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CATTLEORCATALYST

Twice in a Blue Sun
Friday, July 14, 2006

My idea of a cool and canonically semi-logical Firefly episode, written in script format.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2201    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“Twice in a Blue Sun”

TEASER

EXT. BEYLIX MARKETPLACE – DAY

MAL, ZOE and JAYNE (with funny hat, of course) tear through a snowy marketplace with a group of four GOONS in hot pursuit, shooting at them all the way. The TRIO approaches a particularly crowded area, and MAL motions for the other two to follow him into a small alley between two run-down shops. ZOE peers out as the GOONS run past.

ZOE Think we lost ‘em, sir.

MAL We lost ‘em? I kinda had my mind set on them losing us....

JAYNE Just where in chou tyen-ah is that mule?

MAL (on transmitter) Wash, Beylix ain’t an overly sizable moon, where we at with the escaping?

EXT. BEYLIX THOROUGHFARE – DAY

WASH is tearing down a slightly more major street in the mule—loaded down with some evidently illegally obtained boxes—pursued by ALLIANCE SOLDIERS in similar vehicles. He is weaving around wildly, dodging bullets, while yelling into his transmitter.

WASH Yeah, about that, sir… (explosion) Are you ever going to take me up on that idea about checking before we take a job whether or not the world considers stealing a bad thing…

EXT. BEYLIX ALLEY – DAY

MAL Would take some of the mystery out of the job, though, wouldn’t it?

WASH (O.S.) I believe it would… (sound of explosion on transmitter)

EXT. BEYLIX THOROUGHFARE – DAY

WASH Wo mun wan luh, captain, where are you?

MAL (O.S.) Towards the marketplace, Wash…

EXT. BEYLIX ALLEY – DAY

MAL We’re hidin’ between two…

One of the shops lifts into the air and flies away—it was a small parked ship. The four GOONS, who were just on the other side of the ship, are suddenly feet away from our HEROES.

MAL Actually…never mind about the hiding. Be seein’ ya.

The GROUP runs out of the former alley just in time to meet WASH speeding by on the mule—they jump on the back, with the GOONS still in pursuit.

EXT. BEYLIX MARKETPLACE – DAY

JAYNE Where’d that ruttin’ shop go…anybody else see that?

The GOONS give up the chase as the ALLIANCE SOLDIERS speed suddenly into the MARKETPLACE.

MAL Ai ya, Wash, what is all this?

WASH The mystery of the job, captain…

The mule speeds away down the street, while MAL, JAYNE and ZOE fire out the back at the pursuing vehicles. WASH turns the mule down various side streets, knocking over some requisite baskets and fruit stands.

MAL Fruit stands…I swear, no matter what world we’re on, the moment we start fleein’ through a marketplace, we start knocking over fruit stands…

WASH My opinion it’s one of the perks of a good chase, Captain.

JAYNE agrees, and plucks an orange out of the air and takes a bite out of it—he half-offers it to Mal, who politely turns it down.

MAL Hm. S’pose so. Wash, hanger anywhere nearby?

WASH Coming up on it soon, Captain, I can feel it…

WASH bears a hard turn into what seems like a pile of crates, but crashes through to reveal the SERENITY LOADING RAMP in a small hanger area.

INT. SECRET BEYLIX HANGER ZOE Yeah, I think I felt that too, dear…

ZOE kisses WASH and they embrace briefly. The GROUP jumps off and begins carrying the boxes off of the mule, while JAYNE suddenly realizes his hat is not on his head.

JAYNE My hat...

MAL What?

JAYNE My hat, where’s my ruttin’ hat?

RIVER pops out of one of the larger baskets on the back of the mule covered with feathers (yes, there are chickens in the crates) with JAYNE’s hat on.

RIVER Finders keepers!

JAYNE Hey!

JAYNE lunges for the hat, but RIVER deftly dodges back into the basket. JAYNE begins tearing lids off of the crates. SIMON, KAYLEE and BOOK have come out of the ship’s LOADING RAMP during this time and are helping to bring the boxes into the ship. SIMON lifts the top off of RIVER’s crate and carefully takes the hat.

JAYNE Boo hway-hun duh puo-foo…

SIMON (handing the hat to JAYNE) Give that back, River, it’s probably crawling with venereal disease, it’s filthy…

JAYNE Since when is bein’ virile a disease?

ZOE Oh, sometimes I think it is…

JAYNE glares at ZOE, while SIMON begins to help RIVER out of the basket.

MAL Let’s pick it up, people, we have currency to collect on a pleasantly unsavory little moon called Three Hills I don’t particularly care for, and we have to be outta the world before the authorities realize we got away from under their noses.

INARA has emerged from the RAMP, but stays a bit removed from the action.

INARA Is that the cause for alarm? From your entrance, I thought you had been taking a quiet walk around the park…

KAYLEE Come now, Inara, Captain wouldn’t take a quiet walk ‘round the park in the middle of a job…

MAL Never was much for calm perambulatin’ anyway. So uneventful.

KAYLEE Wouldn’t go without me, anyway, would ya captain…

MAL I imagine not…who would I discuss the ins and outs of…port compression coil maintenance with if ya didn’t, anyway?

KAYLEE …You have no idea what you just said, do ya?

MAL (patting her on the head) I’m the Captain, little Kaylee, shouldn’t make no difference to you neither way. Pian, ji-zu.

By this time, the contents of the mule have been loaded into the CARGO BAY and WASH is walking the mule up the RAMP. The CREW begins to walk back into the ship, but SIMON has stayed behind with RIVER.

SIMON Are you okay, River? Did they shoot at you? (shoots MAL an accusing glance—he is still standing on the RAMP)

RIVER A standard G36K Alliance-Issue Assault Rifle, traveling in a vehicle accelerating at 86.5 kilometers per second squared hits 72 percent of its intended targets—

MAL (walking back towards SIMON) She’s fine, Doctor, believe me. ‘Least, fine as far as I could use the word. Something goes wrong on a run and she’s in a bad way, you’ll be the first to find out.

