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Episode 3: Back to Hell

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EXT. SPACE – SERENITY – She's moving through the black.

CUT TO: INT. GALLEY – SERENITY – SIMON is here stirring at something with a wooden spoon in a pot on the stove. KAYLEE enters, comes up behind him and –

SIMON jumps.

SIMON (slightly shy/embarrassed): Kaylee – what was that for?

KAYLEE: You just don't know how many times I wanted to reach out and pinch you, ever since you got on board. Now I can.

KAYLEE grins a bright, open KAYLEE grin and presses against him. SIMON discards the spoon and pot to stand nose-to-nose with KAYLEE.

SIMON: But do you have to pinch so hard?

KAYLEE: Yes.

KAYLEE reaches down to maybe pinch him again, as INARA enters from the cargo bay stairs. SIMON self-consciously turns back to the stove, prodding the pot with his spoon.

INARA (smiling): Please. Don't let me interrupt.

INARA goes to find some tea bags or something.

KAYLEE: Hey, 'Nara.

INARA: Hey, you. Have Mal and Zoe returned?

KAYLEE: They radioed awhile back saying they're on their way, and things went well. It was nice of you to set this up for us.

JAYNE enters from the fore corridor and seats himself at the dining room table. He's got a pair of boots, a cloth and some boot polish.

INARA: I thought the artifact should be with someone who would genuinely appreciate it.

SIMON: It would be genuinely appreciated by thousands of people, if it were returned to the museum.

KAYLEE: Fiddlesticks. There's been no word at all on the cortex that they even know it's missing. (wistfully) Poor little thing should have a home where it's loved.

INARA: Neel will keep it well. He is a gentle soul and a philosopher who has devoted his life to the study of beauty.

JAYNE: Don't care about his soul, s'long as he pays us.

SIMON (sarcastic, re: JAYNE): Amazing. It's like Shepherd Book is still with us.

JAYNE makes a face at SIMON, who ignores him.

KAYLEE: It'll be shiny to have some spending money again. Maybe go somewheres nice, eat some real food.

SIMON (re: pot): This is food. According to the package.

KAYLEE: Inara, you gonna take a vacation? Do companions take vacations?

JAYNE: Her whole life's a vacation.

INARA (ignoring JAYNE): I can, on occasion, take an extended respite to –

MAL enters from the cargo bay stairs, ZOE with him.

MAL (loudly to INARA): – search for a man with a bigger, fatter –

INARA: Mal!

MAL: – wallet. Hey – (suggestive) – I've got a big fat wallet right now.

MAL plunks two largish leather satchels down on the dining room table.

INARA: And I haven't started servicing crew.

MAL: More's the pity. Gather 'round, children, gather 'round. Christmas is early and Santa's handing out presents. Jayne, get your gorram boots off of the table where I clean my guns.

The crew converges on MAL. JAYNE moves the boots to the floor.

ZOE: I'll be on the bridge, sir.

CAMERA FOLLOWS ZOE as MAL nods to her and INARA says –

INARA: The meeting with Neel's agent went smoothly?

MAL: As a baby's bottom.

ZOE has a pensive, thoughtful look on her face as she exits.

MAL (cont'd): I did nothing to confound your companion-client relations.

CAMERA stays on ZOE as she heads to the bridge, but we hear –

JAYNE (re: cashy money): Why is it all paper?

MAL: I'd need three mules to carry that much in coin, not to mention the racket it'd make jangling all together. The Alliance would hear us coming from six worlds away...

INT. BRIDGE – SERENITY – CONTINUING – ZOE enters, takes a quiet beat to inhale, look at RIVER in the pilot's chair, then silently sit down in the co-pilot's seat.

RIVER (gently): It's OK. I know you miss Wash.

ZOE: I do.

RIVER pulls her bare feet up into the chair, turns and looks sadly, inquisitively, at ZOE. We begin to hear a wave of muted sounds, vaguely like a battle being fought –

PUSH IN on RIVER, who seems to be hypnotized by the sounds while she looks at ZOE –

CLOSE UP on her face and –

FADE TO:

INT. UNIDENTIFIED –

ANGLE DOWN ON: HUGO PIEDRA, age 20. He is looking up at the camera, pleading. He has a sincere face, strong yet gentle. There's something vaguely “medieval prince” about this scene.

The sounds of fighting grow louder, but still have a muted dreamlike quality, and we can't quite tell where HUGO is standing.

Is RIVER reading ZOE's thoughts or memories, is this a “secret” buried in RIVER's brain, or is this something else? We hear HUGO's voice as he says –

HUGO: Holy virgin, protect us!

HUGO crosses himself, then as he lowers his head he is pierced through the chest by a nasty-looking spear-like projectile.

CUT TO: INT. BRIDGE – SERENITY – RIVER flinches, gasps, and puts a hand to her chest where HUGO was just pierced.

ZOE: River?

RIVER is suddenly all over the control panel, gripping the steering wheel and setting another course.

ZOE (cont'd): River, what happened?

ZOE gets up and takes a step toward her –

CAMERA ON: RIVER's face as she gazes purposefully out the window.

EXT: SPACE Serenity turning about...

CUT TO: INT. BRIDGE -- CLOSE UP ON RIVER

RIVER: Send the demons back to hell!

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. SERENITY – NIGHT – Serenity whips past the camera hurtling full burn through the black.

INT. DINING ROOM – SERENITY – MAL, JAYNE, KAYLEE, SIMON and INARA sit around the table, laughing, cheerfully counting and dividing up the money.

KAYLEE: This is the biggest job we've ever pulled!

MAL: It is an obscene amount of money.

JAYNE: If it makes you feel too dirty, I'll take your share.

MAL smacks JAYNE's hand away.

MAL: And it was by far the easiest job we've ever pulled.

ZOE (O.S. over Mal's last few words): Sir! You'd better get up here!

MAL: Or maybe I spoke to soon.

MAL gets up from the table and heads to the bridge.

