Firefly: Yes, There ARE Aliens

Malcolm Reynolds sat alone in the cockpit of Serenity, his Firefly-class ship. He looked out into the vast expanse of stars that lay before his ship, and gave a contented sigh. Sure, the Reapers were still somewhat on the warpath, and sure there was a lot of political conflict over the Alliance’s involvement with and creation of them, but right here, right now, things looked good. There were a lot of stars out there, and a lot of those stars had planets, and a lot of those planets wanted things, and he could bring them those things and make money doing so. Money that he could use to keep his ship running and his crew happy, and ultimately to allow him to fly around just as free as he could be.

“Life is good, ” he said.

And then a light started to blink on the communications panel. A light that he had configured a few weeks back, and had hoped to never see blink.

“Aw, hell.”

[Episode intro]

Later, Zoe came into the cockpit. “Looks like we’ve changed course, Cap’n.”

“Yep, ” Mal replied. He hoped that she might leave it at that, but, well, she almost certainly wouldn’t.

“Seems like we’re also goin’ pretty quick.”

“Yep.”

“We in a hurry?”

“Kinda.”

“Are you going to tell me what’s goin’ on, or do I have to beat it out of you?”

Yeah, that was the point where she was losing patience. But Malcolm hoped that he might be able to get her off the subject. “You wouldn’t beat it out of me, would ya?”

She just gave him a flat stare. That either meant that, yes, she would, or that she wasn’t willing to be distracted from the topic. Either way, it wasn’t good for Mal.

He sighed. “All right. Remember me tellin’ you about that special cargo I had lined up?”

“Yeah, ” she replied. “You said it’d be a huge payoff for us.”

“Well, because it was gonna be so big, I wanted things to be a bit safer, you know, so I asked the guy if he’d send me a signal telling me where he was at all times. He didn’t want to do that ’cause it might cause him problems if someone else picked it up when he needed to be sneaky. So instead he rigged a signal to broadcast it to me if anything went wrong.”

“And lemme guess: it did.”

Mal pointed to the flashing light. “It did”.

“And so we’re going to get it?”

“Yep.”

“Why don’t we just let it go? It’s not like we paid for it in advance, right?”

Mal couldn’t meet her eyes.

“You paid for it in advance?!?”

“Well, he said that it was a pretty risky run and he wouldn’t even try it unless he knew that he’d get paid at the end of it all, and it’s not like our credit’s any good!”

“You paid for the whole thing in advance? Not just 10% or somethin’, but the whole thing?!?”

“This job would’ve paid off! And if I didn’t get on it quick, someone else would’ve!”

Zoe rolled her eyes. “So, how bad are we off if this falls through?”

Again, Mal couldn’t meet her eyes.

Zoe sighed. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Cap’n.”

Soon after, River came to fly for a while, and Mal wandered the ship for a bit. He decided to stop by the engines to see how they were holding up.

“You’re running them pretty hot, Cap’n. They still ain’t quite right after that trip for Merlin, and this ain’t helpin’.”

Mal sighed. “I know, but we’ve got to get to our cargo before it gets picked up by someone else.”

“Can’t we just let it go? I mean, we ain’t paid for it yet, right?”

Mal couldn’t meet her eyes.

“Aw, Cap’n, you didn’t pay for it up front, did ya?”

“He wouldn’t go get it unless I did!”

Kaylee sighed. “I’ll keep ’em runnin’, Cap’n. But I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Mal, somewhat grumpily, returned to the cockpit. He was hoping that if he sat down and worked it through enough, he might be able to figure out where the ship was. He wasn’t that great at it, but he could do it. Sometimes. Usually when it was simple.

He nodded to River who was wrapped up in something in her own head — probably something that he wouldn’t understand and didn’t want to understand — and started bringing up all the charts and things he needed to try to figure it out. After a little bit, River noticed and started to look over curiously. “I’m just tryin’ to find our cargo, ” he explained.

River looked at him for a bit, and then said, “You’ve already paid for it, haven’t you?”

Mal couldn’t meet her eyes.

River sighed.

At that moment, Simon came in to look in on her. While she’d made great improvements over the past little while, especially since she started working with Merlin and Simon, he still worried about her and checked in on her constantly. He saw Mal and River working on something, and asked about it.

