Virtual Firefly episode 1x17 (act one)
Thursday, January 5, 2006

"Hero Complex" (act one): This is the second episode of the Virtual Firefly project. Look for “Property Rights” next week, and our web site in early 2006. This episode contains graphic scenes that may be disturbing to some readers.



Mal and Ana approach Jayne and Book, who are working out on the bench press. Jayne’s standing, and Book rises to sitting as the Captain and the passenger approach.

MAL (to Ana): Jayne you know already, and this is Shepherd Book, one of our long-term passengers.

Book stands, executes a proper bow and kisses her proffered hand, every inch the gentleman. Jayne stares at Ana, clearly captivated by her.

ANA: A preacher. On a vessel such as this. Intriguing.

BOOK: All manner of folk like to hear the good word, and this ship visits all manner of ports.

ANA: Indeed.

She gives Mal a nod, politely indicating that she’s ready to move on.

ANA (cont’d), to Jayne): I’ll see you later.

Mal and Ana walk off, leaving Jayne and Book.

BOOK: I’m surprised Mal’s still willing to take on passengers.

JAYNE (laughs): This one don’t have no bags big enough t’hide a crazy sister.


River and Kaylee are preparing food together, laughing and joking. River almost manages to pass for normal today.

Simon’s at the table, working on a list of some sort, possibly a manifest of drugs onboard.

SIMON: You’re sure there’s nothing I can do to help?

KAYLEE (neutral): We’re okay, Simon. But thanks.

Simon looks back at his work, feeling shut down. He glances up at Kaylee, but she’s not paying attention.

KAYLEE (cont’d, to River): So, like I was sayin’, there was this time my dad took me to town, I couldn’t’a been more’n five or six—

Ana and Mal come in. Simon looks up.

MAL (to Ana): Meals’re taken here in the dining area. You’re welcome to a fair share of what we got, and expect you might like to join us for sit-down meals, which— (points to Kaylee and River) —is what these young ladies is workin’ on.

Kaylee and River turn and nod greeting.

MAL (cont’d): This is Kaylee, our engineer. And River. She’s a passenger.

Simon stands, trying to draw some attention away from his sister.

SIMON: Simon Tam.

MAL: Ship’s doctor.

Simon takes Ana’s hand—he’s the first she doesn’t have to offer it to.

ANA: Where did you train, doctor?

SIMON: Osiris.

ANA: Osiris! Delightful! Perhaps you know one of my friends, Quincy Troy?

SIMON: Quincy? QUINCE! He was a few years—

Simon stops suddenly as Mal gives him a meaningful look: “Boy, could be you’re talking too much.”

SIMON (cont’d): Yes. Well. A pleasure to meet you, Miss—?

ANA: Gurick.

Kaylee turns back to the food, uncomfortable. She looks like she wants to be jealous, but can’t quite muster the energy.

Mal hustles Ana out of the galley, heading toward the bridge, but not before he gives Simon a “Watch your mouth, boy” glare.


Mal, walking down the hall, hesitates when he realizes Ana isn’t following him, but has stopped a few steps behind.

MAL: Miss Gurick?

ANA: Captain Reynolds, I must thank you once again for making this trip.

MAL: Price was right, ma’am.

ANA: It’s been a trying time these past few weeks…

MAL: Trying times. You in some kinda trouble, is that it?

ANA: My mother passed away.

She looks like she’s on the verge of breaking. Mal stands awkwardly.

MAL: Oh. (beat) That is, um, trying.

ANA (cont’d): Delivering her ashes to her family estate on Sinhon was… difficult, to say the least.

MAL: I’m sure it was.

ANA: And then, with the rumors of the transportation strike, it took me more than a week to book passage, and they would only take me so far. Three ships and more than two weeks just to get to Persephone!

Mal is cordial, but restless. He doesn’t have time for a sob story.

MAL: (clapping his hands together) So, how about I introduce you to the pilot? Set you mind at ease as far as timelines are concerned. You’ve already met Zoe, his wife. Should be on the bridge.


Inara kneels in front of her table, practicing calligraphy. She takes a sip of tea, then returns to her work. She makes a line with a curve at the end.

She looks at the small sheet of paper and puts the brush down. She crumples it and throws it towards a small pile crumpled pieces of paper on the floor.

MAL (OS): Can I come in?

Inara stands, looks befuddled.

INARA: Ching jin! {Come in}

Mal enters.

INARA (cont’d): Mal, are you okay? What's going on?

MAL: Huh?

INARA: You asked before entering. Do I need to fetch Simon?

