A Mighty Thorn In a Mighty Paw - Ch. 56
Sunday, February 18, 2007

A father's parting gift...



Madsen steps up to a console along the port wall, keeping his pistol trained on Gibson.

MADSEN: And now, for our next trick...

Madsen reaches under the console and presses a hidden button. A section of floor slides open in front of the center viewscreen. Angle view down to see the open cockpits of three small escape pods nestled snugly in their compartments.

MADSEN: The disappearing act. Sifu, don’t let him touch anything, please.

Madsen prods the two remaining techs from their chairs and herds them to the rear wall.

GIBSON (disdain): Time to tuck tail and run. Real heroes.

MADSEN (withdrawing zip ties from his belt): To some, yes.

Paul steps in front of his father, meeting his fiery stare.

PAUL (quietly): Would you have me shot out of the sky, sir?

GIBSON: Without a moment’s hesitation. You’ve proven a calamitous diappointment.

PAUL: As a weapon, or as a son?

GIBSON (tears welling, mouth twitching): Flip a coin.

Paul hauls back and punches his father clean across the jaw. The man sprawls on the deck, dazed.

Paul stands over him a beat, his expression dark.

PAUL: Please, father, take your very best shot. It’s the least you can do.

Paul turns on his heel and strides toward the front of the Bridge.

Paul, Madsen, and Powell slip down into the escape pods, the doors sliding shut behind them.


Angle view up to command tower to see three ports slide open. Three sleek escape pods burst forth, wings swinging out from their undersides and snapping into place.


Paul lies back in the half-reclining seat, his hand on the control stick between his knees, eyes on the screen before him.

MADSEN (VO Radio): I’ll take the lead. You two stay on my wing, no matter what.

POWELL (VO Radio): Copy.

PAUL: Copy.


Captain Gibson has picked himself up off the floor. He glances at his two techs, who are tied up against the back wall. He stumbles to a console, keying the intercom.

CU of Gibson’s face. A single tear glistens at the corner of his right eye.

GIBSON (barely above a whisper): Activate topside weapons array.

The console before him emits a series of beeps. Gibson looks down, squeezing his eyes shut.

GIBSON (eyes closed): Target: three bogeys. Extreme close proximity.


The three escape pods dive down and skim Paladin’s topside hull, dodging left and right around the cannons beginning to rise from opened ports. Madsen in Pod One pulls ahead, Powell in Pod Two on his port side, Paul in Pod Three on his starboard. They mimic its every maneuver.


Madsen smoothly maneuvers his yoke, taps the screen before him.

MADSEN: This could get ugly. Stay on me.

He jinks the yoke hard to port, weaving around a cannon, just feet off the hull. Madsen pulls back on the yoke a fraction, tipping the pod’s nose upward, then tips it back down. Cannon fire zips by.

Madsen POV – the hole in the Paladin’s hull approaches, gas still spewing forth, along with the occasional piece of debris. Madsen’s pod passes through the vapors, cannon fire zipping by, dangerously close.

POWELL (VO Radio): Ugly? Right.


The three pods maintain a tight formation as they dodge between cannons and observation towers. Cannon fire crosses their paths, some of the blasts hitting other cannons due to the pods’ extremely low altitude.

MADSEN (VO Radio): Rutting idiots. Predictable as hell.

PAUL (VO Radio): But still dangerous. Don’t get...

A cannon blast nicks the port wing of Madsen’s pod.

MADSEN (VO Radio, yelling): Shouldn’t you be repairing the big gorram hole in your ship?


Paul smiles at Madsen’s outburst, jerking his yoke to stay in formation with nearby Pod One.

Paul POV - The Paladin’s bow is quickly approaching. Cannons and towers flash by, rolling in and out of view as Paul maneuvers the pod in a tight barrel roll, still attached to Madsen’s wing.


Simon, Jayne, and Inara enter the Bridge, obviously curious.

Mal looks over his shoulder at them.

MAL: Everybody feelin’ all right? Got yer insides all settled up?

