JC (god_of_belac) wrote in virtual_firefly,
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Season 1, Episode 20: War Crimes

War Crimes

Episode 1x20:
“WAR CRIMES”

Written by
J. C. Ravage

Edited by
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.

ZOE
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.

OFFICER
(grim, smug)
You give me trouble, you die.

He shoots the prisoner dead.

OFFICER (cont’d)
[Feces-colored vagrant.]

The Officer moves to the other prisoner.

OFFICER (cont’d)
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.

MAL
Jesus in Heaven, [have mercy on him, for I sure won't]!

Mal cocks his gun.

ZOE
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.

ZOE (cont’d)
It’s too late.

Mal knows she right, but doesn’t want to accept it.

ZOE (cont’d)
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.

MAL (OS)
(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.

MAL (cont’d)
(to Inara)
Where were we?

INARA
We were talking about how you’re not taking me to Bena.

MAL
I’ll get you to your training house soon enough, I promise—

INARA
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!

MAL
I have work now, and so do you.

INARA
(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.

MAL
Don't know what you need all night for. Any whore worth her salt can get the job done in ten minutes.

INARA
That's what separates a Companion from a whore. Not that I expect you'll ever have cause to know the difference.

MAL
I thought it was that fancy registration Nandi's girls didn't have.

At the mention of the name, they both freeze. Beat.

MAL (cont’d)
Anyways, you mistake my meaning. Didn't say you couldn't stay the night.

INARA
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?

MAL
You're smart, went to whore academy. Use some of them fancy tricks they taught you.

Inara glares daggers at him.

MAL (cont’d)
I ain't lettin’ that cruiser catch us on the ground, noways. And I'd find it very unpleasant to leave my shuttle behind—

INARA
Oh, it's your shuttle, now?

MAL
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.

MAL (cont’d)
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

BELOW

Where Zoe and Jayne look up from their work.

MAL (cont’d)
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.

MAL (cont’d)
(to Kaylee)
Thought you and your dad fixed us up.

KAYLEE
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.

KAYLEE (cont’d)
Dorsal boot’s worn… Couple of couplings… Inertial dampener’s locking… That’s what the shake is—

MAL
What's that one do again?

KAYLEE
Can’t boost without it. Well, you could, but we’d all be streaks on the walls… Forty gees of pressure.

MAL
Well, you don't let that happen, all right? I like being all three-dimensional.
(to everyone)
Why's everything have to break now?

Zoe doesn’t even look up at him.

ZOE
I’d say karma, sir, but that don’t explain why it’s happenin’ to me, too.

KAYLEE
Maybe we can get replacement parts with some of the take?

MAL
Long’s you don’t spend more’n we make.
(to Zoe)
Mule prepped?

ZOE
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.

RIVER
She's gone.

MAL
Not yet, little one. Just off servicing.

RIVER
No, she's gone inside. Not her in there.

MAL
Who's in there then?

RIVER
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.

RIVER (cont’d)
You're all hollow too.

He smiles, trying to make light, but it’s a halfhearted smile.

MAL
Okay, that's just a bit weird.
(pinches himself)
I feel substantial. Pudgy, even.
(yells down to Zoe)
Zoe, am I a ghost?

ZOE
Sometimes I'm amazed you're not one yet, sir.

MAL
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.

MAL
Kaylee?

KAYLEE
(nervous)
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.

WASH
(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.

WASH (cont’d)
Now!




Act 1

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.

MAL
What the gorram—

WASH
Aintiaircraft missile.

MAL
What?

WASH
Sure wasn’t a duck.

MAL
Inara?

WASH
I think she got off okay.

ZOE
Why would they be shooting at us?

Jayne saunters in.

JAYNE
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.

MAL
Them hills over there? Can you set us down?

JAYNE
Set us down? We should be leavin’!

ZOE
Can’t leave—

MAL
—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.

WASH
Captain, the inertial dampener—

MAL
(nodding)
I know. Going. Which is what we should be doin’.

ZOE
So what do we do? Can’t go back and make the delivery like this.

JAYNE
I say we leave. Ruttin’ grain we’re ferrying ain’t worth dyin’ over.

MAL
We can’t leave Inara behind!

Beat, as everyone, even Wash, looks at him.

BOOK
What’s happened?

JAYNE
Missiles from town. Somebody don’t like us. Surprise, surprise.

BOOK
(to Mal)
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.

JAYNE
(to Wash)
Why didn’t you give ‘em the code?

WASH
Nobody told me about a code!

MAL
Never mind about no code. Just set us down. Try not to crash us too badly.

WASH
I ever crash us, Captain, it’ll be a work of art.

MAL
Ain’t payin’ ya for art.

Wash smiles up.

WASH
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.

WASH
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.

GEOFFREY
Am I speaking to the crew of Serenity?

MAL
That you are.

GEOFFREY
Captain Reynolds, I assume? I must apologize for the rude greeting. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Patrician Geoffrey Landon.

MAL
You shot at us, Geoffrey.

GEOFFREY
We didn’t, I can assure you…
(beat)
There was some… local unpleasantness.

