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Episode One: A Dream Come True

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EXT. SERENITY – NIGHT – The ship is gliding through space. We zoom in, almost as if we're going to collide with her, but she passes out of frame to our left and we are caught in her glowing trail. That glow fills the screen for a second, then we're back in space and steadily closing in on a brownish-colored moon.

That moon fills the screen and becomes –

ZOE's eye. We pull back from ZOE's lovely iris. She blinks and we see that we're in –

INT. CREW QUARTERS – NIGHT – and ZOE is laying in bed on her side. She rolls over to reveal WASH staring up at the ceiling. Everything is bathed in a slightly warm golden glow, not unlike the glow of Serenity's tail.

ZOE cuddles up to WASH.

WASH: We should visit my mom. You'd like her. She's a warrior woman, too.

ZOE: Really?

WASH: And she's mean like you.

ZOE sits back, indignant, giving him the stinkeye.

ZOE: What?

WASH: She has this look – Yeah! That's the one! Wow, that's creepy. I thought you'd never met her.

ZOE smiles wryly and lays back down, with her head on his chest.

ZOE: It's part of our highly secret warrior woman training.

WASH: I knew it! (laughs) I think my mom could have put a serious hurtin' on me, too, but she never did. She'd just give my brother and me that look.

He strokes her hair.

ZOE: And did it work?

WASH: Well, yeah. No child can defy the Eye of Doom.

ZOE: And no husband, either.

WASH: I am totally at your mercy.

ZOE: Mmm. I like that idea.

ZOE gives him the passionate warrior wife kissing, then lets him up for air.

WASH: Sugar muffin, when are we gonna settle down?

ZOE: This ain't "settled"?

WASH: This aint even "drifting in a downward direction." No, definitely more of a "constant, crazy tornado" thing.

ZOE: We've been over this, smootchy buns. You're a pilot, I'm a soldier. What else are we going to do?

WASH: We could get our own ship, Zoe. Make with a little less of the murder and mayhem and a little more with the legitimate business enterprises.

ZOE lays back on the bed, her head on her pillow. Her jaw has a stubborn set.

CLOSE IN: ZOE head and shoulders.

ZOE: Any ideas what those legitimate enterprises might be?

Beat.

ZOE (cont'd): Wash?

OFF ZOE as she turns to face WASH, only it isn't WASH –

REAVER: GRRR!

CUT TO: INT. CREW QUARTERS – NIGHT –

ZOE snaps awake.

She's in her bed, alone. Everything is not in a warm glow, but is gray and cool and kinda dark. We might notice a few dinosaurs and a Hawaiian shirt in the background as her eyes fall shut.

FADE TO –

INT. BLACK ROOM/INNER HALL – MR. UNIVERSE'S COMPLEX –

ZOE: We need to draw them til it's done. This is the place. We'll buy you the time.

JAYNE: Move those crates back there for cover – and make sure they ain't filled with anything goes boom.

KAYLEE: Wait, Wash – where's Wash?

ZOE: He ain't comin'.

KAYLEE is horrified. INARA, SIMON and JAYNE are silent for a beat. Then –

JAYNE: Move the gorram crates! Come on!

Savage howls O.S. MAL moves to the door, JAYNE beside him. Reavers rush toward them.

MAL: Tell me you brought 'em this time...

JAYNE tosses MAL a grenade, pulls out his own. They both twist the grenades and toss them into the hall. MAL slams the door shut and the grenades explode. Everyone is taking position behind the crates, ZOE is calmly loading her mare's leg.

MAL: Zoe, are you here?

She looks up at him.

ZOE: Do the job, sir.

MAL: You hold. Hold till I'm back.

MAL exits, locking eyes with INARA as he goes by. Camera angle here is different than in the original movie, tighter on he and INARA, rather than the room and the rest of the crew. Sad anguish on her face.

Then we're MAL's POV, retreating down the corridor, but still looking at INARA, who is now standing at the end of the hallway and growing smaller – corridor's a lot longer than it was in the movie.

INARA: This isn't the war, Mal.

Suddenly, cuz it's, y'know, a dream, INARA has turned into CARON, the scientist from Miranda.

CARON: There's been no war here, and no terraforming event.

CARON's voice becomes a narrative, as we angle on MAL, who is still walking down that incredibly long corridor, which is now littered with decomposed bodies. Bodies from Miranda, bodies from Serenity Valley –

MAL steps over bodies as CARON continues –

CARON (V.O.): It's the Pax, the G-32 Paxilon Hydroclorate that we added to the air processors. There's 30 million people here and they all just let themselves die. About a tenth of a percent of the population had the opposite reaction. Their aggressor response increased... beyond madness.

The bodies MAL is stepping over have become increasingly grotesque.

One leaps up behind him –

REAVER: ARRRG!

ANGLE on MAL as he whips around, his face wide-eyed yet pissed and determined and hard ass –

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY – MAL'S ROOM – NIGHT –

MAL jerks awake in his bunk, his face with the same look as we just came off of in his dream. His face relaxes, he takes a deep breath, then –

CAMERA RISES – through the ceiling, which becomes the floor of the fore interior corridor –

INT. CORRIDOR – Filled with bodies. As we proceed down it, the bodies look suspiciously like...

KAYLEE shot in the neck by Reavers... then ZOE with her back slashed open...

CAMERA ANGLE on SIMON. He's making his way from the engine room –

INT. SERENITY GALLEY – CONTINUOUS – We might notice that they are various folks killed by the Operative, people killed by RIVER in the Maidenhead...

INT. SERENITY FORE CORRIDOR – CONTINUOUS – Again with the bodies. This time they are DERRIAL BOOK and the people of Haven –

INT. SERENITY BRIDGE – CONTINUOUS – SIMON approaches the pilot's chair, which we see contains an impaled WASH.

SIMON stumbles back, a look of utter disgust and anguish on his face, more emotion that we usually see from him. In tears, he chokes –

SIMON: I just wanted to keep her safe!

Suddenly JAYNE is standing there with a big red gash across his chest.

JAYNE: Oh, and neither is she exactly helpless! So where's it writ we gotta lay down our lives for her, which is what you steered us toward.

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY – SIMON'S ROOM – NIGHT –

SIMON sits up, snapping out of sleep and into frame. He is shirtless and sweating.

KAYLEE (O.S., sleepy murmur): You OK, honey?

SIMON lays back in his bed, and we see that KAYLEE is also there, unclothed, under his bed sheet.

As he speaks, the CAMERA MOVES through the walls from SIMON to –

INT. SERENITY – RIVER'S ROOM – NIGHT –

RIVER laying on her back in her bunk, awake, and softly speaks SIMON's words –

RIVER/SIMON (O.S.): Just a bad dream.

Beat.

RIVER: Time to wake up.

