Do We Have An Order?
Thursday, September 7, 2006

In the movie, River massacres the Reavers. Immediately after, Alliance soldiers surprise the crew. What would happen if the crew has five minutes of warning?



The gang is still trying to patch themselves together when the elevator doors open. Mal staggers out, holding his bleeding side. Crates are in a barricade across the Inner Hall.

ZOE: Sir?

MAL: It's done. Report? (pause) River?

Zoe looks at the badly wounded Simon (drugged and unconscious), is about to give a report - and the doors start to open behind her.

Everyone turns to look, those who can feebly raising weapons, as the square iris of the opening blast doors widens to reveal River, bloody but unbowed. And the only one alive. Holding two Reaver blades, she walks to the center of the opening, then waits for the doors to stop moving.

The camera holds on her a moment, then River walks slowly toward Mal. He is apprehensive about swords.

MAL: River?

RIVER: Soldiers are here. Should I close the doors?

Suddenly, in the wall behind River, sparks and concrete debris are thrown into the room. Everybody looks, except River, who keeps walking. Inara has a vision of the hero returning from hades, but she regains her composure.

Two saw blades poke through the wall from the other side. The saws are cutting the top and bottom edges of a doorway. We are looking at the military version of a construction tool that cuts steel reinforced concrete as quickly as a chainsaw cuts wood. The chainsaws are glowing brightly from the heat of friction. A light-show of sparks from the saws will be in the background of most camera shots from here onward. It will take five minutes to cut the four sides of the door.

MAL: (to River) Leave 'em open!

While Mal talks and walks to the blast doors, the camera gets glimpses of the following - River props the two blades against the crate that injured Kaylee is laying on. River is tired. She bends down and Kaylee gives her a big hug. River goes around the barricade, kneels next to Inara and Simon, holds his hand. He's out cold. Inara tears off a corner of an aluminum foil envelope from the medical bag. She tilts back River's head then carefully pours, into the gash on River's forehead, bright yellow powdered coagulant to stop the bleeding. River is looking up at Inara; they talk about Simon. His shirt is pulled up and the same coagulant has been poured into his gunshot wound.

MAL: (to Jayne) Can you stand?

Jayne takes Mal's hand. Jayne makes the effort. Weakened by blood loss, he drops Mal's rifle, grunts, then slumps down. Mal puts a hand on Jayne to stay down. Mal turns to Zoe.

ZOE: Can't feel my legs, Sir. Think I can walk with help.

Zoe looks toward the lift.

MAL: Be retreating to a dead end. Going to meet 'em here.

Mal limps to the blast doors. The camera pans across dead Reavers. Absolute carnage. Inara cleans exhausted River's busted knuckles. River's been punching Reavers. River takes a deep breath, her eyes open wide - she is ready for Round 2. She looks at Mal BEFORE he turns around.

MAL: River, I need a sharpshooter... Want to?

RIVER: Yes, Captain.

MAL: Good... Use my rifle. Jayne! Give her extra ammo!

Jayne removes the 'big' 20-round magazine from the rifle, takes a 'little' 10-round magazine from his bandoleer. He starts transferring ammo to the big magazine.


River thanks Inara. River takes the cloth Inara used to clean River's knuckles. She picks up the sword with a swirl and a flourish, getting everyone's startled attention. Holding the sword pointed up over her head, she wipes the blade clean then bows gracefully to Jayne, placing the sword on the floor beside him. It's a showy gesture but this is not the typical rusty scrap iron Reaver weapon. It's stainless-steel. She picks up Mal's rifle.

RIVER: (to Jayne) Sword is yours... Never runs out of ammunition.

Jayne picks up the sword, looks pleased, puts it down. The perfect gift and peace offering. He continues transferring ammo. River locks the rifle's safety, unlocks the telescopic sight mount. For the Audience, River must be super-proficient with guns so that she will be convincing when her plan is revealed.

RIVER: (to Zoe) Please hold the scope.

Zoe hesitates, looks to Mal. He nods “Yes.” With Zoe holding the scope in two hands, River tugs on the rifle. The scope detaches; it has gaudy gold paint on front and rear.

