Plot[edit | edit source]

The story opens with Shepherd Book giving a sermon in the city of Constance, some random border-planet town, which is shortly revealed to be a diversion so Mal, Zoë, and Jayne can pull a heist. The three are having a standoff with fellow thief Ott and his gang, who were tipped off to the job by an unknown party. Ott demands the payload, and Mal agrees, not wanting to risk the lives of his crew. Pushing his luck, Ott then asks Mal to give up his gun, as well. Mal threatens Ott to back down, but he persists. Mal briefly muses on how his gun was one of two things that got him through the war, and stuck with him afterwards (the other being Zoë). Mal drops his gun to the floor, but then kicks it into Ott's face, knocking out a few of his teeth. Ott orders his men to open fire, and a pitched firefight ensues. Ott's team retreats with the payload, while Mal, Zoë, and Jayne pursue. Ott's crew escapes the planet, after notifying the entire town of the heist. While the townspeople chase Mal and the others, thinking that they have the stolen money, Shepherd Book steals a transport and the four make their escape.

WIth the townfolk still in pursuit, Mal radios Wash, notifying him of the need to make a hasty escape. Wash and Kaylee use Serenity to knock over a water tower, stunning the pursuers long enough for the crew to escape.

Meanwhile, Lawrence Dobson, missing his right eye from his last encounter with Mal, is still on Whitefall where he was left during the pilot episode. Dobson seems to have carved out his own niche on Whitefall, complete with bodyguards and a lair. He has made a deal with the Hands of Blue who have been trying to recapture Simon and River Tam. Dobson, obsessed with killing Mal, claims he has the perfect plan, and needed only Alliance clearance to make it easier.

After returning to Persephone, Badger approaches Serenity with a handful of goons to pitch a job to the crew. Not taking any chances, Zoë stuns Badger's hired muscle with fire-retardant gas as they attempt to board Serenity, and shoots them. Serenity takes off with Badger on board.

Badger explains to the crew that the Battle of Sturges (which he refers to as the bloodiest battle in the Unification War) was fought over a pile of money, which is supposedly still floating in the battlefield, unclaimed. Mal says that he'll consider the job, telling Badger to get off his ship "before the stain sets." They leave Badger in the desert of Persephone.

Mal gathers the crew, telling them that he's decided to take Badger's job. Inara asks him to take her to "duties" first, and Mal declines. Mal insists that the job is more important, and Book pushes Mal to reconsider. When Book reminds Mal that he gave Inara his word, Mal states that it means nothing. Mal provokes Book by saying that his word was no different than the Shepherd's preaching, and that when push came to shove, Book didn't pray, but stole a vehicle and did "what needs to be done to survive." Book punches Mal in the face.

The crew travel to the coordinates given to them by Badger. Mal, Zoë, and Jayne board one of the ships to look for the money. Once they reach the location Badger claimed the money would be at, it becomes clear that they have been set up. There is no money, and Dobson and his henchmen ambush the three, demanding "an eye for an eye." Mal tells Zoë and Jayne to "kill them all" once Dobson shoots him. Instead, they dispatch Dobson's men before he can fire a shot at Mal, who shoots out Dobson's other eye. Before leaving, Mal shoots him again, just to be sure.

While Mal, Zoë, and Jayne are fighting Dobson, the Hands of Blue attempt to sneak aboard Serenity. Due in part to River's psychic abilities, Simon, Inara, and Kaylee are tipped off to the fact that they may have visitors. After going to the cargo bay to investigate, Kaylee is attacked by one of the agents. Simon knocks the agent down with one of Jayne's weights, causing him to fall back into his ship. Kaylee closes the airlock and continually jerry-rigs it to keep the agents out (who are trying to bypass the lock). Wash flies Serenity through the remains of a derelict ship, knocking the agents' shuttle off of Serenity. Mal orders Wash to "step on it," having safely re-entered the ship along with Zoë and Jayne. The Hands of Blue are incinerated by Serenity's engine flare.

Mal finally takes Inara to her destination, and seems to not have given her the kind of goodbye he truly wanted to. Later, Shepherd Book stumbles upon Mal talking to himself, saying his true thoughts to Inara. Book tells Mal that he will be leaving Serenity, fearing that his time on the ship has been corrupting him.

The Alliance, having learned of the fate of the Hands of Blue, passes the assignment to retrieve the Tams to the Operative. He accepts the mission.

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