END TEASER

Ba da da-da da dum... Take my love, take my land, take me where I cannot stand, I don't care, I'm still free, you can't take the sky from me...

ACT ONE

EXT. DAY – Serenity is setting down just outside a small dusty town on a small dusty planet named Whittier. The place has the look of a shanty town, and that's being generous.

EXT. SERENITY – Landed, cargo bay door open, MAL, JAYNE and KAYLEE walking down the ramp. SIMON is in the background, taking in the local color. Which is basically beige, taupe and tan, with a few splashes of brown.

MAL: Keep the engine warm, we shouldn't be long. I don't want to spend a second longer than I have to on this rock.

KAYLEE: You want I should post for passengers while I'm waiting, cap'n? (scans the town, unsure) If there's a way to post for passengers here...

JAYNE: No ruttin' way! Look what happened last time we took on baggage.

JAYNE glances back at SIMON.

KAYLEE: Simon and River ain't baggage! Cap'n, tell Jayne they ain't baggage.

JAYNE: I'm just sayin'...

MAL: We should oughta lay low, Kaylee. Might be the Alliance'll forget all about us, might be they're madder than a fistful of rattlesnakes. Till we know, no passengers. (Mostly to himself) ...I don't need any more surprises.

MAL, ZOE and JAYNE head off toward the town. KAYLEE turns a hopeful smile to SIMON, who steps into frame.

KAYLEE: You wanna walk through town, Simon? Take only 10 minutes all the way to the end and back.

SIMON (glancing around): No, I, uh, think I've seen enough, bao bei.

KAYLEE: I guess if you've seen one scrub bush, you've seen em all, right?

He wipes a streak of dirt off her cheek. Affectionately.

SIMON: I need to take inventory in the infirmary. We're running low on several supplies, and the med kit I brought from Osiris a year ago is just about empty.

They smile wanly at each other, and SIMON heads off as he says –

SIMON (cont'd): I can't believe it's been a year...

ANGLE ON the open ramp and KAYLEE standing alone, staring into the desert. A tumbleweed rolls by.

KAYLEE (to herself) Happy anniversary.

EXT. TOWN – DAY – MAL, ZOE and JAYNE walk down what passes for a “main street” in this place.

JAYNE: Tell me again what're we doing here? Transporting a load of ... dirt?

MAL: According to Fanty and Mingo, the disreputable folks meant to run this leg of a smuggling job came up against some trouble.

ZOE: It boggles the mind those two still want to work with us.

JAYNE: Certain sure, I'd be holding a grudge, if I was them.

MAL (to JAYNE): If you was them, you'd be mincing about in some fancy pants and calling me “precious.”

ZOE: Thank you for that mental image, sir. I was having enough trouble sleeping...

MAL: Grudges don't get business done. Fanty and Mingo need some disreputable folks, we need some money. Can't afford to be picky and choosy. (beat) And they didn't even bring up the Lilac job.

ZOE: Ain't that a mite suspicious, sir? They did want a larger cut of that haul and they never got it.

JAYNE: On account of River going ho tze goh se (ape crap) and trashing their bar.

MAL: We stop dealing with suspicious characters, we might as well set up one of these lemonade stands (gestures to the shanties) and start calling this place home.

JAYNE (glancing around): Like hell.

MAL: Exactly.

EXT. TOWN – CONTINUOUS – MAL, ZOE and JAYNE stop outside one lean-to, larger than the rest, with a ragged silk banner flapping outside and a grimacing sentinel at the door.

MAL: Morning, friend.

SENTINEL (in anything but a friendly tone): It's 3 o'clock.

MAL: Afternoon, friend. This Ray Chen's place?

Beat while the SENTINEL says nothing.

MAL (cont'd): Is Ray Chen in? We've got some personal business with him.

The SENTINEL steps aside and they pass through the door.

INT. GAMBLING HOUSE – CONTINUOUS – MAL, ZOE and JAYNE enter to find a pitiful collection of fan tan tables and a few even more pitiful characters hunched over them. Camera pans around room and comes to rest on JAYNE.

JAYNE: We are getting paid for this job, right? In money?

OFF MAL, ZOE and JAYNE's faces to –

EXT. SERENITY – KAYLEE is still here, watching a few dusty folks shuffle between the maze of shanties. She notices one not-quite-so-dusty folk heading toward Serenity.

This is NOLA BYRNE. About 30 years old, short cropped reddish-blond hair, earthy but not unattractive, though her steel-toed boots and the large pistol strapped to her leg discourage advances from anyone who happens to find her type more appealing than KAYLEE's girl-next-door beauty or INARA's elegant allure. She wears padded leather gloves with open finger holes and carries two rucksacks, one smallish, one large. She's decked out in a tight t-shirt, a vest with several pockets, cargo pants and a belt with ammo, etc. Wearing sunglasses. There's a bit of Irish to Nola, or what Irish-ness remains in the 'verse, leftover from Earth-That-Was.

NOLA approaches, checking out the ship, Kaylee. She stops a few feet from the base of the ramp, studying Serenity with apparent interest.

NOLA: Hi, there. This your ship?

KAYLEE: Yup. Well, I ain't the captain, just the mechanic.

NOLA: She's got a kind of pretty about her.

KAYLEE: Most folks jus' see a bucket of feh wu.

NOLA: No, not at all. Fireflies are some of the best ships ever made.

NOLA whips off the sunglasses and flashes a warm, friendly smile.

KAYLEE: Best in the 'verse. (looks wistful) She's been through a lot.

NOLA (fixes her gaze on KAYLEE): Yourself too?

KAYLEE: Me?

NOLA: You been through a lot?

KAYLEE: You might could say that.

NOLA: A good mechanic could keep her in the air for a lifetime.

KAYLEE gives NOLA a big smile and is happy to talk to someone new.

KAYLEE: I couldn't do it alone, though. We got a shiny crew.

NOLA: Of course. Couldn't keep a top-notch mechanic with any less.

KAYLEE: The captain, he's a little mean sometimes, and Zoe's kinda quiet-like, more now than ever. But our doc, he's my sweetheart, and we got Jayne, and even a registered companion.

NOLA: So many fine folks.

KAYLEE: I'm sorry, I'm blabbering. You the local law? Are we allowed to park here...?

NOLA laughs a very hearty, contagious laugh.

NOLA: You could land about 200 yards that way (waves her sunglasses back toward the shanty town) and I wouldn't shed a tear.

KAYLEE: 'Cept maybe from all the dust it'd stir up.

They laugh. NOLA takes a step up the ramp, extending her hand. KAYLEE takes a few steps toward her and they shake hands warmly.

NOLA: Nola Byrne, here.

KAYLEE: I'm Kaylee.

NOLA: Pleased to make your acquaintance. I'll tell you what, Kaylee, I'm wantin' desperately to get off o' this rock. Not many ships come through here, and none so fine as this.

