Virtual Firefly episode 1x19 (act two)
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

“The Perfect Sunset” (act two): This is the fourth episode of the Virtual Firefly project. Check out our web site at!



Inara sits in front of the CORTEX SCREEN that hangs on her wall like a mirror. The client portion is currently deactivated, and she highlights another section, bringing up the statement “No messages waiting.”

Behind her, Mal clears his throat.

She’s startled, and taps away the message, turning off the screen.

INARA Captain, I didn’t hear you ask to come in.

MAL (smiling) You so rarely do.

Mal has a bottle of wine in each hand.

INARA To what do I owe this intrusion?

MAL Thought you were about, and figured I’d see if I could convince you to head outside. Not a day to be cooped up, you ask me.

She stands.

INARA I was just checking to see if I’d received any new messages.

MAL And have you?

She shakes her head and walks over to him, taking one of the bottles of wine and studying it.

MAL (cont’d) From that caper we pulled for Li Shen a few months back. Got another bottle I was savin’ for dinner, but this is pretty much the last of it.

INARA Ah, yes, the infamous, “I’ll pay you in real coin next time, I promise,” caper.

MAL I see you’ve heard of my exploits.

She smiles, looks around the inside of the shuttle, hands the bottle back to Mal.

INARA You know, I didn’t think I would, but when I’m gone, I’ll miss this.

Awkward beat. They both look away.

INARA (cont’d) Shall we head outside?


In the background, Mal (with wine bottles) and Inara come down the stairs. They walk past Simon, who is at the edge of the open CARGO BAY DOORS, looking down at Kaylee. Kaylee is swimming directly beneath the doors, up to her neck in water.

KAYLEE Come on in, Simon. The water’s so beautiful!

SIMON I can’t…

KAYLEE (teasing) Your shoes are already off. That’s a big step!

By now, Mal and Inara are gone.

SIMON I don’t have a suit.

KAYLEE (coquettish) Who says you need a suit?

SIMON I—er, I mean—

Out of nowhere, Jayne rushes past, wearing mangy shorts. He whoops and cannonballs through the cargo bay doors.


Mal and Inara come out onto the open ramp. Book is at the base of the ramp, bare feet in the sand, enjoying the view.

Zoe and Wash are a little ways down the shore, lying down, relaxing, sunning themselves. She’s dressed in an exotic-looking sarong, and he’s finally found a place where his Hawaiian shirt fits in. He’s also wearing shorts and a ludicrous straw hat.

In the distance beyond them, River prances about, apparently chasing a butterfly.

Mal and Inara join Book.

MAL Nice port you found us, Shepherd.

BOOK The view is quite amazing, isn’t it?

MAL Almost nice enough to make me believe your God’s got the way of it.

BOOK Could be God put this place here, but see that? (pointing to palm trees) Vegetation looks suspiciously like something from Earth-that-was.

Down the beach, Zoe and Wash have noticed them and stand up to head over.

MAL You sayin’ this place was terraformed?

INARA A paradise project. I thought they were just myth.

BOOK Every myth’s got a kernel of truth at its heart, doesn’t it?

Wash and Zoe join them.

WASH Can I name it, Captain? I mean, Jayne’s got that crappy moon where he’s a hero. Can I have this one? Please? I promise I’ll name an ocean after you.

MAL Shepherd was the one pointed us here. Anyone claims it, should be him.

BOOK (to Wash) Honor’s all yours, son.

Wash smiles and rubs his hands together, pondering. Then, he strikes a pose, miming planting a flag.

WASH We shall rule over this fertile little moon. And we shall call it— (dramatic pause) Wash’s Moon!

Zoe raises an eyebrow and looks at him.

WASH (cont’d) I mean, Zoe’s Moon! (beat, still posing) Yes, yes, to show the depth of our love of Zoe, we shall name an entire moon in her honor!

INARA (to Zoe) You’re a lucky woman, Zoe. Many’s the man who promised me the moon and the stars, and not one has yet delivered.