As River sasses Mal, she also removes the gold painted front gun sight and unhooks the rifle shoulder strap. Zoe takes both.

RIVER: Gold is flashy... Soldiers will notice... The proper color for a sniper scope is black...

JAYNE: (to Mal) Told you to buy black.

Mal makes a face at River and Jayne.

RIVER: Jayne, little ammo clip, please.

Jayne is puzzled but tosses the 'little' ammo clip to River, who inserts it into the rifle. River holds her hand out to Jayne, palm up. Give me five, dude. Jayne drops the heavy 'big' ammo clip into her hand. Her muscles are stressed. Big biceps.

JAYNE: It's full. 'Tween this and what's in the rifle, that's every rifle shell we got.

Time is running out. The light-show of sparks continues with the concrete chainsaws finishing the top and bottom of the doorway. Door will be four soldiers wide when the sides are cut. The saws make a squealing noise like a dentist's ultrasonic tooth scaler.

Mal checks the saws' progress every half minute. River walks around the barricade. Mal and River are standing in front of the crew. River stops sassing Mal. She's the total professional.

MAL: River, I want to try talkin' to 'em. You're to cover me. Do NOT start shooting 'til I signal--

RIVER: Captain... They have a mortar loaded with poison gas shells. The Lieutenant used poison against the Reaver ships that followed us. If we resist, the Sergeant will use poison gas against us. He wants to practice the technique.

There is a different reaction from everyone - disgust, anger, dread. Zoe has sarcastic doubts...

ZOE: Sir. May-be we're making a suicidal last stand for Independence?

Camera catches the reaction: Mal has run out of ideas. River has not.

RIVER: Medical equipment on the Alliance ship can freeze Simon to save his life. We can get Simon on that ship. (pause) I know we can hijack the ship.

MAL: Huh? How's that possible??

River gestures with the rifle toward the saws cutting the wall.

RIVER: Two squads are breaking into this building to assist an Alliance Leader.

Reactions of Inara and Mal, the only ones who have met the Operative: Inara now knows who mauled Mal. Mal knows no way he can possibly take down two squads.

RIVER: The flight crewmen are scanning for approaching Reaver ships. I will be aboard before they know it... INTERIOR: HANGER

Reaver ship is landing.

RIVER: (Off Screen) ... The Lieutenant and two squads are hunting Reavers with poison gas. Dividing the platoon for the hunt is a mistake that we can use...

The Reaver ship is settling to the hanger floor. A rocket blows a one metre diameter hole in the ship's hull. Another rocket blows a hole closer to the bridge. A very large, slow moving poison bomb is lobbed into the first hole. A lot of green vapor puffs out of the first hole, a little out of the second hole. A second poison bomb is lobbed at the second hole, hits the upper edge of the hole and is deflected upward, where it bursts in a green vapor cloud. With the pilot dead, the Reaver ship is rolling onto its side, tilting toward the camera. The hull is being crushed by contact with the hanger floor.


A light flickers on behind River's eyes. Planning murder is exciting. Jayne is thrilled. For Inara, the plan is too much - Inara is nervously touching her throat after River mentions necks.

RIVER: ... There are only two squads between us and the ship. Shooting both squad leaders will panic the other soldiers. They are vulnerable at their hands and necks. My rifle fire will knock down the soldiers like dominoes, two every second. I can be in the ship, at the co-pilot's seat, in less than...

Mal raises his hands to stop the flood of factoids. River's got one more. She blurts out:

RIVER: Inara can pilot the ship, if you and she want!

Inara's reaction: Anxiety. She jerks her hand down from her neck.

MAL: Hadn't thought that far ahead. Where's that poison?

RIVER: Hanger entrance. They will not get back here in time to stop our escape.

MAL: What you do about an ambush while leaving the room?

RIVER: Grenades taken from the soldiers.

MAL: How do we move our wounded?

RIVER: Ship has three medevacs. I'll drive one in here.

