Virtual Firefly episode 1x18 (act two)
Thursday, January 12, 2006

“Property Rights” (act two): This is the third episode of the Virtual Firefly project. Check out our web site at!



Mal and Barrett face off, Barrett on the porch, Mal on the ground. Barrett is backed by his half dozen thugs, Mal by Zoe, Book (standing protectively in front of Jonah), and Randy, who has fumbled for a rifle.

BARRETT: I'm just trying to do the right thing. See after my new responsibilities.

MAL: Your responsibilities?

BARRETT: Yes. My fault. My responsibilities. My property, once again.

GRANDMA LUHAN Ain’t your property, boy! Jack bought it at auction fair and square!

Barrett wheels on Grandma Luhan.

Jonah begins to cry and takes a step toward his grandmother, but Book puts a hand on his shoulder.

JONAH: Gramma!

BARRETT Land was stole from my family during the war!

Book looks at Mal, who is quickly losing patience.

BOOK War took a lot of thing from lots of folks, Mister Barrett.

MAL: (quietly) That it did.

BARRETT Man’s got a right to live in his own house. Live where his memories are.

MAL Seems to me it ain’t your house no more.

Barrett, increasingly agitated, paces the front porch.

BARRETT: Gorram Alliance stole the land for a base, never even built it. Then the bank took what’s left after, cut it up, sold the pieces to newcomers from the Core… folk like Jack Luhan lookin’ to build new lives on top of the ruins of someone else’s.

MAL Ain’t sayin’ it’s fair, but it ain’t their fault, neither. Folks got a right to build a life.

BARRETT: Not on my land, they don’t.

A beat as Mal and Barrett stare at one another. They’ve reached an impasse.

BOOK Mrs. Luhan? Would you like to come down here? With us?

Grandma Luhan doesn’t get up.

GRANDMA LUHAN I’ll stay here. No tellin’ what these boys will do to my baby’s house without me around to keep an eye on things.

Barrett’s boys laugh; they like her spunk.

JONAH: Gramma!

MAL: Mrs. Luhan, I—

She looks at him hard, with watery eyes.

GRANDMA LUHAN You’re him, ain’t you? (beat) They told me what happened to my Carrie. You’re the one done it?

Mal looks away, unable to meet her gaze.

GRANDMA LUHAN (cont’d): (to Mal) You understand what you have to do, yes? Look after the boy? (to Jonah) You go with these folk, Jonah. They’re good strong folk. They’ll take care of you.


Book has to pick the boy up and physically restrain him. Jonah cries into Books shoulder.

RANDY: (to Grandma Luhan) We’ll sort this out, ma’am.

GRANDMA LUHAN I’ll be here waiting.

Mal points his gun at Barrett.

MAL: You hurt her—

BARRETT: (defensively) I used to be a gentleman, outlaw. She’s safer with me than with the likes of you. I’ll see after her.

MAL: You touch her, we’re gonna have a reckoning, you and me.

Mal and his party slowly back away.


Kaylee and Mister Frye are on big ladders, welding an UPGRADED WINCH to the ceiling.

MISTER FRYE: (holding a laser level) Just a little to the left, Lee-lee. Have to get this steady or whatever you're hanging’ll come down on the gangways.

KAYLEE: Right on it.

Simon paces near a PILE OF TOOLS at the base of the ladder, looking up and clearly trying—and failing—to be helpful.

River and Wash are on the UPPER CATWALK, both sitting tailor-style, playing WEI CHI. River is winning, moving quickly and paying more attention to her surroundings than the game.

Inara and Jayne set up for the auction, moving BOXES around to serve as tables and covering them with decorations, presumably from Inara’s shuttle.

INARA: (yelling up) Mister Frye, it’s very generous of you and your wife to assist us with our auction.

MISTER FRYE: Anything we can do for our daughter’s friends, Miss ‘Nara. Me and the missus, we—

He shifts his arm, bumps loose one of the tools on his belt, and is unable to grab it in time.

MISTER FRYE (cont’d): Boy! Watch it!


Simon dodges out of the way, narrowly avoiding being beaned by the tool. He goes too far, however, and trips over the tool boxes.

Jayne looks up from what he’s doing and laughs. Mister Frye joins in.

KAYLEE (cont’d): Poppa!