Zoe laughs, then hugs Wash.

ZOE I am lucky, aren’t I?

WASH Yes, yes, you are. (overdramatic) For you are wed to the mighty pirate-king of Zoe’s Moon!

Zoe gives him a “don’t push it, honey” look, and he smiles contritely and stops posturing.

ZOE (to Mal) Can I take it from those bottles you’re carrying that you’ve considered my request?

WASH What request?

MAL Can’t see no harm to it.

He hands her one of the bottles. She smiles and turns to Wash.

ZOE Asked the Captain if we could take the spare shuttle, explore the coastline. Maybe even have a picnic.

WASH A night away from the parents! Very exciting!

Wash is so enthusiastic that he’s practically bouncing up and down.

MAL Not a night. Just a few hours. We ain’t locals here. Who knows what comes out when things get dark? You see sunset, you head back.

They all turn to the sound of splashing and laughing in the water. From under the belly of the ship, Kaylee comes sailing, apparently thrown by Jayne, who treads water behind her. (For the record, she was just funnin’ Simon and is, in fact, wearing a bathing suit).

BOOK Any plans for that other bottle, Captain?

MAL Didn’t think preachers were s’posed to drink, Shepherd.

Kaylee and Jayne are splashing a little closer now.

BOOK Nothing wrong with a little of the grape in moderation. I was thinking I’d head downriver a bit, see if I might be able to catch something for dinner. Bottle like that might make the afternoon much sunnier.

JAYNE (swimming closer) Talkin’ about goin’ fishin’, preacher?

BOOK Would you like to join me?

SIMON (OS) Have you seen River?

Simon is coming down the ramp, looking wet and miserable. He’s pretty much soaked from the chest down.

JAYNE (snickering) Told you not to stand so close to the gorram edge, doc.

Simon gives Jayne a look that should, by all rights, freeze the water around him. Jayne just grins back.

Kaylee comes out of the water and approaches the group.

KAYLEE Oh, Simon. (beat) And that was one of your nice vests, too!

SIMON I should… It’ll be all right. (beat) I shouldn’t have been so close to the edge.

KAYLEE (brightly) So what’re we all doin’ standing around at the bottom of the ramp?

WASH We’re gonna have a picnic!

KAYLEE (misunderstanding) A picnic? Shiny! (to the miserable Simon) Doesn’t that sound nice, Simon?

WASH No, I meant—

SIMON Yes, I suppose a picnic could be very nice.

Kaylee smiles at Simon and he brightens somewhat, although he’s still all bedraggled and awkward.

Wash looks at Zoe, then indicates Simon and Kaylee. She gives him a “Are you sure?” look, then nods.

WASH (to Kaylee) The four of us’ll take the shuttle, head over to the far side of the island—

Beat. Kaylee is more excited than before, presumably having figured out it’s a “double date.”

KAYLEE The far side? We’ll be like explorers.

WASH I was thinking pirates. Picnic-eating, wine-swilling pirates!

SIMON The four of us? River—

Down the shore, River is now standing staring at a flower, possibly talking to it.

BOOK I’ll look after your sister, son. You young folk go and have a good time.

Kaylee smiles at Simon and takes his hand.


Mal stands alone in the center of the cargo hold, eyes closed, listening to the silence.

A beat, then he realizes Inara is standing on the UPPER CATWALK, looking down.

MAL It’s strange. Too quiet.

INARA I rather like it for a change.

She walks down the stairs to join him.

INARA (cont’d) I don’t know that you and I have ever been alone like this on the ship before, Captain.

She stands very close, looking up at him.

MAL I… (beat) You know, I think you’re right.

He walks away from her.

MAL (cont’d) Ship doesn’t seem right, the whole crew gone.

INARA With the crew gone, are you still the captain?

MAL Think it’s that easy? Can you stop bein’ a companion just like that? INARA (smiling) Why don’t we both give it a try?