MAL: {Very funny}. Actually, I was thinking about y… your shuttle. Was hoping you could keep Ana occupied for a while. She was tellin’ me how her mother died, and… you know… compassion just ain’t one o’ my strengths. Figured she might be comfortable with someone like you.

INARA (bemused annoyance): A whore, captain?

MAL: A… Look, she’s with Wash right now. Don’t like having passengers on the bridge. ‘Side, what are she and Wash gonna talk about?


Wash and Ana sit in the bridge, looking bored. He nods cordially, and she nods back.

Wash opens his mouth to say something, and she leans forward expectantly.

But for once, Wash has nothing to say. There might as well be crickets on the bridge.


Mal looks at Inara expectantly.

INARA: What do you want me to do?

MAL: I don’t know. You’re both women of expense.

Inara glares.

MAL (cont’d): I mean, expensive tastes. Do what you folks do. Ain’t none of my business.

INARA: None of your business? Why, Captain, this is a day of firsts. Are you certain I don’t need to call Simon?

He stands awkwardly as she goes back to her table and her brush. She looks at the paper, not at him.

INARA: It's funny, Captain. I was just thinking of you before you arrived.

MAL: You were?

Inara points to the crumpled paper on the floor.

MAL (cont’d): You saw some garbage and was thinkin' of me?

INARA: No, Captain. Calligraphy. It's so difficult to get it just right. Yet even when it’s wrong in some small way, it still is a work of art. Sometimes, the flaws make it more beautiful, unique.

MAL: (missing her point): You plannin’ to leave that mess behind when you get off my boat?

Inara grimaces. The man is impossible. Why does she bother?


MAL: Yes, you’re gonna leave a mess?

INARA: Yes, you can bring Ana here. She seems like she’d be pleasant company. Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?

Mal holds her stare for a moment and walks out. Inara stays there, looking at her table. She shakes her head and puts the brush on the paper.


The crew and Ana sit around the table, having dinner. Everyone is clearly having a good time.

SIMON: …We had to leave his pants right there, they were such a mess!

Most folks laugh as Simon finishes his story. Jayne looks more than a little jealous. Kaylee, again, manages to just look uncomfortable.

ANA: No!

SIMON: I swear!

ANA: Goodness, that’s quite a story, Doctor. Next time I wave Quincy I’ll have to tell him about it.

Mal and Simon share a look.

SIMON: Miss Gurick, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t.

ANA (playful): Have you just broken the Hippocratic oath or something?

Simon smiles awkwardly and looks down at his food.

RIVER (mimicking Ana’s speech patters): Please do excuse my brother. Family can be so difficult, can’t it?

River stares straight at Ana, who squirms a bit under her steady, intense gaze.

Awkward beat.

INARA: So, Ana, you were telling me earlier that you live on Sherwood now?

ANA: Yes, my family’s ancestral home. It was my mother’s really… (beat) My father’s often away on business, and I spend most of my time there. My best friend, Mia, lives on the other side of the planet and her parents have set aside a room for me, so I suppose you could say I have two homes. Three, if you count the family yacht.

MAL: Only one place you can call home, miss. Ours is here. ‘Cept…

He finds himself looking at Inara long enough for an awkward silence to begin. Inara glares at him and he looks away.

MAL (cont’d): ’Cept the preacher, of course. He would say his is beyond them bright an’ pearly gates.

BOOK (smiling): Mal’s right. Technically, I’m a temporary resident—

ANA: —in an alien land, yes?

Book nods and continues eating.

ANA: So you make me choose, Captain Reynolds? (looks around, at the crew and the ship) I choose the yacht. That’s my home. Yes.

WASH: And that’s the ship we’re meeting over Sherwood?

ANA: Yes, I certainly do hope that you’ll spend a least a few hours onboard, if not the night. He hasn’t said as much, but I’m certain that my father will be planning a belated-birthday party. We need a reason to celebrate after mother… (a beat) I would love it if you all could be there.

This is met with mixed reactions. Some, such as Simon, Inara, and Kaylee, express varying degrees of enthusiasm, while others are more of the “Hey, when did we suddenly become friends?” mindset.

MAL: That’s a very generous offer, Miss Gurick, but I don’t know as that we’d fit in all that well with your friends.

ANA: Nonsense! (to Simon) Perhaps Quincy will even be there.

Not what Simon wants to hear. That might cause complications.

SIMON: That would be… great.

WASH (to Mal): What do you think, Cap’n?

Before Mal can say anything, Ana presses on.

ANA: I may be exaggerating, but I believe that we have the best food in the ‘verse on our yacht. (beat) No offense to this fine meal.

River quietly leaves the table, heading into the galley, presumably to get something.

KAYLEE: None taken. Wouldn’t mind something other than protein myself, every now and again.

ANA: We have a staff of five cooks, a dining room and a banquet hall… You must see the fireplace in the great room.

KAYLEE (amazed): Fireplace—on a ship?

Ana nods.

JAYNE: Five cooks? Before Ana can respond, River returns, Jayne’s large HUNTING KNIFE in her hand. She looks almost as if she’s in a trance, standing and staring at her reflection in the shiny blade.

RIVER: See how it shines in the firelight?

Everyone reacts, mostly by backing away and yelling.

Jayne, knowing that he’s a favorite target, jumps up and rushes to the far side of the room. As he goes, he checks the knife sheathe on his belt, finding it empty.

JAYNE: Pinky? Gorramit, how’d she do that?!?

Book moves slowly toward River, making eye contact with her.

BOOK: River, dear, why don’t you just hand me—

With River’s attention on Shepherd Book, Mal rushes her from the other side, snatching the weapon from her. River offers no resistance and simply stands there.

Mal and Book bracket her for a beat, waiting to see if she’s still a threat.

RIVER (to Mal): Once, I was laconic.

MAL: Yes, darlin’, you certainly were.

He motions for Simon to see to his sister. As Simon moves forward and takes River by the hand, Mal hands the knife back to Jayne, glaring at the big merc.

MAL: Didn’t I warn you—

JAYNE: Was on my hip, Mal! Don’t know how she did it!

In the background, Simon escorts River out. Mal looks at Jayne like he’s about to say more, but Ana intervenes.

ANA: I think this is enough excitement for one evening. (to Kaylee) The meal was wonderful. (to Jayne) Mister Cobb, would you mind escorting me to my room?

Jayne looks to Mal for approval. The captain nods.

Ana holds out her arm and Jayne takes it and squires her out of the room.

Those who remain look at each other for a beat.

WASH: Good times. I hope she saved some surprises for the party!


Jayne brings Ana to the door of her room.

JAYNE: Talk to Mal yet?

She shakes her head.

ANA I don’t believe the time is right.

JAYNE: Be in Sherwood soon enough. Time better be right gorram soon. (beat) I don’t like lyin’ to Mal.

She opens the door to her room.

ANA: A moment, Mister Cobb.

She goes inside HER ROOM, leaving Jayne in the hall, looking around suspiciously.

She returns quickly, holding a piece of paper.

JAYNE: What’s this?

ANA I did this for you.

She hands it to him. It’s a piece of calligraphy, with a single character.

ANA (cont’d): It means “solitary warrior.”

He just looks at her.

ANA (cont’d): You don’t think it was just luck that placed you in my path on Persephone, do you? It was fate. It was destiny. You are my champion. My hero.

JAYNE (uncomfortable): Don’t say that. I ain’t no hero.

ANA: You’ll do what needs to be done to save my family.

Jayne takes a step back from her.

JAYNE: Tellin’ ya, I don’t like lyin’ to the captain.

ANA: You can convince him to help.

JAYNE: I can’t convince Mal o’ nothin’. Captain’s a lotta things, not all of ‘em pretty, but he ain’t no assassin.

ANA: My dear Mister Cobb, it’s not an assassination I require. I merely need an obstacle removed. An obstacle that is destroying the family business and driving the family to ruin.

JAYNE: Call it what you want, he ain’t gonna go for it.

She looks at him hard.

ANA: But we still have our deal, yes?

A beat.

Then Jayne nods.

JAYNE: I do it alone, you still pay me like the whole crew helped out.

ANA: That was our deal, Mister Cobb. I assure you, my word is good.

Jayne still looks unhappy.

JAYNE: Captain ain’t gonna go for it, I’m telling you. Ain’t his kinda job.

ANA (smiling): Perhaps when we get to Sherwood, he’ll change his mind. My father can be most persuasive.


The office is expensive but tasteful. We are behind a massive CHAIR at a desk, so we cannot see who is seated in the chair, but can see what they see, Ana’s face on a COMMUNCATIONS SCREEN.

BRIAN, a muscular giant of a man, his head completely shaved (including eyebrows), stands protectively next to the mysterious MAN IN THE CHAIR.

BRIAN: Line’s secure, sir. Encrypted signal.

ANA: Everything is going brilliantly, Father. The locals I contracted did their part, and we should be at Sherwood in a little more than a day. (beat) It will be so very good to be back home. I can't wait to see you! I trust you'll allow me my party before things turn… unpleasant. She smiles and the screen goes black.



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