bowler just right, Badger felt his confidence come flooding back. Man wasn't dressed without a hat. Who would have thought he could recover from everything those gorram *tamade hundan* had thrown at him? He would show them. He would show *everyone*. Badger was back and once his account was up and running and filling with new funds business was going to do more than look up. It was going to soar!

* * * * *

Captain Foster was at a loss for words. He stared at the ugly dull metal urn with the small brass plate hastily fixed to it. The engraving was crude but functional as if it was assumed no one would be reading the words anyway. It simply said: Commandant Niyan Shair and the date he died. Nothing else. No 'rest in peace', no words of thanks or praise. It was stark, emotionless but at least there were no false platitudes or protestations of affection or loss. It wasn't much but it was something he supposed. Minister Jacob Rosenbaum's monotonous drone barely registered. In there somewhere were words of regret that the body had been cremated before they could instruct the technicians at the crematorium to save the body for burial instead.

It was some time later. The gathering of military and political heads were gone and he was left standing outside the barracks with the urn, a box of personal effects and General Franks. Behind him the Minister's personal flyer waited to take him back. Foster looked at the General but could get no impression of what the man was thinking or feeling. "*Weishenme*?"

The blank canvas did not so much as blink back at him. "I will come by to pay my respects later, Captain."

John Foster stared at him but the General was already turning away, following in the footsteps of his military and political masters. In that moment Foster hated him. Hated them all. He wanted to throw the urn at Rosenbaum's head, hopefully denting that ugly mess inside that passed as a brain, but the man was out of target range and besides. It wouldn't bring Niyan back. The Captain closed his eyes for a moment and forced himself to calm down. This would not do anybody any good, least of all the Commandant's wife and family. He sighed softly and stiffened his spine, opened his eyes and turned to the waiting shuttle. With feet of lead he walked over to the vehicle and climbed in, not surprised to see that his bag had already been put in the shuttle for him. The pilot waited until Foster was seated then powered the flyer up and took off.

Inside the building the Minister waited for General Franks to catch him up. The smile on his face looked more genuine than it had the night before but it still made Franks feel unclean just to look at the man. Rosenbaum gave him a nod, waving the other officers away before clapping a hand on Franks' shoulder. "That was good thinking, General."

The General simply nodded.

"I was about to have a drink and a cigar, would you care to join me?"

Franks bit back the bile rising in the back of his throat and shook his head. "*Duibuqi, shifu* but I have to get back to my unit. Perhaps next time?"

Rosenbaum was in too good a mood to take offence and nothing in Franks' expression showed anything but the tactful need to decline a handsome offer because of the call of duty. The Minister understood or at least he thought he did. Released from a commitment that would have been one step too many on the road to damnation General Franks snapped off a sharp salute then left. His steps were crisp and grew in confidence the further he walked. The guards drew to attention and saluted as he approached the gates. A vehicle waited for him. Not a handsome flyer or even a passenger shuttle. No. This was a light transport ship. The Alliance only had a few of the smaller transports in their fleet most having been superceded by huge monolithic examples of military power and might. He felt more comfortable in the aging Anderson Light Transport.

Settling into the seat behind the pilot, Franks nodded to the Airman and tried not to look back into the hold where a big thick hessian cloth covered a long oblong box. In the co-pilot's seat the General's adjutant met his eyes in a brief contact that did not waver. It was enough to tell the General that his instructions had been carried out to the letter. Allowing himself a thin smile, Franks knew he would not relax until this particular mission had been accomplished. A nod to the pilot and the transport eased into a smooth vertical take off.

* * * * *

There were very few things in the 'verse which rendered Inara Serra speechless but this was one of them. She stared at Annalise, not exactly distressed by the news of Cyan's death but by the predicament it left her in. Inara had been relying on Mistress Barbette helping her with the file. The woman had, after all, handed it to her. Now that mission would present a far different problem than she had anticipated. Annalise noticed how pale Inara was.

"*Hai hao ma*?"

Inara took the proferred chair and sat down. "*Qu*, it's just a shock. I didn't know the House Mistress was in poor health."

Annalise shook her head. "She wasn't." At Inara's look, she hurried to explain. "Mistress Barbette had a heart condition but it was under control. Providing she took regular medication there was no need for concern."

"Then what happened?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*. According to her son she collapsed while struggling to get to her pills, the bottle rolled out of her hand. Before she could retrieve it, it was too late."

"Her son? Do you mean Badger?"

"She called him Stephen."

Inara resisted the urge to smile, remembering how much Badger hated that name. She did not want Annalise thinking that the death of the House Mistress was a laughing matter. In fact, Cyan's death was the worst possible timing for her own predicament. Seeing Inara's expression fall, Annalise peered anxiously at her.

"*Shenme shi*? You did not come to House Madrassa to talk about Cyan's son."