SIMON Sometimes I don’t know how aware you are of how young River actually is, Captain…

MAL Oh, she’s not all that young…back on Shadow where I’m from, girl her age would already be…shootin’ down wild chou-ma-turkeys from the treetops… (slaps Simon reassuringly on the shoulder)

SIMON (uncomprehendingly, not caring) Chou-ma-turkeys…right…

As MAL begins to walk back up the RAMP, RIVER peers up into the sky. Her eyes seem to focus on something, though all we can see are clouds—though perhaps a barely visible dot or two.

SIMON He was speaking metaphorically, River.

MAL (O.S.) Let’s go, Doc!

RIVER Wild turkey…

SIMON River…

RIVER (turning to SIMON, eyes wide with fear) She’s waiting for me…

Fancy smash zoom into space, revealing what appears to be the floating ruins of several space vessels. We continue zooming in, settling on a relatively small CONTAINER, which spins to reveal a large, shiny BLUE SUN logo stamped on the side.

END OF TEASER

ACT ONE

EXT. SPACE

SERENITY speeds away from BEYLIX, into the starry blackness of deep space.

INT. SERENITY FORE PASSAGE

MAL is walking towards the BRIDGE as JAYNE emerges behind him from the DINING AREA in mid-conversation.

JAYNE …Yeah, well, something about the prospect of having my head blown off on account of a few chickens and a ruttin’ butter churn has a way of puttin’ things in perspective for a man. You’re tryin’ to tell me that—

MAL stops and turns, evidently semi-anticipating this.

MAL I ain’t “tryin’” to tell you anything, I am telling you—these is the kindsa things people need just starting out on the border planets where we’re headed.

JAYNE Yeah, but ya ever think that they might not be providin’ us with the kindsa things that we need in return?

MAL I see no reason why words persist in flyin’ outta that hole between your ears, Jayne, and I’ve had enough of you questioning my reasons for the jobs I bring to this ship for one day.

JAYNE Yeah, well, sometimes I wonder whether it’s us or the settlers on them border planets that you’re bringin’ in these jobs for.

MAL Bee-jway, an jing yidian?

JAYNE Just what is that supposed to mean?

MAL (visibly halted in his tracks) I…don’t rightly know, never had call to say it in English. But-but that ain’t the point!

JAYNE (venomously) Ya know, Mal, there’s a word folks got for people like you.

He makes a move to say something else, but is apparently too disgusted to do so, and stomps away unceremoniously, climbing down into his BUNK. MAL stands, somewhat confused.

MAL And I shall wonder nigh-eternally as to what that word is.

MAL turns to continue into the BRIDGE.

INT. SERENITY BRIDGE

MAL (cont’d) What’s our status, Wash?

WASH Everything’s pretty near shiny, Captain. I’m seeing a lot of scattered debris layed right about our course as we get further towards Three Hills.

MAL Hm, some folks ventured to this moon not as lucky as us, ya suppose?

WASH I’d agree, but I don’t suspect there are folks unluckier than us…least, wouldn’t be floating around in such large pieces if they were…

MAL Hm, point taken.

WASH Ah…

MAL What’s that?

WASH The rubble is still carryin’ a mighty strong Alliance-type trace signature.

MAL Hm…How about electronic relays, any transmissions going in or out of that thing? Explosives? Tell me something.

WASH Nope, not a thing, Cap’n. This is definitely their stuff, just no signs’a breathin’ life.

MAL I do believe you just had a problem with your verb tense back in that last sentence.

WASH (clearly doesn’t get it for a second, then) Was their stuff.

MAL (Grabs the transmitter for the ship’s P.A. system) Looks like we stumbled upon some Alliance refuse, folks, and don’t see why we can’t make a quick stop to restock on some supplies, utilities and whatnot. We’d be remiss if we didn’t reassure the Alliance their stores is bein’ put to good use. (To WASH, pointing out the front of the BRIDGE) Let her go and drift in the center of the debris here.

WASH I’m gonna keep my distance, though, can’t be sure if one or two of these pieces a’ flotsam ain’t carrying a well-hid tracking device or something of the like.

MAL Dahng-ran, you’re the Pilot. Let’s see if we can’t get some scavenging done here.

WASH (As MAL walks out) “Scavenging” is such a dirty-sounding word…couldn’t you say, “creative freelance recycling”? MAL Don’t believe I can.

WASH Suit yourself.

MAL I do tend to…

INT. SERENITY DINING AREA

RIVER is crouched in a corner of the room, with SIMON attempting to get by her side.

RIVER She’s here…she’s here…

SIMON (cautiously) Now River, I want you to calm down, and tell me who is here…

MAL enters and observes worriedly.

MAL What’s the latest, Doctor?

SIMON Ever since we headed back into the ship, something about the atmospheric space around this moon has been troubling her…

RIVER turns to MAL suddenly, violently—she has a large knife.

RIVER She’s coming for you! She knows your face! I can’t know your faces!

MAL Control her, son…

SIMON (irritably) Working on it…

RIVER begins moving backing down the FORE PASSAGE towards the BRIDGE, and MAL and SIMON follow.

INT. SERENITY FORE PASSAGE

SIMON Now, River, you know everybody on Serenity, we’re entering deep space, there’s nobody else coming here…

RIVER (backing into a corner, screaming) River’s coming!

JAYNE’s head suddenly emerges from the entrance to his BUNK like a rather menacing prairie dog.

JAYNE What? Reaver’s a’coming?

RIVER freaks and punches the door—there is an audible crash and the sound of yelled Chinese cussin’ emanates from the bunk.

WASH (calling from the cockpit) What was that? Was that Jayne? You know I like watching Jayne getting knocked unconscious!

MAL Now, River, I want you to listen here, and it’s very important you do. Is there something waitin’ for us out in the black we got before us?

