A Mighty Thorn In a Mighty Paw - Ch. 51
Friday, February 2, 2007

A little reciprocation...



River is pressed against the wall of the short shuttle entrance wall, eyes averted. She appears calm.

Echo One is carefully navigating down the stairs of the center stair well, crossing the landing, and ascending the stairs opposite. He glances down at his fallen comrades. Echo Two is slowly standing, one hand on his lower back, shaking his head as if to clear it. He picks up his rifle, giving Echo One a thumbs-up. Echo One uses military hand signals to indicate River’s postion, and for Echo Two to cross the Cargo bay deck with his eyes locked on her.

Echo Two complies, slowly backing across the deck, rifle aimed at River’s hiding spot. Echo One reaches the port catwalk and slowly approaches the alcove.

CU River’s face. She closes her eyes and smiles. View pulls away and out of alcove.

River darts from the hall, jumps up onto the railing and leaps toward the lift cable still hanging over the cargo bay. In the middle of the leap, she fires straight down at Echo Two. He gets off a shot as well, just before the sonic round blasts straight down into his helmet and then his neck. Vertebrae can be heard cracking from the sudden compression. The man crumbles to the deck.

Echo One fires as River leaps, also missing. He fires again as she swings Tarzan style from the cable. She lands on the opposite catwalk, darting into the opposite shuttle access hall. She is almost impossible to see in the semi-lit bay.

Echo One moves along the port catwalk, rifle trained on the alcove. He reaches up and reactivates his night vision.

Echo One POV - Night vision of cargo bay.

Echo One pauses, not quite coming into view of the alcove. He nods his head, reaches up and removes his helmet.

A young man’s handsome face is revealed. He has a scar running from above his left eye down to the center of his cheek. His eyes are an icy blue, devoid of emotion. He lowers his rifle.

ECHO ONE: River?

River’s head peeks around the corner. Her eyes are curious.

RIVER: Hi, Jonathan.

ECHO ONE: River, I don’t want to do this.

RIVER: Yes, you do. You know you can’t lie to me.

ECHO ONE: I admit, my ego would love to present your hide to the Captain. But we’ve both been through the same hell. If I bring you back, that same hell will continue for you until you break. Therein lies my quandary

RIVER: I’ve managed to avoid it so far. I'm not about to fold now.

ECHO ONE: Sifu is under the Captain’s control again. You’re alone.

RIVER: I’m never alone. (steps out onto the catwalk.) You really should surrender, Jonathan.

ECHO ONE (slowly walks back toward center stairs): This isn’t the Academy, River. Yielding has more dire consequences out here.

RIVER (descending the fore/starboard stairs, rifle by her side): Don’t I know it.

ECHO ONE (descending center stairs, never taking eyes off River): Last chance.

RIVER: Yours, as well.

They reach the deck at the same time.

ECHO ONE: You honestly think you can win.

RIVER: As do you. (tilts her head a bit) How amusing.

River drops her rifle. Echo One does not. He raises his rifle and levels it on River.

ECHO ONE: Foolish.

RIVER: You would think so...

As Echo One squeezes the trigger, River dodges to the right, quick-drawing her pistol and firing at Echo One’s rifle. It flies from his hand in a shower of sparks.

He drops his head with a sheepish grin.

ECHO ONE (looking back up at River): Can’t blame me for trying.

RIVER (pistol aimed between his eyes): Yes, I can.

After a couple beats, River thumbs the clip release, dropping it to the deck, then works the slide to eject the chambered round. She tosses the pistol aside and smoothly draws the short sword from the scabbard on her back.

Echo One reaches down to his right thigh plate and removes a six-inch cylindrical handle. He presses a button and it extends to two and a half feet with a metallic snap.

Their eyes meet.

River and Echo One charge each other, crossing the deck at impossible speeds, weapons ready.


Paul stares at the Interrogator a beat.

MAL: Oh, tzao-gao.

Paul suddenly grabs his head, dropping the satchel and Mal’s gun at his feet. Paul emits a growl of agony as he keels forward.

Kaylee whimpers at his obvious pain. Zoe steps forward with intent but is stopped by Mal's arm.

INTER. (eyes locked on Paul): I’m sorry, Paul. I truly am. The rest of you, stay where you are, or your fate will be the same.

Paul stumbles a few seconds, gripping his head. He picks up his right foot and steps on Mal’s pistol. With a flick of his knee, he slides the pistol along the floor. It jams to a halt at Mal’s feet. Mal snatches it up, aims...

CU of gun barrel - view down barrel to see Mal’s cold expression.

...and fires.

The Interrogator’s head snaps back and he falls flat on his back, unmoving. Paul relaxes with a deep breath. He looks down at the Interrogator. Instead of a bullet hole, a bloody graze mars the right side of his skull.

JAYNE: Why ain’t his brain scattered across the wall?

MAL (leaning over the Interrogator, placing a hand on his shoulder): I owed him this much, no more.

Mal stands, looks at his crew, gaze landing hard on Paul.

MAL: You back on this side of the fence?

PAUL: For the moment, it would seem.

INARA: For the moment?

PAUL (distributing weapons from the satchel): I appear to be... susceptible to suggestion by my father. River helped me break his hold the first time. I can only pray it was the last.

Mal nods.

MAL: Let’s go.

Paul and Mal lead the crew from the Brig. The crew all react to the piles of unconscious Alliance troops in the hall, Inara squeezing Paul’s upper arm.

ZOE: I’d say your stock is beginning to rise again.

MAL (checking around the first corner): We ain’t home yet.

Paul checks around the other corner, gestures for the crew to follow.

Click to go to Ch. 52

Click to go back to Ch. 50


Friday, February 2, 2007 8:55 PM


Echo Leader is another Academy student? Ooh...that's definitely a brilliant plot twist! Can't wait to see the blow-by-blow for the River-Johnathan fight;D

And why do I get the feeling that Mal will reget not shifting his aim to actually put a bullet in the Interegator's brainpan? Cuz the vibe of the latter figure not giving Mal the same courtesy is mighty strong:(


Saturday, February 3, 2007 12:29 AM


I'm a mite confused about Mal's reason for now blowing the Interrogator's head off. Also worried that Paul may not be able to hold it together long enough for them to get away and for River to eliminate the last hold of his evil twisted father. As for River and Echo One, that is going to be some fight coming up! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, February 3, 2007 1:27 PM


Thanks for explaining why Mal treated the interrogator the way he did in your email, everything slides into place now. And yes, we are cool! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, February 3, 2007 2:06 PM


That was sweet. So was the goal of the Academy program the creation of elite Alliance commandos like Echo? I think River's talents would be wasted in such a role, where Alliance grunts could do that kind of work. Jonathan isn't a reader, I believe, or else Echo would have found River quite easily. Seafood probably pitted the commandos against the Academy students in order to hone their fighting skills. But Jonathan may have been exposed to some of the same treatments, or so he says. River's in for a fight, but she's wearing body armor, too.

Thanks for cluing me in that they're bound for Londinium, which I totally forgot. My bad. By the way, I think somebody called Mal's head shot, and I think it was me. Although it wasn't spot on. Congrats on another awesome chapter, and please keep them coming!


Sunday, February 4, 2007 10:58 PM


Another Academy student appears? And this has graduated? That should be a very interesting little fight.

Better than the last chapter, and considering the (awesome) quality of the last chapter, that's saying something.


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