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Virtual Firefly episode 1x20 (act three)
Saturday, February 4, 2006

“War Crimes” (act three): This is the fifth episode of the Virtual Firefly project. Check out our web site at stillflying.net!


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1656    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

EXT. SERENITY – CONTINUOUS

Jayne waves his gun to hold back the crowd.

JAYNE What do you want?

REBEL You’ve got food!

JAYNE Not hardly!

BOOK I think they’re referring to our cargo.

JAYNE Hell, no! That’s our money!

The crowd forms in the rocky field in front of the ramp. AINES steps forward. Gaunt, late thirties or forties, she has her hair tied back with a red bandana and walks with a limp, using a bayonet affixed to a stick as a walking staff.

AINES Ain’t eaten anything in near three days, sir.

WASH Sorry, ma’am—

JAYNE Don’t see how that’s our problem.

AINES I don’t believe you understand. They’ve been hunting us, like dogs. We stood up and demanded fair treatment, and they beat us down. (indicates her leg) Chu and his boys beat us with sticks, ‘til we had to run for the hills.

JAYNE (to the crew) Still don’t see how that’s our problem.

River appears behind Jayne, Book, Wash, and Simon, hiding in her brother’s shadow.

AINES (cont’d) Can’t go back. Cariss’ll have us shot, he gets his hands on us. But we stay out here much longer, we’ll starve.

BOOK Could you tell us how this came to be, Miss—

AINES Aines. (beat) Ain’t much to say. Crop moon, crops failed. Patricians got the gold to feed us all, but they won’t spend it. Month’s worth of grain in your ship, they want save it all for plantin’. Warehouses stay full, while our bellies’re empty. So we fought. Better to die on your feet than live groveling.

River begins softly humming “The Hero of Canton,” so quiet it’s not recognizable yet.

BOOK Worthy sentiments, ma’am.

WASH Who shot at us, then?

AINES That’d have been Jasper. Great mechanic, good leader, but not the sharpest tool on the rack. Likely thought if he brought you down, we could collect the grain easy after.

SIMON (quietly, to the crew) Can’t we do something for them?

JAYNE That’s money we need, or we’re next week’s starvin’ rabble.

BOOK Perhaps… Some of the grain went bad. The barrel broke. We had to throw it out.

JAYNE We do that, I ain’t the one tellin’ the Captain.

Behind Aines, the crowd moves closer, perhaps trying to hear the conversation.

WASH Three days without food…

JAYNE An’ we ain’t so far from that ourselves.

RIVER (singing) “…He stood up to the man and he gave them what for” “Our love for this man—”

Jayne stiffens and glares at her. River grins and quiets to humming.

EXT. TALLTREE TOWN— COURTYARD – DAY

Inara’s shuttle lands in the courtyard.

Cariss, who is with Chu and nearly a dozen and a half guards near the first skiff, breaks away and moves toward it.

Mal rushes away from Zoe and Geoffrey and is at the shuttle’s door when it opens and Inara steps out.

Inara and Mal look at each other, both clearly relieved to see the other still intact.

MAL Um…

INARA (smiles) Yes, I’m glad you’re not dead, too.

She steps down, touches his cheek, then moves on as Ibrahim also exits the shuttle. The old man walks directly to Cariss, who is deferential, but clearly surprised to see him.

CARISS Patrician Al-Asjar…

IBRAHIM Cariss, what’s going on here?

CARISS The rebels have rallied in the hills. Our strategy of starving them out seems to have failed.

MAL Rebels?

CARISS It’s no problem. They’re in no condition to fight. We’re heading out right now to settle this.

As he speaks, Chu begins ordering some of his guards onto the skiffs.

MAL They’re at Serenity, ain’t they? (beat) My ship’s in danger because you lied to me.

IBRAHIM (interposing himself) Calm down, sir. Peace.

Inara puts a hand on Mal’s shoulder.

INARA We can take the shuttle, Mal. It’ll be faster.

EXT. SERENITY – DAY

One of the barrels of grain has been cracked open and although the grain is still in whole kernels, many of the rebels are chewing them.

Jayne, Simon, and River are on the ramp, as is Aines, while Kaylee and Book circulate among the rest, bearing opened cans of protein to share.

Folks look up as INARA’S SHUTTLE passes overhead.

EXT. SERENITY – DAY – ESTABLISHING

Inara’s shuttle slots into place, docking with Serenity.

EXT. SERENITY – DAY

Mal strides out, followed by Zoe and Inara. He takes in the scene, especially the cracked-open barrel of grain.

AINES Captain, Reynolds? Thank—

He brushes past her.

MAL Jayne, what in the gorram hell is goin’ on?

JAYNE Uh, barrel broke. Grain went bad—

MAL It take our coin with it?

