A Mighty Thorn In a Mighty Paw - Ch. 18
Friday, October 13, 2006

A screenplay taking place not long after the events of "Serenity."



Mal sits in the pilot's chair, lost in thought. His feet are propped up on the console, his hand covering his mouth as he stares out at the stars.

The same proximity alarm sounds, nearly startling him out of his chair. He rights himself and checks the scope.

MAL: Zao gao. [damn it]

Mal presses a button and punches on the keyboard. He looks at the screen with a furrowed brow, then reaches up to grab the mic.

MAL: River, please come up to the bridge.

He hangs up the mic, eyes never leaving the screen.

Zoe appears at the door, River on her heels.

MAL:(indicating the scope) Little one, could you make heads or tails of this for me.

River inspects the scope for a second, then punches some keys.

RIVER: The same ship has moved to intercept our course again.

MAL: That's what I thought. (off Zoe's look) Hey, I recognized the damn thing.

ZOE: Of course, sir. (to River) How far out are they?

RIVER: On our present course, two hours, six minutes.

Jayne enters the Bridge.

JAYNE: What's all the fuss?

ZOE: Just a gunship size of a small moon.

JAYNE: (unaffected) Alliance?

MAL: (ironically) Most likely. (to River)Think we can try dodgin' 'em again?

RIVER: I believe they have us triangulated. JAYNE: You sure it ain't no coincidence?

Mal appears surprised that Jayne even knows what the word means.

MAL: Ship like that crosses your path twice in two days, it ain't chance or happenstance. We need to get around this thing.

RIVER: It is possible, over several days, at near full burn. (pulls up a metered chart on the screen) But we don't have the fuel.

MAL: Which is why we needed to drop anchor at Persephone. We'd 've been sailin' on fumes had we...

Zoe elbows him. Too late.

JAYNE: Had we what?

Zoe sighs. It's as good a time as any. She squares with Jayne.

ZOE: Had we tried making it all the way to Sihnon.

JAYNE: Sihnon? What in the gorram gui are we headin' there for? Unless gettin' pinched sounds like a right fine idea to ya'll.

Mal's eyes are closed for a moment, as he seems to chastise himself for his slip up.

MAL: That's where the job takes us. Easy delivery. Sneak in 'n out.

JAYNE: Right. After we sneak around that death-dealin' hulk out there.

MAL: Out little daredevil here 'll make it happen. (to River) Options?

River has been working furiously at the console, typing and pulling up star charts, columns of figures, and other gibberish.

JAYNE: Ain't much for options in the Core. Get pinched or, let me think... (gestures with a finger as if doing mental math) get blowed outta the sky. Beautiful ruttin' options.

MAL:(lowered, ominous voice) As I recall, last time on a Core planet, gettin' grabbed was secondary to some specific intel bein' divulged. Now bi zui.

A flash of fear crosses Jayne's face. Then he returns to grumbling, but under his breath.

River has ignored the exchange, still calculating.

RIVER: Options...

Without another word, River grabs the yoke and banks Serenity hard to port. Everyone grabs the nearest immovable object.

MAL: (nonchalant) So, uh, where we headed so maybe I can give the order?

RIVER: Hera. (off Mal's double-take, but without looking at him) It's the option with the highest probability of success.

ZOE: (leaning over River's shoulder) She's right. It's Alliance-controlled, but only in the most minimal sense. (touches the screen, zooming in, rotating the planet's image) We should be able to land... here. Beios. Good-size town with an active dock.

MAL: (deadpan) Hera.

ZOE: I'm not happy with it either, sir but choices are less than abundant.

JAYNE: Good a place as any to get arrested. Or shot.

MAL: Seems a tad ironic, that rock of all places possibly endin' up bein' our saving grace. It'll have to be one quick layover. Fuel up, grab some supplies, gone in a wink. We'll maneuver the planet between us and that ship, maybe make a fair run for it.

JAYNE: They'll wave the law in town. Won't even be able to land.

MAL: Like Zoe said, the world may be controlled by the Alliance, not all the constituents are. Somethin' tells me, we might actually be welcome in that sweet little metropolis.

ZOE: During the war, we fought long and hard in Beios. The locals there stood side-by-side with us... to the end. Good folk. Don't conjure they woulda taken well to the Alliance... vision.

This makes Mal smile.

MAL: Not the folk I remember, no. Beios it is.

RIVER: Beios.

INARA (VO intercom): Everything alright?

Mal answers the intercom.

MAL: Shiny. Just a minor course adjustment. We'll be landin' for fuel and provisions in an hour. No need to worry.

INARA(VO):Thank you, Mal. A brief layover, I presume?

MAL: Correct, as always. I'll keep you posted.

Mal switches the intercom.

MAL: Kaylee, sorry 'bout the sudden demand on the engine. Everything ship-shape?

KAYLEE (VO intercom): As always, Cap'n.

MAL: We'll be landin' shortly. We'll get her fueled up quick, maybe even throw in a spare part or two.

He shuts off the intercom.

MALL: (to Zoe) Keep me posted on the whereabouts of that floating cannon. I'm gonna give our passengers their docking instructions.

Zoe nods and Mal exits the Bridge. Jayne stays on his heels.

JAYNE: You expectin' some kind of heros' welcome on that rock?

MAL: (proceeding down fore passage and through the galley) Not expectin' a damn thing. Doubt they even remember us.