Zoe, Wash, Kaylee, and Simon sit around a blanket covered with food (mostly protein and some fruit picked from nearby trees), wrappers, and sundries. They’re laughing, and Simon is filling Zoe’s empty wine glass as he tells a story. The SHUTTLE is parked on the beach a little ways down, the ocean lapping at its front landing struts.

ZOE And still didn’t figure it out? Seriously?

SIMON No. I mean, can you imagine? The prices were in platinum, and my father… He’s a very intelligent man, but sometimes not quick with the math.

KAYLEE Did you tell him?

SIMON Well, what I did was… He was insistent that we drink a round, since it’d taken us so long to get there, so I looked at him and I said, “Dad… Look at the prices. That’s not just a wine you’re paying for.”

They all laugh.

KAYLEE And that’s the only time you were in a brothel?

SIMON There was one other time.

WASH Of course. Let’s not forget the bordello we were hired to protect.

There’s an easy sense of camaraderie among the four. Without Jayne and River around, Simon seems to be able to fit in a little better.

SIMON (laughing) Okay, TWO other times! Oh, wait, I forgot. Three.

KAYLEE I want to hear about those.

SIMON You still haven’t told us your brothel story.

KAYLEE (holding up her glass) I’m not sure I’m tipsy enough yet.

Simon pours the last of the wine into her glass. As if that’s a cue, Wash and Zoe exchange a look.

WASH As exciting as all these brothel tales are, I think the missus and I need to spend a little alone time in the shuttle.

KAYLEE (to Simon, hushed tone) They’re gonna have sex.

Wash, standing up, rubs Kaylee’s head.

WASH Yes, yes, we are.

He reaches down and offers Zoe a hand. She smiles down at Simon and Kaylee.

ZOE This has been nice. Really.

Wash tries to lift his wife over his shoulder, fails miserably, and settles for running to the shuttle after her. Kaylee and Simon laugh, a little awkwardly.

KAYLEE Do you want to—

SIMON The beach. (points) Do you want to… A walk?

She smiles.

KAYLEE Love to.


Book is sitting dozing on the riverbank, fishing pole in his hands. He wakes with a bit of a start and looks around.

Jayne’s sitting next to him, also fishing. They have a bucket with a few fish in it between them, as well as the open bottle of wine. And a heavy looking rifle.

BOOK Dozed off. Must be the heat.

JAYNE (good-humored) That or the years.

BOOK Where’s River?

Jayne reaches down to make sure his HUNTING KNIFE is on his belt. He shrugs.

JAYNE I wasn’t the one said I’d look after her.

He returns his attention to the river and his fishing pole.

BOOK River?


RIVER (OS) Over here.

Book stands, putting down the pole, and heads in the direction of her voice. Jayne continues to fish for a beat, then—

JAYNE Gorrammit.

He puts down the pole, grabs the rifle, and follows Book. He gets two steps, then comes back and grabs the wine bottle with his free hand.


Book and Jayne break through the light brush to see River staring down at something on the ground.

BOOK River? What are you doing?

RIVER (not looking up) Watching.

They get closer. She’s staring at a dying fish as it flops on the ground, bleeding out from the gills.

RIVER (cont’d) To see when it realizes it’s not a fish anymore.

BOOK River…

RIVER Stopped being a fish once it was on the hook, but it didn’t know.

JAYNE What’s ruttin’ wrong with you, girl?

He grimaces at the suffering fish, steps forward, and smashes the fish with the butt of the rifle, killing it with a single hard strike. River looks up at him as if dealing with a child.

RIVER (shaking her head) Now I’ll never know.

Jayne, a little rattled, takes a swig of the wine.


Mal and Inara are at the dining room table, sitting across from one another, a WEI CHI BOARD between them. The bottle of wine is on its side, apparently empty. Mal is holding a sake bottle, from which he takes a small sip before putting it down on the table next to the board.

INARA Your move, Mal.

He examines the board and makes a move, flipping some of her stones. He seems pretty impressed with himself.

INARA (cont’d) Not bad.