Mal stalks further down the ramp. BOOK Captain, it’s just one barrel, there’s plenty more.

JAYNE These folks ain’t et in three days, Mal.

MAL And you want to join ‘em? That it? (beat) We don’t have grain, we don’t get paid. {Of all the people to go soft}! What’s next for you? A shelter for wayward orphans?

JAYNE Mal, it ain’t—

Mal spots one of the cans of protein.

MAL {Why don’t we just give them our clothes, too}? That from our kitchen?

Kaylee shrugs apologetically.

RIVER (singing) “Now here is what separates heroes” “From normal folk like you and I”

Mal turns to Aines, clearly recognizing that she’s the leader of the rabble outside his ship.

JAYNE (to River, embarrassed) {Monkey crap}, can you stop singing that?

MAL (to Aines) Now, this ain’t been nobody’s best day, but I see no weapons’re drawn. What I need right now is for you and yours to go—

River’s eyes go wide and her head snaps back.

RIVER Oh no… No. No!

Simon rushes to her side, slowing just enough to glare at Jayne.

SIMON River!

JAYNE Just asked her to stop singin’, is all.

River falls to the ground and balls into a fetal position, screaming and muttering. Simon kneels by her side, and the sight is disturbing enough that most of the rebels look up from their food.

RIVER Murderer!

As Simon tries to help her stand, River flails at him.

SIMON It’s me, River.

MAL (glaring) Get her inside. Now!

RIVER Murderer! Like them. Didn't have to push so hard. Like a knife twisting in a wound! Again and again and again. Kill anyone knows the truth. Kill them all! {Feces-colored vagrants}!

By now, pretty much everyone is looking at River, so when her heads snaps up, they follow her gaze to see the two approaching SKIFFS, laden with guards and blocking the only easy exit out of the valley.

EXT. SERENITY – MOMENTS LATER

Mal, Jayne, Zoe, and Wash stand on the ramp, all with weapons drawn but not pointed. Inara is behind Mal.

Aines and her rabble are trapped between the ship and the guards as Chu and his men surround them.

Cariss, with Geoffrey in tow, walks through the ring formed by the guards. Many of Aines’ folks cringe back from the Patrician.

CARISS Captain Reynolds, what is the meaning of this? Sharing out the grain to these scum? I thought we had a deal.

MAL We do, I—

AINES Patrician Cariss. Now we speak on equal terms.

Cariss ignores her, turns to look up to Mal.

CARISS Captain Reynolds, it’s time to end this farce.

MAL I ain’t laughing, Cariss. That “unpleasantness” weren’t ever over and you knew it.

CARISS We have coin and a deal, Captain. If you want to break it to pander to this rabble, you won’t get paid.

AINES Rabble! You wouldn’t have a colony without us! You starve us, beat us when we rise up, and we’re the villains?

MAL Saw some rich folk strung up in town. Fair sure they didn’t do it themselves.

Aines looks away, her inability to meet Mal’s eyes indicating that she knows exactly what he’s talking about.

ZOE (quietly, to Mal) Captain, this could turn real ugly real fast.

Cariss moves past Aines and addresses her people, holding his hands up to clearly show that he has no weapon drawn.

CARISS There’s food waiting back in town for those who surrender.

ZOE (quietly) Cap’n, you know that ain’t true.

INT. SERENITY – CARGO HOLD – SAME TIME

River seems to have calmed a little. Simon and Book have gotten River to the far side of the cargo hold, near the infirmary. Kaylee stands nearby, looking nervous.

Suddenly, River breaks away, heading back toward the cargo door. Simon and Book manage to restrain her.

RIVER Murderer! They’re all the same!

EXT. SERENITY – SAME TIME

Mal looks down at Cariss and Aines.

MAL Cariss, you gonna shoot these folk, they go back nice?

AINES You ain’t letting him have us? You can see what kind of man he is!

CARISS We need them for labor. They will not be shot. (beat) I am not a murderer.

AINES (spits) Ha!

Mal looks down at Cariss coldly, almost—but not quite—aiming his gun at him.

MAL I know some Browncoats might say different if they could still talk.

Cariss reacts: he wasn’t expecting to hear that. Aines smiles, feeling that she’s gained some ground.

CARISS I only did what was necessary during the war. I only killed on orders.

MAL (disdainfully) Orders. That's what every {villainous scumbag} has hid behind for thirty centuries.

Tense beat.

INT. SERENITY – CARGO HOLD – SAME TIME

River, still restrained by Book and Simon, stares back toward the cargo hold door, toward Mal and Cariss.

RIVER (whispers) War not over for some. Still carrying that bullet. (louder) Bang!