KAYLEE's not immune to flattery about Serenity, but the captain gave orders.

KAYLEE: We ain't taking on passengers.

NOLA: What's your usual fare? I'll pay double for your trouble. In advance. Aren't you a registered transport?

KAYLEE: Well, yeah, but – I'll have to ask the captain.

NOLA: Of course. I'd be happy to talk to him...

KAYLEE: He's not here, right now. Don't know when he'll be back.

NOLA smiles pleasantly but her voice is determined.

NOLA: I'll wait.

INT. RAY CHEN's BACK OFFICE – If you can call it an office. More like a broom closet. Barely room for MAL, so ZOE and JAYNE hover outside the doorway with RAY CHEN's man ZHANG.

MAL is having a chat with RAY CHEN, who turns out to be a woman. Maybe. Hard to tell. She's older, 50s, with way too much makeup and a voice that sounds like she's been smoking unfiltered cow dung.

RAY CHEN: I've got 10 crates need to be dropped on Santo. Here are the coordinates.

She hands MAL a small computery looking card.

MAL: We just leave them at the drop point, or will someone be there to meet us?

RAY CHEN: Just leave them. They'll be picked up as soon as you leave. Think you can handle that?

MAL: Judging by the looks of this thriving metropolis, I'd say you're not used to dealing with folks who can get anthing done, so I won't take offense to your doubting me and my crew.

RAY CHEN: The men you're replacing didn't find the job so easy.

MAL: Alliance after these goods?

RAY CHEN: The less you know, the better. Just do the job, and do it quickly.

MAL: That's the idea.

RAY CHEN: Zhang! You and the boys take the goods to Mr. Reynolds' ship.

MAL: Not to bring up the vulgar topic of money in such a – fine – establishment at this, but how do I get paid if there's no one to meet us?

RAY CHEN tosses him a silk pouch with jangly coins.

RAY CHEN: Twenty percent now, the rest will be on Santo, at the drop coordinates. An – intelligent – gentleman such as yourself should have no problem finding it.

CAMERA ON: MAL's face, reacting to her sarcasm with a tight-lipped, unpleasant smile.

MAL: Shiny.

EXT. SERENITY – DAY – A SHORT TIME LATER –

MAL, ZOE and JAYNE are nearing Serenity, see KAYLEE and NOLA chatting on the ramp. KAYLEE and NOLA see them. MAL and ZOE look prepared for trouble. JAYNE is checking out NOLA with interest.

JAYNE: Who's this?

MAL (to KAYLEE): Is there a problem?

NOLA (with a disarming grin) Nola Byrne. (extends hand to MAL)

KAYLEE: She wants to fly out with us.

MAL looks at NOLA's hand but doesn't take it.

MAL: Well, that is a problem. I said no passengers.

KAYLEE: But, she can pay.

MAL: What part of “no” means “yes, if they can pay”? I ain't got room on my boat –

JAYNE: She can share my bunk.

KAYLEE (ignoring JAYNE): Double, cap'n.

MAL: Shuh muh? (what?)

KAYLEE: She'll pay double our – usual fare. (encouraging smile) In advance.

MAL looks at NOLA. NOLA's looking right back at him with a level gaze while he sizes her up.

NOLA (wryly): I'll curl up in the corner, you won't even know I'm here.

MAL's POV: OFF NOLA to RIVER, who we see lurking in the background.

MAL and RIVER make eye contact for a beat.

RIVER shrugs and nods encouragingly, as if to answer the unasked question, “Is she ok?” in MAL's eyes with “Yeah, sure.”

MAL (to NOLA): You pay up front.

NOLA (As if she hadn't just said she would): Of course.

MAL: And I got rules. You don't take a step unless one of the crew is in sight of you. No waves sent or received without my permission. And you do anything even looks like you're a threat to me or my crew, I put you out the airlock without a suit. Jiao yi? (Deal?)

NOLA (to KAYLEE): Is he always this hospitable? Must've earned you 5 stars in the transport registry.

NOLA pulls a wad of cashy money out of one of her pockets. Tosses it to MAL. He catches it.

MAL: I'm doing you a favor.

NOLA: And I'm forever grateful, Captain ...?

MAL: Just captain, that's all you need to know.

NOLA: Aye, aye, Captain Captain.

MAL tucks the money away without counting it just as –

EXT. SERENITY – Three SCRUFFY LOCALS show up on a smallish transport, pulling a futuristic flatbed loaded with 10 large, shiny, 4x4-foot silver boxes.

CAMERA ON – the crew watching as they back it right up to Serenity's ramp and then start quickly and efficiently unloading. Each crate seems to require 3-4 people and/or a largish dolly to move them.

MAL (to ZOE, JAYNE): Let's get this cargo loaded.

ZOE immediately heads off to help MAL and the SCRUFFY LOCALS. JAYNE does not.

KAYLEE (to NOLA): That there's Zoe, and this is Jayne.

NOLA: Jayne? And here I thought Jayne was a woman.

JAYNE: Well I ain't!

NOLA: I see that.

MAL (O.S.): JAYNE!

CARGO BAY – CONTINUOUS – JAYNE heads off to help MAL, ZOE and the SCRUFFY LOCALS stow the crates.

We might see that each crate has a row of tiny blinking blue lights along one edge and each looks like it could open with a hinged lid at the top.

JAYNE's working, but he's got one eye on NOLA. MAL has one eye on JAYNE.

MAL: She's a paying passenger. You lay a finger, or anything else, on her, for any reason – unless I tell you to – you'll find that appendage floating in the black, possibly with – or without – your body attached. Dong ma?

JAYNE: Jesus, Mal, who do you think I am?

MAL: You're a feh feh pi goh (baboon's ass crack), which is why we're having this conversation.

JAYNE drops his side of a crate petulantly, just as –

INARA appears on the stairs, coming down from her shuttle, looking elegant and clean as always.

INARA: What have we here?

MAL: A transport run. Tools, crop seed, med supplies.

INARA: Well, it's nice to see one of us has found work.

That apparently touches a nerve in MAL, a dark look passes over his face.

INARA moves past MAL to KAYLEE and NOLA.

ZOE (quietly to MAL): That really what we got here, sir?

MAL: I haven't the foggiest notion.

MAL nods to the grunts who dropped the goods, and they head off in their now empty vehicle.

JAYNE: Why don't we open 'em up, take a look see? Might be something's gonna explode on us.

ZOE: Might explode if we open them.

MAL: Whatever it is, they went to a length and a half to keep it safe and snug. I don't want them getting a whiff that we plundered their goods. Hard enough to find work, as it is.

JAYNE: They're gorram heavy enough. Could be gold.