MISTER FRYE: Lee-lee, truly! Boy shouldn’t be hoverin’ right ‘neath us. He’s askin’ for trouble. Glad you didn’t inherit my slipp’ry hands, girl!

Simon stands up, straightens the tools, trying to regain his composure.

SIMON: Is… There anything I can do to help?

MISTER FRYE: (under his breath) Stop circlin’ underfoot like a lazy kitten for starters… (to Simon) Can you run to my workshop? The shed out back behind the house? Fetch me the sonic distributor and an acetylene recharge.

SIMON (looking lost) Right…

Simon heads toward the AIRLOCK RAMP.

On the UPPER CATWALK, Wash and River’s game continues.

WASH: It's your move.

River glances back at the board. She casually places a stone, capturing a large formation of Wash’s stones, and turns her attention to Kaylee and Mister Frye.

Wash stares at the board, confused at how quickly he’s started to lose.


Jayne continues to move boxes while Inara decorates in his wake.

JAYNE: We finally gonna sell that piece of fei-oo tomorrow?

INARA That’s the plan.

JAYNE: Why'd anyone want it? Ain't no point to a gun that don't work.

RIVER: (from the catwalk) People like pretty things.

Before Inara or Jayne can respond, Mal strides up the ramp.

MAL: Everything goin’ okay?

Inara goes to him, and puts a comforting hand on his arm.

MAL (cont’d): I didn’t know…

Beat as they look at each other. She nods.

Wash, having abandoned the game, is now on the cargo bay floor. In the background, Kaylee and Mister Frye come down their ladders, and Jayne approaches as well. There’s a feeling of “We’re done for the night.”

WASH You bring my wife back with you, Captain?

MAL: In the house. She and Book’re tryin’ to get the little guy settled in for the night. (to Mister Frye) Your wife tells me she’s got a fine meal for us all.

MISTER FRYE: I’m ready to eat. How ‘bout y’all?

Wash and Jayne look at each other, slowly walking down the ramp, jockeying for position to be first in line. Mal looks drained by the day’s events, but manages a genuine smile; he and Inara follow them in cordial silence.

Mister Frye looks at Kaylee.

MISTER FRYE (cont’d) Lee-lee, you sure you’re okay? You seem different.

KAYLEE Been gone a while, Poppa. Being out in the black changes you.

He sees there’s something more.

KAYLEE (cont’d): I… We can… (beat) We should go see if Momma needs any help.

Kaylee heads out and her father follows, leaving River alone in the cargo hold.

Gameboard abandoned, she looks into the palm of her hand, at the crumpled “runt of the litter” origami swan.

RIVER People like pretty things…


Morning lights the Frye house and its outbuildings, and Serenity and the other vessels.


Sunlight streams in through homespun curtains. The kitchen is small, with River (looking tired), Kaylee, Jayne, and Book sitting around a SMALL TABLE (which is a tight fit for even four) eating a hearty BREAKFAST of toast, eggs, and slabs of some sort of meat. Jonah stands, chair pushed out in the room, animatedly telling a story.

In the background, Mrs. Frye is at the kitchen counter, cooking.

JONAH: And then he tried to get her to sign it over again, but she wouldn't! Not even when we ran out of money to fix the fence.

BOOK She sounds like a very brave woman, son.

JONAH: Even, one time, he tried to marry her and get it that way, but she said “No way!”

JAYNE: (nods approvingly) Good for her.

Jayne takes a big forkful of food and crams it in his mouth, chewing lustily.

JAYNE (cont’d): (mouth full) Mrs. Frye, this’s the best eggs I’ve et since… Since I seen my own momma!

Mrs. Frye laughs and keeps working.

Jayne realizes Johan’s staring at him and stops chewing.

JANYE (cont’d): What?


Kaylee smiles at Jonah like he’s the cutest thing ever in the history of the ‘Verse.

JONAH (cont’d): (halting) Do you think you could… Well, could you… Could you fight Mister Reynolds and Mister Barrett to get our house back?

JAYNE: Cap’n ain’t gonna take yer house, boy. Not his way, not like the other fella. But if he did… (blustery, playing it up) I'd do it. Fight ‘em both. Getcher Gramma back, too!

