Firefly - "Shindig"

(Original Air Date: November 1, 2002)

Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: Vern Gillum

Guest Cast:
Mark A. Sheppard as "Badger"
Edward Atterton as "Atherton Wing"
Larry Drake as "Sir Warrick Harrow"
Carl Bresk as "Wright"
Larry Pennell as "Murphy"
Michael McMillian as "Younger Hopeful"
Joshua Grenrock as "Porter"
Kim Onasch as "Banning"
Janora McDuffie as "Cabott"
Casey Piotrowski as "Older Farmer"
Hunter Cochran as "Younger Farmer
Roy Werner as "Gentleman"

Episode #: 1AGE03

SHOOTING SCRIPT - August 2, 2002

Teaser

INT. POOL HALL - NIGHT (NIGHT 1)

It's dark, smoky. Four tables are in play. There are about 15 people in here, mostly men. A BARTENDER serves beer in heavy wooden bowls. Small tables line the edges of the room.

MAL and JAYNE play two other men, WRIGHT and HOLDER. INARA, in a beautiful outfit, watches and holds a small glass of pink liqueur. She is the only color, only elegance.

WRIGHT is lining up a shot and talking at the same time. His cue has a ring of light right before the tip.

WRIGHT
Didn't hardly have to convert the
ship, even.
(re: shot)
Six in the corner. Stronger locks,
thicker doors, keep everybody where
they're s'posed to be. Don't even
need more rations.

As he sights along his cue, all the balls on the table flicker, disappearing for a moment, then reappearing. A general DISGUSTED GROAN comes from every player in the room.

WRIGHT (cont'd)
< Hey! > [Way!]

He looks toward the Bartender, as do other patrons. The Bartender points, bored, to a crude Sign: "MANAGEMENT NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR BALL FAILURE" (It also says it in Chinese.)

Wright attempts his shot, Doesn't sink the ball.

WRIGHT (cont'd)
Flicker threw me off.

Mal's turn. He walks around, examines the table.

JAYNE
(to Wright)
You made money?

WRIGHT
Hand over fist, my friend. Border
planets need labor. Terraforming
crews got a prodigious death rate.

MAL
Side pocket.

Mal makes his shot, lines up another.

MAL (cont'd)
Labor. You mean slaves.

WRIGHT
They wasn't volunteers, for damn sure.

MAL
That why you didn't hafta to lay in
more rations?

WRIGHT
I didn't hear no complaints.

Wright and Holder laugh.

JAYNE
How much money? Lots?

Mal misses a shot and steps back by Inara. She's brushing cigarette ashes off a chair, making a place to sit.

MAL
There's a chance you may wanna head
back to the ship.

INARA
Oh, I'm all right. This is
entertaining, actually.

MAL
(amused, disbelieving)
Yeah? What's entertaining?

INARA
I like watching the game. As with
other situations, the key seems to be
giving Jayne a heavy stick and
standing back.

ANGLE ON: Jayne, sinking one of the few remaining balls. Mal smiles at Inara, but:

MAL
Still think you might oughtta clear
out 'fore too much longer. Seems
there's a thief about.

INARA
A thief?

Mal leans in close, slips Inara a handful of paper money.

MAL
He took this right off 'em. They
earned that with the sweat of their
slave-tradin' brows.

INARA
Mal!

MAL
Terrible shame. 'Course, they won't
notice it 'til they go to pay for
their next drink --

WRIGHT (O.S.)
Hey! [Way!]

MAL
(to Inara)
Good drinker, that one.

Wright's hand falls heavily on Mal's shoulder. Mal spins and LANDS A MIGHTY PUNCH.

Behind them, Holder jumps to help Wright. Jayne TACKLES HIM.

Inara jumps back against a wall, as Wright KICKS MAL'S LEGS from under him. Mal falls.

Holder is up again, swinging a pool cue at Jayne.

Mal, on the floor, grabs the base of a small table and rams it UP at Wright. Wright flies back.

It's a melee. Other patrons jump to join.

Inara jumps when a GLASS SHATTERS near her head. She heads toward the door, fast. She passes the bartender as she goes.

INARA
(dryly)
Lovely place. I'll tell my friends.

END OF TEASER
Act One

EXT. SERENITY / PERSEPHONE - EFFECT

Descending out of orbit over Persephone.

INT. SERENITY - BRIDGE - DAY (DAY 2) / EFFECT

WASH pilots Serenity closer to the surface. ZOE stands behind his chair, hand on Wash's shoulder, looking out.

As they approach, Persephone comes between them and this system's sun; the planet's shadow moves over their faces. Zoe bends down close to Wash, a couple enjoying a sunset.

WASH
It seem to you we cleared outta Santo
in a hurry?

ZOE
Seems to me we do that a lot. Heard
tell though, we're gonna stay a while
on Persephone, upwards of a week
maybe.

Wash whistles through his teeth.

WASH
Shiny.

ZOE
Yeah? Thought you'd get land-crazy,
that long in port.

WASH
Prob'ly. But I been sane a long
while now, and change is good.

Mal joins them. Looks out past them at the planet.

MAL
Well, ain't that a joyful sight.

WASH
Gotta love a sunset.

ZOE
Startin' to get familiar, too. Like
a second home.

MAL
(firmly)
Persephone is not home. Too many
people we need to avoid. Resupply,
look for work, move along. We sniff
the air, we don't kiss the dirt.

ZOE
Wasn't planning on the dirt-kissing,
Sir.

WASH
I wouldn't stand for it anyways,
Captain. Jealous man like me.
(re: piloting)
Closin' in.

ZOE
Planet's coming up a might fast.

WASH
Just means I'm going down too quick.
Likely crash and kill us all.

As Mal exits:

MAL
That happens, let me know.

INT. INARA'S SHUTTLE - DAY

Inara sits facing a Cortex screen that hangs on the wall like a mirror. There is local data across the top of the screen: "Persephone", the local time (10 am), ship's status (docked) The main part of the screen is labeled "Responses". The screen features 12 small pictures -- 10 men, 2 women. Text under each picture gives a name. Inara touches three pictures and they disappear.

Inara looks at the ones that remain. She touches one of the pictures and it expands to fill the screen. It's a taped request from a pale YOUNG HOPEFUL (man).

YOUNG HOPEFUL
(on tape, nervous)
I understand your time on our planet
is limited.
And if you've selected my proposal to
hear, then the honor that you do me
flatters my...
(searches for words)
My honor... and I hope--

Inara taps the screen. The field of nine photos is back. Before she can select another, a CHIME sounds and the screen fills with the live (not recorded) image of ATHERTON WING.

Atherton is handsome, 30's with just enough charm to offset his aura of entitlement. Inara smiles at the sight of him.

ATHERTON
(over the link)
Now there's the smile made of
sunlight.

INARA
Atherton! How wonderful to see you.

ATHERTON
Did you get my message? I was extra
appealing.

INARA
Yesterday. I listened to yours
first. What a flattering invitation.
I had no idea I was arriving in time
for the Social Event of the Season.