MAL: And could be a batch of left-handed backscratchers. Our business is to transport 'em, not take inventory. (To ZOE) Here, get her ready to head out.

MAL hands ZOE the computery card with the drop off coordinates.

ZOE: I'm on it.

ZOE exits to the bridge.

Meanwhile, RIVER is wandering between the rows of crates, running her fingers over the tops of each, tracing the blue lights. MAL watches her.

RIVER: Everyone is dreaming.

MAL (unsure): Right.

RIVER (pauses at one crate and breaks into a girlish smile): Bunny rabbits!

CAMERA ON: MAL's bemused reaction as he heads up the stairs to the bridge.

JAYNE hits the button to close the ramp, lingering to eyeball the trio of KAYLEE, INARA and NOLA, who are making small talk. The exchange with JAYNE, while barbed, is played lightly.

INARA (to NOLA): I've been on Serenity for nearly two years and have come to love the crew dearly –

INARA sees JAYNE loitering nearby.

INARA (cont'd) Well, most of them.

All three women turn and look at JAYNE.

JAYNE: What?

KAYLEE: You're staring.

JAYNE: Am not.

KAYLEE: Don't you have something to do?

JAYNE: I might have a little business... in my bunk.

OFF KAYLEE and INARA rolling their eyes –

EXT. – SPACE – As Serenity shoots away from the planet and into the black of space.

INT. COMMON AREA – A LITTLE LATER – KAYLEE leads NOLA out of the cargo bay and toward the berths in the back.

KAYLEE: You don't gotta sleep on the floor. We've got lots of empty rooms. This is the common area, and there's the infirmary.

SIMON is inside the infirmary. He sees KAYLEE with NOLA and comes to the door.

SIMON: We have a guest.

KAYLEE (to SIMON): Hey, you. (A bit of showing off) Nola, this is Simon.

NOLA, smiling, extends her hand to shake SIMON's.

SIMON (politely): How do you do.

NOLA: Well, if I feel poorly, you'll be the first to know.

SIMON gives her his chilly, tight-lipped smile. KAYLEE continues the tour.

KAYLEE: There's the bathroom. Only, there's no proper bath in it, so I don't know why it's called a bathroom. Your room's back here.

INT. PASSENGER DORMS – CONTINUOUS – KAYLEE pauses a moment in the middle of the hall between the two empty rooms. She turns to the left.

KAYLEE: This here's the bigger of the two. It ain't much, but it was Shepherd Book's room, when he was with us.

NOLA: Thank you, Kaylee. It's like a palace, compared to that chunk of rock behind us.

KAYLEE: Or Jayne's bunk.

NOLA: Speaking of chunks of rock. Is he your security officer?

KAYLEE: Jayne? Yeah – um – I guess you could say that. I gotta go up to the engine room, make sure Serenity's alright now we cleared atmo. But, you need anything, there's a comm right there. Or you can ask Simon.

NOLA: Xie xie.

KAYLEE turns to go, then stops and turns back.

KAYLEE: You know, you never asked where we was goin'. Don't it matter where you end up?

NOLA tosses her bags on the bunk.

NOLA: Not a bit. So long as it's – away.

KAYLEE smiles a little bit in acknowledgment, exits up the stairs.

NOLA opens the larger of her two rucksacks and pulls out what looks like a laptop of the future. The screen comes to life, and she hits a few buttons, starts typing.

CUT TO – INT. SERENITY CARGO BAY. The crates. On one of them, the blue lights stop pulsing, and go out, to be replaced by a single red light.

Then, with a slight sucking sound, the top of the crate shifts just an inch, begins to slowly open, though we can't see what's inside...

END OF ACT ONE

ACT TWO

INT. SERENITY CARGO BAY – Back to the cracked open crate. The crate opens further to reveal a rough-looking character who is decidedly not crop seed nor med supplies nor bunny rabbits.

LUCIEN looks around, cautious, pulling oxygen plugs from his nose and taking a Big Ass Gun out of the crate. He clicks a small futuristic remote in his other hand, and one of the other crates changes silently from blinking blue to single red lights.

INT. BRIDGE – STARRY NIGHT – ZOE is piloting Serenity. MAL enters.

MAL: You alright?

ZOE: I watched my husband do this enough times. I know which switches to flip.

INARA enters.

INARA: I'm glad you've found a job, Mal.

MAL: But. There is a but, right?

INARA: I know it's been difficult for you to find work ever since – (she pauses)

MAL: Ever since what, Inara? Since the word went out that working with Malcolm Reynolds is a one-way ticket to swimming in a pool of your own blood? Or do you mean that it's been difficult ever since I lost my pilot?

INARA: Mal.

INARA glances at ZOE, who is grim but silent, looking out the window, straight ahead.

MAL: Or, it's been difficult ever since we broadwaved a report that the Alliance let 30 million people die, covered it up, and – oh – created the Reavers that raped, murdered, tortured and generally terrorized any jasper unlucky enough to live on the edge of the 'Verse?

INARA: It would be easier for all of us if we went somewhere I could work. If I had clients, I could at least pay you the rent for my shuttle –

MAL: Technically it's my shuttle if you haven't paid.

INARA: Yes, and I'd like to remedy that.

MAL: Inara, you've been on this boat plenty long enough to know how we live. You're the one who chose to stay.

INARA: You seemed pleased with that decision at the time.

MAL: I was – am – pleased, Inara. When I thought that staying with us meant you would quit.

INARA: Quit?

MAL: You know, being a –

ZOE is giving him a look out of the corner of her eye.

MAL (to ZOE): What? Fly the ship.

ZOE: The course is laid in, sir. If you don't mind, I'm going to turn in early. The bridge is yours.

ZOE gets up and heads to her bunk, a small smile to INARA as she exits.

INARA: I need my shuttle, Mal, and I need to get back to work. Did you think I would give up everything in my life to become a smuggler?

MAL: Smuggling is a noble and venerable line of work. Eve smuggled an apple to Adam, right under god's nose.

INARA: That's not exactly a shining recommendation.

MAL(chuckling): Depends on what you think of god.

INARA: Didn't they get thrown out of paradise for that?

MAL is no longer chuckling. He turns away from her and sits down in the pilot's chair, looking out at the stars.

MAL: We've seen paradise, Inara, and it was called Miranda. I got no problem smuggling anything under the noses of them that created that place.

INARA softens with painful memories. She approaches MAL.

INARA: Mal, I –

MAL: We'll be on Santo in 42 hours. Should be able to scare up a few pantywaist popinjays willing to further your career.

INARA: Then I'd better go get started on my social calendar. You know, I think you're slipping, Mal. We just had a conversation about my work and you didn't once use the word “whore.”

MAL: Does that disappoint you? Cuz, y'know, we could keep talking 'til I do.

INARA exits.

INT. CARGO BAY – CONTINUOUS – INARA walks across the catwalk to her shuttle.