JAYNE
He ain’t seen unpleasant. Not ‘til I—

Zoe glares at him.

GEOFFREY
(apparently none the wiser)
It’s been taken care of, however.

In the image, Geoffrey looks over his shoulder.

MAL
What ain’t you tellin’ me?

GEOFFREY
Things are quite safe, I can assure you. There won’t be a repeat of the, er, weapons malfunction we experienced earlier.

MAL
Ain’t what I’m asking.
(beat, no response from Geoffrey)
What about Cariss? He’s the man set up the job.

GEOFFREY
Patrician Cariss is currently unavailable, but has asked that I discuss business matters with you.

JAYNE
Because Patrician Cariss’s dead.

Again, a glare from Zoe.

GEOFFREY
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.

MAL
We launched a shuttle right before we got fired on. You know if it got to where it was headin’ safe?

GEOFFREY
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.

ZOE
(quietly, to Mal)
I’m sure she’s all right, sir.

Mal ignores her.

MAL
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.

WASH
(stage whisper)
And a new inertial dampener.

MAL
And a new inertial dampener. And some other parts. I’ll have a list.

GEOFFREY
That may be difficult to arrange—

MAL
Someone’s got to eat and it ain’t us.

Geoffrey shifts offscreen for a moment, perhaps conferring with someone.

WASH
Actually, it is us.

Zoe gives him her “If you want to have sex soon, you’ll shut up” look.

GEOFFREY
I’ll arrange it. As a show of good faith, I’ll come pick you up personally.

JAYNE
Yeah, here’s a good plan.

MAL
(ignoring Jayne)
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.

WASH
Isn’t this a farming community? What do they need with grain?

BOOK
We do seem to be bringing coal to Newcastle.

JAYNE
It’s grain, Shepherd. Ain’t coal.

ZOE
(ignoring them)
I don’t like this.

WASH
Maybe we should just eat the grain. Cut out the middle man.

MAL
(ignoring Wash)
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.

INARA
(bowing)
Salaam Aleikum.

IBRAHIM
Aleikum Salaam.

INARA
(stepping aside)
Please, come in.

Ibrahim enters the shuttle and Inara closes the door behind him.

IBRAHIM
Your images do not do you justice.

Inara smiles and invites him further into the shuttle.

IBRAHIM (cont’d)
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.

INARA
Actually, our vessel appeared to be under fire as I left. Is there any way you could confirm its status for me?

IBRAHIM
I can certainly do that, but would you mind waiting? I’m quite anxious to… become acquainted.

INARA
(tight smile)
Of course.


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.

GEOFFREY
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.

GEOFFREY (cont’d)
And where is the rest of the grain?

MAL
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.

KAYLEE
And the parts, Cap’n! Don’t forget the parts!

She moves toward Geoffrey, pulling out a greasy piece of paper to show him.

KAYLEE (cont’d)
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.

GEOFFREY
I think we can arrange… some of that.

BACK ON THE RAMP

Mal sidles up to Jayne.

MAL
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.

MAL (cont’d)
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.

MAL (cont’d)
So, Geoffrey…
(beat)
Why’d you shoot at us?

Geoffrey starts.

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.

GEOFFREY
We didn’t shoot at you.

MAL
Somebody sure did. If it wasn’t you, makes me wonder if I shouldn’t be talkin’ to somebody else about the grain.

CHU
Patrician Cariss has everything well in hand.

Geoffrey turns around, looking Mal in the eye.

GEOFFREY
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.

MAL
What else ain’t you telling us? Why’s a farming colony so gorram desperate for something you can grow yourself?

GEOFFREY
Crop blight.

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.

GEOFFREY (cont’d)
Hence our need for the blight-resistant grain you’re carrying. The workers believed we’ve been hoarding grain in the warehouses.

ZOE
Have you?

GEOFFREY
Yes.

Mal and Zoe exchange a look.

GEOFFREY (cont’d)
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.

MAL
(grudgingly)
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.

GEOFFREY
The workers would not have rationed. Common rabble with no vision of the future. They’d eat tomorrow to starve next year.

ZOE
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.

ZOE
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.

GEOFFREY
Why aren’t these citizens back at work?

GUARD
Patrician Cariss wants everyone confined to town until everything’s settled, sir.

ZOE
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.

CITIZEN
Food! Please!

CHILD
Help!

Geoffrey looks past them to the nearest guard.

GEOFFREY
Contact Patrician Cariss. We need to get these people back to work.

MAL
Ask me, these folk don’t look up for much work.

GEOFFREY
On this world, if they don’t work, no one eats.

Another look between Zoe and Mal.

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.

GEOFFREY
Shoo! Shoo!

Mal and Zoe each toss a couple coins into the waiting hands.

GEOFFREY
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.

THE SKIFF

Pulls up and Geoffrey and his guards get off, Mal and Zoe a step behind.

GEOFFREY (cont’d)
Patrician Cariss!

Geoffrey has to yell to be heard over the sounds of the irrigation unit. The Well-Dressed Man begins to turn.

GEOFFREY (cont’d)
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.

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