INT. BRIDGE – CONTINUING – MAL enters, followed closely by SIMON, then JAYNE, KAYLEE and INARA. RIVER is still flying, white knuckling the steering controls. A tear slips down her cheek.

MAL: Someone followed us?

ZOE glances at the control panel in front of her.

ZOE: Negative. There's no sign of pursuit.

MAL: Status?

ZOE: We're flying full burn to I-don't-know-where.

JAYNE: The girl's gone loopy on us, again. I knew this was gonna happen!

MAL: (to JAYNE) Bi jweh! (shut up!) Maybe she's got good reason. River?

BEAT while RIVER says nothing.

ZOE: She said something about demons.

JAYNE: Well, git her off the gorram bridge!

MAL: You wanna try? I seem to recall her taking you down – twice.

MAL and JAYNE look at each other, then silently and simultaneously grab SIMON by the arms and propel him toward RIVER.

MAL (to SIMON): Talk to your sister.

SIMON crouches beside RIVER.

SIMON: River, where are we going?

RIVER (distraught): We're going – to die.

JAYNE looks bug-eyed.

JAYNE: Not if we pry your sticky fingers off them controls. (To SIMON) Sah Gwa! (Fool!) Use her off-switch!

RIVER (suddenly sobs): Mother! Father! Help!

JAYNE, spooked, steps back from her. RIVER is upset but still determinedly flying Serenity. MAL is bent over ZOE, trying to figure out where they're going.

SIMON: River! Our parents aren't here! You're not in the academy any more, you're safe now. You need to come with me –

SIMON tries taking her hands.

ZOE: Something up ahead.

JAYNE: She's gonna crash us!

SIMON (angrily): No! She's not! (not so sure) River?

KAYLEE (scared): Is that asteroids?

POV: CREW through Serenity's front window. We see a field of debris coming up quick –

WHOOP! With RIVER's guidance, Serenity dips suddenly under a very ominous chunk of a spaceship.

CAMERA ON: Everyone reacting to the debris and the ship's maneuver.

JAYNE: The hell was that?!

MAL: Um, River? Watch the – WHOA!

CUT TO: EXT. SPACE – CONTINUING – Serenity dips around another piece of debris. Smaller bits are hitting the ship.

CUT TO: INT. BRIDGE – SERENITY – CONTINUING

JAYNE: You make her stop, Mal! She can't fly through this. HEY!

RIVER swoops Serenity in an impossible maneuver around another bit of debris.

ZOE: Looks like she can.

MAL: No. No. NO!

WHAM! A piece of something hits Serenity, setting off an alarm.

INARA: We're hit!

ZOE (looking at control panel): Not too bad.

MAL: Don't break my ship!

JAYNE: Girl's gonna git us killed!

SIMON: River --

JAYNE: One of you don't stop her, I will!

MAL: She'll stop sooner or later –

RIVER executes another deft maneuver. You'd think she was channeling the spirit of WASH.

MAL (cont'd): Maybe sooner.

RIVER (tense): Everyone – stop – THINKING!

KAYLEE: Those are chunks of ships!

ZOE: Looks like a battleground.

POV: CREW looking through window. Serenity has passed the worst of the debris and is approaching a ship.

JAYNE: I don't like this.

MAL (darkly): Ain't exactly my idea of a good time, either.

ZOE: There's no distress signal, no response to our hailing.

MAL: Can we ident that ship?

ZOE is doing various things at the control panel on her side of the bridge.

ZOE: No match... I've never seen one like this...

CUT TO: EXT. – SPACE – What we thought was one odd ship is actually two ships: One larger than Serenity, with a few mounted cannons that have been destroyed; it's called Thor's Hammer. And the other ship is a very horrifically familiar craft attached to it like a giant blood-sucking tick.

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY – BRIDGE – CLOSE UP on MAL, though we can see some of the others behind him, looking the opposite of happy.

MAL (ominous): I know what that is ... (beat) Reavers.

CAMERA ON: Everyone's reaction.

JAYNE: Christ on a cracker, Mal. Can't be Reavers. They're all dead.

NOLA enters, catching JAYNE's words.

NOLA: What can't be Reavers?

(NOTES ON NEW CHARACTER NOLA BYRNE: Boarded Serenity as a passenger in episode one, "A Dream Come True," about 30 years old, short-cropped reddish hair, buxom, 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 appealing. She wears a vest with several pockets, cargo pants and a belt with pistol and ammo. There's a bit of an Irish-ish lilt to the way she speaks. It was established in Episode Two “Back to Hell” that she is a cortex correspondent – a registered, independent reporter, in possession of various recording devices and other gadgets.)

JAYNE exits with a scowl as INARA speaks –

INARA: Could there be more ships in the vicinity?

ZOE: Nothing on the sensors.

The gravity of the situation doesn't take long to sink into NOLA.

NOLA (urgent and terrified): Wa Cao(ch-ao)! (Holy f--k!) You got an arsenal on this barge somewheres? We should be loading up! Ma shong (immediately), Mal!

MAL (calm yet stern): I know a fair bit about Reavers, Nola.

NOLA: Oh, you do, do you? So do I! So does anyone who spends time on the rim.

MAL: No, I'd wager you don't know as much as we do.

NOLA: Look, I'm understanding that Serenity is more than a passenger tug or a ferry for settler supplies. Zang (excellent). It means you gotta have more than those pistols on your belts. And we're gonna need it.

ZOE: I'm picking up life readings. There's still people – or something – on board.

JAYNE re-enters bridge with a promiscuous number of guns, ammo belts and grenades. Almost comical... if we didn't know better.

NOLA glances at him.

NOLA (to MAL, re: JAYNE): Fong gou (mad dog) here's got the idea. There's just eight of us, but there could be 20, 30 Reavers out there.

KAYLEE (meekly): Could be even more.

JAYNE loudly cocks one of his shotguns and hands it to NOLA.

JAYNE: I got more in my bunk. Take this, too.

JAYNE hands NOLA a long belt filled with ammo and grenades, and another gun.