INARA (to herself): The man is impossible.

OFF INARA, PULL BACK and see three nasty-looking, well-armed thugs, LUCIEN, EEL and FARKAS, in various pieces of wicked-looking leather and tattoos, hiding behind some crates below the catwalk, looking up, cradling guns, as she passes.

INARA enters her shuttle, shuts the door.

CUT TO – INT. INFIRMARY/COMMON AREA – DARK –

NOLA looks into the infirmary and sees that SIMON is not there, but she wanders in and looks around, seems to be assessing the room.

NOLA (to herself): Now, why would a fancy doctor stay on a ship like this?

NOLA glances up, through the infirmary window, into the lighted cargo bay.

NOLA'S POV: We see open crates and a mass of thuggery.

CAMERA ON: NOLA The wide-eyed look on her face tells us she probably wasn't the one who triggered the crates with her futuristic laptop, after all.

NOLA: Son of a bitch

NOLA ducks away from the window, then slowly inches out of the infirmary –

INT. COMMON AREA – CONTINUOUS – NOLA edges back toward the stairs, keeping her eyes on the cargo bay. Just as she turns to ascend the steps, RIVER is right there, a breath away. Startles the bejeezus out of NOLA.

RIVER: Shhh. Don't let them hear you.

RIVER leads NOLA down the hall to the passenger dorms.

NOLA (in a whisper): Who are –

RIVER (talking over the question): Simon's sister.

They stop at the ladder at the end of the corridor, which leads up to an engineering access crawlspace.

NOLA: There's –

RIVER (talking over the question, again): Cartons full of bad eggs.

RIVER turns her head, suddenly, as if she hears something. She seems to listen to nothing for a beat, then –

NOLA: Why –

RIVER: Up.

NOLA looks back down the hall past RIVER, then turns and looks at the ladder. RIVER starts climbing. NOLA follows. RIVER opens an access panel and climbs inside.

CUT TO: INT. CARGO BAY – All of the crates are open, now, and we have 10 armed and dangerous-looking men, LUCIEN, EEL and FARKAS, and seven HENCHMEN in dark blue uniforms.

LUCIEN holds a small device with a glowing screen showing the layout of Serenity and info on her crew. He gestures to FARKAS, who silently leads three of the henchmen up the stairs toward the FORE CORRIDOR and BRIDGE. LUCIEN stays put, with HENCHMAN #1. EEL leads the remaining three henchmen toward the ship's engine and common area. They are a deadly virus now spreading stealthily through Serenity.

CUT TO: INT. GALLEY – JAYNE is here eating something very loud and crunchy from a silver foil pack. A couple of empty silver foil packs are laying on the counter.

Through the crunching, he doesn't hear FARKAS and the three henchmen come up the stairs, but we PULL BACK from crunchy JAYNE and see them head down the corridor and into the bridge.

INT. BRIDGE – CONTINUOUS – MAL is sitting in the pilot's chair, looking at space. He hears a small noise. Turning –

MAL: You come back to – ?

But before he can register that it ain't INARA, FARKAS clocks him across the head with the butt of his rifle. MAL slumps from the pilot's chair.

CUT TO: INT. INARA's SHUTTLE – A luxurious space, much in contrast to the rest of Serenity. Not quite the same as in the first season. More on a royal blue, purple, turquoise and gold color scheme (rather than red), like a peacock's feathers. INARA is sitting at her cortex screen.

INARA: Santo.

INARA arranges mugshots by touching the screen. One fills the screen and we see LANCE – a man in his late 20s, handsome in a slicked, smarmy kind of way.

LANCE: My father owns the second largest casino on Santo and I would relish the opportunity to show you the size of my – game room. We could play – stud poker –

INARA: No, thank you.

INARA shuts it off with a disgusted tap on the screen. She taps another mugshot and NEEL, a handsome salt-and-pepper haired gentleman about 40 begins reciting Sarojini Naidu from the screen.

SLOW PAN around INARA's pleased face as she listens.

NEEL: From groves of spice, O'er fields of rice, Athwart the lotus-stream, I bring for you, Aglint with dew, A little lovely dream. Sweet, shut your eyes, The wild fire-flies Dance through the fairy neem; From the poppy-bole For you I stole A little lovely dream...

Over NEEL's last few lines, we hear the sound of the shuttle door opening behind her, and we see over her shoulder that a dark figure has entered. INARA taps the screen and freezes NEEL in mid-stanza.

INARA: Just because I haven't paid rent does not mean you can override my lock code –

But her words abruptly stop as she turns to see that it's not MAL. Unless MAL got really big and ugly and started pointing guns at her. It's LUCIEN and HENCHMAN #1.

LUCIEN: Get up.

OFF INARA's stunned reaction – CUT TO:

ENGINE ROOM – KAYLEE and SIMON are here, canoodling in the hammock. KAYLEE is on the inside, near the wall. SIMON is laying on his side, to her right, facing her. Her head is cradled on his arm.

SIMON: Why would she want to leave so badly? Did she say?

KAYLEE: I thought it was kinda obvious. Who would want to stay on Whittier? Besides, River said she was safe.

SIMON: River. Actually said this woman was –

KAYLEE: Well, not in so many words, but if Nola was dangerous, wouldn't your sister... you know... know?

SIMON: I'm not sure. She's showing amazing improvement, she's more coherent, and she sleeps better. But she's still not the River I knew when we were children.

SIMON realizes that KAYLEE's face has gone white, her eyes wide. She's looking just over his shoulder.

KAYLEE (gurgled with fear): Oh.

SIMON: Kaylee, what's wr–

SIMON turns to see what she's looking at, and EEL is holding the barrel of a gun right in his face.

OFF SIMON's face and the gun barrel CUT TO –

INT. DINING ROOM -- JAYNE heads toward the FORE CORRIDOR.

POV: JAYNE looking down the corridor to see FARKAS, with two HENCHMEN dragging a knocked out MAL.

CAMERA ON: JAYNE drops the silver foil packet to the floor, dodges back around the doorway for cover, and goes for his gun with whip quick motion just as –

SIMON (O.S.): Jayne!

POV: JAYNE down the aft corridor where KAYLEE and SIMON are being forced at gunpoint out of the engine room by EEL and more HENCHMEN.

POV: JAYNE back to the fore corridor, where the HENCHMEN drop MAL unceremoniously on his face and aim their guns at JAYNE.

LUCIEN appears, with INARA being held by HENCHMAN #1, and aims his gun in JAYNE's face.

JAYNE glances back at SIMON and KAYLEE. He seems to be doing the math.

JAYNE (challenging): Is that all you got?

LUCIEN: You make any move except dropping that gun, your friends will be dead before you can finish.

JAYNE POV: HENCHMAN holding gun to KAYLEE's head.