RIVER River’s…coming…

SIMON (losing it) She keeps saying that, why is she saying that…

BOOK emerges from the DINING AREA and approaches cautiously.

BOOK Maybe if you let her speak, you’d find out, son. Oftentimes the mutterings of the insane have a peculiar insight into the mechanics of the verse that the rational mind cannot grasp.

SIMON looks like he is about to yell something back.

MAL I appreciate the sentiment, Preacher, but now I ain’t got the time. (To RIVER) Can you show me what’s the matter?

RIVER points accusingly directly down the hall, out the front of the BRIDGE, at a large piece of debris floating right in front of the ship’s nose—the one with the shiny Blue Sun logo on it, no less.

MAL I gotta hunch there’s more than Alliance utilities floatin’ about in this rubble. Let’s start with that.

RIVER explodes once more, kicking and screaming as SIMON tries to hold her back.

RIVER I’ll never go back! They won’t make me go back! (half-singing half-shouting) I won’t grow up, I don’t want to go to school, just to learn to be a parrot and recite a silly rule!

SIMON (crouching down with her on the floor) River…River…You’re not going back, do you hear me? As long as I am alive, I won’t let them take you. (RIVER doesn’t look comforted) I’m going to take you back to our bunk, okay? We’re going to go back and you can lie down for a little while, we’ll be out of this place soon enough. (stands up to confront MAL) I can’t let you put her in danger like this. It’s practically inviting the Alliance on board, I thought you said this ship would give us freedom—

MAL Looks to me we got a slight different in definitions of freedom then, son. Look, we’re both men who have responsibility for those we provide for, exceptin’ I got me more than a sister. I gotta crew, of which you and the girl are a part, needs food and supplies to last between jobs, and I don’t know how “aware” of it you are, but we don’t exactly have the wide selection of ‘em that we used to. I aim to take what I can get, and I recommend you do the same because Lord knows we’re gonna need more n’ that.

SIMON Don’t lecture me about taking what you can get, Captain. Because I did, and everyday I look at what I couldn’t save. What they took. EXT. SPACE

SERENITY is repositioning slowly, so the back side of the ship is facing the mysterious rubble.

INT. SERENITY BRIDGE

ZOE is standing over WASH nervously.

WASH I guess that oughta do it. Are you sure this such a good idea, Zoe? Isn’t this exactly the opportunity the Alliance needs to pull an old Trojan…Trojan…you know, the Trojan thing, I never was one for the lore of Earth-That-Was.

ZOE Very true. But River ain’t never been so particular before ‘bout that which bothers her, and who knows? Maybe she got some Alliance secrets stowed ‘way in that screwy little brain of hers. I say, Captain thinks it’s a good idea, worth checking out.

WASH (visibly ill at ease) If you say so, “sir.”

ZOE Not exactly what I was going for, but okay.

WASH All I’m sayin’ is, we’re takin’ a risk.

ZOE And when ain’t we?

ZOE turns to exit.

WASH You know, being the pilot of this ship, and therefore not completely dispensable in day-to-day ship life, I feel like my opinion—in regards to our current situation—counts for something.

ZOE I don’t doubt that, dear. And I do trust your opinion.

WASH Well, somehow “dear” just doesn’t seem to carry the same authoritarian weight as “sir”…

ZOE (amused, at first) And when did you start holding authoritarian weight over me?

WASH All I’m saying is, it seems like my contributions to this crew lessen proportional to how much you and the Cap’n make with the scheming.

ZOE Honey. There’s a reason Mal’s the Captain and you ain’t. (WASH looks disappointed at this) Just as there’s a reason that you are my husband, and Mal ain’t.

WASH looks marginally comforted, but still marginalized. ZOE kisses him quickly on the cheek and walks out of the COCKPIT.

INT. PASSANGER QUARTERS HALLWAY

PAN to reveal SIMON leaning against the wall overlooking the COMMON AREA. INARA, unseen at first, appears next to him.

INARA You’re worried that what she said is true.

SIMON gives a start.

INARA (cont’d) That “River is coming.”

SIMON I…I honestly don’t know what not to worry about anymore. I mean, as far as I can tell, on the outside, is this girl my sister? Yes…but, inside…sometimes…I wonder. I mean the Alliance, the technology they have at their disposal, who knows what they could have changed…destroyed. (Turns to INARA) Created.

INARA You would know. Of course you would know if it wasn’t her.

SIMON I…yes. Yes I would. Yes. I would.

SIMON continues to look uncomfortably uncertain, despite his confident words. They both look back towards the TAM BUNK.

INT. TAM BUNK

KAYLEE is sitting with RIVER on the bed, trying with frustration to braid her hair. RIVER looks particularly sullen.

KAYLEE I’m sorry, River, I was never had much skill for braidin’ hair and gussyin’ up and all’a that. I’m havin’ enough trouble just tryin’ to remember what Inara taught me… (laughing) Bet Simon does this kinda stuff for you all the time, right?

RIVER (laughing too) Tsai boo shr…

KAYLEE I gotta say, mei-mei, your brother oftentimes has me worlds of puzzled. One minute, he looks happy as can be, and the next he snaps at me like…like Cap’n come Unification Day! Have any dirty details about our friend Doctor Tam for me?

Quick CLOSE-UP of RIVER’s face, suggesting we’re not seeing things as normal.

RIVER It’s me…he feels like he can’t let his guard down. Ever.

A period of silence—KAYLEE acts as if RIVER hasn’t answered yet (she hasn’t).

KAYLEE River? Don’t want to talk about it much?

RIVER (looking suddenly sad and deflated) Silly little erzi, dragons only exist in holograms.

KAYLEE He just got my brain in a twist, is all…

RIVER turns to her, suddenly.

RIVER That’s where she’ll live. In your brain. She’ll come in and take everything and you’ll never get it back if you let her in.

KAYLEE Her? Let who in? Is this about the Cap’n and Zoe goin’ to fetch that Alliance trash?

