J. C. Ravage
Matt Engstrom, Shawn Morris, and George W. Krubski
Producer: David Elmer
Head Writer: George W. Krubski
Art Director: Sean Young
Disclaimer: The crew of the Serenity, the ‘Verse in which they live, and their fellow inhabitants are the property of Joss Whedon, Universal Studios, and/or Fox Television. They are used in this work of fan fiction with love and respect, but without permission.
EXT. ELYSIAN HILLS – FIELD – NIGHT – ESTABLISHING
A broken field, littered with bodies, debris, and other remnants of warfare, is the valley between hills. In the distance, EXPLOSIONS and SOUNDS OF BATTLE can be heard.
TITLE: Elysian Hills, Boros – Seven Years Ago
EXT. ELYSIAN HILLS – NIGHT
ZOE and MAL rush down a hill and onto the field, Zoe looking ahead, Mal covering the rear. At the base of the hill, they pause, catching their breath.
Think we lost them?
Mal nods, then a single GUNSHOT cracks from the next hill. It is followed by a second shot, then a third. This is not the sound of battle, but rather single, paced shots.
Zoe grimaces as Mal rushes across the field toward the sound.
EXT. ELYSIAN HILLS – HILLTOP – NIGHT
Mal and Zoe cautiously crawl up to the top of a hill as another gunshot sounds.
They look across to
THE NEXT HILL
A dozen ALLIANCE SOLDIERS surround a pair of kneeling Browncoat PRISONERS. Four other prisoners are already dead.
An OFFICER stands behind the first living prisoner, a pistol pointed at the prisoner’s head.
You give me trouble, you die.
He shoots the prisoner dead.
The Officer moves to the other prisoner.
How about you? You want to live? I’ll ask you once. Where’s the comm array?
The prisoner doesn’t look up, but is clearly terrified. The Officer blows him away and moves to the final prisoner.
ON THE FIRST HILL
Mal looks on, horrified. He and Zoe are far enough away, and well-concealed enough that they are not in danger of being easily spotted, but there is little they can do.
Jesus in Heaven, [have mercy on him, for I sure won't]!
Mal cocks his gun.
There's too many of them. And we’ve got to warn HQ that they know about the comm array.
Another gunshot from the next hill.
It’s too late.
Mal knows she right, but doesn’t want to accept it.
Not now, Mal. Another time.
He nods and closes his eyes. Zoe looks across the hill, studying the Officer as he stands over the dead prisoners.
INT. SERENITY – CARGO HOLD – DAY
From Zoe on the hill, we go to Zoe prepping the HOVER-MULE, as JAYNE straps down the cargo: a dozen BARRELS. Over a hundred other barrels are stacked and secured in the bay.
The ship shudders, and they both look up from their work.
(somewhere above them)
What was that?
INT. SERENITY – INARA’S SHUTTLE – SAME TIME
Mal and INARA stand at the entrance to Inara’s shuttle. They appear to be in mid-argument, interrupted by the shaking of the ship.
He looks around, but gets no immediate response, and the shaking stops.
Where were we?
We were talking about how you’re not taking me to Bena.
I’ll get you to your training house soon enough, I promise—
You’ve been promising that for two weeks. Two weeks spent so far in [the ass-end of nowhere], that even you couldn’t find work!
I have work now, and so do you.
(ignoring him, in full-rant mode)
And now, by some miracle, I've found a client on one of your [piss-pot] moons, and what do you tell me? That you're in too much of a hurry to let me stay the night and fulfill my obligations as Companion?
Mal looks around, perhaps expecting the ship to begin shaking again.
Don't know what you need all night for. Any whore worth her salt can get the job done in ten minutes.
That's what separates a Companion from a whore. Not that I expect you'll ever have cause to know the difference.
I thought it was that fancy registration Nandi's girls didn't have.
At the mention of the name, they both freeze. Beat.
Anyways, you mistake my meaning. Didn't say you couldn't stay the night.