Simon steps close to River, placing his hands on her shoulders. She looks up at him with an “I told you so” smile.

SIMON: I think we may need surgical intervention after that bit of maneuvering. But, yes, we’re okay.

Kaylee bounds onto the Bridge, giving Simon a playful hip-check, and high-fiving River.

MAL: Kaylee, engine runnin’ smooth?

KAYLEE: Good as ever. Can we get outta these suits now? They’re kinda hot and yucky.

Mal looks down in surprise as if he’s forgotten what he was wearing, then looks contemplative.

MAL: I dunno, I was thinkin’ o’ makin’ these the official uniform of the ship. Of course, I’d put a big ol’ star on mine, bein’ Captain an’ all. Kaylee can stencil a wrench on hers...

INARA: I fear you may have a mutiny on your hands if that’s the case.

MAL (playful disappointment): No sense o’ style out here in the black...

River’s attention is drawn to her scope.

RIVER: Captain?

Mal squints down at his scope.

MAL: That’s a helluva lotta cannon fire...

ZOE: Any bets on what they could be shootin’ at?

JAYNE: What, who?

Zoe gives him a withering look.

River is working at her console and now indicates for Mal to look at the scope again.

CU of scope shows a zoomed-in image of the Paladin. The three pods can be seen zipping around their obstacles, cannon-fire criss-crossing around them.

SIMON: Unbelievable.

MAL: There’s three of ‘em... (to River) Keep an eye on those pods. I’ll bet next month’s food ration Seafood’s gotten his hands on one.


Paul maneuvers the yoke, taps on his screen.

Paul POV - The Paladin’s bow is less than fifty feet away. A couple more left and right weaves and the bow passes out of view. See Pod One dive down out of sight, then come back into view as Paul mimics the move.

Madsen’s pod angles back upward, forcing Paul to pull back hard on the yoke. He glances over to see Pod Two clinging to Pod One’s starboard wing. They repeat the wave pattern maneuver several times.

A look of realization crosses Paul’s face.

PAUL: I see.

MADSEN (VO Radio): Keeps the topside and keel arrays from getting a good shot. You rung the Captain’s bell pretty good, otherwise he would’ve activated...

A slew of cannon fire overshoots the pods. They bank this way and that, barrel-rolling to avoid the blasts.

POWELL (VO Radio): You were saying?

PAUL: Let’s break atmo. They won’t be able to follow.

MADSEN (VO Radio): Damn right.


The three pods race toward the planet below, continuing their wild maneuvering while maintaining their formation.


Capt. Gibson leans on the console, his eyes intently watching the center viewscreen.

A beep emits from the console. Gibson looks down and presses a screen. An older uniformed man appears on the center viewscreen, looking very stern.

GIBSON: Admiral Hertig.

HERTIG: Captain Gibson. Do you have an explanation for what’s transpiring?

GIBSON: We apprehended Malcolm Reynolds and his crew, However they showed unforseeable resourcefulness and managed to escape, leaving my ship severely damaged...

HERTIG: One lonely Firefly “severely damaged” the most powerful warship in the galaxy, and apparently destroyed our ability to send even one secure... (looks down a beat) Never mind. This will all be handled in turn. (beat, more quietly) What of your son?

GIBSON (eyes close a beat): He is... irretrievable.

HERTIG: Shame. He had such potential.


The undersides of the pods begin to glow red. Their formation opens up a few yards.


Paul taps his screen and maneuvers the yoke. Re-entry flames lick at the edges of his canopy. It darkens automatically to compensate from the intense light.

With a flash of fire, the world is spinning outside the canopy as Paul is jerked about abruptly. He looks intently at his screen. It blinks red with warnings and emits an alarming beep.


Paul’s pod begins to spin out of control, it’s port wing blasted off.

PAUL (VO Radio): I’m hit.

MADSEN (VO Radio): Dammit. (beat) Ride it in. Once you clear atmo...

PAUL (VO Radio, calm): I know.


Paul taps on his screen.

