A Mighty Thorn In a Mighty Paw - Ch. 40 v 2.0
Saturday, December 30, 2006

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

A few questions...



Silence. No one makes a sound for several seconds.

JAYNE: Well, I got nothin’.

SIMON: I believe for the first time, Jayne and I agree. We have no leverage. Not a single bargaining chip. They will find out what Mal delivered and who he delivered it to. Twenty-four hours with no restraint is more than enough time.

ZOE: I’m aware of that.

KAYLEE: But we can’t just leave him there.

PAUL: You don’t have to.

All heads turn to look at Paul. He meets the scrutiny unflinchingly. River looks especially surprised.

ZOE: And why is that?

PAUL: Because I am the leverage you need.

JAYNE: How so?

PAUL: I’m thoroughly acquainted with the Captain of that ship.

ZOE: And the nature of this "acquaintance" would be...?

PAUL: As I said; thorough. I need you to trust me, Zoe. I can get Mal out. But we’ll need to head back, and we’ll need to announce our approach to the Paladin.

Zoe looks at River who is staring at Paul, her gaze pleading.

RIVER: Sifu, you can’t...

PAUL: Everything will be all right, nian qing day.

ZOE (gaze locked on Paul, her tone neutral): My previous statement still holds true, Sifu.

PAUL: I have no doubt.

JAYNE: Aw, hell. If they take to shootin’ at us, least it’ll be quick.

PAUL: They won’t.

KAYLEE: How do you know?

PAUL: Because I will politely ask them not to.


Montrose sits behind an efficient desk. Beautiful art work decorates the walls.Two large men in plain uniforms stand before him, their hands clasped behind their backs.

MONTROSE: His ident scan checked out. We went so far as to scan the indentifiers on the crate that flew him in. They were out-dated, but clean. His story was quite plausible. It is recognized protocol for a Level Three Dip. Cour. to have unrestricted access in order to make their delivery. Out of courtesy and standard security procedure, I either escorted him myself, or instructed security to do so. He was accompanied by our personell or monitored by video capture at all times.

AGENT ONE (admiring the artwork, turns his head to look at Montrose) To whom did he make his delivery?

MONTROSE: I’m not at liberty to say. Dip. Cour. protocol dictates...

AGENT TWO: Your so-called Courier is none other than Malcolm Reynolds. I believe this name to be familiar to a man in your particular field.

MONTROSE (eyes widening, mouth agape): Did you say, Malcolm Reynolds?

AGENT ONE (not taking his eyes off the art) He did. The man responsible for the single most damaging piece of propaganda ever broadwaved. (turns his head to look at Montrose again) And now he’s had free run of our most advanced Comm. Center.

Montrose’s hands slowly tighten into white-knuckled fists.


Mal sits at one end of a table, his hands cuffed behind his back. A plain-faced medium-sized man sits opposite him, pen in hand which he uses to write on an electronic notepad. He has no name badge. Call him the Interrogator.

INTER.: I believe in conducting these proceedings in a civilized manner. You are one Malcolm Reynolds, correct?

MAL: Correct.

INTER.: The same Malcolm Reynolds who fought for the Independents in the War for Unification, attaining the rank of... Sargent, correct?

MAL: Right again.

INTER.: You led your men all they way to Serenity Valley. Very nearly took it, as I recall.

MAL: Nearly.

INTER.: Horrific battle. Unfathomable casualties. Reminiscent of the 19th Century Civil War of Earth that Was.

MAL: The classroom version is so... poetical.

INTER.: Malcolm, I want you to realize that I know exactly who, and what, you are.

MAL: And what, pray tell, is that?

INTER.: A hero. A warrior without equal. And a gentleman. You see, I’ve not only read the clinically detached history books, I’ve lived the unwritten chapters. I’ve fought side by side with some tragically brave men and women. I’ve been left in the field, seemingly abandoned for interminable lengths of time. Yet I’ve also witnessed the highly unusual kindness afforded Alliance POW’s by a particular Sargent. He fed them, refrained from unnecessary torture, then freed them when the cease-fire was called.