ATHERTON
We only have four or five of those a
year, you know. So you'll accompany
me, I ask, heart in my throat? There
is a certain offer I'm still waiting
to hear about.

SFX: KNOCK AT THE DOOR

INARA
Yes, I imagine there is. I'm
delighted to say I'll be there. Now,
I'm sorry, Atherton, I have to run.

ATHERTON
I understand, I'll see you soon,
< sweetheart > [bao bay].

She severs the connection. His image freezes on the screen.

INARA
Come in.

Mal enters. Inara sets the screen on a table.

INARA (cont'd)
Good afternoon, Captain.

MAL
Morning. We're downing, and in case
Wash don't kill us all, local time's
gonna be in the a.m., ten or so.

INARA
(why are you really
here?)
Yes, I saw that.

Mal gestures toward the screen, trying to seem casual.

MAL
Making plans?

Inara tenses. He doesn't wait for an answer from her. He looks closely at the screen.

MAL (cont'd)
"Atherton Wing". He's a regular,
ain't he?

Inara blanks the screen.

INARA
I've seen him before.

MAL
Well, I never did. Not what I
pictured. Young. Must be rich too,
to afford your rates.

INARA
I suppose. He has engaged me for
several days.

MAL
Days. The boy must have stamina.

INARA
He does.

Mal tries not to look stung.

MAL
Well... fine. Is he lettin' you out
at all?

INARA
Actually, we're attending a ball
tomorrow night.

MAL
Tell me, all the men there have to
pay for their dates, or just the
young rich ones with stamina?

INARA
Most of the women there will not be
Companions, if that's what you're
asking. Perhaps the other men
couldn't attract one.

MAL
Huh. Sounds like the finest party I
can imagine getting paid to go to.

INARA
I don't suppose you'd find it up the
standards of your outings. More
conversation and somewhat less petty
theft and getting hit with pool cues.

Inara moves to the door, a clear invitation. to leave.

INARA (cont'd)
I understand, if you need to go
prepare for that "it's ten in the
morning" issue.

MAL
Yeah. Better do that. Cuz I think
this is more of an evening look.

He exits.

EXT. STREET - DAY (DAY 2)

Outside a line of shops on Persephone. KAYLEE, Zoe, Jayne, Wash and Mal are carrying some supplies back to the Mule.

The women and Wash walk ahead, then Jayne, then Mal. Mal carries a heavy burlap sack.

They pass a high-class dress shop. There are three live MODELS behind the electronic window, walking and posing, showing off their gowns. Kaylee stops short, and Zoe almost runs into her.

KAYLEE
Ooh. Look at the pretties.

Zoe looks, and Wash joins her.

WASH
What am I looking at? The girls or
the clothes?

Jayne stops short:

JAYNE
(immediately)
There's girls?

ZOE
(answering Wash,
overlapping)
The clothes, please.

Jayne looks too. Mal is forced to stop, wait.

KAYLEE
(pointing)
Say. Look at the fluffy one.

ZOE
Too much foofaraw. If I'm gonna wear
a dress, I want something with slink.

WASH
(quickly)
You want a slinky dress? I can buy
you a slinky dress. Captain, can I
have money for a slinky dress?

JAYNE
I'll chip in.

ZOE
(casually, to Jayne)
I can hurt you.

KAYLEE
Only place I ever seen something so
nice is some of the things Inara has.

MAL
We'd best be movin'--

ZOE
Guess she needs all that stuff, life
she leads.

KAYLEE
Well, sure. And sometimes the
customers buy her things. She knows
some real rich men--

MAL
Come on. T'ain't feathers I'm toting
here, you know.

KAYLEE
I like the ruffles. Inara gets to
wear whatever she--

MAL
What would you do in that rig?
Flounce around the engine room? Be
like a sheep walkin' on its hind legs.

Jayne snorts a laugh at that. Kaylee's face shows she's hurt. Zoe shoots Mal a hard look. She takes Mal's burden effortlessly. She, Kaylee and Wash head o.s. toward the Mule.

ZOE
(coldly)
See you on the ship, Captain.

Mal instantly regrets what he said.

MAL
< Kick me in the bottom. > [Tee wuh duh
pee-goo.]

JAYNE
Is she mad or something?

There's a series of meaningful CLICKS behind him.

Mal and Jayne turn to find themselves facing BADGER, a cockney criminal, a slice of local color with a fine hat.

Three of his LADS are with him, covering Jayne -- the clicks were the cocking of their guns. Mal nods politely, as if this is a normal way to run into an old acquaintance.

MAL
Badger.

BADGER
Captain Reynolds. Heard you was in
town. Thought we might have a bit of
a sit-down.

MAL
I'd prefer a bit of a "piss off."

BADGER
I'm very sorry. Did I give you the
impression I was asking?

INT. BADGER'S LAIR - DAY

Badger, Mal and Jayne sit uncomfortably around a cable-spool table. Badger pours tea. Jayne eats from a plate of cookies.

MAL
Seems to me, last time there was a
chance for a little palaver, we were
all manner of unwelcome...

JAYNE
(re: tea)
That's not bad.

BADGER
(to Jayne,
confidentially)
There's a trick to it. Wood alcohol.

Mal continues as if he hadn't been interrupted.

MAL
Now, we're favored guests, treated to
the finest in beverages that make you
blind. So what is it you need?

Jayne pours himself more tea, reaching across Mal.

JAYNE
'Scuse me.

BADGER
There's this local, name of Warrick
Harrow. He's got some property he
wants to sell off-planet, to fetch a
higher price.

MAL
But the local powers won't let him
sell off-world.

BADGER
It's a conundrum. What my man Harrow
needs hisself, is a smuggler. 'M
willing to cut you in on it.

MAL
Why me? You've got access to ships.
You could do it yourself.

BADGER
(reluctant)
He won't deal with me direct. Taken
an irrational dislike.

JAYNE
(mouth full)
What happened? He see your face?

BADGER
(ignoring Jayne)
He's a quality gent. Nose in the air
like he never < smelled a fart > [wun
gwo pee]. Don't find me respectable.
You, I figure, you got a chance.

MAL
You backed out of a deal, last time.
Left us hanging.

JAYNE
Hurt our feelings.

MAL
You recall why that took place?

BADGER
I had a problem with your attitude,
is why. Felt you was, what's the
word?

JAYNE
Pretentious?

Mal shoots Jayne a look.

BADGER
Exactly. You think you're better'n
other people.

MAL
Just the ones I'm better than.
(then)
Now, I thinkin' that very quality is
the one you're placing value on today.

BADGER
I place value on the fact that the
stick up your < bottom > [pee-goo] is
'bout as large as the one Harrow's
got.

Jayne barks a laugh at that. Mal shoots him another look.

MAL
How would you even set up a meet, man
won't deal with you?

BADGER
I know a place he'll be. Safe place,
using some new-tech gun scans. High
class, too. They wouldn't let me in
there, but you might slip by.
'Course you couldn't buy an invite
with a diamond size of a testicle.
But I got my hands on a couple.

Mal raises his eyebrows for a pregnant beat.