RIVER (reciting quickly, as though trying to say everything she can remember in the shortest time) The theory of relativity demands of a natural law a definite mathematical condition, and in virtue of this, the theory becomes a valuable heuristic aid in the search for general laws of nature. If a general law of nature were to be found which did not satisfy this condition… (Sounds of metal scraping against metal, footsteps, somebody approaching outside the door. The speed of RIVER’s speech increases, becoming more frantic) ….Then at least one of the two fundamental assumptions of the theory would have been disproved.

She scurries to a corner of the bed as KAYLEE tries to understand what is the matter. There is a CLANG and RIVER starts hurriedly once again.

RIVER The effect of interstellar parallax is so small it is undetectable without extremely precise measurements!

The DOOR to the bunk clangs open, revealing one of the HANDS OF BLUE men. He stares fixedly at RIVER.

HANDS OF BLUE MAN River. You haven’t left yet.

RIVER screams and pushes back even further on the bed, away from the door. However, it is actually WASH, who enters the BUNK partially, clearly in a hurry.

WASH Kaylee, Mal radioed up to me he’s gonna want you back in the cargo bay, help him try and ‘suss out whether that thing we’re pullin’ in needs some fast work.

RIVER Two by two…River’s here…Mal…bad…

KAYLEE Already there. (Realizes RIVER is still huddled on the bed) Oh, I can’t leave her alone like this, Wash…

She reaches towards RIVER to comfort her, and from RIVER’s P.O.V. it appears that she is wearing blue gloves. RIVER looks even more terrified.

KAYLEE (cont’d) Oh, Wash, can’t you take her to the cockpit ‘till Simon says it’s okay for her to come to the cargo bay? (To RIVER) Cap’n says he wants you in the cockpit more, anyhow.

WASH Woah! Hey now, don’t know if that’s exactly the best arrangement…

KAYLEE Well, we can’t leave her alone in such a state…

WASH But…I’m the pilot, Kaylee!

KAYLEE And she ain’t nuthin’ but a scared little girl.

RIVER looks up at WASH, frightened, and WASH appears to be at a loss for alternatives.

EXT. SPACE

The moderately large metallic chunk is slowly pulled into the CARGO BAY. ZOE and MAL, in their space suits, are guiding the CONTAINER in, floating behind it. JAYNE, also in a space suit, is winching it in on an anchor-like rope. It is pulled to the center of the BAY and MAL presses a button on the control panel—the RAMP ascends and closes. They wait for re-pressurization, and then remove their gear, and approach the CONTAINER cautiously, with weapons out.

INT. SERENITY CARGO BAY

MAL Now, this is how I aim to do this. We’re gonna get Kaylee down here, she gonna fool around…carefully…with the controls on the side of this thing for a time, maybe get it open, and send it right back out ‘fore we see something we don’t like.

JAYNE Don’t see why everyone’s gettin’ so jittery ‘bout a common piece’a space-gosa. Just ‘cuz l’il fugitive who don’t have all’er nuts and bolts screwed in right say it’s dangerous don’t make it so.

JAYNE whacks the side of the CONTAINER, and it immediately rumbles to life.

MAL Now, that right there is what I would call a lack of you listening!

JAYNE Huh?

Steam pours out of small fissures around the edges of the CONTAINER, and the top begins to fold apart, opening. SIMON and KAYLEE emerge on a scaffold. CLOSE on SIMON’s face as he watches the doors slide open. His eyes widen in terror. REVEAL a girl curled up in the CONTAINER, à la RIVER.

END OF ACT ONE

ACT TWO

INT. SERENITY CARGO BAY

The CREW, with the exception of WASH and RIVER, has gathered on the main floor around the CONTAINER.

ZOE Sir, may I propose that we’re cursed.

MAL Agreed.

JAYNE Well, it looks to me like Mal just must’a signed us up for the Alliance Death and Destruction Premium Plan—one free crazy little naked girl every month while you wait!

MAL Now you all know I would never wish anything like this to be found on this boat. I think the explanation’s gonna have to lie with Simon. Dr. Tam, some “steal one, get one free” policy you ain’t been tellin’ us about? SIMON No, I…I have no idea what this is. The only thing I could consider would be that the Alliance was transporting a student from the Academy, and the ship was attacked…

JAYNE Right in line with our course off’a Beylix? (directly to SIMON) We was set up!

SIMON I didn’t want this! Do you think this will be good for my sister? For her condition?

JAYNE lunges at him and MAL steps roughly in between.

MAL Ee-chee shung-hoo-shee, shiong-mung duh kwong-run! This is NOT the time for squabblin’.

JAYNE (turning away from the GROUP) Tzao-gao…

BOOK Now, let’s not assume malevolent purposes where there is no evidence to support it. She could be another poor, damaged girl from the Academy adrift in an unfriendly universe like—

MAL It’s a possibility, Preacher, but I don’t much like the alternatives. Now I wanna get River in here...

CLOSE UP reveals the STUDENT’S eyes snapping open.

MAL (cont’d) …see what she can tell us about this…person, and then throw her back into space.

BOOK It’s inhumane.

INARA For Heavens’ sakes, Mal, act like a human being instead of a Captain for once…

KAYLEE Cap’n, we can’t toss another poor little thing out into the black like you were fixin’ to do with River.

MAL Decision’s made, Kaylee! We can’t be harborin’ such dangers on our boat!

There is a CLANG as the STUDENT stands up in the CONTAINER. She looks around warily as she picks up an unseen object—it is a white jumpsuit, which she puts on as the CREW backs away cautiously, and MAL, JAYNE and ZOE draw their guns.

MAL Now, listen here, little miss…we don’t want no trouble with you, and we got no quarrel with the Alliance…

The ENTIRE CREW gives MAL a look of “come on.”

MAL …Well, who’m I kidding, course we do. But I ‘magine you hate the Alliance just as much as we do, and I have no problem with keepin’ you on board this boat should that be the case.

KAYLEE And you didn’t mean any of that toss-you-overboard stuff you said before, did you Cap’n?

MAL I didn’t, no, ‘course not, all meant in jest…so…why don’t you just sit down, and—

STUDENT I have to find her.

The STUDENT springs to life, and throws a STUN GRENADE onto the floor—it explodes with a flash and a haze of smoke. We catch glimpses of the STUDENT launching herself at MAL, who is immediately knocked over. She springs at ZOE and JAYNE in a flurry of fists and flips and has them on the ground in seconds. She climbs back onto the CONTAINER, and before anyone can react, rockets into the air and onto a scaffold, and wherever next is unseen.

MAL (getting up, trying to fan smoke out of his eyes) Alliance couldn’t land us with some nice, quiet demure little thing likes readin’ n’ such… Zoe, Jayne go’n find this little fightin’ sha-sho. Shepard, keep ‘em company, maybe you can help talk some sense in ‘er. Doubt she knows her way ‘round an old boat like this, shouldn’t be too hard seekin’ ‘er out. Kaylee, I want you try and figure out who sent this here jack-in-the-box, and see if we can’t lock it shut again.

The crew begins to disperse, but INARA does not. She has not been given a job.

MAL Inara, maybe you should go back to your shuttle, maybe fly back down to Beylix ‘till this whole thing rights itself.

INARA As much as you may hate to admit it, Malcolm Reynolds, my 10 years of Companion training do not leave me completely defenseless.

MAL I didn’t mean it like that…

KAYLEE Cap’n…

INARA And I further resent your assumption that I am a removed, uninvolved member of this crew. I am just as willing to assume a functional role on this ship as anyone else, were my assistance and considerable talent needed, or wanted.

MAL (sarcastic) Woman of considerable talents…I thought you took pride in a life of whorin.’

KAYLEE Cap’n…

INARA (voice rising) And you hold in higher regard a life of petty thieving and debauchery?

MAL (voice also rising) And what does that mean?

INARA It means that a Companion should be able to participate in all spheres of life that she chooses!

MAL And I say that I am the Captain of this ship, and know what’s in the best interests of my crew!

INARA (at a loss for a good comeback, turning to go) I’m going back to my shuttle, but only because I hate you.

She storms off.

MAL Well this day just gets better and better…

SIMON (checking his fancy watch) It’s 11:30 at night.

MAL Exactly. Now, let’s get down to findin’ out…

SIMON River…River. Where is River?

KAYLEE Oh, I left her with Wash, Simon. Don’t worry, she’ll be safe in the cockpit, it’s right cozy in there at times.

SIMON With…Wash?

MAL We need to get her somewhere safer. Well, Doc, let’s you and me go and get her back to her bunk. Kaylee, you stay here n’ work on the—

KAYLEE I already did, Cap’n, that’s what I’ve been trying to say at you!

MAL Good! Wait, what? While we was…

KAYLEE It works through a motion-activated interlocking-processor data switch—

MAL Captain-speak, Kaylee…

KAYLEE We can’t put her back in.

SIMON (even more aghast) What?!

KAYLEE This was a one-way trip…or raid…invasion, who knows what. The engine’s deactivated itself permanently.

MAL Well…un-permanent it! Doc, let’s you and me go get your sister. Lord knows what her n’ Wash have been doing to keep busy this long…

INT. SERENITY COCKPIT

WASH is resignedly—though excitedly—pulling plastic dinosaurs out of a small drawer and piling them on the desk in front of RIVER, who sits blank and tense in the co-pilot’s seat.

WASH …and this is the leader of the expedition party, the founder of “This Land,” and this is the chief scout, plucky rival of the ferocious le--

RIVER Stegosaurus ungulatus, Upper Jurassic Period, discovered by Othaniel Marsh, 1877, Earth-That-Was…

WASH Er…I call him Gary.

Even RIVER cannot suppress a small smile.

RIVER The process of renaming, to quantify, to make known and understand, cognomen for inadequate nomenclature…

WASH cuts her off by making an attack with his T-REX on her STEGOSAURUS. She shrieks, enjoying herself, and runs away to the other side of the cockpit, WASH following playfully.

INT. STAIRS TO AFT PASSAGE

ZOE is leading JAYNE and BOOK up the stairway, all cautious, with weapons out. A hovering P.O.V. shot suggests a presence in an air vent, possibly? There is a muffled metallic noise somewhere in the ceiling, and JAYNE immediately has his gun aimed at the spot—but silence descends on the hallway, and he lowers his gun cautiously. JAYNE shakes his head “no” at ZOE, who turns to continue—but BOOK stops her, and picks up a small object on the ground. It is a small CLASS PHOTOGRAPH, with the kids grouped in front of a wall yearbook-style. CLOSE UP on RIVER’s smiling face, circled in red, and next to her…the mysterious STUDENT. BOOK sees this and looks up, worriedly handing to ZOE and JAYNE, who both look and have the same reaction. ZOE turns to continue up the stairs, and the STUDENT is there, standing stolid. She KICKS ZOE’s gun from her hands, but JAYNE is on her in a second.

ZOE Now, we don’t aim to hurt you, little girl…

JAYNE (straining to keep her down) We don’t?!

ZOE …We just want to know why you’re here and what business you have with River Tam.

BOOK There’s no need for a fight, little one. The Captain of this boat is a reasonable man, and will let you walk free.

STUDENT Captain Malcolm Reynolds’s life is meaningless. All of your lives are meaningless. You will all die. (angrily) I have to find her.

ZOE Definitely Academy material.

JAYNE Yeah, all the more reason to kill ‘er now. We’ve taken enough time as it is.

BOOK No, we have to find out about her mission. How could the Alliance plant a student out in the middle of the outer border like this?

JAYNE I don’t know, and I don’t much care. Alliance is Alliance, you ask me, and my opinion is River’s business—

BOOK Where is River, exactly? Shouldn’t she have some say in what is done to the girl? Kindred spirits, I would say…

ZOE Think the Captain had her put up in the bridge with Wash, Preacher…

The STUDENT acquires a sudden burst of energy at these words, and kicks JAYNE off of her. She runs down the hallway, out of view, as ZOE and BOOK drag JAYNE up off the ground.

JAYNE Where in the jing-tzang kao is she goin’…

BOOK Wash. (to ZOE) You said River was with Wash.

ZOE She knows our names?

BOOK (worried) And where to find us. Let’s go.

INT. SERENITY CARGO BAY

KAYLEE, works with frustration at the side of the CONTAINER, which sputters with sparks for a second but grows dark.

KAYLEE Chiang-BAO HOE-tze duh ching-wah TSAO duh liou mahng…

She frustratedly slams a tool down, and stands up, turning away from the CONTAINER. She gets an idea, and climbs precariously on top of it. KAYLEE jumps inside, and is confronted with a large, blinking, scrolling computer screen, and a picture of…herself. Pictures of each of the crew members—and what appears to be detailed information about their past histories—scroll across the screen, along with a few scattered images of SERENITY itself and several schematics. KAYLEE’s eyes widen.

INT. SERENITY FORE PASSAGE

The STUDENT races down through the DINING AREA and into the HALLWAY with newfound determination. MAL and SIMON race up the stairs as she passes by.

MAL Guay!

The distance between the STUDENT and the COCKPIT grows shorter and shorter. MAL launches himself at the STUDENT and they both go down, though she quickly begins struggling to regain her footing.

INT. SERENITY COCKPIT

WASH hears the noise and looks outside, and sees the approaching chaos. He dives for the button that seals the door shut.

INT. SERENITY FORE PASSAGE

The STUDENT manages to get free and makes a mad dash for the COCKPIT, her eyes fixed on RIVER.

INT. SERENITY COCKPIT

RIVER, standing in the middle of the room, makes eye contact with the STUDENT and her eyed widen with fear. The doors begin to close and it looks like the STUDENT will make it until—

INT. SERENITY FORE PASSAGE

A fist comes out of nowhere and clocks the STUDENT across the jaw. PAN to reveal INARA, standing defiantly and more than a little ticked off.

MAL (Smiling, relieved, getting up) Inara! Thank FWO-tzoo—

A fist once again comes out of nowhere and catches MAL across the face.

MAL (Somewhat less relieved) Inara…

INARA Nobody was guarding the Fore Passage. Don’t expect this kind of thing often.

MAL Punching me ‘cross the face?

INARA Well, that, maybe. I meant helping you.

MAL I’ll try not to count on it. Much appreciated, though.

INARA looks a little less ticked off, and very confident. MAL leans down to address the STUDENT, who is laying against the wall of the hallway, semi-conscious, but still managing to look very, very scary.

MAL Now, little one, you’ve had the benefit of the little patience I can muster, but I do believe we’ve reached the end of the line in that regard. Now, I don’t condone what the Alliance and their Academy does to girls, I surely don’t…but you’ve tried to hurt one of my crew, and I can’t let that go unaccounted for. Now, why are you trying to find River?

STUDENT Students don’t leave the Academy…you never leave.

MAL Well this one did, and we aim to keep her that way.

STUDENT That’s why.

She springs to life once again, with newfound fury, and knocks MAL against the opposite wall. The rest of the CREW present tries futilely to hold her back as she launches herself repeatedly at the closed door to the COCKPIT.

INT. SERENITY COCKPIT

RIVER is cowering underneath the glass panel that separates the COCKPIT from deep, vast space. The sounds of the ongoing struggle outside the cockpit can be heard through the door. WASH has been standing next to the door, listening to the conversation, and walks next to RIVER, trying vaguely to comfort her.

RIVER She’s here. River’s here!

WASH What? River…River’s here? You think that little girl come to get us is…River?

RIVER Education. Pain…Exodus. Death.

WASH You’re not like her, River. You’re not some Academy-raised death machine!

RIVER shoots him a skeptical look.

WASH (cont’d) Well, yes, you can be a might lethal sometimes, but when the rest of the crew is in danger and it needs to be so!

RIVER Can’t fight her. She knows. She’ll bring me back!

WASH No she won’t…

RIVER (pushing farther and farther away) She’ll take me, and Simon will go away and go for a time out because he ignores his studies! I keep telling him…

WASH Listen here …Now, I’m a pilot, and beyond that, don’t know all that much. Mysteries of the verse never had much of a hold on me, I guess. But one thing I do know, is strong women-folk. Maybe it’s because strong and female are two things that I’m not, and probably never will be. Hell, I’d have to understand that to be married to Zoe. And you remind me of her. And that tells me a mighty lot.

RIVER looks up at him, as though at a new person.

WASH (cont’d) It tells me Kaylee was wrong ‘bout you—you’re not just a scared little girl. You’re a strong woman. And one that’s never gonna give up, never gonna get beat. Now, I know I haven’t known you that long…haven’t talked to you much since then. But I’ve seen you from locked up in a packing crate to crazier than a pair of waltzing mice (laughter from RIVER) but you never looked like you were in a state to let them take you back for a second. You always kept on. And, as a Wash to a River, that’s gotta count for something.

RIVER stands up with newfound courage, and charges at the door of the COCKPIT. She kicks it open, and the STUDENT pauses in her fight against the CREW, she looks up, and RIVER is framed momentarily silhouetted in the doorway.

END OF ACT TWO

ACT THREE

RIVER kicks the door open, and she is framed momentarily silhouetted in the doorway. The STUDENT, who is in the middle of fighting the rest of the CREW, turns to face her. RIVER’s face is at once filled with resolve and eerie calm.

STUDENT The Academy demands you complete your education.

RIVER I’m not going back.

STUDENT I guess you failed then.

RIVER Graduated.

RIVER and the STUDENT fly at each other in a flurry of whirling limbs and hair, bouncing off of walls and the ceiling like two very antagonistic ping-pong balls. WASH tries to keep out of the way as they work their way into the COCKPIT and fighting continues. RIVER struggles to keep the STUDENT away from the controls of SERENITY. They hit a few buttons and levers in the course of the fight, and the ship lurches to one side, into some floating rubble. WASH struggles to regain control as the CREW is rocked towards one wall. The SHIP lurches right and left, bouncing off of various pieces of rubble, finally pitching sharply upwards, sending the crew flying, and RIVER and the STUDENT flying down the FORE PASSAGE, which is now like an enormous well. As the CREW struggles, scattered around the COCKPIT and surrounding area, WASH manages to climb to the controls and punch a few buttons.

EXT. SPACE

SERENITY slowly rights itself.

INT. CARGO BAY

RIVER and the STUDENT, who have been on a scaffold walkway, leap onto the floor as the room spins around them. SIMON runs into the room on one of the scaffolds, and begins descending to the lower level until he spies KAYLEE, trapped under the CONTAINER.

KAYLEE Simon!

SIMON Kaylee! I’ve got you…

He PULLS her out of the CONTAINER as the SHIP lurches around them once again, and the CONTAINER careens off to the other end of the floor. The fight between RIVER and the STUDENT has intensified, until they both end up standing, facing each other down. Suddenly, RIVER’s intense expression softens as she studies the STUDENT, really looking at her face for the first time. The back of the STUDENT’s jumpsuit is ripped, and we can see some metallic-looking material glinting through.

RIVER …Siren?

A beep and a whir seem to emanate from the STUDENT, who looks as startled and confused as RIVER. The metal under the STUDENT’s jumpsuit repositions slightly and clicks into place. The STUDENT’s eyes roll up and she goes limp, falling into RIVER’s arms.

STUDENT I…have…to…find…

RIVER cries softly as she cradles the STUDENT’s suddenly lifeless body in her arms. She slowly and reluctantly peels back some more of the back of the STUDENT’s already tattered jumpsuit, revealing some pretty ugly-looking metal sewn into her skin.

INT.SERENITY COMMON AREA

The CREW sits, scattered, as KAYLEE speaks, MAL behind her. SIREN is laying on one of the tables in the INFIRMARY.

KAYLEE Her name was Siren Aige…17 years old, probably in River’s year at the…from what I could tell from the data record, the container was set down right as we landed on Beylix.

SIMON (emerging from the INFIRMARY) That metal alloy they had hooked up to her spinal column was set to inject some sort of poison if the transmitter recognized her name. To prevent her from being identified and captured, I assume.

JAYNE So we was set up.

MAL Yes, but not by any friend of ours. It said Blue Sun on the side of that box, and I’m fairly certain none of us know where they fit into all this…I know I don’t. But whether it was Alliance, the Academy, or this Blue Sun, (to RIVER) they’re makin’ it damn clear that you’re more to them than just a wayward student, ‘cuz they just wasted a perfectly good one to get you back. Makes me think you’re situation’s a little more complicated than “wanted by the law.” You’re needed. And makes logical sense that we’d hand the Tams over after discoverin’ just how needed River is. (The TAMS looks suddenly crestfallen) But I know you’re all aware of my policy concerning logical sense, and I intend to do no such thing. In fact, only makes me know even stronger that what the Alliance does is wrong. (The TAMS are shocked) And anyone that thinks different, or thinks we have ample reason to throw the Doctor and his sister off this boat, I’mma ask you to raise your hand right now.

Not one does. Even JAYNE, sitting with an expression of vague discontent, just sits. SIMON looks grateful, and RIVER has a small smile.

MAL (cont., turning to exit) That’s what I thought.

EXT. THREE HILLS MOON

SERENITY has landed in the middle of a primitive yet bustling marketplace, though more “block party” than commercial. There are many campfires and street stands, with a few assorted street peddlers and musicians providing a festive atmosphere. MAL, ZOE and JAYNE are unloading the mule, driven by WASH, and handing the crates off to a small group of rather swarthy-looking though grateful MEN. SIMON and RIVER are sitting next to a small bonfire, KAYLEE close at hand, while INARA and BOOK sit on the opposite side of the fire, talking. MAL approaches SIMON from behind.

MAL Do believe you saved me my mechanic, Doctor. Never did get to thank you for that.

SIMON Ah, it was my pleasure, really.

KAYLEE Here that, Cap’n? It was his pleasure.

MAL (turning to leave) Imagine it was.

SIMON suddenly stands up.

SIMON Captain…

MAL

Yes?

SIMON …Thank you.

MAL looks humble, shrugging it off.

SIMON I mean it, I mean, you’ve had so many opportunities to abandon us, and so many reasons to, but, you never seem to do it. I mean, I feel like we’ve taken your autonomy, your freedom…

MAL Then looks like you still haven’t learned my definition of freedom, Doctor.

He walks away, content for the time being, and SIMON sits back down with RIVER and KAYLEE, who is talking animatedly.

KAYLEE You should’ve seen him, River, he jumped down, all heroic-like, and grabbed me by the hand without a moment’s hesitation…

SIMON Oh, stop…

KAYLEE You don’t enjoy this even a little bit?

SIMON Well, I’ve always saved lives, it was kind of my job…

KAYLEE And I guess it still is. You’re a reg’lar knight in shiny armor, Simon.

He moves forward, and after a brief moment of tension they share an awkward hug. RIVER giggles and feigns disgust. From across the bonfire, JAYNE, who is showing Vera to a few dangerous-looking men with guns, rolls his eyes with disgust and shakes his head—“no, he doesn’t know them.” WASH and ZOE, in each other’s arms, watch happily, while INARA shares an excited look with KAYLEE, who is clearly in a state of thinly veiled elation. The camera pulls away from this happy scene, and tilts up into the vastness of space…

EXT. SPACE

The huge, imposing I.A.V. DORTMUNDER Alliance Cruiser looms above us.