Of course, you wouldn't come out and say that. It's just, "I'm not sure we really lost that Alliance cruiser, everyone be ready to boost out at a moment's notice.” How am I going to manage that if I'm with my client?
You're smart, went to whore academy. Use some of them fancy tricks they taught you.
Inara glares daggers at him.
I ain't lettin’ that cruiser catch us on the ground, noways. And I'd find it very unpleasant to leave my shuttle behind—
Oh, it's your shuttle, now?
You’re leavin’ ain’t ya? Already gave you back your security deposit and all. I'd say that makes it my shuttle again.
The ship shakes, as if experiencing engine trouble.
What is that?
Mal pushes past Inara and walks away from here so that he can look down into the cargo hold. Inara watches him go, shakes her head, then heads toward her shuttle.
Mal reaches the edge of the catwalk and looks
Where Zoe and Jayne look up from their work.
What is that?
Zoe shakes her head. Jayne shrugs.
Kaylee, covered in soot and grease and carrying a BENT PART, walks in from the stairs near the infirmary.
Thought you and your dad fixed us up.
Fixed up what we could with those parts you got on Beaumonde on the cheap, Captain, but some of what’s left is older’n me!
She holds up the bent part, looking like she’s very close to breaking.
Dorsal boot’s worn… Couple of couplings… Inertial dampener’s locking… That’s what the shake is—
What's that one do again?
Can’t boost without it. Well, you could, but we’d all be streaks on the walls… Forty gees of pressure.
Well, you don't let that happen, all right? I like being all three-dimensional.
Why's everything have to break now?
Zoe doesn’t even look up at him.
I’d say karma, sir, but that don’t explain why it’s happenin’ to me, too.
Maybe we can get replacement parts with some of the take?
Long’s you don’t spend more’n we make.
Near done, Captain. Be ready before my mister sets us down at Talltree.
Mal turns to head toward the stairs, and as he does so, is startled by RIVER, who is standing very nearby, staring at him. River looks at him, then turns to stare at the closed door to Inara’s shuttle. Beat, as Mal realizes Inara’s no longer there.
Not yet, little one. Just off servicing.
No, she's gone inside. Not her in there.
Who's in there then?
The Companion. Inara's ghost. You think it's her but there's nothing there, just what's left of a person all hollowed out.
She turns to stare at Mal, all creepy-eyed.
You're all hollow too.
He smiles, trying to make light, but it’s a halfhearted smile.
Okay, that's just a bit weird.
I feel substantial. Pudgy, even.
(yells down to Zoe)
Zoe, am I a ghost?
Sometimes I'm amazed you're not one yet, sir.
What’s that supposed to mean?
The ship shakes again, but this time, it’s a different type of shake, accompanied by a SOUND that might be a muffled explosion.
Weren’t the inertial dampener that time.
INT. SERENITY – COCKPIT – SAME TIME
WASH sits at the controls, banking the ship hard to the left. As he does so, he slaps the comm on with one hand.
(into the comm)
Captain, you better get up here!
EXT. ABOVE TALLTREE – SAME TIME – ESTABLISHING
Talltree is built around a hill, with a small, walled compound atop it. Most of the community is a ramshackle collection of homes, warehouses, and other buildings (enough to accommodate a thousand or so citizens) that spills into the large fields of grain and corn that surround the city. Some of the fields are on fire, and smoke boils up from various parts of the city.
As SERENITY sails overhead, a MISSILE launches from the city. The ship, under Wash’s control, jukes to the side and the missile explodes where it once was.
INT. SERENITY – COCKPIT – SAME TIME
Wash is not happy.
EXT. ABOVE TALLTREE – SECONDS LATER
Serenity veers away from town. Another missile rockets toward it but goes wide.
INT. SERENITY – COCKPIT – SAME TIME
Mal and Zoe pound in, joining Wash, who doesn’t look up, instead focusing intently on the controls of the ship.
What the gorram—
Sure wasn’t a duck.
I think she got off okay.
Why would they be shooting at us?
Jayne saunters in.
Why not? Everybody else does?
Mal ignores Jayne, taps Wash on the shoulder. He points to something they can both see through the forward port.
Them hills over there? Can you set us down?
Set us down? We should be leavin’!
—Inara’s still here.
SHEPHERD BOOK comes in behind them. As he does so, the ship shakes again—inertial dampener, not missile—and he’s forced to grab hold of the doorway.
Captain, the inertial dampener—
I know. Going. Which is what we should be doin’.
So what do we do? Can’t go back and make the delivery like this.
I say we leave. Ruttin’ grain we’re ferrying ain’t worth dyin’ over.
We can’t leave Inara behind!
Beat, as everyone, even Wash, looks at him.
Missiles from town. Somebody don’t like us. Surprise, surprise.
It has to have been some kind of mistake. Some of these guns are set to fire automatically if they don’t receive the right codes.
Why didn’t you give ‘em the code?
Nobody told me about a code!
Never mind about no code. Just set us down. Try not to crash us too badly.
I ever crash us, Captain, it’ll be a work of art.
Ain’t payin’ ya for art.
Wash smiles up.
Ain’t barely payin’ me at all, Captain.
Zoe gives her husband a “Just fly the gorram ship” look.
EXT. HILLS OUTSIDE TALLTREE – DAY – ESTABLISHING
Serenity sets down in a peaceful valley, safe for the moment.
INT. SERENITY – COCKPIT – DAY
Wash fiddles with the comm, as Mal, Zoe, and Jayne gather around.
I think… Almost. Yep, here we go.
An image of GEOFFREY, a nervous-looking man, well-dressed, mid-twenties, fills the comm screen. His image throughout the conversation is riddled with static.
Am I speaking to the crew of Serenity?
That you are.
Captain Reynolds, I assume? I must apologize for the rude greeting. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Patrician Geoffrey Landon.
You shot at us, Geoffrey.
We didn’t, I can assure you…
There was some… local unpleasantness.
He ain’t seen unpleasant. Not ‘til I—
Zoe glares at him.
(apparently none the wiser)
It’s been taken care of, however.
In the image, Geoffrey looks over his shoulder.
What ain’t you tellin’ me?
Things are quite safe, I can assure you. There won’t be a repeat of the, er, weapons malfunction we experienced earlier.
Ain’t what I’m asking.
(beat, no response from Geoffrey)
What about Cariss? He’s the man set up the job.
Patrician Cariss is currently unavailable, but has asked that I discuss business matters with you.
Because Patrician Cariss’s dead.
Again, a glare from Zoe.
Captain, I again sincerely apologize for the unpleasant circumstances of your arrival, but I’d like to conclude our business, if at all possible. You have our grain, and we have your coin.
Geoffrey lets it hang in the air. Mal looks at the crew, then back at the comm.
We launched a shuttle right before we got fired on. You know if it got to where it was headin’ safe?
I believe it did, but I can’t confirm that at this moment. Because of Talltree’s magnetic patterns, communications can be difficult at times.
(quietly, to Mal)
I’m sure she’s all right, sir.
Mal ignores her.
You want your grain, price has gone up, on account of the danger to me and mine. Gettin’ shot at weren’t no part of no deal I made. I want an extra twenty-five percent. Up front.
And a new inertial dampener.
And a new inertial dampener. And some other parts. I’ll have a list.
That may be difficult to arrange—
Someone’s got to eat and it ain’t us.
Geoffrey shifts offscreen for a moment, perhaps conferring with someone.
Actually, it is us.
Zoe gives him her “If you want to have sex soon, you’ll shut up” look.
I’ll arrange it. As a show of good faith, I’ll come pick you up personally.
Yeah, here’s a good plan.
Best not be any more problems. There’s lots of colonies would pay shiny gold for that grain.
At Mal’s signal, Wash kills the comm.
Isn’t this a farming community? What do they need with grain?
We do seem to be bringing coal to Newcastle.
It’s grain, Shepherd. Ain’t coal.
I don’t like this.
Maybe we should just eat the grain. Cut out the middle man.
Long’s he’s got the money, everything’s shiny.
EXT. PATRICIANS’ COMPLEX – DAY – ESTABLISHING
The Patricians’ complex, at the top of the hill, is basically a walled fort around an open square. It looks like it could comfortably house perhaps a dozen families, and is beautiful, if a bit run-down, like an aging Roman villa.
Inara’s shuttle sits in the square.
INT. INARA’S SHUTTLE – DAY
Inara opens the door to her shuttle, and is met by IBRAHIM AL-ASJAR, sixties, tall, spare, dark-skinned, wearing a turban and robes.
Please, come in.
Ibrahim enters the shuttle and Inara closes the door behind him.
Your images do not do you justice.
Inara smiles and invites him further into the shuttle.
I apologize for the delay. As you may have noticed on your flight in, there was some small civil unrest. I trust your journey here was trouble-free?
Inara begins to pour tea for them.
Actually, our vessel appeared to be under fire as I left. Is there any way you could confirm its status for me?
I can certainly do that, but would you mind waiting? I’m quite anxious to… become acquainted.
EXT. SERENITY – DAY
Mal, Jayne, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee and Book are near the open cargo ramp, along with a dozen barrels (some of which are being used as seats). The ramp opens to a broad valley with a single entrance.
A battered SKIFF comes through and touches down at a safe distance. It’s slightly smaller than one of the shuttles, but is unroofed, with rows of seats bolted in (enough to accommodate a dozen). The paint is peeling and it looks as if it’s seen better days.
CAPTAIN CHU, wearing a worn-looking armored vest and riot helmet and armed with a pistol and high-tech billy-club, is behind the wheel. Geoffrey is in the passenger seat, and three GUARDS, attired similarly to CHU, but without helmets, sit in the rear.
Mal and the crew stand up straighter as Geoffrey (carrying a small bag) and his men approach. Everyone’s hands are on their weapons, but no one draws. Chu watches the crew, but the other guards seem more concerned about the surrounding hills.
This fact is not lost on Mal and Zoe, who exchange a look.
Captain Reynolds. You see I come in good faith. Here is your extra twenty-five percent.
Geoffrey holds out the bag, which Book comes forward to collect. As Book looks at the contents and nods to Mal, Geoffrey takes in the dozen barrels.
And where is the rest of the grain?
Cargo hold. As a show of good faith, we’ll take this dozen in to meet with Cariss. You’ll have the rest of your grain when I have the rest of my coin.
Geoffrey isn’t enthused by the situation, but knows that Mal has the advantage.
And the parts, Cap’n! Don’t forget the parts!
She moves toward Geoffrey, pulling out a greasy piece of paper to show him.
See, we need some couplers. Now, not the steel ones, ‘cause they vibrate too much. These gotta be ceramic—
Geoffrey looks at the list (and, perhaps Kaylee) with mild distaste.
I think we can arrange… some of that.
BACK ON THE RAMP
Mal sidles up to Jayne.
Change of plans. I want you to stay here. Watch the ship careful.
Jayne starts to say something, then Zoe looks at him and indicates the nervous-looking guards, who have barely even looked at the crew.
There’s somethin’ they ain’t tellin’ us.
EXT. TALLTREE – DAY
The skiff flies along, never venturing too far from the ground. Chu and Geoffrey are in the front seats, Mal and Zoe immediately behind them. The guards are in the back, with the barrels of grain.
INT. SKIFF – DAY
Mal leans forward, over Geoffrey’s shoulder.
Why’d you shoot at us?
Zoe puts her hand on her pistol and looks over her shoulder at the guards. The wind is loud enough that they apparently didn’t hear Mal.
We didn’t shoot at you.
Somebody sure did. If it wasn’t you, makes me wonder if I shouldn’t be talkin’ to somebody else about the grain.
Patrician Cariss has everything well in hand.
Geoffrey turns around, looking Mal in the eye.
Honestly? We had a riot among the workers. Quickly suppressed, but at one point, they were able to take over one of our anti-aircraft batteries.
What else ain’t you telling us? Why’s a farming colony so gorram desperate for something you can grow yourself?
Geoffrey waves expansively at their surroundings. They are driving past fields, but up close, the grain in the fields appears to be dead or dying.
Hence our need for the blight-resistant grain you’re carrying. The workers believed we’ve been hoarding grain in the warehouses.
Mal and Zoe exchange a look.
Without our exports, we haven’t much money, and we have expenses to meet. Debts, equipment to buy, soldiers to pay… the irrigation system must be maintained. Your shipment will have to last us a long time, and must be severely rationed, if we’re to have enough to plant next year’s crop.
Makes a certain sense, I suppose.
Geoffrey is emboldened by Mal’s vague agreement. He leans closer to Mal, as if they are suddenly friends.
The workers would not have rationed. Common rabble with no vision of the future. They’d eat tomorrow to starve next year.
Better’n than starving today.
EXT. TALLTREE TOWN – DAY
On the streets of Talltree, the skiff must go much slower. Many of the buildings it passes are dilapidated shanties, some showing signs of recent damage.
CITIZENS in the drab clothing of farmers and laborers watch the skiff pass by. They look tired, listless and hungry.
INT. SKIFF – DAY
Mal and Zoe look at each other.
Quite a dangerous-looking lot, sir.
He doesn’t like it any more than she does.
EXT. TALLTREE TOWN – STREETS – DAY
The skiff is forced to stop as a clump of a dozen CITIZENS blocks the road. Three vaguely menacing GUARDS are trying to drive them out of the road.
Geoffrey calls down to the guards.
Why aren’t these citizens back at work?
Patrician Cariss wants everyone confined to town until everything’s settled, sir.
Thought everything was settled already.
Her words are lost as the citizens gather around the skiff, blocking its progress and holding out their hands like beggars. A handful of CHILDREN join the group.
Geoffrey looks past them to the nearest guard.
Contact Patrician Cariss. We need to get these people back to work.
Ask me, these folk don’t look up for much work.
On this world, if they don’t work, no one eats.
Another look between Zoe and Mal.
And what exactly is it you do here, Patrician?
Geoffrey ignores him, instead attempting ineffectually to push some of the citizens away from the skiff.
Mal and Zoe each toss a couple coins into the waiting hands.
Please don’t! You’ll only encourage them!
As the citizens and children shift to get closer to Mal and Zoe, the front of the skiff clears, and Chu accelerates away.
EXT. TALLTREE TOWN— COURTYARD – DAY – ESTABLISHING
The large cobblestone courtyard sits close to the base of the hill. The hillside is lined with three WAREHOUSES, the opposite side with a large, steaming, clanking, pipe-filled IRRIGATION UNIT fifteen feet high and twenty feet across and deep. The other two walls are dotted with smaller buildings, and the center of the courtyard houses an ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY. The entire courtyard his ringed with LAMPPOSTS.
There was clearly a battle here, and recently. Some of the buildings are still smouldering, and the courtyard is strewn with debris. A JALOPY of an armored car is flipped on its back, partially in a new CRATER.
More than a dozen BODIES, rebelling laborers by their attire, are piled by the crater. Three WELL-DRESSED BODIES hang from lampposts.
A half-dozen GUARDS are cleaning the area, carrying a few more bodies to the crater and clearing debris.
A WELL-DRESSED MAN, wearing an outfit reminiscent of an Alliance uniform, looks up at the bodies by the lampposts. We do not see his face.
Pulls up and Geoffrey and his guards get off, Mal and Zoe a step behind.
Geoffrey has to yell to be heard over the sounds of the irrigation unit. The Well-Dressed Man begins to turn.
The grain shipment is here!
Mal’s eyes go wide, and his hand drops to his gun. The Well-Dressed Man, Patrician Cariss, is also the Officer from the teaser.