KAYLEE (whimpers)

INT. FORE CORRIDOR – ZOE's bunk hatch opens with a clang, and she starts climbing out. She's calling out as if to MAL on the bridge –

ZOE: Captain, did we ever try contacting – ?

She falls silent as she looks up out of the hatch and into the barrel of FARKAS's gun. Then she looks over her other shoulder and sees MAL on the floor, unconscious.

ZOE: I reckon it can wait, sir.

JAYNE grimaces and drops his weapon.

CUT TO: INT. CRAWLSPACE – RIVER and NOLA look down through a grating, watch as two HENCHMEN search the rooms below then leave the area.

RIVER (quietly to NOLA): Follow me.

NOLA: Where are you going?

RIVER (isn't it obvious?): To save everyone. (It'll be fun!) C'mon!

RIVER crawls away, through the air shaft. NOLA follows.

CUT TO: INT. CARGO BAY – Bits of oxygen tubing laying around. The crates have been moved out of the way, to leave open floorspace for this scene.

JAYNE, ZOE, SIMON, KAYLEE, INARA and MAL are restrained and kneeling on the floor, facing the airlock. MAL is starting to come around.

JAYNE: So, they was in the crates?

ZOE: Yes, Jayne, they were in the crates.

INARA: Mal, are you hurt?

MAL: Other than the pounding in my head, my hands going numb, and the big fat lot of cheong bao ho tze wang ba dan (monkey raping bastards) I've got running around my ship, I've never felt better. You?

INARA: Unharmed. For the moment.

The HENCHMEN who searched the rooms enter from the back of the ship.

JAYNE: But, how'd they breathe in there?

SIMON: They had air tanks inside the crates with them. Probably given a benzodiazapine to briefly sedate them.

MAL (to the HENCHMEN): Seems like a whole lotta fuss, boys. We've got nothing worth stealing, but you're welcome to as much nothing as you can carry.

He gets no response, just various mean looking pieces of weaponry trained on him and the crew.

JAYNE (to ZOE): They ain't feds, are they? (to the thugs) Are you?

No response.

SIMON (under his breath): Maybe they're looking for River.

ZOE: You think someone's still after her?

JAYNE: And we're s'posed to take them to Santo?

OFF the "Jayne, you dumbass" expressions of the others –

LUCIEN moves to open the AIRLOCK. Our crew watches expectantly.

AIRLOCK opens and reveals –

ADELAI NISKA. The grandfatherly-looking crime boss with an Eastern-European accent and a penchant for torture.

MAL: No, I don't think we're going to Santo.

NISKA: Malcolm Reynolds. So nice to see you again. Last time, we were interrupted before I could finish killing you.

END OF ACT TWO

ACT THREE

EXT. SPACE – NIGHT – We see a mid-sized transport ship docked with Serenity. It's a much sleeker, shinier spacecraft.

INT. CARGO BAY – INARA, MAL, ZOE, JAYNE, SIMON, KAYLEE still lined up. NISKA smiling wickedly at them.

MAL: To the best of my recollection, which I'll admit is a mite fuzzy due to being mostly dead, you were doing more than killing me.

NISKA approaches the kneeling crew.

NISKA: Yes, yes, but I see your ear has been reattached? And you are looking fit as a violin.

SIMON: Fiddle.

Everyone looks at SIMON.

SIMON (awkwardly): It's fit as a – fiddle.

MAL and NISKA turn back to each other.

MAL: I guess I'm a regular miracle of modern medicine.

NISKA: You are a regular pin in a haystack, Captain Reynolds.

SIMON (quietly, as if he can't help himself): Needle.

NISKA: You disappeared for some time, it was hard to find you. Then I hear, Malcolm Reynolds, he makes a lot of people very angry, no one will give him work. I think, yes, he will be desperate. I wave carrot and you plod toward me like donkey.

NISKA pats MAL affectionately on the shoulder, then steps away and gestures to LUCIEN. They confer silently in background.

JAYNE (to MAL): You're a jackass alright.

MAL: Not now, Jayne.

JAYNE: Hell, if I'd known this was coming, I'd have took my chances upstairs, while you were out cold. (to ZOE) If you'da just come up outta yer bunk about a spitting second sooner.

ZOE: Don't make this my fault.

JAYNE: We could still take 'em. Right, doc?

JAYNE elbows SIMON, who almost falls over as a result.

MAL: Well, we can't sit here and wait for Niska to make us a big pile of body parts.

KAYLEE (whimpers): Simon...?

SIMON: Don't worry, Kaylee, I'm sure the captain is concocting one of his usual, brilliant plans to save us from certain doom.

KAYLEE does not look comforted in the slightest.

MAL: Zoe, you think you could handle two or three –

MAL is interrupted by six more HENCHMEN in blue uniforms, who enter the cargo bay from NISKA's ship.

MAL (without missing a beat): You think you could handle five or six armed goons, with your hands tied behind your back?

ZOE: You know who could.

JAYNE puffs up his chest, says with determination –

JAYNE: Well, I'll try.

ZOE: I meant River.

JAYNE: Oh, yeah, right.

INARA: Where is River?

MAL (ominously): And where is Nola?

CUT TO: INT. ENGINE ROOM – It is empty and quiet. The engine is turning. We see a panel in the floor pop up and slide aside.

NOLA and RIVER emerge. NOLA is looking around cautiously, nervously, gun drawn, but RIVER hops up and calmly sits on the edge of the opening, like a kid on the side of a swimming pool.

NOLA (quietly): What now, little britches?

RIVER: First, you've got to trust me...

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY CARGO BAY –

NISKA turns back to the crew.

NISKA: We haven't found your pilot. (to ZOE) Where is your man you ransomed from me?

ZOE (steely): He's not with us any more.

NISKA: Then he is the lucky one.

LUCIEN: And we didn't find the shepherd.

NISKA: Ah, yes. The holy man with a gun.

ZOE: He's dead, too.

NISKA: Tut tut. Such bad luck people have, Malcolm Reynolds, when they become your friends. And now, these friends will suffer, too.

NISKA gestures. EEL and FARKAS start menacingly toward the group.

INARA: Wait!

MAL (cursing under his breath): Ai-yah. Tyen-ah... (Merciless hell...)

INARA: I have money. We could make a deal.

MAL: I thought you couldn't even pay your rent!

NISKA stands in front of INARA.

INARA: You must be aware that a registered companion has a great deal of wealth and influence at her disposal.

NISKA: You would buy this crew with money you earned by the sweat of your – brow?

INARA does her “I'm smiling but really on the inside I think you're a pig” smile. INARA is using her bestest sultry voice.

INARA: I have a schedule I need to keep on Santo, and would like to be on my way. I'm certain we would be able to reach some kind of – understanding?

NISKA: No. Is no deal. No amount of money, or anything else, will buy Mr. Reynolds, or anyone on his crew, not this time.

MAL: Let the lady go on her way. She ain't on my crew, just a passenger.

NISKA: A passenger willing to pay a high price for you. Why is that?

INARA: I told you, I have business –

NISKA: And so do I. I am so excited, like the goat at Christmas.

SIMON: Kid.

NISKA (re: INARA): Take her.

Two HENCHMEN pull INARA to her feet. MAL jumps up.

MAL: She ain't part of this!

FARKAS whomps MAL in the stomach with the butt of his big futuristic rifle.

MAL drops back to his knees.

MAL (to FARKAS in a strained voice): I'm starting to take a powerful dislike to you.

NISKA leans over MAL.

NISKA: I am here for one thing and one thing, only. To make you suffer, then to make you die. This is my dream come true.

NISKA clasps his hands together in delight, grinning.

LUCIEN whips out a very large knife and approaches INARA. The crew tenses and several things happen at roughly the same time –

KAYLEE: No!

SIMON: Don't!

MAL tries to get to his feet, and gets whacked in the kisser by FARKAS. MAL falls down.

ZOE jumps at FARKAS as he finishes whacking MAL, headbutts FARKAS in the kisser. Two HENCHMEN jump her from behind and push her back to her knees.

JAYNE springs at LUCIEN, but gets SHOT by EEL. The sound is oddly muffled, and sends JAYNE reeling backward, ass over teakettle.

KAYLEE: Jayne!

It was one of those Alliance sonic rifles, so wasn't deadly, just painful. But, for good measure, EEL walks over and kicks JAYNE in the ribs.

FARKAS smacks ZOE in the face, splitting the skin on her cheek. Two HENCHMEN run forward to subdue her and push her to her knees.

Meanwhile, LUCIEN cuts INARA's restraints and everyone else has settled down.

NISKA: I have no quarrel with the Companion Guild, and I will give them no quarrel with me. Ah, my son would kill me!

MAL (groans): Sounds like my kinda guy.

NISKA (to HENCHMAN #1): Keep her in my quarters. (to INARA) I will escort you to Santo, myself, and make the apologies for your delay.

INARA: But –

MAL: Just go, Inara!

HENCHMAN #1 leads INARA away and they exit through the door in Serenity's airlock. She's outwardly composed, but has terror in her eyes.

NISKA: I have spent a lot of time and money to find you, Captain Reynolds. Some of your associates – the ones still alive – were eager to help.

MAL (to ZOE): Remind me to kill Fanty and Mingo for killing us.

ZOE: Yes, sir.

NISKA stands in front of JAYNE.

NISKA: You. I remember your face from the security feed. When you rescued Captain Reynolds, you killed many of my men. Their friends here – (he gestures to the assembled HENCHMEN) – they would like to make you suffer. But I am a gentleman, so – (NISKA moves to ZOE) – Ladies first.

OFF ZOE's bleeding face, looking coldly up at NISKA, CUT TO –

INT. SERENITY FORE CORRIDOR – RIVER is walking very deliberately, silently, barefootly, toward the bridge.

HENCHMAN #2 is messing with the control panel wiring.

HENCHMAN #3 is standing up, behind him, his back to the corridor.

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY DINING ROOM – NOLA, waiting just inside the doorway, gun drawn, watching RIVER and occasionally glancing back toward the engine room in case someone comes up that way. Of course, RIVER already knows no one is coming up that way.

CUT BACK TO: INT. BRIDGE – We are facing at the thugs, and past their shoulders we see RIVER approaching from behind them, ready to spank some fools.

HENCHMAN #3 turns to exit to the engine room – and is face-to-face with RIVER, who slams one fist into his windpipe. He gurgles and staggers as HENCHMAN #2 turns to see why his pal is making noises like a backed-up toilet.

RIVER kicks HENCHMAN #3 in the gut, and he flies back into HENCHMAN #2. HENCHMAN #3 has his gun drawn. RIVER dodges around his gun arm, punches him in the nose, uses his own arm to flip him to the floor, then punches him again when he's down.

HENCHMAN #2 has recovered and raises his gun. She sweeps the feet out from under him, he hits his head on the edge of the control panel as he drops. He's out cold. RIVER takes his gun.

POV: RIVER as she looks back down the corridor at NOLA, who's approaching the stairs up to the bridge, in wide-eyed wonder.

NOLA: Note to self – don't piss off the ninja princess.

RIVER turns to the control panel and starts hitting buttons, undoing whatever it is the goons had done. Without turning around she says to NOLA, who's still standing there –

RIVER: Get ready, like I told you. You've got eight bullets, don't waste them.

NOLA opens her mouth to say something, but RIVER turns and answers her before she can say the words –

RIVER (cont'd): Don't worry, you've got good aim. Your father called you Eagle Eye.

RIVER turns back to the control panel.

OFF NOLA's reaction to Creepifying Psychic Girl –

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY CARGO BAY – Our gang is still on their knees here, with NISKA, LUCIEN, FARKAS, EEL and ten HENCHMEN.

NISKA has a knife in his hand, approaching ZOE. A nice menacing shot of the light glinting from the knife as it's waved in ZOE's face would be cliché, but so what?

RIVER's voice is heard over the intercom, coming from the back of the ship.

RIVER (O.S.): I wouldn't do that, if I were you.

Various crew reactions to the sound of RIVER's voice.

NISKA turns to LUCIEN, says –

NISKA: I thought you searched the ship.

SIMON: My sister is the ship, sometimes.

LUCIEN (to EEL): GO!!

EEL takes two HENCHMEN with him toward the aft section. Now we're down to NISKA, LUCIEN, FARKAS and eight HENCHMEN.

NISKA turns back to ZOE, but then pauses. You don't get this far as a crime boss without instincts.

NISKA (to LUCIEN): They should be finished on the bridge, by now.

LUCIEN gestures and two HENCHMEN head up the stairs to the bridge. Now, there's NISKA, LUCIEN, FARKAS and six HENCHMEN, for anyone still counting.

CUT TO – INT. SERENITY FORE CORRIDOR – A HENCHMAN steps out of the stairwell and into NOLA's sights.

CUT TO – INT. CARGO BAY – Our gang on the floor of the cargo bay react to hearing two shots fired. The baddies around them tense for action, when suddenly the cargo bay goes dark.

NISKA: Oh, what is this, now?!

Everyone scrambles around in the dark.

SIMON and KAYLEE dodge behind the empty crates on the port side of the cargo bay.

SIMON: Turn around, back to back, we'll get out of these restraints.

CUT TO – MAL drops to the deck and rolls behind some crates on the starboard side.

NOLA appears with a knife.

MAL: You?

NOLA: Wha–?

MAL kicks her arm. The knife goes flying.