Jonah laughs in delight. Mister Frye comes in, muttering under his breath, he nods a greeting to everyone, then goes to the counter to get some food. The room is crowded and tight.

BOOK Jonah… Why don’t you sit down, son, have something more to eat?

Jonah listens to Book, although he’s fidgety.

BOOK (cont’d): (quietly, to Jayne) Jayne, are you developing a taste for playing the hero?

JAYNE: (less blustering) I got a old momma, too. I get kilt, no one better turn her out.

Mister Frye pulls up an empty chair and squeezes in.

MISTER FRYE: Mornin’, folks. (to Kaylee) Workshop’s a mess…

River looks down at her plate.

MISTER FRYE (cont’d): (muttering) Fancy boy don’t know an acetylene recharger from his elbow…


Frye and Jayne share a smile. Mrs. Frye shakes her head as she continues her work.

SIMON (OS): Good morning.

Everyone exchanges looks as Simon joins them at the table, crowding in between River and Kaylee. Mister Frye, at least, has the good grace to look vaguely embarrassed.

MISTER FRYE Mornin’, Doctor.

Simon nods to Mister Frye. The sound of forks on plates is uncomfortably loud in the wake of Simon’s appearance. Jonah looks around.

Simon opens his mouth to make conversation, but hesitates, not sure who to start with. He looks at his sister.

SIMON Are you alright, River? You look tired.

RIVER: Taking longer than I thought to make it pretty. Pretty swans fly straight.

While some might be used to River’s antics, the Fryes are not among them. Awkward beat.

MRS. FRYE: (to Jayne) So how exactly was it that you came to join the crew, Jayne? JAYNE: Well, ma’am, I saw little Kaylee's pretty face and I just couldn't help myself...

Kaylee punches him in the arm and giggles. Simon’s fork freezes midway to his mouth.

JAYNE (cont’d): Nah. Truth, I set out to rob the Cap'n, he hired me instead. (beat) I'm a bad man.

JAYNE grins mock-evilly, causing first Jonah, then the Fryes and River, to laugh.


Wash and Zoe sit on a comfortable, if aging TWO-SEATER SWING, looking across the field at Serenity.

WASH Man could get used to this.

ZOE: Suppose so.

WASH: This is a nice place. Good neighborhood.

ZOE: If you like murderous, land-grabbing ranchers as your neighbors.

WASH: And those hospitable, friendly Fryes. (sarcastically) Likes of them make me sick.

He raises a mock-serious eyebrow as she laughs. She nestles closer.

ZOE Have to admit, sky was beautiful last night, all those stars. Almost like bein’ out among ‘em.

WASH That’s right. Stars. That’s my top criterion for a home. Well, that and chickens. Got to have chickens…

ZOE Got stars aplenty right on Serenity, honey.

WASH True enough, but it’s no place to raise a… (beat) You know, someday, maybe a son—

As if on cue, the FRONT DOOR slams open and Jonah bursts out, running and laughing.

Before the door closes, River shoots out, also laughing.

Door starts to swing, then out rushes Book, trying to keep up.

BOOK Jonah! River!

Wash looks at Zoe and shrugs.

WASH: Okay, maybe not that one.

They settle back into the swing.

WASH (cont’d): Still… (beat) Chickens…


It’s afternoon, and Kaylee and Mister Frye are up on the starboard ENGINE POD, working on it.

MISTER FRYE: Wouldn’t say this in front o’ your momma, Lee-lee…

KAYLEE: (looking up) What is it, Poppa?

MISTER FRYE: Serenity… She ain’t just a transport, is she?

Kaylee looks down at her work.

MISTER FRYE (cont’d): Your captain… Jayne… Hades, even that doctor seem to got more spine than most folk I ever met…

Kalyee smiles.

KAYLEE Poppa, it’s… Ain’t like I was tryin’ to lie, or anything, but… (beat) Can we talk later? Just… I just want to get this pod upgraded, ‘kay?

Mister Frye nods… For now.

MISTER FRYE: Ship’s gonna run smoother’n any I ever seen, we get done with ‘er.

KAYLEE: She is a beauty, ain’t she? (pats the pod) That’s my girl.

He looks at her, presumably thinking the very same thing. He smiles, reaches over, and pats her hand.