BADGER (cont'd)
(clarifying)
...of invites. You want the meeting
or not?

Mal considers.

BADGER (cont'd)
You want to do business in
Persephone. you do it through me.
But if you're so well off you don't
need it...

INT. SERENITY - ENGINE ROOM - DAY (DAY 2)

Kaylee is working on the engine. Mal enters.

MAL
Kaylee.

She avoids his eyes, busies herself with her work. No answer.

MAL (cont'd)
Kaylee.

KAYLEE
I'm not speaking to you, Captain.

MAL
Got no need to speak... C'mon.

He turns to go, matching her coldness.

MAL (cont'd)
Got a job for you.

INT. PARTY - FOYER - NIGHT (DAY 3)

Atherton Wing ushers Inara into the richly decorated foyer of a large public building. They are dressy and elegant.

ATHERTON
After you...

The ballroom is beyond, through an ornate arch -- there is no visible machinery associated with the arch. Two couples are in front of them, waiting to go through. A DECORATED OFFICIAL stands to the side of the arch.

ANGLE ON THE ARCHWAY

One couple passes through. A PORTER, his back visible through the arch, can be heard, slightly muffled, as he announces them to the room beyond.

PORTER
William and Lady Cortland.

The next couple, equally elegant, heads for the arch. The woman steps through, but the WELL-DRESSED MAN is held in place by something unseen.

A PLEASANT CHIME SOUNDS.

The Well-Dressed Man is not harmed, not struggling, but he can't move forward. He steps back, smiles at the Official.

WELL-DRESSED MAN
Terribly sorry. Oversight.

He removes a small pistol from a suit jacket pocket, hands it to the Official. He passes though the arch to join his date.

PORTER
Colonel Cyrus Momsen and escort.

Atherton and Inara step through.

INT. PARTY - BALLROOM - CONTINUOUS

Atherton and Inara enter.

PORTER
Atherton Wing and Inara Serra.

We see the room now, filled with elegant party-goers, circulating waiters, live musicians, a buffet table...

Fresh food means money, so many of the decorations feature huge bowls of fruit. There is also a hovering chandelier.

Atherton and Inara move into the room. Inara waves at someone, exchanges air kisses with another woman.

INARA
Roberta, it's been too long.

She greets an elderly man sitting in a chair:

INARA (cont'd)
< You're looking wonderful, old
friend >. [Lao pung yo, nee can chi
lai hun yo jing shen]

They move on. Atherton talks softly into her ear.

ATHERTON
Half the men in this room wish you
were on their arm tonight.

INARA
Only half? I must be losing my
undefinable allure.

ATHERTON
Not that undefinable. All of them
wish you were in their bed.

Inara finds that in bad taste. She looks away, changes the topic.

INARA
I'm looking for the boy with the
shimmerwine.

ATHERTON
Oh, she blushes.
(considering)
Not many in your line of work do
that. You, you are a singular woman
and I find,
(stammering,
sincere)
I find I admire you more and more.

Inara stops and looks at him, touched.

ATHERTON (cont'd)
I'm trying to give you something, you
know. A life. If you want it.

INARA
Atherton...

ATHERTON
You can live here, on Persephone. As
my personal companion.

INARA
You are a generous man.

ATHERTON
That's not a "yes".

INARA
(after a beat)
It's not a "no" either.

Inara greets another acquaintance.

INARA (cont'd)
(to a woman)
You look gorgeous, dear.

Atherton spots a glass of champagne -- a waiter is passing with a tray. Atherton lifts the glass and offers it to Inara in one smooth move. She smiles, delighted.

ATHERTON
You belong here, Inara, not on that
flying piece of < crap > [gos se].
You see that, don't you?

INARA
Atherton, language.

ATHERTON
What, "piece of < crap > [gos se]"?
But it is a piece of < crap > [gos se].

PORTER (O.S.)
Miss Kaywinnit Lee Frye and escort.

Inara turns her head sharply and a little rudely away from Atherton, startled into looking at the door.

INARA
Kaylee?

ON KAYLEE

She enters, eyes wide, soaking it all in. She wears the ruffled dress from the window and looks beautiful. She carries a glittery evening bag. She's Cinderella at the ball.

Mal steps forward to join her. He is in his Sunday best, something dark and Rhett Butler-y, maybe a cut-away coat.

ACROSS THE ROOM,

Inara stares, locking in on Mal.

INARA
Oh < crap > [gos se]

END OF ACT ONE
Act Two

INT. PARTY FOYER - CONTINUING

Mal and Kaylee make their way into the party. Her eyes are bright and wide as she takes it all in at once. Mal is trying to look cool and cosmopolitan, but is actually almost as impressed as Kaylee. He tugs at his suit.

MAL
Does this seem kind of... tight?

KAYLEE
Shows off your backside. Didja see
the chandelier? It's hovering

Mal looks up at the chandelier.

MAL
What's the point of that, I wonder?

KAYLEE
Ooh, pineapples.

Mal is still eyeing the chandelier.

MAL
I mean, I get how they did it. I
just ain't seeing the why.

KAYLEE
These girls have the most beautiful
dresses. And so do I, how 'bout that!

MAL
Well, careful with it. We cheated
Badger outta good money to buy that
frippery. You're s'posed to make me
look respectable.

KAYLEE
Yes sir, Captain Tightpants.

Mal starts looking around, seeking someone out.

MAL
I'm looking for our guy, Harrow.

KAYLEE
And Inara. We should look for her,
right? Just to hallo at her.

MAL
(too casual)
If we see her. Think she's wearing
green.

Kaylee is distracted by a passing group of attractive young men in fancy clothes.

KAYLEE
(to Mal, too loudly)
Say, lookit the boys!

Nearby party-goers glance over. Mal winces. Kaylee doesn't notice.

KAYLEE (cont'd)
Some of them's pretty as the doctor.

She stares, struck speechless, as a waiter passes, carrying a huge BOWL OF ENORMOUS STRAWBERRIES to the buffet table.

MAL
Help me find our man. S'posed to be
older, kinda stocky, wearing a red
sash crossways.

Kaylee never takes her eyes off the strawberries.

KAYLEE
Why's he doing that?

MAL
Maybe he won the Miss Persephone
pageant. Help me look.

KAYLEE
That him?

Mal looks where she's pointing, at the buffet table.

MAL
That's the buffet table.

KAYLEE
How can we be sure? You know, unless
we question it?

MAL
Fine. Don't make yourself sick.

Kaylee flashes him a big smile.

KAYLEE
< Thank you > [Sheh-sheh], Cap'n!

And she's off to the buffet. Mal heads off on his own.

INT. SERENITY COMMON AREA / KITCHEN - NIGHT

SIMON, BOOK and Jayne play Chore poker. It looks like five card draw, only instead of chips, they're playing for pieces of paper. Each man has a collection of scraps in front of him -- Simon has the least and Book the most. Simon shuffles.

SIMON
Ante up, gentlemen.
(antes piece of paper)
Dishes.

BOOK
(anteing)
Dishes. Could do with less of them.

JAYNE
(anteing)
Garbage.