MAL: Okay... (pause) Alliance might be cautious, send a squad into the room to search it. They'll find you. Only one squad walks into our trap, WE are the ones trapped... (pause) Is my job to invite both squads into the trap? Make both squads feel warm, safe and fuzzy? That right?

River slightly nods. A moment passes for Mal and River. They know they are dead if only one squad enters.

MAL: Me, River and Simon got to run. There's no choice for us. But each of you have a choice. You can take the lift to the livin' quarters and surrender when the Alliance gets there. Or stay here and escape on their ship.

Jayne doesn't think for a second.

JAYNE: Hell with being pinched by the law. Let's steal their ship!

Zoe coolly appraises beat-to-hell Mal and resolute River. Kaylee knows what she wants.

KAYLEE: I'm goin' with Simon! I'll jam the nav sat signals so we can't be followed out of this world.

ZOE: I'm with you, Sir.

MAL: Inara, take the lift out of here. Tell the Alliance you were held against your will. That's near true.

Inara is worried. Is this plan bold or is it foolhardy? Weak voice at first, then strong and brave:

INARA: Kaylee and Simon still need my help... River needs a pilot... I'll fly.

RIVER: (to Inara, cheerfully) Ship flies like a shuttle! You'll see! (to Zoe, fatalistically) But the odds will be against us.

MAL: (grinning at River) Odds always are against us. (to everybody) Beating the odds makes our triumphs especially sweet.

The camera at Mal's position scans the faces of Jayne, Zoe, Kaylee and Inara, one at a time. The camera holds longest on Inara. (Simon is unconscious and hidden by the barricade.)

MAL: Inara, Kaylee, keep your heads down. Zoe, Jayne, keep your weapons hidden. Give us cover fire to confuse 'em so that River can do her work. (long pause then a eulogy) The Alliance treats a billion people as if they are one... But it will remember us. (to River) Let's go.

Kaylee swings her foot to the floor and sits up with help from Inara. Zoe and Jayne get weapons ready.


River leaps, ballet's grand jeté, over bodies until she is standing beside the huge crate that partially blocks the hinged door. She puts the big ammo clip next to dead Reavers on top of that crate. Mal slowly staggers into a room which River danced across. Mal aims his pistol at the ceiling and shoots out a single light. Darkness helps to hide River. Without taking time to aim, River fires a shot at the far wall. Rifle recoils....

CLOSEUP ON: ELECTRIC POWER CABLES... We see the cable break. Lights fade. Half second later, she fires again. We see the second cable break just before all the lights fade. There is an electric arc and smoke from two cables. Concrete was blasted from the wall behind the cables. She demonstrated her marksmanship. She warms up for multiple assassinations.

The doorway is almost finished. River is illuminated by those incredibly white hot chainsaws. She is swapping the little ammo clip for the big clip. From the other side of the room, in front of the still lighted hallway, Mal waves to River with his pistol in hand. She waves the rifle over her head (like she did the sword) then gets into firing position behind the crate. From Mal's location, we see only her eyes and the rifle barrel resting on a dead Reaver.

Mal checks if the crew is ready. Four faces showing above the barricade. Weapons hidden except River's Reaver ax still leaning against the barricade.

MAL: Heads down! Don't need to aim your cover fire 'cause River's got 'em! Just don't hit me...

Mal puts his gun into the holster. He is about to do the most dangerous thing he has ever done - stand between two firing squads. He makes a barricade by dumping a Reaver onto the floor then stacking that crate on top of another. He slowly straightens up, holding his side. In great pain:

MAL: Tzao-gao! [ Damn it! ]

Bright light is streaming in from the edges of the new doorway. The four edges of the doorway were cut on a bevel so that the slab would not bind when shoved out of the wall. The thick slab of concrete tilts slowly into the room. The falling slab flattens a crate and dead Reavers. SPLAT! Looking through the doorway, the Alliance ship is parked close to the building. It would have been crazy to land inside the hanger next to a Reaver ship with a cannon.

It is daytime, but four spot lights are pointing from the ship toward the new doorway. Two soldiers are carrying the concrete saws back into the ship. The saws' electric cables are dragging on the dusty pavement. Four soldiers step onto the slab and survey the room. The rest of the soldiers stay outside. The soldiers' helmets have full face protection shields. Electronically amplified voice commands:

SERGEANT: Drop your weapons! Drop 'em now!

Instead, Mal raises his hands and acts the heroic Captain Charisma. Mal fools the Sergeant, who chooses to intimidate Mal rather than kill him. Perhaps the Sergeant respects Mal for killing the Reavers. Sergeant signals to the squads. Two columns, four soldiers each, enter the room and spread out to the left and right. Mal is outnumbered and out gunned, in the bright lights, the center of attention.


Brooding upon Miranda, the Operative sits in silence, the voices coming over his com:

SERGEANT: (Off Screen) Targets are acquired! Do we have a kill order? Do we have an order?

SOLDIER: (Off Screen, excited) Do we engage? Do we engage?


Kaylee is terrified. She lays down next to Simon with Inara's help. The camera moves to show Mal in the background (in silhouette with his hands up) and Jayne and Zoe.

JAYNE: What's Mal doin'? What we waitin' for?

ZOE: He's luring the rest of the squad into the kill zone.


Mal's pistol is still in the holster, his hands in the air. Mal ignores repeated orders to drop the gun on the floor. Four more soldiers step onto the concrete slab to sightsee; they never saw Reavers before, dead or alive. If River shoots those last four first, their bodies will block the exit. Two are dusty from operating the saws. There are 16 soldiers (two squads) in the room. Mal looks happy. Sergeant and Corporal are in front, behind them are ten soldiers in a line, behind them are four in a line blocking the only exit. Perfect, so long as they hold their positions while River kills them. Mal's going to dive behind the barricade he just built and hope River can finish fast.

SERGEANT: Hold positions! I'll disarm him. Corporal, handcuff him.

Sergeant and Corporal walk over bodies. Since the yelling has stopped, Mal can now be heard:

MAL: My crew's injured. They need a medic. One's unconscious. Three can't stand up. But I'm doing alright!

We see River from the side. She is intense - Go ahead. Make my day, Alliance punks.


On the words 'shut up', the Sergeant pokes Mal twice in the chest with the end of his rifle barrel.

SERGEANT: (pokes Mal) Shut! (pokes Mal again) Up! Turn around! Keep your hands up!

Mal turns in River's direction. Mal gives the look that says: Now, River.



The Operative judges that Parliament is guilty of dereliction of its duty to the living and dead of Miranda. He cancels Parliament's orders:

THE OPERATIVE: Stand down! Stand down! It's finished!



THE OPERATIVE: (Off Screen) We're finished.

With a hand signal from the Sergeant, rifles are pointed up at the ceiling.

Mal is perplexed... River! Just once I'd like things to go according to the gorram plan... He scowls at River. Too dark to see her. He looks over his right shoulder. The Corporal behind him points to the hospital corpsmen in white (caduceus emblem on their chest armor) leaving the ship with combination stretchers/hovercraft. The Sergeant and squads are quickly exiting to hunt Reavers. Mal drops his hands and turns to Inara. They smile. Sweet triumph.

River kneels on the floor and sits with the rifle across her lap. She closes her eyes to rest in the gloom behind the crate and the dead. [ This fades into the next chapter, where River is the first person seen standing beside the graves in the shadows cast by the mountain ridge. ]


Thursday, September 7, 2006 10:07 AM


This was a very nicely done alternate scene that could have been very plausible, and even more tense, than the one we got in the film.

Sunday, September 10, 2006 12:19 PM


Trying to outdo the Jossman here, huh? Mighty fine work here in any case, two:D

Though I have to wonder: how much extra money would have been needed to film and SFX/VFX this expanded roll call scene on top of what was spent on the film? Cuz I think whatever it would have been would have been worth it;)


Monday, November 21, 2011 8:05 AM


amazing i love how it blends in to the next scene at the end :)


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The original was published tonight at

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