MAL: Seemed like the thing to do.

INTER.: Why?

MAL: Hardly had enough rations to feed my own men, let alone the enemy. Had no choice but to cut ‘em loose, let ‘em find their own provisions.

INTER.: That may be true. But my scope doesn’t lie. And neither do the men whose first-hand accounts corrobarated what I’d seen. You knew some of them by name. Perhaps even offered them a measure of respect...

MAL: Almost every man deserves... Did you say scope?

INTER.: I did. I had you in my sights for several days, five-hundred and twelve yards out, give or take a quarter inch.

MAL (clearly impressed): That’s a third of a mile.

INTER. An elementary shot. But since the only ammunition I had left were my angry, post-adolescent thoughts, all I could do was watch. After a time, anger turned to resentment. Resentment subsided into grudging respect. I had heard the usual propaganda of Independent cruelty. What I saw contradicted everything I’d been told.

MAL: Is this leading somewhere?

INTER.: I want you to realize that I have the utmost respect for you. You have fought bravely and unconditionally for whatever cause you’ve chosen to represent. Unfortunately it is now my responsibility to question you and extract the information my superiors demand.

MAL: Unfortunately.

INTER.: As I said before, I would like for this session to transpire in a civilized fashion. I have absolutely no desire to harm you or use physical means to retrieve what you know. So, please, Malcolm, do not force my hand.

MAL: Don’t believe I’ve ever held a gun to a man’s head and insisted he do me harm.

INTER.: Nevertheless, lack of cooperation will leave me with few choices. (beat) So, to the matter at hand. I would very much like to know what you were doing in the Comm. Plex.

MAL: You’ve been very polite, which is something I ain’t accustomed to, so I’ll return the favor. Much as it pains me to refuse a fellow ground-pounder, I have to at this point.

INTER.: Teams of investigators are turning the Plex inside-out as we speak. It won't be long before your activities there are revealed.

MAL: Then you won’t have long to wait.

The Interrogator shakes his head. He is clearly disappointed.

INTER.: Malcolm, I’m sorry.

MAL: For what?

Mal suddenly jerks violently. He squeezes his eyes shut so hard his forehead creases. A grunt of pain escapes his clenched lips.

As suddenly as it starts, it stops. Mal’s eyes pop open, clearly shocked.

MAL: What the hell was that?

INTER.: Alternate means of acquisition.

MAL: Did you just reach into my head?

INTER.: Unfortunately, yes. I’m sorry the process is so uncomfortable. Some of my fellow Academy readers have a more subtle talent. Mine is more... abrupt.

MAL: Abrupt? Felt like nails in my brain.

INTER.: Resistance will only make the process more disquieting.

Mal flinches again. He shakes his head violently, flexing his arms against his cuffs. He emits a long growl of pain. He relaxes again, panting.

MAL: Agghhh. Can’t ya just torture me the old-fashioned way? If I wanted mind games, I'd o' gotten married.

INTER.: I like to think we’ve moved beyond that. Please, Malcolm, do not force me to use greater effort. What you’ve experienced thus far is but a fraction of the possible discomfort. (Mal slumps in his chair and looks down at the table) Now, my original question still stands. Answer to my satisfaction, and you will endure no more.

MAL: Maybe not by your hand. Some o’ yer collegues ain’t as bent on kindly treatment.

INTER.: I wish I could argue with that statement. My kindness can only be extended so far, as well. (leans forward, his eyes pleading) Malcolm, one soldier to another, you do realize you’re in a futile position. Failure to cooperate will lengthen your anguish and only delay the inevitable.

MAL: Only inevitabilities are death and...

Mal’s face contorts in agony, his feet stomping on the floor. He shakes his head violently again. He emits a growl that gradually increases into a roar. Roar echoes into...


Serenity is making a long arcing u-turn to port, leveling off in a southbound direction. The Paladin can be seen in the distance hovering over the Comm. Plex.