She silently counts the number of stones, and takes a swig, much longer than his sip.

MAL (slurring a bit) Told you I was good at this game, Inara.

She ignores him and makes a game-winning move.

MAL (cont’d) Wha—? Now how did you—?

She smiles and slides the bottle toward him.

INARA Drink up.

He takes the bottle and the last of its contents, upending it and studying it curiously, as if he believes there should be more.

INARA (cont’d) Another game? Best out of seven?

MAL Don’t believe there’s enough liquor left on the ship to take us there.

Inara stands cautiously. She’s tipsy, but in better shape than he is.

INARA (curtseying) Thank you for the game, kind sir.

Mal stands, swaying more than a little, bows deeply and loses his balance, almost toppling to the side. His hand hits the wine bottle, sending it spinning off the table. It hits the ground but does not shatter.

Beat, then Inara cracks up.

MAL That’s not funny!

INARA Yes, it is. A little.

MAL (drunken laughing) Okay, maybe a little.

She leans forward and starts to clean up the wei chi board. He moves forward to help.

MAL (cont’d) Let me help you with—

They both look down. Seems they reached for the same thing at the same time and he’s holding her hand. They look at each other for a beat.


A beat, then he takes his hand away, looks away.

MAL Can I ask you a question?

INARA Anything.

MAL Ain’t gonna ask why you’re leavin’, since I don’t ‘xpect I’ll get a straight answer. But… (beat) Why’d you stay this long?

INARA I like it here. I really do. I’ll miss this when I’m gone. I’ll miss everyone. (beat) Well, maybe not Jayne.

Mal raises an imaginary glass to toast that sentiment.

INARA (cont’d) I feel like I’m a part of something when I’m here. (lightly) Even if it is a crew of {petty} thieves.

They look at each other across the table, over the gameboard. They both want to say more, but neither is willing to make the first move. It’s an emotional Mexican standoff.

MAL You helped us with more than a few jobs, to be sure, but you were never part of the crew.

As the words leave his mouth, he realizes what he’s said.

MAL (cont’d) Inara, I…

INARA (coldly) No, I never was part of the crew, was I? (beat) And it seems you can’t stop being the captain, even for an hour.

Without another word, she storms out through the rear entrance.

MAL Inara!

He watches her go, but doesn’t follow. He kicks the downed wine bottle in frustration, then heads for the forward entrance himself.


Book and Jayne (looking more at ease) sit on the riverbed, watching a beautiful rainbow-hued sunset. Jayne finishes off the last of the wine.

River, standing nearby, reaches down and snatches Book’s cigar right out of his mouth. The preacher is startled, but as he looks up and sees her comically smoking it, he laughs and turns back to the sunset.


Zoe and Wash make love as the sunset streams in through the window of the shuttle, shining off their sweaty bodies.


Simon and Kaylee walk down the beach, holding hands and laughing.

She bends down to pick up a seashell, and when she straightens to show it to him, he puts a hand to her cheek.

She looks up at him, and he leans down toward her.

With the sunset beach as their backdrop, Simon kisses Kaylee.


Inara, looking rather frustrated, checks her messages again on the Cortex screen. Still nothing.

She catches sight of the sunlight streaming in through the shuttles window, and is captivated by the beauty of the sunset.


Mal watches the same sunset from the cockpit, sitting alone.


Thursday, January 26, 2006 1:04 AM


The dynamics between characters are really well written in this part, I really liked how you split them off into little groups, each with something different happening! Your Wash made me laugh out loud, you've captured his voice well!

Thursday, January 26, 2006 3:08 AM


Ooooh tension, and happines and so many emotions, and then the Alliance could find them.

This is exciting!
and I agree with burnandboli- your Wash is excellent

Thursday, January 26, 2006 7:43 AM


Very fine. Strange how the seeming idyll is making me all kinds of nervous that something mean and bad is about to happen. As for Mal and Inara, it's as painfully awkward between them as it can get. Sigh. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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