NOLA: Wei, da yeh. (Yes, sir.) (grumbling to JAYNE) At least somebody 'round here's got sense.

JAYNE gives her a look. She thinks he's the one with sense?

Serenity is now right beside the ships. We can see them through the window.

MAL (to RIVER): I don't suppose I could ask you to get us the hell out of here?

RIVER (emphatically): NO.

KAYLEE: Why would she bring us here?

SIMON: Mei mei (little sister), do you – KNOW – if there are Reavers out there?

RIVER (whisper): Hell is empty and all the devils are here.

BEAT.

JAYNE: I'd say that's a “yes.”

RIVER is still piloting, hitting buttons, etc.

KAYLEE (scared): We're getting awful close. What's gonna happen if –

MAL: Doc, it's about to get ugly, cuz it's either your sister gets off my bridge or I take her off, which you know full well is tze sah ju yi (a suicidal idea), but I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.

JAYNE and ZOE both exchange glances with MAL, as all three tense for a RIVER removal attempt. Then all are startled by –

RIVER: AAAAH!

Before MAL can make good on his threat, RIVER leaps up from the pilot's seat.

NOLA (looking out the window): That's a docking bay right there, that is.

MAL drops into the pilot seat vacated by RIVER and tries to steer and do things with the control panel, as does ZOE on the other side.

MAL: Zoe?!

ZOE: I got nothin'! She must have locked the controls.

RIVER grasps SIMON.

RIVER (to SIMON): Help!

SIMON: I can't fly a ship!

RIVER: No flying – fixing!

RIVER drags SIMON toward the fore corridor. NOLA steps out of their way.

MAL: Jayne! I don't want her "fixing" anything else on my ship!

JAYNE grabs at RIVER as she goes by.

JAYNE: Girl, you better –

JAYNE hardly gets the three words out when RIVER very deftly dodges his grasp and smacks him across the nose.

RIVER (as to a dog): Bad, Jayne! No!

JAYNE makes angry face and tries for her again. RIVER ducks and throws a kick in his gut, knocking the wind out of him and flinging him back into the storage locker.

RIVER exits with SIMON.

ZOE leaps up with her gun drawn, glances at MAL.

MAL (to ZOE): Follow her.

ZOE exits after SIMON and RIVER. In the background, we can see NOLA helping JAYNE up.

NOLA: Packs a wallop, don't she?

INARA: Mal, can't you do something?

MAL (tense): No, Inara, every one of these buttons and dials is doing the exact opposite of something.

NOLA: We're gonna collide with that ship!

KAYLEE (small, terrified voice): No, we're docking with that ship.

EXT. SPACE – SERENITY – NIGHT – Silently lines up with Thor's Hammer's hatch.

INT. SERENITY – BRIDGE

MAL: Jayne, get down to the cargo bay, and wait for me at the airlock.

JAYNE (pitifully): Alone?

MAL: I got a notion River's already there, with Simon and Zoe.

JAYNE exits.

INARA: Mal?

MAL: Inara, you take Kaylee and Nola and get in your shuttle. Hightail it back to Aberdeen and wait for us. If we don't come along –

INARA: Mal, I'm not going to abandon you.

MAL exits to –

INT. FORE CORRIDOR – CONTINUING – INARA follows, KAYLEE and NOLA trailing.

MAL: That's exactly what you're going to do. Got no time to discuss it, Inara. Kaylee, take ALL the money on the table.

MAL gestures into the dining room, then quickly exits down the stairs to the cargo bay. NOLA follows MAL.

CUT TO: INT. CARGO BAY – ZOE and JAYNE wait by the airlock. We hear the sounds of Serenity connecting rather roughly with Thor's Hammer. It jars the ship.

MAL stumbles a bit coming down the stairs to the floor of the cargo bay.

MAL: Wong ba duhn. (Son of a bitch)

NOLA's at the top of the stairs on the catwalk, grabs the railing to steady herself.

KAYLEE and INARA, with the satchels of money, emerge onto the catwalk, go toward Inara's shuttle.

NOLA heads down after MAL, to where he is joining JAYNE, ZOE, RIVER and SIMON. SIMON has his med bag and a collapsible stretcher.

INARA: Nola, this way!

NOLA: I don't feckin' think so. You break off in that wee little pod, Reavers'll be on you like a hawk on a mouse.

INARA: Mal said –

NOLA: Mal doesn't know what's good for him. You go, but I'll take my chances with the big guns and our little changeling.

OFF INARA's tight-lipped expression as NOLA runs down the steps while pulling her recording device over her ear.

RIVER impatiently smacks a button to open the airlock doors.

ZOE: Shouldn't we suit up?

RIVER enters Thor's Hammer without a backward glance.

JAYNE: 'Parently not.

SIMON, JAYNE and ZOE follow RIVER. As MAL heads in, NOLA follows him.

MAL (to NOLA): I told you to go with Inara and Kaylee.

NOLA: Shush.

INT. THOR'S HAMMER – CONTINUOUS – They're in a smallish cargo bay, almost like being in the bottom of a well lined with some boxes and supplies. Stairs along the wall spiral up to a catwalk and to more stairs going up.

MAL: Don't shush me.

JAYNE (spooked): Shush!

We hear sounds far off somewhere else on the ship, gunfire, yelling, maybe growling, some shrieking, in the background.

RIVER heads quickly up the stairs, SIMON on her heels. The rest of the group follows warily as they speak –

ZOE: I don't like this. Don't know the layout of the ship, don't know how many Reavers –

JAYNE: Just let little sister go first. She was handy enough, last time.

NOLA (to MAL): Last time?

MAL: Ask me later.

NOLA: Later? Aren't you the optimist.

INT. GALLEY – THOR'S HAMMER – It's larger than the galley on Serenity. The sounds are clearer here, though now sans gunfire and a bit less shrieking.

CAMERA ON: RIVER and SIMON are nearly across the room to the other side as MAL, ZOE, NOLA and JAYNE enter and fan out across room. JAYNE is rearguard.

SIMON pauses at the next doorway.

SIMON: River, maybe we should wait for the others.

RIVER exits.

INT. CORRIDOR – CONTINUING – We stay with RIVER into a wide hall that stretches off to the left and the right. The sounds are obviously coming from the left direction, which is the way RIVER goes, when –

REAVER: ARRGH!!

SIMON: RIVER!

The REAVER comes around the corner from the left and jumps out at RIVER, who quickly takes him down with a few kicks and whacks, grabs his REAVER cleaver, and runs around the corner, the way he came.

RIVER: Don't be scared, Simon! Come on!

SIMON: River! Wait!

The crew catches up to SIMON, and they all press on rapidly after RIVER.

JAYNE: Girl's in a all-fire hurry to get ate!

MAL: Shoot anything ugly.

ZOE: Except Jayne.

INT. SECOND CORRIDOR – CONTINUING – They pass a second, dead REAVER who looks recently slashed up.

JAYNE puts a bullet in him.

ZOE: Anything ugly and moving.

NOLA: Except Jayne.

JAYNE: Just makin' sure.

INT. HANGAR – CONTINUING – Large open area with a shuttle in the middle. This is where the Reaver ship attached itself to Thor's Hammer and the Reavers attacked.

ANGLE ON: SIMON, MAL, ZOE, NOLA and JAYNE as they emerge from the corridor onto a catwalk. There are stairs going down to the floor of the hangar. RIVER is standing at the railing, scanning the room, a horrible look on her face. The faces of the others don't look much better.

POV: RIVER and the crew looking over the railing of the balcony down into the room. There's a sea of dead Reavers – Reavers all over the floor, Reavers in piles, Reavers filling the hole where they tried to enter the ship and were shot down. Among all this are maybe 15-20 humans. The humans seem to be in various stages of dead or dying as the remaining live Reavers are wickedly sporting with them (as much as we can show on TV).

JAYNE (with intensity): HELL!

END ACT ONE

ACT TWO

RIVER gracefully leaps the railing and lands below like a cat, then starts kicking ass and taking names (which, for Reavers, tend to be things like Baahg, Rarr and Bitey).

MAL: Zoe!

ZOE: See 'em.

ZOE and MAL start firing on those Reavers that have seen the crew and are coming toward the stairs. JAYNE and NOLA are also firing on random Reavers down in the hangar.

REAVERS: ARRGH!

RIVER has made short work of those that stand between the balcony and one human body near the back corner – HUGO himself – surrounded by dead Reavers and looking mighty chomped upon. In fact, two Reavers have left off chomping HUGO to rush at RIVER.

POV: HUGO watches RIVER slash the Reavers like some avenging angel, then drop gracefully to her knees beside him and say –

RIVER: I'm here.

POV: SIMON who has rushed up behind RIVER, followed by the rest of our gang. RIVER looks back at SIMON over her shoulder, imploringly, then back at HUGO, whose eyes have now fallen shut.

SIMON drops down to his knees, setting down his bag and the stretcher.

SIMON: Check the others, see if there's anyone else –

RIVER: All dead. All dead but Hugo.

JAYNE: You who?

MAL: And he looks just about all dead, too.

SIMON opens the stretcher and RIVER stands back so that he can put it alongside HUGO on the floor.

RIVER (to JAYNE): His name is Hugo.

SIMON: I need to get him back to the infirmary, now. Help me.

NOLA moves to help SIMON.

JAYNE moves a few dead Reavers out of the way with his booted foot to make some room.

RIVER watches intently, impatiently.

MAL and ZOE take in the scene around them, watching warily.

MAL (to SIMON): You really think this is a good idea?

SIMON (testy): No, I think we should leave an impaled young man to die in a pile of corpses. How can you ask me that?

JAYNE: Well, there was that last time we picked up what the Reavers left behind.

SIMON: This isn't the last time. This is now.

RIVER: Gotta hurry.

ZOE (to SIMON): Does he have a chance?

SIMON: I don't know. But I have to try.

ZOE holds SIMON's gaze for the briefest, meaningful moment, then shoulders her rifle and bends down to help as well. They lift HUGO and set him, spear thing through his chest and all, on the stretcher.

As ZOE and NOLA strap HUGO down securely, JAYNE reaches to grab the spear –

SIMON (to JAYNE): Don't! Not until we get him back to the infirmary.

JAYNE grasps the shaft tightly and snaps the spear off, making shorter the part sticking out of HUGO.

HUGO moans weakly.

JAYNE: Well, he's gotta fit through the door, don't he?

MAL watches grimly.

RIVER (very agitated): Taking too long.

MAL notes RIVER's impatience.

MAL: Let's get a move on!

JAYNE takes one end of the stretcher, SIMON and NOLA take the other. They lift. ZOE and MAL are gun-ready guards of the procession.

NOLA: So what happened last time you tried to save a survivor?

ZOE: Last year, we found a transport ship full of settlers, been hit by Reavers. One of them survived by holing up in the airshafts.

JAYNE: Kid went buggy, started cuttin' on his own face and killin' folks.

NOLA: Brilliant.

They have reached the base of the stairs to the catwalk and as they begin to ascend, the room is bathed in eerie blue-green light. They freeze.

AUTOMATED VOICE: Stage two of Ragnarok sequence activation completed. Five-minutes remaining until completion of stage three.

The message repeats again in Chinese, and Spanish, in the background as the scene continues.

JAYNE: What the gorram flaming Mi Tian Gohn (excrement) does that mean?

ZOE: Self-destruct.

ANGLE ON their frozen, fearful blue-green faces –

MAL: GO!!

They kick into high gear. MAL takes a corner of the stretcher with JAYNE and they lift it quickly up the stairs, moving into –

INT. CORRIDOR – CONTINUING – Eerie blue-green light. Going past the two dead Reavers in the hall –

RIVER ducks off down another passage.

MAL: Qǐng xī chuài nī zi! (May worms gnaw her insides!) I'll get her. Get back on Serenity and ready to go!