JAYNE: And what if they do? What if some disillusioned townfolk decide turnin' you in's more patriotic than kissin' your ass?

MAL: (descending stairs to infirmary area) We ain't exactly gonna parade through the town square.

Mal reaches the passenger area. Paul is in his room with the door half-open. He is reading what appears to be an antique book while standing in kibadachi (horse stance),soft wind instrument music playing in the background.

MAL: Seafood, we'll be dockin' here shortly. If it's not too much trouble, I'd like for you to stay on board, lay low. We're just poppin' in for a quick supply run.

PAUL: By “I'd like” you mean, “you will.” Correct?

Mal smiles. MAL: That's right. Dong le ma? [do we have an understanding?]

PAUL: One with no equivocation.

MAL: (to Jayne) There. You see how easy that was. Someone finally understands. Captain orders, crew follows.

Paul shakes his head and gets back to his book.

Jayne pokes his head in and sneers.

JAYNE: Only thing missin's some pretty incense.

Paul ignores him.

Mal enters the Infirmary to find Simon deconning the room.

MAL: Doc, I'll need you... stay aboard the ship. I figured that already. Brief fuel stop at a questionable establishment?

Mal nods once and exits. Jayne is still following close behind.

JAYNE: I don't like it. What if they got some gorram statue of you up in town, and we just happen to land on “Mal's Big Damn Holiday.”

Mal proceeds into the cargo bay, shaking his head.

MAL: You're the only one lucky enough to have that happen to 'em. An' I ain't done near as many good deeds as you. Besides, my name don't sound as sweet set to music.

Jayne groans audibly at the memory. Mal has crossed the cargo bay to the fore/starboard stairs. He stops at the base.

MAL: Look, I ain't promisin' nothin's gonna happen. And I plan on spendin' as little time possible planet-side to help our odds on that.

Mal climbs the stairs. Jayne still appears unsure.


Serenity breaks atmo in a stunning firey show.


River is piloting the ship, her hands maneuvering the yoke with precision. Mal observes as before from the co-pilot's seat. Simon and Zoe hang back, Simon watching with wonder at his sister's skill.

MAL: Now, let's just cruise in real easy-like.


Serenity swoops lazily toward the large town, finally coming to rest on a large raised platform.


Simultaneously with previous shot. View of town from bridge. The town appears bustling, with some old and new buildings alike. The platform Serenity lands on is one of five, three of which are already occupied by various transports, none of which are remotely Alliance.

MAL: You're makin' it look too easy, child. Time to fill 'er up. (he stands) Stay right here, little one. You don't move 'less I holler.

River nods.

Mal exits the bridge hastily, Zoe right behind him.


Jayne stands at the ready, only visible weapon the pistol strapped to his hip. Mal descends the stairs with Zoe and reaches the airlock console. Mal hits the button and the doors open and the ramp drops. Mal exits first, Zoe and Jayne flanking him.


A hydraulic lift takes the three down to ground level where Mal approaches a man standing at a check-in podium. The man's name is SMYTHE

MAL: Just needin' fuel and provisions, sir.

SMYTHE: My boys'll handle your gas needs. (he whistles piercingly, Mal cringes) There's a bulk goods store a block up.

MAL: Thank you kindly. Mal turns to walk up the street indicated when the man leans in closer, squinting, really eyeballing Mal.

SMYTHE: You ain't by any chance...?

MAL: Mal Reynolds? I get that a lot.

SMYTHE: I'd swear it myself. Take 'er easy.

Mal tries to appear relaxed as he walks away, Jayne and Zoe by his side. Mal suddenly stops and looks at Zoe.

MAL: I'm thinkin' maybe you should stay with Serenity, oversee the fuelin' process.

ZOE: (confused) Sir?

MAL: The odds of us gettin' recognized will be less if we're not seen together.

Zoe nods her understanding and strolls back to the platform, taking the lift back up to the top.

Mal and Jayne proceed down the street, Mal casually checking out the structures as they pass.

MAL: Last time I was here, less than half of this was standin'.

They approach a large building marked with a Chinese sign. Mal and Jayne walk in...


...each grabbing a hand dolly. They proceed down the wide aisles, picking up various cases of raw materials they need. Only the basics. Once their carts are full, they head to the man checking the customers out. He waves a hand-held scanner over the cases without a word, takes the money Mal hands him, and waves them out.

JAYNE: My kinda store. No talkin', just scoop 'n run.

MAL:(hauling dolly through the door)I'm fair impressed my own self. Didn't expect...

A half-circle of nine people halt them in their tracks. Some are smiling. Most aren't.

Click to go to Ch. 19

Click to go back to Ch. 17


Friday, October 13, 2006 1:23 PM


Why can't anything ever go smooth? Isn't there one tiny corner of the 'verse where folk don't want to give our shiny crew a hard time? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, October 13, 2006 2:34 PM


Uh oh...I smell go se! What have Mal and Co. stepped into this time?

Saturday, October 14, 2006 5:31 AM


Please tell me Paul gets to kick some ass. At the very least let Jayne get in a tussle.

God I love hijinks. And something tells me (or I could be stupid, which is entirely plausible) that Paul may have someting to do with that.

Great chapter too.

Saturday, October 14, 2006 6:46 PM


Oh Mal's the centre of attention;)

Definitely gotta wonder if Mal will get a hero's welcome...or strung up for not winning the Battle of Serenity Valley:(



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