“I’m just lookin’ to see where our cargo ended up. But it’s a damn tricky thing to do. Probably take me a couple of hours … ”

“AX-71,” River supplied.

” … to put all this junk away, ” Mal finished lamely.

Simon smiled, and then his face turned into a puzzled frown. “That’s a system with only a number, not a name.”

“Yeah, I never really heard’a that before, ” Mal replied.

Simon thought for a minute. “That usually means that it’s a corporate system. I think the As are Weyland-Yutani systems.”

“Yeah?” Mal replied. He’d heard the name before, but didn’t really know much about them. He was too small-time to deal with large corporations for anything, and also too small-time for them to want to shut him down, either.

“They’re known for being very secretive and not having any principles. If they’ve got your cargo, I’d suggest that we just let it go. I mean, it’s not like you already paid for the cargo, right?”

Mal couldn’t meet his eyes.

Simon sighed. “Okay, since I know that you don’t know what you’re doing when dealing with Weyland-Yutani, you probably should talk to Merlin about it. He might know something about them that we don’t know.”

Mal sighed, and then headed to Merlin’s quarters to talk to him about it. “What do you know about Weyland-Yutani?” he asked.

“Big shady corporation, very secretive, but definitely involved with the government on weapons research. This usually means that they can get marine support for anything they want to do, which means that anyone going near them often gets a hostile reception. Why?”

“I was wonderin’ how you might get inta one of their systems.”

Merlin shrugged. “I generally wouldn’t. It’s usually not worth the risk. Why?”

“Well, see, a big cargo of mine crashed in one of their systems …”

“And you can’t let it go? It’s not like you’ve already paid for it, is it?”

Mal couldn’t meet his eyes.

Merlin sighed.

“So, whaddaya think?” Mal asked.

“I think you’re lucky Inara’s away right now, ” Merlin replied.

“I mean about getting into that system!” Mal snapped.

Merlin thought for a minute. “I can probably get us into whatever installation they have there, but they’re likely to send us on our way without the cargo.”

“I really gotta try, ” Mal replied.

Merlin sighed again. “Fine. Let me know when we get there.”

Soon, they arrived at AX-71 and almost immediately were met by an automated challenge system. “Please transmit your authorization code, ” it intoned.

“Think we oughta just guess?” Mal commented wryly.

“I wouldn’t, ” Merlin replied. He then moved to the communications board, and entered a long and complicated list of numbers and letters.

“I hope you know what yer doin’, ” Mal said.

Merlin merely raised a curious eyebrow.

After some time, the system replied. “Thank you. Please proceed to docking area 51 along the indicated route.”

Mal sighed in relief. “Good. I’ve got the trackin’ on, so we can just go straight t’ the ship!”

“I wouldn’t, ” Merlin said again. “In fact, you probably should follow the route exactly. Weyland-Yutani is known to blow up their own ships if they stray from it. They’re paranoid that way.”

Mal swallowed and followed the route precisely down. It was a pretty complicated and twisting course, and he was starting to sweat from nerves and effort while following it. River was better at doing stuff like that — really, she was pretty much better at anything she tried to do than almost everyone else — but the last thing they needed was for her to flake out at some point and fly off in some strange direction at the exact wrong moment.

Finally, he managed to finish the route and park Serenity in the rather large interior docking area. They needed an interior docking area because the planet itself wasn’t pleasant. It was breathable, if you didn’t mind choking down the massive amounts of sand, grit and dust that the high winds on the planet blew around constantly. The constant dust kept everything on the surface nice and dark, which didn’t make Mal feel any better.

He set the ship down carefully, and they all exited the ship to find a short man with dark curly hair approaching them. “Hello, my name is Carter Burke, representative of Weyland-Yutani!” he said pleasantly.

“Malcolm Reynolds, ” Mal replied. “And this is my crew.”

The rest of the crew nodded to him, but Merlin fixed him with a flat, suspicious glare.

“Well, you might imagine that we’re wondering what it was that brought you all the way out here. This isn’t really on the beaten path!” Burke continued.

“Well, ya see, a ship that had some pretty important cargo a mine crashed somewhere here, and I’m lookin’ to get that cargo back.”