MAL runs after RIVER and the rest continue toward Serenity.

INT. GALLEY – THOR'S HAMMER – CONTINUING – Eerie blue-green light. They run through as fast as they can, ZOE reaches the opposite doorway, looks through.

SIMON: No! Captain! I'll – !

JAYNE: Keep movin', Doc!

NOLA: How are we gonna leave if the bridge controls are still frozen?

ZOE: We'll take the other shuttle.

CUT TO: CORRIDOR – MAL is heading toward the bridge of Thor's Hammer.

MAL: RIVER!

He takes some stairs that lead up to –

INT. BRIDGE – THOR'S HAMMER – CONTINUING – RIVER pondering over the control panels, speaking rapidly but quietly to herself. We might or might not make out everything she says.

RIVER: Taking too long! Think – think – faster – to disable the magna-drive would require identifying the script encoded into the relay matrix –

MAL (sternly talking over her): You wanna stay in one piece, you'd best come along.

RIVER: – and overriding the action command to reprogram the sequence and release the –

MAL: River, you been mostly sound and sensible going on two months now. This is not the time to get bubble-minded –

RIVER types something into a keyboard, then turns and looks at MAL.

RIVER: Magnetic port lock.

MAL (oh, shit): We're stuck here?

RIVER: Not anymore.

OFF MAL's look of relief –

CUT TO: BRIDGE – SERENITY – ZOE in the pilot's seat. KAYLEE is here, laying under the bridge controls and fiddling.

KAYLEE: Try that.

ZOE: Still not working. We should evacuate to the shuttles.

KAYLEE: Maybe if I reroute the steerage line to the second coordinator we might get engine control 'nough to separate from the other ship before it – explodes.

MAL (on comm): We're back.

KAYLEE crawls out from under the controls on ZOE's left, just as RIVER enters and goes to ZOE's right.

KAYLEE (to RIVER): I don't know how to undo what you did.

RIVER flicks some switches, types something into the keyboard.

POV: OUT THE WINDOW we can see that Serenity has disengaged and is drifting away from Thor's Hammer.

RIVER looks intently at Thor's Hammer and whispers –

RIVER: Vaya con dios. (Go with god.)

RIVER reaches for the steering, but ZOE doesn't budge.

ZOE (dead gorram serious): You're not sitting in this pilot chair.

RIVER looks up to the comm panel –

RIVER: Simon, don't!

RIVER lunges for the kill switch on the comm, but can't get to it in the midst of the ship shaking before –

SIMON (on comm): Eta Kooram Nah Smech.

RIVER collapses.

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY – INFIRMARY – SIMON with the comm in his hand, things falling over in the infirmary, with an inert HUGO strapped to the operating table.

CUT TO: INT. BRIDGE – ZOE pilots Serenity away.

CUT TO: EXT. SPACE – THOR'S HAMMER and the attached Reaver ship break silently into pieces, spurting bits of flame and debris –

But a large piece of broken ship hurtles at Serenity, hitting it's port engine pod, and causing Serenity to spin from the impact, then vibrate as the thruster fails.

CUT TO: FORE CORRIDOR – Loud alarm sounding. MAL getting tossed about.

CUT TO: GALLEY – Loud alarm sounding. JAYNE and NOLA getting tossed about.

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY – BRIDGE – ZOE trying to regain control. KAYLEE is clinging to the co-pilot seat. RIVER is out on the floor.

KAYLEE: Cut power to the engine!

ZOE (struggling): I'm – trying – to!

ZOE reaches across the controls and manages to flip a few switches. The shaking stops. Then she straightens Serenity.

CUT TO: EXT. SPACE – Serenity drifts with only one glowing engine, we see the other very damaged.

CUT TO: INT. BRIDGE – SERENITY – MAL enters. ZOE in pilot's seat. KAYLEE is standing. RIVER is still snoozing.

MAL: What was that?

ZOE: I think a fragment from the explosion hit our port thruster.

KAYLEE: I'll check the engine room, and run a full ship diagnostic.

MAL: I'll suit up to look at it from outside. When we're clear.

KAYLEE exits. MAL looks over the screens and such.

ZOE: Didn't seem to knock any other systems off-line.

MAL: Can you limp us to Beylix?

ZOE: I think so. Can't set down somewhere closer?

MAL: That's the closest planet with the parts to repair us, if we're bad off, and without the Alliance to ask questions.

ZOE: Yes, sir.

MAL exits.

INT. AFT CORRIDOR – MAL is heading to the engine room and encounters JAYNE. We might see NOLA and KAYLEE in the engine room a little further on.

JAYNE: Kaylee says we're banged up.

MAL: Looks like. Get the suits prepped.

JAYNE: I'm on it.

JAYNE exits down the stairs in the aft corridor, as INARA enters.

INARA: What happened?

INT. ENGINE ROOM – CONTINUOUS – MAL enters, where are KAYLEE and NOLA. INARA hovers outside the door.

KAYLEE is engrossed in some kind of wire-tool-diagnostic thing, but speaks while she works –

KAYLEE: She's good here, cap'n, nothing wrong with the propulsion, the grav-drive or life support. There's minor hull damage, but all her sensors are intact. 'Cept for the broken wing. Port side thruster's completely offline. I'm getting no response at all.

NOLA hands KAYLEE a tool as she reaches out for it.

MAL: Zoe's on the bridge. You stay here on the comm, I'll tell you what I find.

KAYLEE nods without looking up from what she's doing.

KAYLEE (calling after MAL): Watch out for loose anchor points when you're tethered out there.

MAL exits, INARA follows him.

INT. AFT CORRIDOR – CONTINUOUS –

INARA: Is there anything I can do?

MAL: You can tell me why you're still here. Recall 'Kaylee, Nola, the payoff, in shuttle, fly away?'

INT. AFT STAIRS – CONTINUOUS – MAL heads down to the infirmary area, followed by INARA.

INARA: I decided to stay.

MAL (exasperated): Wha–? I got a problematical, mind-reading attack-monkey who's ship-napping Serenity to rendezvous with a murder of Reavers, and you don't see the burning need to vacate?

INARA: I've been through worse with you.

INT. COMMON AREA – CONTINUOUS – MAL turns on her as they reach the bottom of the stairs.

MAL: Which is exactly why you, of all people, should know better. It's fortuitous that Kaylee's here to repair Serenity, but –

INARA: But it's not fortunate that I'm here?

MAL: I didn't say that. It's just – leave – when I tell you to leave, because if something happened to you...

MAL leaves it hanging. INARA prompts him to continue.

INARA: If something happened to me?

MAL: Or Kaylee, or Nola. I'm relying on you, Inara.

INARA: Should I feel special?

MAL: Yes!

ZOE (over the ship's intercom): Sir? What should I do with River?

CUT TO: INT. BRIDGE – SERENITY – ZOE looking down at the pile of RIVER on the floor.

CUT TO: INT. INFIRMARY – MAL enters. SIMON talks while he operates on HUGO.

SIMON (deadpan): Could lock her in dry storage again. Maybe she'll hit Jayne with pears, this time. We could work our way through all the canned fruits.

MAL gives SIMON a sidelong glance, uses the comm in the infirmary.

MAL (to ZOE): You keep flying. I'll have someone remove her from the bridge.

SIMON (still operating on HUGO): Captain, I know there's a lot going on right now, the least of which is locking up my sister, keeping the ship together, and deciding what to do with the young man dying in my infirmary.

MAL: Your infirmary?

SIMON: He's lost a lot of blood and needs a little of yours –

MAL: Does it have to be me?

SIMON: You're a match, and you're here. He can't wait.

MAL takes off his coat, starts rolling up one sleeve as he talks to INARA.

MAL: Grab Nola and the two of you take River to her room.

INARA: My shuttle's more comfortable, and I can keep an eye on her there. But, can you ASK for once, and not issue orders? I wasn't with you in the war, Mal.

SIMON starts hooking MAL up to give HUGO a transfusion.

MAL: If I'm curt with you, it's because I don't have time for a tea party first. I've got a lot going on. So pretty please, with sugar on top, go move River off the bridge.

INARA: Mal?

MAL: What?

INARA: You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

MAL: Shouldn't I use a net? You seem more like a butterfly. Not that I – sit around thinking about you – being a creepy crawly bug or anything.

INARA gives him a funny look.

INARA: Thank you. I think. I'll go get Nola.

INARA exits.

MAL (to SIMON): Kaylee'd be a ladybug, don't you think?

JAYNE ducks in from the cargo bay.

JAYNE: You coming or what?

MAL: Or what. Get suited up! I'll be there in a minute.

JAYNE ducks out.

MAL (cont'd): He'd be a fly.

SIMON: Dung beetle.

END ACT TWO

ACT THREE

EXT. SPACE – NIGHT – LATER – Serenity sails along, one engine burning.

CUT TO: INT. CARGO BAY – SERENITY – JAYNE finishes putting away the spacesuits and heads to his weight set.

NOLA comes down the stairs from the catwalk.

NOLA: How was space?

She stops at the bottom of the stairs and leans casually on the railing. JAYNE lays back on the weight bench.

JAYNE: Dark. You not going to watch over that wounded pup with the rest of the womenfolk?

NOLA: I prefer wolves.

JAYNE begins bench pressing a sizable amount and grunting under it as he talks.

JAYNE: Thought – you'd be – interested – in his – story – being a – reporter – an' all.

NOLA: I'll meet him when he wakes up.

JAYNE: IF – he wakes – up.

On “up” JAYNE struggles a tiny bit with his last rep. NOLA moves to the end of the weight bench, the act of which places her various woman parts in very close proximity to JAYNE's face.

NOLA: I'll spot you.

NOLA places her hands on the weight bar, touching his.

JAYNE gets terribly distracted, and racks the bar with a loud clang. He jumps up like he got poked with a cattle prod.

JAYNE: I – I'm done. I'll be in my b–

MAL enters from the common area and interupts JAYNE –

MAL: Nola! You weren't in the dining room earlier, eagerly awaiting your cut with the rest of the crew.

NOLA: I didn't know I was getting a cut, Mal.

MAL: Didn't know you were – ? What kind of operation you think I'm running? You helped us find the goods, even got shot for your troubles. Here.

MAL holds out a very large chunk of money.

NOLA looks at it, amused.

NOLA: I guess if I run out of toilet paper...

MAL: Take it and don't make me argue with you. I've had my fill of contentiousness for one day.

NOLA takes it.

NOLA: Thanks, Mal.

MAL (light-hearted sarcasm): Now I suppose you'll go send a broadwave about the location of that artifact, and collect the reward for turning us in.

NOLA splits her wad of cashy money and tucks part of it into the inside pocket of MAL's browncoat, then smooths down his lapels.

NOLA: Takes more than money to make me turn on my friends. That there's an advance on my fare. Go buy yourself something pretty.

NOLA gives MAL a friendly peck on the cheek, pats the wad of money under MAL's coat.

NOLA exits.

JAYNE and MAL both watch her leave, MAL amused, JAYNE the opposite.

MAL: Being captain is mostly a heap of tarnation, but it does, on occasion, have its perks.

CAMERA ON: INARA who is coming down from her shuttle – and probably entered just in time to see the kiss on the cheek, judging by the look on her face. Though she talks to MAL with friendly detachment, we might know otherwise.

INARA: Saint Nola, patron of brigands?

JAYNE: Likes to throw money around, don't she? Like it don't even matter. That ain't right.

MAL: She's just paying her passage.

INARA: Is that what you call it?

MAL doesn't like that.

MAL: Only one person plays at whoring here.

INARA face is cold.

INARA: I came to tell you that River's awake.

MAL: Good. Bring her down. It's time for a chat.