Simon completes the deal. The three men study their cards.

BOOK
I'll take two.

JAYNE
(re: his hand)
Speakin' of garbage.
(then)
Gimme three.

SIMON
And one for the dealer.

Simon gives out the cards.

BOOK
What do you s'pose the Captain and
Kaylee are doing now?
(betting)
Septic flush.

JAYNE
Eatin' steaks off plates made a'
solid money, like as anything. I
fold.

SIMON
Me too.

JAYNE
Take it, Shepherd.

BOOK
Thank you, gents. That's a nice pile
of things I don't have to do.

The CAMERA FINDS River, sitting in the kitchen, next to a box of supplies. She takes the label off a can of peaches.

RIVER
There it is, there it is. It's
always there if you look for it.
Everybody sees and nobody sees it...

BACK AT THE GAME:

Jayne shuffles.

SIMON
The party is probably a buffet. And
there'll be dancing. And beautiful
women. Dozens of them.

JAYNE
And you can dance with any of 'em?

SIMON
Well, there are social conventions,
ways of asking, ways of declining...

BOOK
It sounds very complicated. I'll
never understand why it's considered
a sacrifice to live a simple life.

JAYNE
Yeah. I wouldn't trade this for
nothing, playing cards for a night
off from septic flush duty.

IN THE KITCHEN,

River has three cans unlabeled, and she's crushing a box of crackers. It has a visible, not emphasized, "Blue Sun" on it. She gets more violent and loud as she continues.

RIVER
These are the ones that take you!
Little ones in the corner that you
almost don't see. But they're the
ones that reach in and do it.
They're the ones with teeth and you
have to smash them!

AT THE GAME,

River's ranting is audible now. Simon drops his cards and goes to her. Book follows.

SIMON
River?

BOOK
Is she hurt?

JAYNE
Better see to her.
(called after)
Bad habit for a fugitive. She's
gonna do that in public some day, get
herself hauled off.

Jayne moves a few exemptions from Book's pile to his own.

IN THE KITCHEN

Simon has an arm around River, calming her down. Book looks at the supplies. River rants the whole time.

SIMON
River, it's me. Calm down.

BOOK
she didn't harm much.
(re cans)
We'll have a few mystery
meals.

SIMON
River, it's okay. It's
okay.

RIVER
A million things, and the
little ends of the roots go
everywhere and when you
brush your teeth or all the
little blue things are
there but no one says it
because, because sometimes
they're afraid. And then
they come....

She winds down, stops talking. Book and Simon relax.

JAYNE
So, we gonna play cards, or we gonna
screw around?

INT. ZOE AND WASH'S QUARTERS - SAME TIME

Wash and Zoe in a post-coital tangle, limbs and sheets, exhausted and happy.

ZOE
Thought you wanted to spend time
off-ship this visit.

WASH
Seems like out there it's all fancy
parties. I like our party better.
The dress code's easier and I know
all the steps.

Zoe's eyes are closing.

ZOE
I'd say you do, at that.

WASH
Don't fall asleep now. Sleepiness is
weakness of character, ask anyone.

Zoe starts to laugh, her eyes still closed.

ZOE
It is not!

WASH
You're acting Captain. You know what
happens, you fall asleep?

ZOE
Jayne slits my throat and takes over?

WASH
That's right

ZOE
And we can't stop it?

WASH
I wash my hands of it. Hopeless
case. I'll read a nice poem at the
funeral. Something with imagery.

ZOE
You could lock the door. Keep the
power-hungry maniac at bay.

WASH
Don't know. I'm starting to like
this poetry thing. "Here lies my
beloved Zoe, my autumn flower,
somewhat less attractive now that
she's all corpse-ified and gross...

Zoe hits him with a pillow.

INT. PARTY

Back at the party, Kaylee approaches an attractive BOY (early 20s) who is watching the dancers.

KAYLEE
(re dancers)
Aren't they something? Like
butterflies or little pieces of
wrapping paper, blowing around...

The boy turns toward her and bows politely and moves away. But there's too much going on for Kaylee to be disappointed.

She joins a group of four GIRLS her age and younger, standing and gossiping. She waits until a group-laugh subsides.

KAYLEE (cont'd)
Hello!

One of the girls, BANNING, seems to be the queen bee. She looks at Kaylee in surprise.

BANNING
I don't... have we been introduced?

Kaylee grabs Banning's hand, shakes it with enthusiasm.

KAYLEE
I'm Kaylee.

BANNING
Banning. And this is Destra, Cabott,
and Zelle.

KAYLEE
Don't you love this party?
Everything's so fancy and there's
some kind of hot cheese over there.

CABOTT
It's not as good as last year.

KAYLEE
Really? What'd they have last year?

CABOTT
Standards.

Destra and Zelle giggle, but Banning looks sympathetic.

BANNING
You're not from Persephone, are you?

KAYLEE
I'm from Serenity. Neat little
Firefly class. I keep the engines.
She's a sweet runner.

BANNING
Uh-huh. Who made your dress, Kaylee?

KAYLEE
Oh, do you like it? When I saw the
ruffles, I just couldn't--

BANNING
You ought to see to your girl.

KAYLEE
< What? > [Shah muh?]

BANNING
(confidential)
Your girl. She's not very good. She
made you a dress looks like you
bought it in a store.

The other girls giggle again, but Banning plays it off with a straight face.

KAYLEE
Oh. I... I didn't know...

BANNING
I'm only trying to help. No one
wants you to look foolish...

A nearby guest, MURPHY, a kind-looking man in his 50s,. interrupts.

MURPHY
(off-hand, for
Kaylee's benefit)
Why Banning Miller, what a vision you
are in that fine dress. Must have
taken a dozen slaves a dozen days
just to get you into that get-up.
'Course your daddy tells me it takes
the space of a schoolboy's wink to
get you out of it again.

Banning leaves, mortified. Her friends are suppressing giggles.

MURPHY (cont'd)
(to Kaylee)
Forgive my rudeness. I can not abide
useless people.

SOME DISTANCE AWAY, MAL

Approaches HARROW, who is indeed wearing a red sash. Harrow is upper-crust, an acute observer with a strong code of behavior. He doesn't immediately take to rough-edged Mal.

MAL
Beg pardon, sir. But would you be
Mr. Warrick Harrow?

It's a bad start.

HARROW
Sir Warrick Harrow. The sash.

MAL
The sash.

HARROW
It indicates lordhood.

MAL
And it's, it's doing a great job.

Harrow moves a few steps away, dismissing Mal. Mal has to follow.

MAL (cont'd)
Sir, my name is Malcolm Reynolds. I
captain a ship, name of Serenity. I
mention this because I have been led
to understand you want to move some
property off-world...

Mal is distracted as INARA AND ATHERTON DANCE NEARBY. No one makes eye contact, but Mal and Inara are very aware of each other. Harrow observes this.

MAL (cont'd)
... some property off-world,
discreetly.

Harrow takes a closer look at Mal. Still not impressed.

HARROW
You're mistaken, sir. I'm an honest
man.

MAL
Seems to me, there's nothing
dishonest about getting your goods to
people what need them.