Burke thought for a minute. “Why, yes, a ship did crash out here a little while ago. We have some people out there looking it over, but we haven’t removed the cargo yet.”

“Ain’t that somethin’ you’d do right away?” Mal asked.

Burke smiled. “The cargo area is still sealed off, and we didn’t really want to open it up and move it without knowing what it was and whom to give it to, you know. We don’t want to be accused of theft!”

Burke laughed, and Mal and the others laughed politely along with him.

“But now that you’re here, we can retrieve it and bring it to you. It might take some time, but you can make full use of these facilities while we do that.”

Merlin finally spoke up. “I don’t think that interests me. I’ll be on Serenity.” And then without another word he turned and walked back into the ship.

“Was it something I said?” Burke asked pleasantly.

“Naw, he’s just kinda anti-social, ” Mal replied. “Anyway, I was wonderin’ if I could go out to the ship myself?”

“That cargo must be pretty important to you, Malcolm. May I call you Malcolm? Anyway, if you really want to go out there I can arrange it, but the dust makes the area a bit uncomfortable. It’s much more pleasant here in the facility, ” Burke replied.

“Ah’d just feel better if I could see it myself, ” Mal replied.

“Of course, of course, I understand completely. Well, come this way, and we’ll get you all set up!”

Kaylee, meanwhile, had watched Merlin walk into the ship with a strange expression. Then, she said, “Ah think ah’ll stay on the ship, too. Ah’m not that fond of dust.”

As she headed back to the ship, Simon watched her with a conflicted expression on his face, one that only intensified when he looked at River and noted that she was staring with a puzzled expression at Burke, but seemed to be making no motion to go back to the ship. He looked at Kaylee, looked at River, looked at Kaylee, and finally said, “I think I have some … things to … sort in the medical lab. Yes, that’s it. I’ll be on the ship, too.”.

Mal looked at them, puzzled, but then shook it off. He needed to get his cargo back, and a little dust and an officious corporate rep weren’t going to put him off.

Burke led the rest of them off towards what looked like a Marine APC. “We’re involved in some research for the government here, and so we’ve got Marine support. A number of them are out at the site right now, looking things over and keeping an eye on our investigators.”

“Keepin’ an eye on ’em?” Zoe asked. “There anythin’ out there to worry about?”

“There is some … interesting wildlife out there, but nothing that threatening, ” Burke replied.

“Cap’n, maybe we should go an’ get some guns, ” Zoe said.

“Oh, they aren’t that big a threat, and with the Marine support you’ll be perfectly safe, ” Burke replied.

“Ah’d still feel better armed, ” Mal said.

“Well, then, let us outfit you!” Burke replied, opening a weapons locker near the APC. “We have a wide variety of weaponry, and they’re so user-friendly that they almost shoot themselves!”.

“Well, ah appreciate the offer but … ” Mal began.

Jayne suddenly grabbed a huge smart gun and said “Oooh! Can I use this?”

“… Sure, why not?” Mal finished.

Soon, they were equipped with fairly standard Marine weaponry and on the way to the crash site in a Marine APC. Burke had declined to join them , pleading work commitments, but he said that the APC had a full automated route programmed to the site and was perfectly safe. He encouraged them to enjoy the ride as much and they were off to the crash site.

After a dark and bumpy ride, the APC finally stopped. The crash site was lit up, but surprisingly there was no one visible, at least.

“Where’s everyone?” Zoe asked.

“Maybe they’re all inside?” Mal suggested. “This dust ain’t all that comfortable.”

So they carefully headed into the crashed ship.

“Hello?” Mal called out. “Anyone here? We got permission from that Carter Burke fella, so don’t, you know, shoot us or anythin'”

There was no reply, only an echo. And then they could swear they heard some kind of skittering noise from the bowels of the ship.

“Mebbe we should just let this one go, ” Jayne said. “It ain’t like you already paid for it, is it?”

Malcolm only glared at him.

Meanwhile, back on Serenity, Kaylee and Simon were standing around in the cargo bay. Well, Simon was more pacing than standing, glancing over at the open doors anxiously while Kaylee was trying vainly to engage him in conversation. “If you were so worried about River, why didn’t you just go with them?” she finally snapped.