CUT TO: INT. COMMON AREA OUTSIDE INFIRMARY – SERENITY – LATER – Everyone is here except RIVER and INARA. SIMON is just inside the infirmary with HUGO, who's all patched up, got some wicked-looking stitches and bandages, and still unconscious.

ZOE: What's our status, sir?

MAL: We got one thruster tore all to hell. Can't be repaired, gonna need to be replaced, probably the whole wing. And some minor hull damage. But we should be able to limp to Beylix. We can get the parts we need in the scrapyards. Got plenty of funding from our last caper.

JAYNE: Could just buy a whole 'nother ship.

ZOE: Nothing stopping you, Jayne.

KAYLEE: We should get Serenity a few spare parts while we're there.

MAL: Restock the galley, too.

SIMON enters from the infirmary, closing the doors behind him.

SIMON: The infirmary is also low on supplies. I'd call it dangerously low, considering our history.

JAYNE: Well, let's not spend every gorram coin we just got!

ZOE: We won't even come close. You realize how filthy rich we are, right now?

JAYNE: I do, and I ain't squandring it on bolts and bandages.

SIMON: Not when there's whiskey and women.

JAYNE glowers at SIMON, crossing his arms over his chest.

NOLA: If his taste in women's as cheap as his taste in whiskey, he won't be spending much on them.

MAL: So, Doc, how's our young survivor? Or is it too early to call him that?

SIMON: I've done all I can for him.

KAYLEE: Well, he's got the bestest doctor in the whole 'verse. He'll make it.

JAYNE: Then what? I say we keep him locked up and dump him soon as we touch dirt.

KAYLEE: No! We ain't gonna do that. Are we?

SIMON: He has a long recovery ahead of him.

JAYNE: 'T ain't our problem.

ZOE: It became our problem when River launched a rescue mission.

JAYNE: So, she's the pilot AND the captain, now? Hell, let's make her the mechanic, too, maybe she can fix the thruster with her mind.

CAMERA ON: RIVER and INARA who just entered from the cargo bay.

RIVER: Wouldn't be broken if I'd been flying. Would've gone under instead of over. Based on the construction of Hugo's ship and the trajectory of the –

JAYNE: Yeah, yeah! It's you flying the ship that started all this, tearing off to save some kid.

RIVER: I wanted to save everyone, but I wasn't fast enough. Couldn't fly, couldn't think – fast enough.

INARA: Why didn't you just tell us what was going on?

RIVER: Too many things. Can't tell them. Like little piles of leaves that keep changing, can't tell one from another, so don't tell any.

JAYNE: Here she goes.

MAL: River, this is my boat, my crew. You cannot make decisions about where to fly, what to do, who to save, what to risk, without asking me, first.

RIVER: Didn't have time to ask. And I already knew what you'd say.

Beat as MAL takes this in, sees the truth in it.

MAL: That may be so. But you still need to do me the courtesy of asking. Can't be following every overpowering notion, mirage or will-o-th'-wisp crosses your path. We're trying to avoid trouble, remember?

RIVER: Can't avoid what's always there.

JAYNE (to MAL): You. Lettin' her fly the ship, and she's nuttier than a squirrel turd.

KAYLEE: That's not so. She's better.

JAYNE: Well, I ain't gonna pretend just because we found Miranda and confounded the Alliance, suddenly little sick girl's whole as a doughnut.

NOLA: Miranda?

MAL (warning): Jayne.

RIVER: I'm not sick! I'm not broken! I used to think I was, but now I know ... This is who I am. This is who I am! I'm just different, but I'm not bad.

SIMON: No, River, no one thinks you're bad –

RIVER: Stop lying! I know when you're lying, remember? Stop trying to protect me. Stop trying to fix me. Fix you. Even you think I'm bad, might hurt Kaylee, you used the words on me, put me to sleep.

SIMON seems lost, conflicted, not used to being rejected by his sister.

SIMON: I love you, mei mei.

RIVER (pitiful): I know.

Beat as INARA goes to RIVER and puts her arms around her. KAYLEE holds RIVER's hand.

INARA: It's ok.

RIVER: No, no it's not. I know I scare you. Being in your heads all the time.

MAL: Considering this bunch, you should be the one who's scared.

RIVER gives him a I'm-still-crying-but-that's-funny smile.

SIMON: Why that ship? Why did you save him?

RIVER: I was trying to do the right thing. Like Shepherd Book said.

ANGLE ON: Each of our BDH's as they think about that.

KAYLEE (explaining to NOLA): Shepherd told Jayne, “If you can't do something smart... do something right...”

RIVER: I heard him.

JAYNE: The shepherd? You can talk to the dead, now?

RIVER (duh): Hugo. I heard Hugo.

CUT TO: FLASHBACK – INT. THOR'S HAMMER – HANGAR – HUGO looking up. Only, this time, we see the Reavers attacking him and the people around him.

HUGO: Holy virgin, protect us!

CUT BACK TO: RIVER –

RIVER: They were tracking a Reaver ship. Attacked and destroyed it.

CUT TO: THOR'S HAMMER. We see HUGO and the Reavers as he is pierced through the chest by the spear. HUGO swings a big f**king gun around and starts shooting, in spite of his impalement.

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY – THE COMMON AREA –

ZOE: The debris we saw as we approached.

RIVER: But there was a second Reaver ship that caught them unawares.

CUT TO: FLASHBACK – EXT. SPACE – Thor's Hammer getting attacked by the second Reaver ship.

INSERT COOL SPACE BATTLE SCENES HERE.

CUT TO: INT. THOR'S HAMMER – HANGAR – We can see BJORN, the captain and HUGO's adopted father, as well as the still-alive members of his crew, armed to the teeth.

We see the Reavers breech the hull.

BJORN: Send the demons back to hell!

We see bits of the battle that led up to the scene our crew eventually found. HUGO and his shipmates take out a lot of Reavers, but there are just too many.

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY – THE COMMON AREA –

RIVER: They needed my help.

CUT TO: THOR'S HAMMER –

BJORN goes down, women are screaming. HUGO is firing desperately at Reavers who are attacking his adopted family.