Zoe sits in the pilot’s seat, stone-faced. Paul stands immediately behind her, hands clasped behind his back. The rest of the crew sits or stands around the Bridge in various states of discomfort. River’s eyes remain locked on Paul.

ZOE: Let’s pray this works.

Beat. Glances around the Bridge.

PALADIN (VO radio): Firefly-class transport, we read you on our screen. This is restricted airspace. Please divert immediately.

Paul leans forward.

PAUL: Alliance Warship Paladin, this is Lieutenant Commander Paul Gibson requesting a private comm with your Captain.

Beat. No one takes their eyes off Paul. He looks as calm as ever.

Captain’s face appears on the screen. His face is nearly stoic, but his eyes appear relieved.


The crew’s eyes widen at the Captain’s tone of familiarity.

PAUL: Yes, sir. Are we speaking privately?

CAPTAIN: One moment. (beat. Captain Gibson looks down) Yes. I must admit, this isn’t the kind of greeting I expected after all this time. I’ve had half the fleet searching...

PAUL: That’s unimportant right now. You have a man in custody. Malcolm Reynolds.

CAPTAIN: (curious expression) Who I have in custody is classified...

PAUL: I’m sorry, sir, but this is no time to hide behind military rhetoric. I know you’re holding him, and I’m almost certain of who you have questioning him. I would like you to release him.

The Captain smiles.

CAPTAIN: I’m sorry, son, but that’s out of the question.

Zoe cocks an eyebrow when she hears the word “son.”

PAUL: I’m sure we can come to some sort of agreement. I’m thinking we should meet face to face to discuss some options.

CAPTAIN: And I’m thinking the options are very limited. But I’m willing to meet if only to see you again. It’s... been too long. (beat) Continue on your current heading. We’ll increase our altitude so that you might enter our primary hangar.

PAUL: Understood, sir. Out.

Paul kills the wave. He looks down a moment, then over to Zoe.

ZOE: Hangar?

PAUL: It’s inside the ship, accessed through the underbelly.

JAYNE: Inside? They’ll have us trapped like a rat in a... ya know... rat trap.

PAUL: True. But I plan on offering myself as the proverbial sacrificial lamb in exchange for Mal’s freedom.

KAYLEE: Why would you do that?

PAUL: My past was bound to catch up with me eventually. At least I can meet it head-on, and attempt to make some good of it.

SIMON: Attempt?

PAUL: Well, there’s no guarantee they’ll give up the Captain. And if they don’t, I’ll have to utilize... alternate means of persuasion.

JAYNE: What makes yer hide so gorram valuable?

PAUL: It’s a long story we don’t have time for. (to Simon) Simon, there’s a piece of equipment we’ll need that I can only pray you’ve kept around. Simon cocks his head.


Mal looks like he’d been through hell. His face is sweaty, his hair mussed. His eyes are baggy and bloodshot. He is panting heavily. No cuts or bruises, however. The Interrogator looks calm.

INTER.: Your will is strong, Malcolm. Stronger than I expected, even knowing your history.

MAL (between breaths): History... tends... to leave... out... pertinent... facts.

INTER.: That it does. Malcolm, if I push much harder, your psyche may be so fractured as to never recover from the intrusion.

MAL: Might make... some folks'... day.

INTER.: I have no desire to do that to you, Malcolm.

MAL: So, stop... and let me... go.

INTER.: I wish that was the case. I truly do. But I have a job to do and as much as I respect your resolve, my loyalty must take precedence. Do you have anything you’d like to tell me?

MAL (finally catching his breath): I’d love to. Problem is, I don’t even know what it is I did.

INTER.: What do you mean?

MAL: Got contracted to make a delivery. Not a clue what it was, though.

INTER.: You brought a piece of contraband into the Comm. Plex with no knowledge as to its purpose?

MAL: You betcha.

INTER.: And you would do this because...?

MAL: Anything that might cause you folk a headache, I’m generally a strong supporter of.

INTER.: And to whom did you make this delivery?

MAL: Can’t say.