EXT. SERENITY – SAME TIME

Mal holsters his gun and turns to Wash and Jayne.

MAL Start bringing out the grain. (indicating Chu and his men) Them soldiers’ll help you.

CARISS We have a deal, then?

Mal looks down.

MAL (snappish) ‘Course, we have to deal, else we’re stuck on this rock.

ZOE Sir, you really sidin’ with him?

MAL Don’t see as we’ve got much choice. Sob stories don’t buy us fuel.

JAYNE This ain’t right.

MAL You wanna eat?

Jayne and Wash look at him, but don’t move.

MAL (cold) Did I look like I was giving a suggestion?

Jayne glares at Mal, but stomps inside.

WASH (ironically) Yes, sir, Captain, sir!

He follows Jayne, not much happier.

Mal turns to Zoe and indicates the standoff between Aines’ rabble and the Patricians’ guards. The guards draw their high-tech BILLY-CLUBS, which sizzle with the sound of electricity.

MAL Make sure they don’t kill nobody.

He turns and heads into the ship.

INT. SERENITY – CARGO HOLD – CONTINOUS

Wash and Jayne are in the corner, discussing how to best move the barrels. Mal ignores them and heads for the stairs. They watch him pass.

JAYNE I can’t believe he sided with them.

WASH I don’t think he can, either.

AT THE STAIRS

Inara catches up to Mal.

INARA Mal, are you sure about this?

MAL I’ve got to.

INARA We’re not hurting for money that badly. If you need something to tide us over for fuel and parts, until another job—

MAL Ain’t taking your coin. You ain’t on my crew.

INARA I just… I don’t want to see you—

MAL Can’t buy my regard, Inara. I ain’t a whore.

This time it’s not just a casual insult. Inara reacts, flushed and upset.

EXT. SERENITY – SAME TIME

Cariss addresses the rebels. Although the sides are evenly matched (perhaps a few more rebels than guards), the training and equipment advantage the guards have makes it clear that any fight will be brief, ugly, and one-sided.

CARISS Put down your weapons and get back to work.

AINES We ain’t goin’ back!

Cariss smiles.

CARISS Chu, forward.

On Serenity’s ramp, Zoe stands alone, watching as battle is joined, the circle of guards tightening around the rebels.

INT. SERENITY – CARGO BAY – SAME TIME

In the corner near the infirmary, River looks around in panic, practically throwing off Simon and Book.

RIVER Get him away! They’re screaming and screaming and they won’t stop!

SIMON River!

BOOK Be calm, girl!

RIVER Kill him, kill them all!

AT THE STAIRS

Mal and Inara have turned at River’s rant, but now they look back at each other.

MAL I didn’t mean—

INARA Yes. You did. (beat) I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have offered. I know how you must feel—

MAL You don’t know anything.

INARA I’m just trying to help—

MAL You can’t. (sulky, quiet) Go back to the Central Worlds where you belong.

Inara reacts again.

INARA Get me there and I’m off.

Now, it’s Mal’s turn to react.

MAL Lao tien, Inara, I’m—I’m such a—How can you stand me?

Beat. Some of the tension between them drains.

MAL (cont’d) Even I can’t stand me!

INARA (bittersweet) Years of training. And sometimes even that wears thin.

ACROSS THE CARGO HOLD

Zoe pokes her head in from the ramp.

ZOE Captain, you should be out here!

EXT. SERENITY – SAME TIME

The battle’s over, and there are no surprises. A few of the guards are injured and have retreated to the skiffs, but most are standing guard over the rebels. All of the rebels are injured, and many cannot stand under their own power.

The opened barrel is on its side, the grain spilled over the field.

Cariss confronts Aines, who is at one end of the line of prisoners.

CARISS It’s over.

She spits in his face. He draws his pistol and slaps her hard with it, driving her to her knees. He stands over her.

CARISS (cont’d) Chu! Find me a few more volunteers. We’ll need some examples to inspire the rest.

CHU Sir?

CARISS Take those who are most badly wounded, so we won’t lose too much productivity.

GEOFFREY (timidly) Patrician Al-Asjar’s directives—

CARISS Damn that {pathetic old man}! Doesn’t know how to run a colony. (to Chu) Do it!

CHU (unenthusiastic) Yes, sir.

Chu salutes smartly and walks off. Cariss points his pistol at Aines. He slowly walks around so he’s behind her, watching her carefully the entire time.

Cariss puts the gun to the back of her head.

Aines flinches, but he’s got the advantage.

Cariss smiles—

And, out of nowhere, Mal sucker-punches Cariss, snapping the man’s head back. Cariss’s gun goes flying.

As Cariss careens away, Mal smiles… until he realizes that more than half of Chu’s men have their weapons trained on him, more than a dozen guns in all.

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