HUGO: Mother! Father! Help!

HUGO is a terrific fighter. On par with MAL, ZOE and JAYNE. In his desperation to save his loved ones, he's almost as incredible as RIVER. But not quite.

RIVER (V.O.): But then Hugo triggered the self-destruct, and we didn't have much time.

CUT TO: FLASHBACK – INT. THOR'S HAMMER – HANGAR – HUGO triggers a remote control on a metal band around his wrist, as he is taken down by several Reavers, out of view, revealing RIVER emerging onto the catwalk in the background.

CUT TO: INT. SERENITY COMMON AREA --

JAYNE: That's the biggest pot of zhū goh se (pig crap) I ever heard. Who hunts Reavers?

RIVER: Thor's Hammer.

KAYLEE: What's that?

SIMON: In Earth-That-Was mythology, Thor was a god who protected humans from evil.

NOLA: It's a vigilante group. I've heard of them.

CAMERA ON: The group as ALL EYES turn to her.

MAL: What do you know, Nola?

NOLA: Not as much as River, if she can read minds.

JAYNE: But you'll make more sense, I hope.

ZOE: Tell us.

NOLA: It's a band of folks who've had loved ones killed by Reavers. They are sworn to destroy all the Reavers in the verse.

KAYLEE: Why ain't we never heard of them?

NOLA: Alliance won't let anything on the cortex about them, and they are – or were – impossible to track down. I was beginning to think they were a folktale.

SIMON: The way some people think Reavers are just bogeyman stories.

KAYLEE: Maybe they done what they set out to do. Maybe they finally killed the last Reavers ever.

RIVER (quietly): Or maybe I did.

OFF the faces of the crew –

ACT THREE END

ACT FOUR

INT. INFIRMARY – SERENITY – LATER – HUGO is on the table, surrounded by ZOE, RIVER, KAYLEE and INARA. He is mostly covered with a sheet, and shirtless, though his crucifix is around his neck.

KAYLEE: Captain won't put him off the ship.

INARA: Not if I have anything to say about it.

KAYLEE: He's got nobody else, now. We gotta keep him.

ZOE (soft chuckle): He's not a pet, Kaylee.

KAYLEE: He looks sweet, don't he?

HUGO stirs, opens his eyes.

POV: HUGO a soft-focus, brightly-lit view of four lovely ladies looking down at him.

HUGO (quietly): Is this heaven?

HUGO reaches for his crucifix, is aware of pain.

ZOE: Don't move.

KAYLEE: You were hurt bad.

ZOE: You're patched up, but not out of the woods, yet.

HUGO: Where am I? This isn't my ship.

KAYLEE: You're on our ship. Serenity.

HUGO: Am I ... the only one...?

ZOE, KAYLEE and INARA exchange sad looks. RIVER just looks at him.

RIVER: Your ship, and everyone on it, is gone. I'm sorry.

His eyes go to RIVER.

HUGO: You – you're the angel who saved me. You delivered me from evil.

CAMERA ON: RIVER whose hair flowing down both sides of her face, and the tilt of her head, gives her a vaguely Madonna-like quality.

RIVER: I'm River.

HUGO: I'm Hugo.

RIVER: I know.

INARA pats his arm.

ZOE: You need to rest.

HUGO closes his eyes, kissing his crucifix.

HUGO: I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For you alone, oh lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

KAYLEE: Amen.

HUGO heaves a deep sigh, as if the weight of the 'verse was lifted.

HUGO (whispers): Serenity...

EXT. BEYLIX – SHIPYARD – DAY – Serenity is set down in the middle of other ships and bits.

MAL and NOLA are standing nearby.

JAYNE is moving metal panels around, fiddling with parts and welding tools as they talk.

NOLA: I'm used to tall tales from Paul Bunyan, there. (indicates JAYNE) But not you, Mal.

JAYNE: Hey, I ain't never told you no lies.

NOLA: I'd kiss the devil's arse if half your yammering were truthsome, Jayne Cobb.

JAYNE: Well, pucker up!

MAL: I don't know what-all stories he's been telling you, but he is a genuine bona fide folk hero, complete with his own statue in a town square, and a song.

NOLA: Gǒu pì! (Nonsense; literally “dog fart”)

JAYNE: Mal, I don't wanna talk about Canton.

MAL: Don't be shy, Jayne. C'mon, tell the lady how you robbed the magistrate of Higgins Moon, then gave all the money to the mudfolk.

NOLA: Robin ruttin' Hood.

MAL: Not really.

JAYNE's glaring at MAL.

JAYNE: I told you, I don't wanna talk about it, so bi jweh, dong ma? (shut up, understand?)

JAYNE turns away in a huff and heads up the ladder.

NOLA (to MAL): You're makin' him angry.

MAL (enjoying this): He's just very humble about his good works.

NOLA (more serious): What about your good works, Mal? What about Miranda?

MAL: What about it.

NOLA: I saw the unsanctioned broadwave. Parliament said it's a hoax.

MAL: That so?

MAL looks at NOLA, she looks at him.

NOLA: After it went 'round the 'verse, a battle cruiser was stationed on the edge of the Burnham Quadrant. No one can get close enough to confirm whether Miranda is real or not. (beat) Which means it's real, of course.

MAL: You've a keen mind, Nola Byrne.

NOLA: Are you gonna tell me the whole story?

MAL: Is this off the record?

NOLA: Nothing's ever really off the record. Best I can do is promise you not to broadwave anything that would hurt you or your crew. It's up to you, whether you'll trust me or not.

OFF MAL's somber face, aglow big-damn-heroically in the sunlight, as he looks up at Serenity.

MAL: Well, if you want to know what happened on Miranda, you need to understand what happened to River...

Conversation fades out as we PULL BACK until we see all of Serenity sitting on the ground near a junkyard, JAYNE at work, NOLA and MAL talking, MAL making story-telling gestures. Beyond all, the rings of Beylix in the sky.

END