INT. DORTMUNDER BRIDGE

The CAPTAIN is standing on the HELM of the ship, looking out of the wide viewing window that takes up much of the wall. An ENSIGN at a computer screen shakes his head, disappointed.

ENSIGN We lost her, sir.

CAPTAIN (turning, suddenly uncharacteristically nervous) Damn. I had hoped we could put an easy end to all this with that girl.

MAN #1 (O.S.) The girl served her purpose.

MAN #2 (O.S.) Her utilization was not entirely futile.

CAPTAIN What do you suppose they’ll do with the body?

MAN #1 (O.S.) It doesn’t matter.

MAN#2 (O.S.) It is enough that the Tams become increasingly aware, however…

PAN to reveal the two HANDS OF BLUE MEN, seated at a desk in the back of the BRIDGE.

MAN #2 That escape is impossible. After all…

The HANDS OF BLUE produce the lethal RODS from inside their jackets and flip them on…

MAN #1 You must take what you can get, Captain.

END

COMMENTS

Saturday, July 15, 2006 1:59 AM

CANTONHEROINE


Fantastic stuff! Great characterisation and great action - just like a Firefly episode should be.
Hope to see more from you.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 3:50 AM

XEYRA


This wasn't bad. Had humor and action and interesting questions were raised and I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't come face to face with a couple of problems. Or maybe a fundamental confusion.

Is this set pre-Serenity or post-Serenity?

Since Wash and Book are alive and on the ship, one could assume it is either an AU set after the movie in which Wash and Book survived (and if it is so, you should really point it out to avoid confusion) OR it is set before the movie.

And it's in this instance that some problems arise.

First, Wash seems to make a comment that refers to Jayne getting knocked out by a 90-pound girl again. Jayne only gets knocked out by River in the BDM, so this isn't a comment that he should make if this story is set pre-Serenity. Moreover, River seems to be quite a fighting machine, but it's not until the movie she shows such an ability. Up until then, the only thing the crew knew about was her proficiency with firearms...

So, if this is indeed set during the series or Post-Objects in Space, but before the movie, it doesn't work because of the points above. If it is indeed set after the BDM, which it really doesn't look like, you have to mention it is an AU, since two crew-members are alive...

It's something that confused me, because this looked like something that took place before the movie but some things, like River's ass-kicking aspect, doesn't really come to the fore until the movie.

Also, just a little detail. They're in a space ship with metal doors. If River punches the door of Jayne's Bunk the only crunch we'll hear is of the bones of her hand. Same for the Bridge's door. You can't really kick it down since it opens to the side, if I recall correctly. Not to mention it is made of metal, so, unless River added super-strength to her gifts, it isn't really feasible.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 6:05 AM

CATTLEORCATALYST


Hey, thanks for the compliments and for pointing out those continuity-related errors. This is indeed supposed to take place after the show's run and before the movie, so I'll be making some corrections based on that. I thought of River's fighting abilities as latent and therefore could've emerged at any time during the show, despite their showing up for the first time in the movie. As for the metal doors, I think River's strengh is somewhat unlimited, so I think it's within the realm of possibilty.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 7:05 AM

XEYRA


First of all, River is only human. She isn't going to have unlimited strength. Let's not confuse her with Buffy. She may have very good reflexes but she isn't going to break down metal doors. So, I don't think it's within the realm of possibility. Hightened reflexes, yes; unlimited strength, not so much.

Secondly, I do think her fighting abilities were only apparent during the movie, as you notice Mal's shock and all the reactions to having River kick major ass. Given this, you have to assume River never demonstrated anything close to what she showed in the Maidenhead until the BDM. If this takes place between the series and the movie, River will most likely only have demonstrated some proficiency with firearms or, at most, some little graceful move or other.

She doesn't really appear as a full-fledged fighting machine until she gets triggered in the BDM. Otherwise Mal and co. wouldn't be so surprised when she did show she wasn't a helpless little girl. If you're trying to keep to continuity, you have to take care of this. If you want River to have a big fight with the other student, make it one no one else sees, so it doesn't contradict what we know.

Just my two-cents...

Saturday, July 15, 2006 7:10 AM

XEYRA


[If you're trying to keep to continuity, you have to take care of this. If you want River to have a big fight with the other student, make it one no one else sees, so it doesn't contradict what we know.]

Forgot to add that this is assuming River is somewhat "triggered" by circumstances into turning her "fighting mode" on, or, to add a level of complexity, maybe she is aware somehow of her abilities in this regard (like she was when she shot three men with her eyes closed in War Stories) and fights the other student because there's a need to.

Still, if you want to go this way, you can't have the crew watch it because, well, it would then contradict the movie... and ruin continuity...

Sorry to be a bother.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 10:22 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Now this was some seriously crazy action you have here, CattleorCatalyst...though, like Xeyra, I have my qualms with how you have grafted BDM/post-BDM features (Wash's comment about River pounding on Jayne again, River's fighting skills not triggering surprise in the crew, etc) onto series/post-series features (9-person crew of Serenity, Hands of Blue, River's extensive emotional instability, etc.)

Now....not saying that the grafting makes this story suck. Far from it...I really like what you had here. However, if you want to uphold 'Verse continuity...then some revamps will need to happen:(

My suggestions? Well...like Xeyra said, if you want River to keep her ass-kicking of Siren, have one of them seal off the cargo bay till after the fight so the crew couldn't see the fight properly and River's fighting skills remain unknown.

On the topic of Wash's comment....a small mod to something like "What was that? Did I just miss Jayne falling into his bunk or something? Cuz that would hilarious!" or a similiar sentiment; still have Wash mocking Jayne, but not violating continuity.

BEB

Monday, July 17, 2006 11:00 AM

LFABRY


Damn, that is one-long-ass post. I'll have to read the rest tomorrow. But "I see no reason why words persist in flyin’ outta that hole between your ears" is bound to make it's way into my regular vocabulary. Right on!


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Twice in a Blue Sun
My idea of a cool and canonically semi-logical Firefly episode, written in script format.