The cargo hold has been decorated as best it can to look like the inside of Inara’s shuttle. A huge spread of food, enough for two dozen people, rests on the boxes-turned-tables.

Inara stands serenely in the center of things, Mal pacing around her. Wash and Jayne linger near the food, snacking when they think no one’s looking. Zoe sits on the stairs leading to the upper catwalk.

MAL: Everything ready? What about the whores durves?

INARA: It's “hors d'oeuvres,” Captain. Relax.

MAL: I just want to get this sold so I can end this business with Barrett.

A beat, and then a group of a half-dozen MEN come up the RAMP. ALEXI BELOV and JEAN LECOINTE, powerful and prosperous looking, are served by two BODYGUARDS each.

Lecointe and Belov talk as they enter, while the bodyguards get the lay of the place. Belov, in particular, seems a little put off by the location and happy to see Inara.

BELOV Helicopters. From the Greek. Early precursors to the modern skiffs. Truly.

LECOINTE I'll believe it when I see it.

Inara steps forward and curtsies to the two men.

INARA: Welcome, Alexei, Jean. I see you have already become acquainted.

BELOV Ahh, Inara. You are as lovely as ever.

LECOINTE Lovelier. {A cherry-blossom in bloom}. You are not busy after the auction, I trust?

BELOV You are planning to lose, I see.

LECOINTE The Lassiter wins for rarity, but our Inara must take the prize for value.

INARA: For shame, Jean. I blush. We’re waiting for one more bidder, but in the meantime, come, have some who—hors d'oeuvres.


There are a few buildings behind the Frye house, but no one is there to see a half dozen RIDERS approach. It’s Barrett and some of his boys, including Samuels.

BARRETT: (to Samuels) Now, remember, this crew, they got a lot of guns, don’t need the trouble. Just take the boy. Barrett and his thugs spread out. Samuels hears something, the faint sound of a DRILL, perhaps.

SAMUELS: (pointing) Sir?

The building is a large shed covered with flaking paint and surrounded by jars of chemicals. The ground leading up to it is muddy, with several large sets of booted footprints and the tracks of a wheeled vehicle clearly visible. The door hangs off its hinges, the deadbolt on the interior held by a single screw.


The workshop is a chaotic jumble of TOOLS, GADGETS, and GIZMOS. River is in the middle of it all, wearing gloves and goggles, concentrating on some project we can’t see.

RIVER: (to herself) Fly straight, my pretty little swan. Won’t be a runt anymore.

Sparks from what she’s working on light up her face. She works for a moment, then suddenly stops. Still holding her MYSTERIOUS PROJECT, she turns.

BARRETT (OS): Forget about the boy…

Barrett and his men are in the doorway, guns drawn.

BARRETT (cont’d): (smiling) This is worth way more.

A flurry of action as River tries to rush past them—


Mal, Inara and Wash are on the upper catwalk. Belov and Lecointe are on the floor below, talking and eating but seem to be getting bored. Jayne and one of the bodyguards are talking (and eating), while Zoe and the other three bodyguards seem to actually take their job seriously.

MAL: (to Inara) Three bidders? That’s all you come up with?!?

Mal doesn’t look happy.

INARA: Trust me, Captain, Alexi and Jean can afford a fair price, and, while I don’t know the third bidder myself, Hu Wan-Ji vouches for him.

Mal nods, annoyed.

MAL: Who knows more about sellin’ high-priced goods than a—

Inara looks at him, daggers in her eyes, not having to say a word to stop him.

WASH: Uh, guys?

They stop in mid-fight and look at him.

WASH (cont’d): Third bidder’s here.


Things have gotten crowded. The THIRD BIDDER has brought EIGHT BODYGUARDS, all armed, all dressed in expensive black suits. The Third Bidder steps through the crowd, looking up, his face masked by the hat he’s wearing.


MAL: {Monkey-flung feces!}

WASH: You know this guy?

THIRD BIDDER I believe you have something that rightly belongs to me (takes off his hat) I’d like my artifact back.

The man on the floor is DURRAN HAYMER, previous owner of the LASSITER.


Friday, January 13, 2006 2:26 AM


Loved the revelation of who the third bidder is. I say give the cursed gun to him and have done with it. Then get those wicked *wangba dans* before they can make off with River. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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