HARROW
You're concerned about the poor. And
yet, for what you're offering, you'd
want money, I imagine.

MAL
Well, sir. I think you'll find that
working with me is giving to the poor.

HARROW
Whom is it you represent?

MAL
"Represent" isn't exactly -

HARROW
Don't waste my time.

MAL
Fellow called Badger.

HARROW
I know him. And I think he's a
psychotic lowlife.

MAL
And I think calling him that is an
offense to the psychotic lowlife
community. But the deal is solid.

Mal is startled by a touch on his arm. He turns, surprised to see Atherton there. Inara, unsmiling, is at his elbow.

ATHERTON
Sorry to interrupt.
(a greeting)
Sir Harrow. I know you from the
club, I believe.

Harrow nods, coolly.

INARA
(resigned)
Captain, this is Atherton Wing.
Atherton, Captain Mal Reynolds.

Atherton and Mal shake hands, sizing each other up.

MAL
Pleased to meet'cha. Inara, I didn't
realize you were going to this party.

INARA
(icy)
It's the only party.

MAL
And I can see why. How 'bout that
floating chandelier?

Atherton circles Inara's arm with his hand... a gesture that is both affectionate and possessive.

ATHERTON
How do you come to be here, Captain?

MAL
Oh I love a party. I was just
telling that to my friend here.

ATHERTON
(to Harrow)
I didn't know you were acquainted.

HARROW
It is beginning to seem unavoidable.

Mal watches as Atherton's fingers shift on Inara's arm. We can see the white circle the pressure of his fingers has left. Mal sees that, makes a decision.

MAL
Ath. Can I call you Ath? Inara has
spoken of you to me. She made a
point of your generosity. Given
that, I'm sure you won't kick if I
ask Inara the favor of a dance.

Atherton hesitates, can't find a way out.

ATHERTON
Of course.

Atherton and Harrow end up standing side by side watching as Mal leads an angry Inara onto the dance floor.

CONTINUED

HARROW
(to Atherton)
You're a brave man.

ATHERTON
(clipped)
I know what's mine.

Harrow scowls, disliking Atherton.

MAL AND INARA

On the dance floor.

INARA
Why are you here?

The music begins for their dance -- it's a courtly and complicated dance, rather Regency England in style. Mal watches the other couples. It's easy at first, lots of walking around each other.

MAL
Business, same's you. I was talking
to a contact about a smuggling job,
and you came over to me.

INARA
You were staring at me.

MAL
I saw you, is all. You stand out.

The dance takes them apart for a few beats, bowing and curtsying to other couples.

Mal starts to make his curtsy mistake as in the Train Job, but he corrects it. They come back together and now dance palm-to-palm.

INARA
In this company, Captain, I believe
you are the one who stands out.

MAL
Maybe I just like watching a
professional at work, then. Is this
the hardest part, would you say, or
does that come later?

INARA
You have no call to try to make me
ashamed of my job. What I do is
legal, and how is that smuggling
coming?

MAL
My work's illegal, but it's honest.

INARA
What?!

MAL
While this... the lie of it... that
man parading you on his arm as if he
actually won you, as if he loves you,
and everyone going along with it.
How can that not bother you?

INARA
"Going along with it"?

MAL
He treats you like an ornament.
Other men look at you and discuss if
you're worth the cost. The women
talk behind their fans, picturing you
with their husbands. And to your
face, they're sweet as pie.

INARA
That's not true.

MAL
Well, I guess you'd know. It's not
my world.

INARA
These people like me, and I like
them. I like Atherton too, by the
way.

MAL
Well, sure, what's not to like? I'm
liable to sleep with him myself.

INARA
And he likes me, whether you see it
or not.

MAL
(dismissive)
Of course.

INARA.
He's made me an offer.

Mal didn't expect that.

INARA (cont'd)
You may think he doesn't honor me.
But he wants me to live here. I
would be his personal Companion. MAL
< Qow > [Wah!] That's as romantic as
a marriage proposal. No wait, it's
not.

INARA
It would be a good life, Mal. I
could belong here. Call me
pretentious, but there is some appeal
in that.

Mal reacts to the word "pretentious," startled by it. Beat.

MAL
I.. You're right. I got no call to
stop you.

Inara accepts that for the concession it is. Then:

INARA
I see Kaylee is here.

MAL
Girl was crying Cinderella tears.
shoulda seen her, when I said she
could have that layer cake she's
wearin'.

Inara relaxes a little.

INARA
I think she looks adorable.

MAL
Well, yeah, but I never said it.

KAYLEE

She's now surrounded by a group of gentlemen farmers, Murphy and his friends. Many of them are older, some young.

She's enjoying chocolate mints, talking with her mouth full. The men are laughing. The dialog overlaps as they debate:

KAYLEE
I'm not saying the eighty-oh-four's
hard to repair, it just ain't worth
it.

OLDER FARMER
It's a fine machine, keep it tuned--

KAYLEE
< No way >. [Tsai boo shr] The
extenders ain't braced.

MURPHY
(re: older farmer)
We've been tellin' him buy an eighty-
ten for years!

KAYLEE
(overlapping Murphy)
Those 'tenders snap off, it don't
matter how good the engine's cyclin'.

YOUNGER FARMER
(jumping in quick)
Miss Kaylee, I wonder if I could
request the honor of--

He's shouted down by the other men:

FARMERS
Dance later!/She's talking./Let her
talk.

KAYLEE
(to Murphy)
By the way, the eighty-ten's the same
machine. They changed the plating,
hoped no one'd notice!

If you knew these machines, oh, you'd find this hilarious. The men laugh, urging her on.

MAL AND INARA

The dance gets more complicated now, some tricky footwork. Inara and all the other dancers do it easily. Mal stumbles. He catches himself with hands around Inara's waist. As the music ends, he straightens himself out, grins at her.

MAL
Possible you were right before. This
ain't my kind of a party.

Inara can't help herself and she smiles. Atherton is suddenly there. He's seen enough. He takes her back roughly, hauling her by the arm.

MAL (cont'd)
Watch yourself there. No need for
any hands-on.

Guests, including Harrow, look at the public display.

ATHERTON
Excuse me. She's not here with you,
Captain. She's mine.

MAL
Yours? She don't belong to nobody.

ATHERTON
Money changed hands. Makes her mine
tonight. And no matter how you dress
her up, she's still--

Without warning, Mal hauls off and PUNCHES ATHERTON, lays him right down on the floor. Mal smiles and looks to Inara.

MAL
Turns out this is my kind of a party!

Harrow looks impressed, watching everything.

INARA
Oh, Mal...

MAL
What? Man was out of line--

ATHERTON
(as he rises)
I accept!

MAL
That's great. What?

GENTLEMAN
There has been a challenge!

Atherton is on his feet.

ATHERTON
I hope you're prepared, Captain.

MAL
You all talkin' 'bout a fight? Well,
fine, let's get out of here!

INARA
It's not a fist fight, Mal.

GENTLEMAN
The duel will be met tomorrow
morning, on Cadrie Hill.

MAL
why wait? Where's that guard? He
collected a whole mess a' pistols--

GENTLEMAN
If you require it, any gentleman here
can give you use of a sword.

MAL
Use of a... s'what?

END OF ACT TWO
Act Three

INT. PARTY - CONTINUING

People are where we left them. Mal looks confused. Harrow, Inara and the ballroom full of people look on.

MAL
I laid the fellow out. Seems to me
the transaction is complete. Also
satisfying.

GENTLEMAN
Everyone, enjoy the party, please.
There's no farther action here.

The crowd disperses, including Atherton, who moves away with an evil look at Mal. Kaylee separates herself from the crowd, moving in close to Mal.

KAYLEE
(to Mal)
What's going on?

MAL
Not rightly sure.
(to Harrow)
what's going on?

HARROW
Well, first off, you'll be put up in
lodgings for the night, so you don't
disappear. I wouldn't blame you,
incidentally. Wing may be a spoiled
dandy, but he's an expert swordsman.
He's killed a dozen men with a
longblade and you're the only one
gave him a reason.

MAL
This is a joke.

INARA
And he'll need a second.

MAL
What's that?

HARROW
I'll take on the job.

INARA
He fights if you refuse--

ATHERTON (O.S.)
Inara!

ANGLE ON ATHERTON: Waiting impatiently. She hesitates.

ATHERTON
Come with me, please.

MAL
(to Harrow)
You takin' this on, being my second.
Does this mean we're in business?

Harrow chuckles.

HARROW
It means you're in mortal danger.
But you mussed up Atherton's face and
that has endeared me to you somewhat.
You might even give him a fight
before he guts you.

ATHERTON
Inara!

Inara tears herself away, eyes still on Mal. Finally she turns, goes to Atherton. Mal watches her go.

KAYLEE
(apologetically
helpful)
Up 'til the punching, it was a real
nice party.

INT. SERENITY - CARGO BAY - DAY

Jayne is in the cargo bay, working out with those hanging rungs under the catwalk. His shotgun leans against a wall nearby.

He's interrupted by a loud metallic BANGING.

Jayne crosses and opens the door, (not the ramp, the door into the airlock) revealing Badger, holding a wrench. He's been banging on the door with it.

BADGER
(off-hand)
Your captain's gone and got hisself
in trouble.

TIME CUT TO:

INT. SERENITY - CARGO BAY - DAY

Badger stands near the infirmary end of the cargo bay. The assembled crew, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, Simon, Book, are gathered around, back to the closed ramp. (River isn't there.)

BOOK
A duel?

WASH
With swords?

SIMON
The captain's a good fighter. He
must know how to handle a sword.

Simon and Book look to Zoe hopefully.

ZOE
I think he knows which end to hold.

SIMON
All right. So now we just need to
figure how to get him out of there.

BOOK
We have until the morning, correct?
(to Badger)
Do you know what lodging he's in?

BADGER
Oh, this is embarrassing. Some of
you seem to be misapprehending my
purpose in being here.

Zoe stands. It's suddenly clear that now, this is her ship.

ZOE
You're here to make sure we don't do
what these men are keen on doing.

BADGER
Penny for the smart lady.
Persephone's my home. I gotta do
business with the people here. I
don't want it known I brought someone
in caused this kinda ruckus. We'll
just settle in here 'til this blows
over one way or t'other--

Jayne is suddenly there, at Badger's back, shotgun raised. He CRACKS BADGER OVER THE SKULL WITH IT.

Badger falls. Jayne points the gun at Badger's head.

ZOE
(calm)
Jayne. I wouldn't.

JAYNE
Why not?

Zoe looks toward the doorway. Jayne follows the look...

ANGLE ON THE DOORWAY: FOUR OF BADGER'S LADS: all of them with guns. One of them has a scared Kaylee by the arm.

KAYLEE
(small)
Hi.

Jayne sags.

INT. LODGING - MALL AND RQOM - NIGHT

Inara slips quietly down a hallway, like a modern hotel hall, only with Chinese numbers on the doors. And, oddly, round SMALLOW HOLES INSTEAD OF DOOR KNOBS (the holes don't go all the way through the doors). She stops at a closed door.

Now we get to see how a hotel key works. She is holding a small metal sphere with a small protruding round shaft. The sphere is about 2/3 the size of a regular doorknob. She holds it near the hole in the door and magnets pull it in. THE SHAFT FITS INTO THE HOLE ON THE DOOR AND, THUS, THE SPHERE BECOMES A DOORKNOB! The mechanism hums and A SMALL LIGHT COMES ON. She turns it, unlocking and opening the door.

She enters quietly and we see the room, again, not too different from a modern hotel room. A sword lies on the bed.

Mal, suit coat off, shirt sleeves rolled up, stands, back to her, brandishing a sword with ridiculous flourishes.

Inara makes a noise and Mal JUMPS. He spins to see her. His sword swings, hits the wall and the tip embeds in the plaster. The sword hangs there.

MAL
What are you doing here?

He tugs at the embedded sword, trying not to be obvious.

INARA
Atherton's a heavy sleeper, night
before a big day. He's got the
killing you in the morning, then a
haircut later.

MAL
It's such a comfort having friends
visit at a time like this.

Mal tugs the sword free. Inara looks around the room.

INARA
I knew the accommodations would be
nice. Atherton doesn't skimp.

MAL
Don't s'pose I like being kept by him
s'much as others do. How come you're
still attached to him?

INARA
Because it's my decision. Not yours.

MAL
Thought he made it pretty clear he's
got no regard for you.

INARA
You did manage to push him into
saying something, yes. Made a nice
justification for the punch.

MAL
He insulted you. I hit him. Seemed
like the thing to do. Why'd this get
so complicated?

INARA
Well, it's about to get simpler.
There's a back door. I have the desk
clerk on alert. He'll let us out.

MAL
I'm not gonna run off.

Inara looks at him, surprised.

MAL (cont'd)
No matter what you've got into your
head, I didn't do this to prove some
kinda point to you. I actually
thought I was defending your honor.
And I never back down from a fight.

INARA
Yes you do! You do all the time!

MAL
Yeah, okay. But I'm not backing down
from this one.

INARA
He's an expert swordsman, Mal. You
had trouble with that wall. How will
your death help my "honor "?

MAL
But see, I'm looking to have it be
his death. 'S why I need lessons.

Mal picks the other sword off the bed and throws it to her. She catches it expertly.

MAL (cont'd)
Figure you'd know how. Educated lady
like you.

INT. SERENITY - CARGO BAY

It's still a hostage situation here in the cargo bay.

Wash has his head down, trying to sleep. Book reads his Bible and prays silently.

Badger leans against the wall, eating a sandwich.

Jayne, Simon and Zoe talk quietly, pretending to play cards. Kaylee is bending over to talk to them.

KAYLEE
...but he said not to do anything.
He'll join us after he wins the duel.

JAYNE
And what if he don't win?

ZOE
It doesn't hurt to have a contingency
plan, Kaylee.

Kaylee moves away, unconvinced.

SIMON
I'm thinking; since we're unarmed, we
should take them by surprise all at
once.

ZOE
Not necessarily. We could lure one
or two of 'em away, say, to the
infirmary, take 'em out, be on Badger
'fore he knows what happened.

ANGLE ON THE DOORWAY FROM THE INFIRMARY: River appears. She looks blank and aimless. No one sees her, and the discussion continues.

JAYNE
Only if his attention's elsewhere.
We need a diversion. I say Zoe gets
nekkid.

Wash, without raising his head:

WASH
Nope.

JAYNE
I could get nekkid.

SIMON / ZOE / WASH
No!

Book looks up and sees River. He winces, but keeps his reaction small. He gets up casually and makes his way over to Simon. Book puts a hand on Simon's back.

SIMON
What?

BOOK
(whispers)
Don't look now. In the doorway.

ANGLE ON: River. She's stepped over the threshold now...

Simon tenses, starts to stand up.

SIMON
I'll get her out 'fore he spots her.

Simon heads toward River. Badger doesn't look up. Simon is at her, hand on her arm...

ANGLE ON: RIVER AND SIMON.

SIMON (cont'd)
(whispers)
River. You can't be here...

RIVER
(whispers)
There's things in the air in there.
Tiny things.

SIMON
Come on...

Simon tries to lead her back inside, but she pulls back, smiling a little, thinking it's a game.

RIVER
Pull, pull...

SIMON
River! Please!

BADGER (O.S.)
Who's this then?

Simon turns to see Badger, standing close. River avoids Badger's gaze, turning toward Simon for protection.

BADGER
Look at me. What's your story, luv?

River looks around, unfocused.

SIMON
She's just a passenger.

BADGER
(to Simon)
Yeah? Why ain't she talking? She
got a secret?

SIMON
No, I'm sure not--

RIVER
(in Badger's accent)
Sure, I got a secret. More'n one.

River raises her head, looks Badger in the eye. She's completely sane, unafraid, and she sounds like she's from his home town. She's also kinda pissed.

RIVER (cont'd)
Don't seem likely I'd tell 'em to
you, do it? Anyone off Dyton Colony
know's better'n to talk to strangers.

She picks something off Badger's lapel, looks at it, wipes it back onto him.

RIVER
You're talking loud enough for the
both of us, though, ain't you? I've
known a dozen like you. Skipped off
home early, minor graft jobs here and
there. Spent some time in the lock-
down, I warrant, but less than you
claim. Now you're what, petty thief
with delusions of standing? Sad
little king of a sad little hill.

After a beat...

BADGER
Nice to see someone from the old
homestead.

RIVER
Not really.
(to Simon)
Call me f'anyone interesting shows up.

BADGER
(to Simon)
I like her.

ANGLE ON: JAYNE and ZOE.

JAYNE
That there? 'Xactly the kind of
diversion we coulda used.

INT. MAL'S LODGING - PRE-DAWN

The furniture has been pushed to the walls. In the center of the cleared room, Inara and Mal face off, holding swords.

INARA
Attack.

He attacks, swinging the sword. She slips out of the way.

INARA (cont'd)
How did I avoid that?

MAL
By being fast like a freak.

INARA
No. Because you always attack the
same way, swinging from the shoulder
like you're chopping wood. You have
to thrust with the point sometimes,
or swing from the elbow;

MAL
Swinging from the shoulder feels
stronger.

She touches his arm, adjusting his swing, controlling it. It's an intimate touch.

INARA
It's also slower, Mal. You don't
need strength as much as speed.
We're fragile creatures. It takes
less than a pound of pressure to cut
skin.

MAL
You know that? They teach you that
at the whore academy?

Inara backs away, breaking the contact.

INARA
You have a strange sense of nobility,
Captain. You'll lay a man out for
implying I'm a whore, but you keep
calling me one to my face.

MAL
I might not show respect to your job,
but he didn't respect you. That's
the difference. Inara, he doesn't
even see you.

INARA
Well, I'm sure death will settle the
issue to everyone's satisfaction.

MAL
This < stupid > [yu bun duh] duel is
the result of rules of your society,
not mine.

She's angry now, waving her sword as she gestures.

INARA
Mal, you always break the rules. It
doesn't matter which "society" you're
in! You don't get along with
ordinary criminals either! That's
why you're constantly in trouble!

Mal backs away from her sword.

MAL
And you think following rules will
buy you a nice life, even if the
rules make you a slave.

Inara, turns away, frustrated almost to tears.

Then, Mal, avoiding her eye:

MAL (cont'd)
Don't take his offer.

Inara turns and stares at him.

INARA
What?

MAL
Don't do it. Because, in the case it
comes up, that means he's the fella
killed me. And I don't like fellas
that killed me. Not in general.

He starts practicing again, unable to look at her.

MAL (cont'd)
I said before I had no call to stop
you. And that's true. But,
anyways... don't.

INARA
I need to get back. He'll be up
early.

And she exits, leaving him alone. He swings the sword.

MAL
Right. He's got that big day.

EXT. PERSEPHONE - MORNING (DAY 4)

A grassy hillside at dawn would be lovely. About 15 spectators, men and women, cluster around the duelling area. Among them are a couple of Badger's lads. The crowd shifts and CHATTERS with anticipation.

Mal and Harrow stand, heads together, to one side. Harrow is smiling, Mal looks intense, adjusting and readjusting his grip on his sword. He's still wearing his dressy suit.

Atherton and his Second, another young dandy, are at the other side, talking and laughing easily. Inara stands near them, but her eyes are on Mal.

He meets her look, holds it.

The gentleman who first announced the challenge steps to the center. He raises his hands, commanding attention. Gradually the crowd quiets. He clears his throat.

GENTLEMAN
Ladies and gentlemen, the field of
combat is a somber place. A man will
here today lay down his life. Let
the duel begin.

The last sentence is given no special emphasis, and there is no sound from the crowd. MAL doesn't even realize the fight has begun until the gentleman blends back into the crowd and Atherton steps out, smiling and handling his sword casually.

Mal steps forward, uncertain.

HARROW has moved over by Inara. They exchange a grim look.

MAL AND ATHERTON

face off. Atherton attacks first, an easy swing that MAL parries.

MAL hits back, thrusting with the point of the sword. Atherton barely gets out of the way in time, in fact, his vest is nicked.

MAL
Best be careful, Ath. I hear these
things are sharp.

HARROW AND INARA

HARROW
He thinks he's doing well, doesn't he?

INARA
He's being toyed with.

BACK TO THE FIGHT

MAL ducks to avoid a blow.

Atherton brings up his blade to deflect a blow. CLANG. While MAL hesitates, Atherton tosses his blade in the air and catches it with the other hand, showing off.

MAL gets nicked on the arm.

Atherton parries a blow away with such force it throws MAL off-balance.

Atherton steps back, and PUTS HIS SWORD BEHIND HIS BACK.

HARROW
What's he doing?

INARA
(gritted teeth)
Don't fall for that.

Mal lunges. Atherton steps to the side, the lunge goes past him. Atherton strikes, as he had planned, attacking sideways with the sword from behind his back, stabbing Mal in the side.