MAL: You set us up!

NOLA: Ow! You ungrateful weasel.

NOLA kicks him back.

MAL: Weasel?

The cargo bay is suddenly bathed in orange as the emergency lights come on, revealing FARKAS just over MAL's shoulder.

NOLA draws her gun and fires one shot straight into the FARKAS's head. He hits the deck beside MAL.

NOLA (to MAL): I'm tryin' to help you!

MAL (looks at the fallen body, then back at NOLA): Sorry, my mistake. Carry on.

CUT TO – JAYNE barrels into LUCIEN and takes him down, kicking ass even while his hands are still bound.

ZOE likewise takes out another HENCHMAN.

CUT TO – NISKA retreats toward the airlock.

CUT TO – NOLA scrambles after her knife, grabs it, cuts MAL free.

NOLA: Didn't know dinner theater was included in the price of admission. Here.

NOLA hands MAL the knife.

MAL looks at the knife, like "what am I supposed to do with this?"

MAL: I'd prefer a gun.

NOLA: Too bad.

MAL: Report?

NOLA: At least five hooligans are dispatched, and your girl controls the bridge.

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY AFT CORRIDOR – EEL and his HENCHMEN run toward the bridge.

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY BRIDGE – NIGHT – RIVER is crouched down, under the sabotaged panel. She aims behind her with the gun in her hand, without even turning her head from what she's doing.

INT. FORE CORRIDOR – EEL is within sight of the BRIDGE, then a HENCHMAN. BAM, BAM. The third HENCHMAN pauses, hides behind the corner, then peeps out. BAM. We see a bullet hole in his forehead. He drops.

INT. SERENITY BRIDGE – RIVER drops the gun and uses both hands on the control panel.

CUT TO – INT. CARGO BAY – Back with MAL and NOLA. ZOE rolls behind the crates with them.

The HENCHMEN in the cargo bay fire a few shots in their direction.

ZOE: Do we have any weapons, sir?

MAL holds up NOLA's knife.

ZOE (cont'd): Any projectile weapons?

JAYNE is still grappling with LUCIEN on the ground.

MAL cuts ZOE free. ZOE grabs FARKAS's dropped gun, fires a few rounds across the cargo bay. A HENCHMAN drops.

NOLA drops a HENCHMAN.

CUT TO – NISKA is crouching off to one side, behind a crate. He's not liking the way this is going.

SIMON and KAYLEE's hands are free, and SIMON has picked up a fallen gun, begins returning fire.

SIMON (to KAYLEE): Stay down.

KAYLEE crouches behind him.

The lights come back up.

A HENCHMAN sees JAYNE, who has no cover.

BAM! BAM! BAM! NOLA and ZOE drop him before he shoots JAYNE.

We see NISKA running for the airlock, as HENCHMAN #1 returns from the docked ship.

NISKA stops short when ZOE shoots HENCHMAN #1 in the chest and he keels over.

ONE LAST HENCHMAN leaps out from behind the crates near MAL, ZOE and NOLA.

MAL throws the knife, hits him square in the chest. HENCHMAN drops his gun and keels over.

MAL (to ZOE): See? It's a projectile weapon.

All thuggery and mayhem have deceased or ceased, respectively. NISKA raises his hands in the air as our crew slowly emerge from behind cover.

SIMON lowers his gun and helps KAYLEE to her feet.

ZOE aims right at NISKA.

MAL stands there glaring at NISKA for a beat, across the floor of bodies. Not unlike his earlier dream.

JAYNE (beside an unconscious, possibly dead, LUCIEN): Hey, anybody gonna untie me?

END OF ACT THREE

ACT FOUR

EXT. SERENITY – NIGHT – We see NISKA's ship still attached to Serenity.

INT. SERENITY CARGO BAY – JAYNE, ZOE, MAL, NOLA and NISKA are there. NISKA is tied up this time, JAYNE is untied, and everyone has their own weapons back. Them as was hurt are bandaged up. The baddies and bodies are gone.

MAL: Try to do a simple transport job...

NOLA: Tools and crop seed my backside! Didn't you stop to wonder how a shriveled up devil's testicle like Whittier could have anything worth shipping to Santo?

MAL: I didn't ask. I just needed the money. Same reason I let you on board.

MAL gives her a meaningful look. NOLA meets his intensity with a playful wink.

NISKA: What are you going to do with me?

MAL: We do have ourselves a quandary, don't we? I'm thinking I should stuff you into one of these crates and kick it out into the black. But, Jayne, here, he might like to get him an ear, first.

NISKA: No! Now, Mr. Reynolds, let's be businessmen, eh? What do businessmen want?

JAYNE (with longing): Money.

NISKA: Money, exactly. I have much money in secret place on my ship. I tell you where it is, you let me go on my way. This is good deal?

MAL: Zoe?

ZOE: He did torture you, once, sir. And he tortured my husband.

JAYNE: Aw, I say money's always better'n revenge. Course, money AND revenge are better'n jus' money.

NOLA: This is Adelai Niska, biggest crime boss in the quadrant!

NISKA: You flatter me.

NOLA: I vote you throw his ass out the airlock. That is, if my vote counts...

JAYNE: I vote you tell us how well you know Adelai Niska.

NOLA (dripping with sarcasm): He's my favorite uncle. Got me a nutcracker last Christmas. Honestly, who hasn't heard of him?

MAL (to NISKA): We could just search your ship.

NISKA: The money is well-hidden.

ZOE: We've got some spare time.

MAL: How do you know I won't just take your money and kill you anyway?

NISKA: Because you are not that kind of man, Malcolm Reynolds. You don't enjoy killing.

MAL: Yeah, but –

MAL socks NISKA across the face, knocks him out cold.

MAL (cont'd): I did enjoy that.

EXT. WHITTIER – DAY – NISKA laying very still in the dirt. Is he dead? Pull back off NISKA to see Serenity lifting off. NISKA's ship is no where to be seen.

ZOE (V.O.): He wasn't kidding about having a lot of money.

INT. BRIDGE – MAL, ZOE and JAYNE are there. JAYNE is counting out piles of Alliance currency.

JAYNE: I still say we shoulda left him with a few extra holes.

ZOE: We didn't exactly put him in the middle of civilization. He might die of dehydration or exhaustion, or frustration, before anybody finds him.

CUT TO: EXT. WHITTIER – DAY – A very dusty NISKA rolls over and squints up into the sunlight, watching Serenity fly away.

NISKA chuckles.

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY BRIDGE – DAY –

JAYNE: He's gonna turn up ag'in, like a bad penny, you wait 'n' see.

CLOSE UP on MAL as we leave atmo –

MAL: Yeah, well – till that day, we'll just keep flying.

CUT TO: EXT. SERENITY swooping off into the black.

END