“And leave you alone here with … ” he started to reply, and then trailed off.

“With? What? The ship? The corps? With … Merlin? Merlin?!? Why’d you be afraid of me bein’ alone with Merlin?”

“Well, you’ve been pretty friendly with him …”

“You think I’m interested in him?!?”

“Well, if you aren’t, ” he finally snapped, “Then why’d you decide to stay behind as soon as he did?”

“Because he knows stuff and if he didn’t want to be around these things then there might be something dangerous and I didn’t wanna end up in the middle of that again like I did with Niska!” she yelled in a rush.

Simon looked poleaxed. “Oh, ” he finally said lamely.

Kaylee smiled at him. “Come here and gimme a kiss, you stupid jealous idiot!”

“I hate to break up such a romantic scene, ” a voice came from behind them.

They turned to see Carter Burke coming towards them. “You see, there are things out here that you probably shouldn’t know about, and I have to take care of that, ” he continued.

Then he pointed a gun at them. “It’s nothing personal.”

“Neither’s this, ” a voice came from the railing overlooking the cargo bay, followed by a shotgun blast that launched Burke backwards onto his back. But instead of blood, a strange milky white substance leaked from his wounds.

“This isn’t going to keep me down for very long, ” the Burke creature. “My repair systems are working even as we speak.”

Merlin came running down into the bay carrying that strange sword that he liked so much. “I’m aware of that, ” he said, and then severed the head from the body. More milky white “blood” spewed over the floor, and then Merlin reached inside the neck and yanked out a wire, causing the eyes to finally shut and the voice to completely stop.

“He … he … he ain’t human!” Kaylee exclaimed in shock.

“He’s an android, ” Merlin replied. “I became suspicious when I saw him here, because the last I had heard the smarmy bootlicker was dead. But I couldn’t really say anything without making him suspicious and then having us all killed, so I had to wait until he made a move and hope that we could recover from it.”

“So, what do we do now?” Simon asked.

Merlin grabbed the disembodied head by the hair. “Now, you help me figure out what the thing they didn’t want us to know was.”

Meanwhile, Mal and the others proceeded cautiously through the ship. Sure, it was creepy and empty when it shouldn’t be empty, but Mal wasn’t going to run away like a little girl if all that was going was that the Marines were taking a nap and they had a cockroach problem. But suddenly, as they went along, a sinewy figure emerged from one of the side rooms in front of them. It was tall, about 7 – 8 feet, with an elongated head and a long tail. It opened its mouth and another set of jaws appeared from it.

And that was all they had time to see before River fired off a burst that exploded its head. “It’s bad, ” she said definitively.

As they carefully approached it, they noticed something else; the blood that had sprayed from the destroyed head was eating holes in the walls, floor and anything else it touched. “Think there’re more of ’em?” Jayne commented.

And then they heard more skittering, and as they shone their lights down the corridor they saw a whole swarm of them coming towards them.

“I think there just might be, ” Mal commented.

Back on Serenity, Merlin was carefully instructing Kaylee on how to hook up Burke’s head to their equipment so that they could access his android memory. “Why ain’t you just doin’ this yourself? You know how to do it!” she asked.

Merlin looked sheepish. “I’m … kinda a klutz with these sort of things. It would take me three times as long and probably wouldn’t work right. Anyway, hook that blue wire there onto that pin, and then we can boot it up.”

Once that was done, Merlin started poking through the android’s memory. “Let’s see what he didn’t want us to know. I’m going to guess that it has something to do with that crashed ship, and so let me bring that up. Ah, a listing of the manifest. I guess that’s what Mal wanted, but they also had … ”

He trailed off.

“Had what?” Simon asked.

“A Bio-weapons shipment. They couldn’t be so stupid as to try …” Merlin replied.

He tapped a few more buttons, bringing up a more detailed manifest. “Well, it turns out they could, ” he said.

“What’d they bring?” Kaylee asked.

“An Alien, ” Merlin replied.

“An alien? What kind of alien?” Simon asked.

“Well, an Alien that’s really a massive killing machine with acidic blood and a parasitic reproductive cycle.”

“And by ‘parasitic’, you mean … ?” Simon asked.

“It incubates inside of living beings, including humans, killing them in the process.”