Inara shook her head, her expression one of regret. "*Ni shi dui de*, Annalise. Mistress Barbette entrusted me with a mission. One both delicate and difficult. I was hoping to speak to her to clarify some points and ask for guidance."

Unlike many people Inara could think of, Annalise did not ask her what the mission was or the advice she had been seeking. They sat instead in silence, Annalise calmly allowing Inara to sift through her thoughts and divine her own path forward. After several minutes had passed, Inara came to a decision. Taking a steadying breath, she told Annalise everything Mistress Barbette had imparted to her and then produced the flimsy. Annalise didn't speak but read the information slowly before raising her eyes to meet Inara's.

"This young man, Simon Tam. I have heard that name before."

Inara coloured a little and hoped that she was placing her faith in a safe pair of hands. "He has been wrongly accused of crimes against the Alliance for rescuing his sister. The two have been trying to keep out of Alliance hands ever since, unable to settle anywhere for fear of discovery and unable to clear their names."

"This information could result in his immediate execution."

"And the execution of the sister he risked everything to save."

Annalise stared at her for a moment, her mind racing through a myriad of possibilities none of them having a particularly hopeful outcome. "You do realise, Inara, that if you are found in possession of this information your own life would be forfeit?"

"I have done nothing wrong."

The older Companion shook her head. "That is not the point. This information cannot fall into the wrong hands."

"What are you suggesting?"

Annalise rose and walked around the big oak desk and stopped next to the open fire. Inara watched the golden flames lick upwards from the liquid base. "I am not suggesting anything."

Inara watched in a seeming daze as Annalise removed the ornate metal fretwork guard and allowed the flimsy to slip from her fingers onto the flame. Inara jumped to her feet, a cry trapped in her throat, one hand instinctively reaching out while the other rose to her throat. Alarm etched into every inch of her body. "What are you doing?" She cried.

The flimsy curled up in the heat, half melting, half consumed by the clean vibrant flame. With a little puff of smoke the flimsy was gone. Inara stared, her mouth open in shock, her mind reeling. What in the nine hells would she do now? As if reading her thoughts, Annalise stepped back around the table and stood in front of Inara and smiled gently.

"Child, what is this mission you speak of?"

Inara opened her mouth and shut it without speaking.

"I see no mission for you to be concerned about, Inara, do you?"

It took a moment for Inara to realise that Annalise's simple solution let her off the hook. The only problem was that Simon knew she knew. How that would alter the landscape she did not know. Stunned, she stared at Annalise. "Why did you do that?"

"Inara, this information - had it existed - would have had only one purpose. To destroy a life, maybe more than one. It could not save a soul, would never have been a source of comfort or joy. That it is no more is the only good that could have come of it."

"And Simon?"

Annalise shrugged. "Is one less burden so difficult to accept?"

"He knows I know." Inara whispered, the flickering of guilt stealing the strength and volume from her voice. Her whispered words like dry leaves. Annalise leaned forward and patted Inara's hands. It was intended to be a comforting gesture but to Inara it simply made her feel six years old.

"Then you should go back. Let him know the information is gone, that he has nothing to fear from you."

"What if there are copies?"

"Inara, sometimes you have to take things on faith, *dong ma*? Otherwise you will worry yourself into an early grave and you are too good a Companion to lose to fretful fears that may never come to pass."

"They don't trust me." The words came out like will o' the wisps, barely there fragments of sound shaping words she didn't want to say but could not keep hidden. They spoke of her secret heartache, a sorrow that never slept. Her voice made small by guilt.

"Then give them reason to do so, child, or cut your ties with them forever."

Like an arrow Annalise's words struck hard and deep yet Inara could find no fault with them. For the words struck clear through to the heart of the matter.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shifu* = sir *bu* = no *dang ran* = of course *dong ma* = understand? *shenme* = what *tianna* = oh God! *wangu* = stubborn *diyu* = hell *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *duibuqi* = sorry *yige emeng* = a nightmare *weishenme* = why? *bi zui* = shut up/be quiet *hai hao ma* = are you okay? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *ni shi dui de* = you're right


Saturday, May 9, 2009 3:55 AM


Inara is full of secrets these days. Hope they are worth the pain they are causing her.

Saturday, May 9, 2009 6:18 PM


Wow...such emotion with Inara. I love the way your mysteries become even deeper as we get answers. Simon knowing that he is safe, but Inara thinking of copies.....brilliant.....So how is she going to get their trust back and will Kaylee and Simon ever mend the bridge?!

Sunday, May 10, 2009 12:00 AM


Yes, Inara is full of secrets Katesfriend but not all of them are hers. As for Inara thinking of copies, she is seeing beyond the obvious possibilities and worrying for her friends Angellesmarcs. As for Kaylee and Simon, they have already taken the first step! Thank you both for your feedback, 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.

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The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

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.

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The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

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Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

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Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.