Inara looks stricken.

HARROW
Well, this isn't going to take long,
is it?

On Mal, looking down, shocked, at his wound.

END OF ACT THREE
Act Four

EXT. PERSEPHONE - CONTINUING

The crowd is more active now, sensing the end is near.

Mal fights one-handed, his left hand staunching his wound. He's definitely losing now.

Atherton thrusts with the sword. Mal stumbles back clumsily.

Mal lunges. Atherton steps back. Mal lunges again.

Atherton steps back again, laughing.

Atherton swings, cutting Mal's defensive arm.

HARROW
(to Inara)
We're coming up on the end, miss.
You might not want to watch.

Mal thrusts. He sword CLASHES AGAINST Atherton's sword. MAL'S SWORD BREAKS. And the momentum carries Mal to one knee. Atherton's sword points at his chest.

INARA
Atherton! Wait!

Atherton hesitates, he may be about to get what he wants...

INARA (cont'd)
I'll stay here! Exclusive to you!
Just let him live.

ON MAL, still down, as he registers what Inara's doing.

Mal lunges to his feet, catching Atherton under the chin with the hilt and throwing him back, face cut.

Atherton is regrouping, ready to move in for the kill again. He brings his sword arm back...

But Mal KICKS HIS BROKEN SWORD POINT OFF THE GROUND and up into his hand. He THROWS the broken sword point at Atherton like a dart!

Atherton takes the sword point in the shoulder. It sticks there, and Atherton, furious, reaches to pull it out.

MAL raises the hilt, still around his right hand, and brings it down like a gun butt, over Atherton's head. Atherton sprawls on the ground.

GENTLEMAN
He's down!

MAL scoops up Atherton's dropped sword off the ground and holds it, point at Atherton's heart. He freezes there.

HARROW
You have to finish it, lad. For a
man to lie beaten and yet breathing,
it makes him a coward.

INARA
It's a humiliation.

MAL pulls the sword back a little.

MAL
Sure. It would be humiliating,
having to lie there while the better
man refuses to spill your blood.
Mercy is the mark of a great man.

Very quickly, offhandedly, MAL STABS Atherton!

MAL (cont'd)
Guess I'm just a good man.

He STABS him again!

MAL (cont'd)
Well, I'm all right.

MAL grins and tosses the sword aside. Inara goes to him.

Atherton gets up slowly. The crowd draws back, whispering behind their hands.

ATHERTON
Inara! Come here!

She ignores him.

ATHERTON (cont'd)
Inara!

Harrow puts a hand on Atherton's arm.

HARROW
You've lost her, lad. Be gracious.

Atherton shakes off Harrow's hand and staggers to Inara.

ATHERTON
You set this up, whore. After I
bought and paid for you. I should
have uglied you up so no one else'd
want you.

MAL
(to Inara)
See how I'm not punching him? I
think I've grown.

ATHERTON
(to Inara)
Get ready to starve. I'll see to it
you never work again.

INARA
Actually, that's not how it works.
You see, you've earned yourself a
black mark in the client registry.
No Companion is going to contract
with you ever again.

HARROW
You'll have to rely on your winning
personality to get women. God help
you.

Inara and Mal start to walk away. Harrow joins them.

HARROW (cont'd)
You didn't have to wound that man.

MAL
I know, that was just funny.

HARROW
You willing to fight that hard to
protect my property, I'll have it in
your hold before midnight.

Mal nods. The deal is struck. Mal and Inara walk away, Mal a little unsteady.

MAL
(through pain)
Mighty fine shindig.

INT. SERENITY - CARGO BAY - DAY

Morning. Badger stands with his lads. Simon talks quietly to Book. Jayne pours coffee for Kaylee and Wash and Zoe.

JAYNE
(softly to Zoe)
Doc is filling the Shepherd in on the
plan. We're ready to move on your
signal. Doc's the diversion--

MAL (O.S.)
Did you ever see such a lazy crew?

CAMERA FINDS Mal and Inara in the doorway. Inara is helping hold him up, and he's still got a hand over his wound.

KAYLEE
Captain!

Kaylee runs to him. The others follow.

SIMON
You're hurt.

Badger approaches Mal.

BADGER
You get us a deal?

ZOE
(to Badger)
Back off, he's injured.

MAL
I got a deal. Now get off my ship.

Badger's heard all he needs to. He's a happy man.

BADGER
Ta very much for a lovely night then.

Badger exits. Inara and Simon guide Mal into a chair. The others gather around. Quickly:

BOOK
Are you badly hurt?

JAYNE
We was just about to spring into
action, Captain. A complicated
escape and rescue op.

WASH
I was gonna watch. It was very
exciting.

EXT. SERENITY - IN FLIGHT - EFFECT

Serenity against a star field.

INT. SERENITY - DAY (DAY 5)

In the Engine Room, a grease-smudged Kaylee finishes installing a replacement engine part. Humming, she wipes her hands on a rag and heads out...

Down the hall...

Down the ladder into her quarters...

She crosses to her Cortex screen. Kaylee's Cortex has no casing. The circuitry is exposed so she can tinker with it.

Kaylee hits some keys. Nothing happens. She frowns, presses a chip more firmly into place in the machine's guts.

TINNY DANCE MUSIC plays, like the kind at the party. This is what she's been humming.

PULL BACK FROM THE CORTEX

To find Kaylee, sitting on the bed, eating some of the CHOCOLATE MINTS from the party. Pull further back to see she is looking at her party dress, which hangs from an exposed pipe.

INT. SERENITY - CARGO BAY - DAY (DAY 5)

Mal and Inara sit on the catwalk/balcony over the bay. Mal's midsection is bandaged. Inara wears another elegant kimono- type robe.

A bottle of wine sits between them and they drink from battered metal cups.

Inara sips her wine, makes a little face.

INARA
Thank you for the wine. It's very...
fresh.

MAL
To Kaylee and her inter-engine
fermentation system.

He raises his cup to toast, winces from the wound.

INARA
Are you in pain?

MAL
Absolutely. I got stabbed, you know.
Right here.

INARA
I saw.

MAL
Don't care much for fancy parties.
Too rough.

INARA
It wasn't entirely a disaster.

MAL
I got stabbed. Right here.

INARA
You also lined up exciting new crime.

MAL
It is good to have cargo. Makes us
a target for every other scavenger
out there, a' course, but sometimes
that's fun too.

INARA
(beat, then)
I am grateful, you know, for the ill-
conceived and high-handed attempt to
defend my honor although I didn't
want you to.

MAL
Gracious as that is, as I look back,
I probably shoulda stayed outta your
world.

INARA
My world. If it is that. I wasn't
going to stay, you know.

MAL
Yeah? Why's that?

A little disingenuous:

INARA
Oh, someone needs to keep Kaylee out
of trouble. And all of my things are
here... Besides, why would I want to
leave Serenity?

We ARM BACK to REVEAL

The cargo bay is full of mooing milling CATTLE.

MAL
Can't think of a reason.

BLACKOUT.

END OF SHOW