“We’ve gotta go rescue Mal and the others!” Kaylee exclaimed.

“But … none of us can pilot the ship! We can’t get to them if we can’t pilot the ship there!” Simon retorted.

Merlin, however, had been looking through the data. “I … think I might be able to solve that problem, ” Merlin commented dryly.

As he pointed to the line that he had been reading, they all looked at it in shock.

Those smart guns were pretty useful things. Between Jayne’s ability to lay down lots and lots of fire and everyone else’s ability to pick off whatever he left behind, they managed to clear out the first wave fast enough to make a dash for the outside and the safety of the APC. But when they got outside, they noticed that the APC was gone. “Ah guess they didn’t want to take any chances, ” Mal commented.

They moved a bit away from the ship so that they’d be able to see the strange creatures when they exited, but they all knew that it was futile. If there were any more waves like the one they had faced, they were dead, and even if there weren’t and a miracle occurred that let them fight off whatever aliens were left, they were going to die out here anyway since no one was going to come and rescue them … and that even assumed that the Weyland-Yutani marines weren’t going to come out here to kill them just to make sure.

Looking back at the ship, they started to see the dim outlines of aliens coming out of the ship. “Ah guess I should have let this one go, ” Mal commented.

And then bright lights came from behind them, as Serenity came in for a near landing and Merlin called to them from the open cargo ramp. “Come with me if you want to live!” he said, laying down some suppressive fire as the aliens started to run towards them and the ship.

They all dashed on board, and the ship leaped towards the stars. “What about those autoguns?” Mal yelled as the ramp closed.

“I have Burke’s codes, so they think we’re Special Ops. They’ll ignore us, ” Merlin replied.

Then something struck Mal. “None of you can fly Serenity, ” he commented. “So who’s flyin’ the ship?”

“I’ll need to talk to all of you about that, ” Merlin replied.

Merlin and Mal were looking over the cargo bay, where most of the others were wandering around listlessly, when their pilot arrived in the cargo bay itself. “Hey!” Wash exclaimed. “No one came up to comment on my amazing flying skills! I need my validation!”

Everyone gave him a rather nervous greeting, and puzzlement showed on his face. He then turned to Zoe and gave her a hug, but she pulled away. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothin’. Ah’m just tired, ” she replied.

Wash stayed around for a bit, but no one seemed interested in talking to him or even looking at him. He looked puzzled and hurt, and then said, “Well, I … guess I should go back and keep this ship flying” and headed back to the cockpit.

Mal watched him. “Yer tellin’ me that Weyland-Yutani had a Wash android stored away?”

Merlin nodded. “With a bunch of androids of other people, which I left alone.”

“And it thinks that it is Wash?”

“As far as I can tell, it has the same personality as him, the same feelings, and the same loyalties. In both programming and in behaviour, it seems unaware that it’s an android.”

“Why would they want to build a copy of Wash?”

“I can only think that it would be to attempt to infiltrate your group for some reason.”

“Why would they wanna infiltrate us?” Mal asked.

Merlin shrugged. “I have no idea. It was probably programmed before you broadcast the information on the Reavers, but mothballed once they discovered that he had died there. It’s possible that there was supposed to be programming that would activate in certain conditions, but it might not have been inserted by the time they learned that Wash had died.”

“You’re sure that there’s nothin’ hidin’ in him?”

Merlin shrugged again. “As sure as I can be. There might be something hidden so well that I can’t find it. I’m good, but not perfect, and they had the time and resources to do a really good job.”

Mal paused in thought for a minute, and then said, “Can you shut it down without it turnin’ into a fight?”

Merlin nodded. “I know how to do it. But … I won’t do it for you. If you decide that you want to turn it off permanently, you’ll have to do it yourself.”

“Why won’t you do it yourself?” Mal asked.

“Because I’m not going to let you take the easy way out. If you want to shut down something that looks and acts just like your old friend, you’ll have to make the decision and take the action yourself, taking all of the blame. I’ll tell you how if you want, but it’s your decision and your responsibility. That’s what it means to be the ‘Captain'”

“You sound like Corwin, ” Mal grumbled.

Merlin didn’t bother to reply.

And they stared in silence over the now empty cargo bay.

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: