|Ship(s) captained or crewed|
- "40,000 of these old wrecks in the air and that's all they give us. Well, I'm not about to have any surprises on a routine check. We run into these two, we shoot first. The brass can sort it out later. [...] I know how these older-model Fireflies tend to have those troublesome little nooks."
Harken was the commanding officer of an Alliance Tohoku-class cruiser. While on patrol he and his crew encountered two vessels: the derelict of a converted cargo hauler and Serenity. Harken's ensign informed him of the hauler's history, and his radio operator warned him that an unspecified Firefly-class transport ship was flagged for harboring two fugitives. Believing the crew of Serenity to be the murderers, Harken seized them and interrogated each crew member. He was soon confronted with the horrible truth about the derelict when some of his own crew were slain by its sole survivor. Eventually confronted by the madman himself but saved by Malcolm Reynolds, Harken lifted his arrest of the Serenity crew to demonstrate his gratitude.
- "I haven't seen that kind of torture since... well, since the war."
While on patrol in a far corner of the 'verse, Commander Harken and the crew of his Tohoku-class cruiser spotted Serenity in the act of illegal salvage. Harken's crew ordered Serenity to stand down and dock with the cruiser, and the Firefly-class ship was escorted by short range gunships. As he thoughtfully observed the situation, Harken told his ensign to remember to cite them for lacking certain mandatory markings on their hull. The ensign informed him that the derelict was a short range vessel retrofitted to carry passengers and that its most recent clients were settler families from the planet Bernadette who were going to make a new life on Newhall. They never made their scheduled landing three weeks prior. Then, Harken's radio operator brought up a notice, which stated that the crew of an unspecified Firefly-class vessel was wanted for harboring a pair of fugitives: a brother and a sister. Frustrated that the "brass" refused to reveal any more classified information about the siblings, Harken strode off to board Serenity, prepared to shoot first to protect his crew—and let his superiors sort out the details later.
With a large group of marines, Harken entered Serenity and confronted its captain, Malcolm Reynolds. and the rest of the crew. Hidden from his sight, however, were the two fugitives, Simon and River Tam, who were in space-suits on the exterior of the ship. Harken noted the illegal salvage of hard subsidies that were on board and questioned Reynolds about the siblings, revealing his familiarity with Firefly vessels and smugglers' preferences for them. Reynolds lied, saying he never had "children" on board, but was quick to mention the survivor he rescued off the ship. When he received word from a marine about the survivor's brutal physical condition, he immediately assumed that Reynolds and his crew were torturers. He had the crew escorted away, leaving his small army to check every single nook in the ship.
Harken then conducted one-on-one interrogations. He questioned Inara Serra, high-class Companion, about her unusual situation aboard such a disreputable vessel; the succinct, combative Zoë Washburne and the chatty Hoban Washburne about their marriage; Kaylee Frye, who was simply furious that Harken called her ship "junk"; the completely-silent Jayne Cobb; Derrial Book about being a shepherd among "pirates"; and finally Captain Reynolds, about the war. During his questioning of Reynolds, he made it clear that he believed Reynolds was responsible for the slaughter of the families on the derelict and the torture of the survivor. Reynolds, now aware that the man had mutilated himself, warned the officer of the real threat. Unmoved, Harken revealed that he did not even believe Reavers existed at all. He ignored Reynolds' plea as mere bluster and started to inform the Captain of procedural matters when he was interrupted by his ensign, with news a spree killing of his own staff. Harken ordered a lockdown and that guards be posted by the nursery.
With Reynolds in cuffs and with an escort of marines, Harken soon observed that Captain Reynolds was correct: the survivor was now a Reaver and he went aboard Serenity for familiar territory. The corpse of a guard proved this. Reynolds asked to be brought aboard the Firefly, but Harken refused immediately. The officer only relented when Reynolds asked him how many more of his own crew he wanted killed. Harken had Reynolds lead the way—still in handcuffs—into the dining area. He then waved off most of the marines in various directions. Then, without warning, the Reaver slew a nearby marine and sent Harken reeling in shock. After a brief but harrowing struggle with the badly mutilated man, Harken was saved by Reynolds, who snapped the man's neck.
Smeared in blood but alive, Harken eventually dropped the charges against the captured crew and permitted them to depart. Additionally, he took Reynolds' advice and used his vessel's armament to blast the derelict to pieces. As a measure of justice, though, Harken did confiscate the Alliance gen-seed, protein, and crop supplement loot.
He never knew that he was mere moments away from finding the fugitive Tam siblings.
Personality and traitsEdit
Commander Harken was an extremely inquisitive person. He personally conducted the interviews of the captured crew, in which he asked many intimate questions and fielded a wide variety of responses from each person given their temperaments. His persistence was unflagging and he had a careful attention to bureaucratic details. When he was informed of a madman on his vessel, his thoughts immediately went to the vulnerability of the children aboard and ordered guards be posted at the nursery.
However, he had several faults that were brought to the fore during his encounter with Serenity. His suspicious nature and a degree of stubbornness prevented him from believing Reynolds' warnings about Reavers, as he held fast to his belief that the Firefly crew were murderers and plunderers. His coolness under fire was limited, as well, as evidenced when he collapsed in shock, defenseless, during the lone Reaver's surprise attack.
Ultimately, Harken demonstrated that his dedication to administrative and police duties was not subordinate to a sense of honor and gratitude. Despite Reynolds' legal transgressions, Harken permitted Serenity to depart without further difficulty after his life was saved.