Mal clenches up again, writhing in agony.


Serenity passes beneath the massive shadow of the Paladin, slipping between the anti-grav bubbles. A long opening suddenly splits her underbelly, two huge doors sliding apart. When they reach their maximum width, the opening is four hundred feet by four hundred feet.

Serenity begins to rise into the bay.


The crew watches as the Bridge passes the retracting doors. The bay comes into view. Dozens of small attack craft line its interior, as well as a smaller number of larger troop carriers.

Alliance troops have the doors encircled, weapons trained. They are armed with everything from rifles to large shoulder-mounted launchers.

Two men armed with pulsating batons direct Serenity to an open landing zone a few yards from the opening.

River maneuvers Serenity slowly and gracefully in that direction. The troops create a large enough path to avoid the ship’s down-thrust.

Zoe, Jayne, and Inara watch as River sets Serenity down in the specified zone. A quiet alarm sounds from the console.

RIVER: We’ve just been swept.

ZOE: Just as expected.

River winces suddenly, though her grip on the yoke doesn't waver.

RIVER: Another reader is questioning Mal. (wince) It's... painful.

ZOE: All we can do at the moment is pray.


A tech looks over his shoulder at the Captain.

TECH: I’m reading six on board, sir. Three males, three females.

The Captain nods. Madsen stands next to him, looking mildly anxious.

MADSEN: We need to bind every one of them, then melt that heap into blast shields.

CAPTAIN: One step at a time, Madsen. I have something I need to take care of first.

Click to go to Ch. 41

Click to go back to Ch. 39


Saturday, December 30, 2006 9:22 AM


Holy crap! I can't believe Paul took Serenity and her crew into the belly of that Alliance beast. Why didn't he take a shuttle so at least the crew could get away if things went south? I am hoping Paul will be a good guy as we have been led to believe but there are so many questions around him that I am more than a little unsettled. I also really don't trust Madsen. Whatever the gorram plan is it better work first time or poor Mal's brain is going to be so much mush leaking out of his ears. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, December 30, 2006 6:10 PM


Oh man, this is all kinds of not good. Paul orchestrates a suicidal rescue attempt from the biggest warship the Alliance has, by parking Seerenity *in* it, and while he's busy chatting, Mal is having his brainpan scrambled by an Academy graduate?
Yep, sounds like hijinks abound for our beloved crew.

As usual, I await the next chapter with baited breath.

Sunday, December 31, 2006 12:46 PM


Oh Tian Yesu...this ain't good! Mal's getting taste of David Cronenberg (a cookie to the person who can suss out my reference;D) and Paul's trying for a mighty shaky rescue plan...yep, business as usual for the BDHs and their amigos;)



You must log in to post comments.



Nothing Ventured... - Ch. 4
A continuation of a screenplay I started many years ago, taking place shortly after "A Mighty Thorn In a Mighty Paw."

I can't believe how long it's been since I worked on this little endeavor. I hope there are still a few Browncoats out there interested in my work.

And if anyone can help me with the formatting, that would be great. My shortcuts no longer work, I see...

Nothing Ventured... - Ch. 3
Just another face in the crowd...

Nothing Ventured... - Ch. 2
Motivated consumers and money-back guarantees...

Nothing Ventured... - Ch. 1
Clucked, plucked, and ready to...

Nothing Ventured... - Prologue
A screenplay taking place not long after the events of "A Mighty Thorn In a Mighty Paw." Post BDM by a few months...<p>Joss's characters, save for one of my own design. It all belongs to him and this is just for fun.<p>Just looking for a quiet drink...

A Mighty Thorn In a MIghty Paw - Ch. 61- The End
A lot to learn...

A Mighty Thorn In a Mighty Paw - Ch. 60

A Mighty Thorn In a Mighty Paw - Ch. 59
We can't all be doctors...

A Mighty Thorn In a Mighty Paw - Ch. 58
A slight change of plan...

A Mighty Thorn In a Mighty Paw - Ch. 57
Hangin' by a thread...