PAUL: Serenity, this is Paladin Escape Pod Three. I’m going down. If you’re within range, some assistance would be welcome.


Captain Gibson stands at the console, leaning heavily on both hands. His eyes stare at the center screen which shows a shaky zoomed in shot of Paul’s escape pod spinning out of control.

PAUL (VO Radio): ...assistance would be welcome.

GIBSON: I'm so sorry, Paul.


The crew stares intently at the speaker and scope. Paul’s escape pod can be seen spinning out of control, re-entry flames illuminating its form.

PAUL (VO Radio): ... Some assistance would be welcome.

KAYLEE: We gotta help him!


River flips some switches and moves the yoke, banking Serenity hard to starboard then downward. The crew grabs ahold so as not to fall.

MAL: River?

RIVER: We can catch him.

Re-entry flames flare up around the cockpit windshield.

MAL: Kaylee, we’ll need ya in back.

Kaylee nods and bolts from the bridge.

PAUL (VO Radio, calm): Serenity, I’ve cleared atmo. My pod’s breaking up around me. I’m going to have to punch out soon.

RIVER: Sifu, we read you. We’re approaching to intercept.

MAL: Those pods equipped with ‘chutes?

ZOE: We can only pray.


Paul fights with the control stick, attempting to halt the sickening flat spin. It does not respond. He tightens the harness around his torso, feels for the eject lever beneath his seat, and taps the console.

PAUL: Serenity, I read you. I’m ejecting… now.

Paul pulls the lever. The canopy snaps free and a blast of compressed air pops the seat out of the pod. Most of the seat falls away, leaving a small pack strapped to Paul’s back. He free-falls several yards, pieces of the pod falling around him as it continues breaking up.

As Paul tucks into a forward roll, a chunk of the pod’s fuselage strikes him on the back of the head.

Paul goes limp, his body free-falling toward the ground at near terminal velocity.

Click to go to Ch. 57

Click to go back to Ch. 55


Monday, February 19, 2007 12:52 AM


Wow, this is brilliant story telling. I really hate Gibson, so disappointed Paul didn't end that *tamade hundan* but then it is his father after all. I have a sickening fear that with Gibson listening in on Paul's last tranmission to Serenity he is biding his time for Serenity to show herself in the rescue so he can nab them after all. Hope our BDHs don't get caught and scoop Paul up in the process! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, February 19, 2007 5:17 AM


That was sweet! Those Alliance escape pods sure are high tech. They probably have some countermeasures to mess with ships'(read: the Paladin's) tracking systems so they can make it to the ground safely, even in the middle of a battle (read:BDEscape). Otherwise they probably would have been blown out of the air. And it's just like the Alliance to have guns that are too big for swatting flies- they go for raw power.

I really hope River can engineer a BDMR (Midair Rescue) or else Paul is going to get a little thinner on impact. And will our heroes pick up Madsen and Powell as well, or will they opt to go their own way?

Thanks for another great chapter, HeWhoKicksAlot!


Monday, February 19, 2007 8:36 AM


Ah, nice action. I can see them hurtling through the black. Poor Paul, he's started to grow on me, hope the crew can help him. Not a pretty sight, tho, him not able to control his landing... really nice description of his eject.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 7:02 PM


Oh crap! That ain't good...not good at all:('s time for a River Tam Barn Swallow! What's that, you say? Why, it's a mid-air catch of a single human body travelling at speeds near terminal velocity if not actually terminal velocity itself!



Wednesday, February 21, 2007 4:16 AM


Ha ha haaaaghh!

Mine is an evil laugh!

Rob O.

Thursday, February 22, 2007 1:16 PM


Been collectin' the pieces of yer puzzle and reading them when I can -- haven't caught up to the action so far, but to quote our facorite captain: "Damn Tasty!" You certainly have the plotting, pacing and dialog thang DOWN. Like watching a mini-series event of our BDHs. If the BDS was back on the air and I was in the hiring dept. for story writers, you, sir, would have a J-O-B in the 'Verse! Keep up the great words.


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