• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


Farm-Fresh balance.pngYMMVTransmit blue.pngRadarWikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotes • (Emoticon happy.pngFunnyHeart.pngHeartwarmingSilk award star gold 3.pngAwesome) • Refridgerator.pngFridgeGroup.pngCharactersScript edit.pngFanfic RecsSkull0.pngNightmare FuelRsz 1rsz 2rsz 1shout-out icon.pngShout OutMagnifier.pngPlotGota icono.pngTear JerkerBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersHelp.pngTriviaWMGFilmRoll-small.pngRecapRainbow.pngHo YayPhoto link.pngImage LinksNyan-Cat-Original.pngMemesHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconicLibrary science symbol .svg SourceSetting

Forward is a Doorstopper-length Original Flavor Continuation Firefly fanfic written by the same author behind Tiberium Wars and Renegade. It is partially an alternate universe fic, as it RetCons the deaths of Book and Wash in Serenity, but otherwise remains true to the ending of the movie. The story follows the crew of Serenity as they continue on, and have to struggle with the enemies they've made and new ones that appear, while the Alliance struggles to remain in control.

Notable for strong characterization, believable character development, and a wide, overarching plot arc. General consensus among the reviewers has that the story captures the Firefly essence very well, with many of the reviewers comparing the writing favorably to Joss Whedon's own.

The story is separated into episodic story arcs, to emulate the series' episodes. The fic starts off very dark, particularly with regards to River's madness and Mal's more ruthless tendencies, but lightens as the story progresses. As the series has progressed, it has gradually revealed an overarching plot relating to the Academy and the Alliance's more shadowy operations.

The primary characters of the story are Mal and River (the latter of whom the author admits is his favorite character), and the story spends a great deal of time exploring both of their mindsets, pasts, and moral quandries. The story does not yet involve a non-canon pairing, though the author has confirmed that the story will have a later pairing involving River and as-yet-unnamed character.

Notable also for its....unusual....take on River's mental processes.

The story currently consists of eight story-arc "episodes" and four brief "interludes." In order:

Be forewarned that this page contains a ton of spoilers. The series has a pretty hefty amount of twists and whams.

Tropes used in Forward include:
  • Action Girl: Corporal Ashley Frye, one of Kaylee's older sisters, and a soldier for the Alliance.
  • Actor Allusion: Wash asks if River is a robot from the future. Don't forget Mal wielding a sledgehammer, or Mal and Jayne going by the aliases Buck and Dutch.
    • Oh, and don't forget the fact River even called him Captain Hammer a lot after that.
  • Affably Evil: Many of the villains come off this way, including Dumont, Obrin, and Echo.
  • Anachronic Order: The "Silver" arc is presented out of order, with brief flashes of the Operative's slaughter of Dumont's men taking the lead in each chapter, and the prologue featuring Mal, Jayne, and Kaylee standing around stark naked at the end of the latest job. The events leading up to this are detailed in the subsequent story.
  • Angrish: In the "Third Interlude." Though technically, its Mandarin which Mal is mangling due to his apparent anger.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: In "Silver," Womack forces Mal into one of these by demanding he attack Dumont's estate and destroy the evidence of their organ harvesting operations. If they refuse, he'll have them arrested for organ smuggling instead.
  • Anti-Magic: Blanks, who are immune to psychic powers outright, making them ideal as security guards/recovery agents for the Academy's psychics. It is implied that the Hands of Blue are Blanks, as is John Garis. The Academy also has developed some kind of anti-psionic implants that they equip their commandos with, which has a limited effect on protecting them from Inducers and River's empathic senses.
  • Anti-Villain: Though most of the villains are clear-cut, John/Echo is a much more morally gray character who honestly seems to care about River, and is overall a very nice and friendly guy.
  • Arc Words: "Steel Condor" in, appropriately, the "Condor" arc, which references a Browncoat code-phrase that means "troops trapped behind enemy lines."
  • Arrogant Kung Fu Guy: Si Quan, one of Ott's crewmembers. River teaches him humility by shooting him in the throat.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: At the end of the Fourth Interlude, River does an Informed Self Diagnosis on all of the injuries that she accrued.

 Catalogue of injuries: hairline fracture in shin. Multiple fractured or broken ribs. Lacerations, bruising of back, vertebrae, possibly wrenched shoulder and back muscles. Bullet lodged in gut, precise location unknown. Head trauma, ninety-plus percent probability of concussion (postulate round ricocheting off boulder and bouncing off skull, or maybe shrapnel knocked loose by same) Bruised jaw. Sunburns.

  • Artificial Gravity: Played with in "Adrift," where the gravity is cut out and the crew are forced to move and operate without any gravity systems. This is later used as a weapon when Reavers board the ship. Mal lures them into entering through the floor hatch in Serenity's bay, and when they all rush from their gravity-equipped ship into the zero-G Serenity, they begin flying about the bay in an uncontrolled fashion. naturally, this makes them perfect targets to shoot at.
  • Ascended Extra: A lot of one-shot characters are brought back for individual episodes, and some of them even become recurring guest stars. These include Colonel Obrin, the Operative, Ott and his crew, Lieutenant Womack, and Jubal Early.
  • Attempted Rape: During the "Business" story arc, one of Niska's men attempts to rape River. Jayne objects.
  • The Atoner: Colonel Rishard Dannet, River's former combat trainer at the Academy. His guilt over working on the project grew to the point where, as he put it, "it was either retirement or suicide." When River corners him, he is perfectly willing to let her have her revenge for his participation in what happened to her. She forgives him instead, because he sees her as a person, not a tool or a weapon.
  • Author Appeal: The author is a big fan of Summer Glau. It shows; there are several scenes where River is naked, including a prominent part of the interlude where she has her Fetal Position Rebirth. Not to mention the Les Yay in "Mosiac." As the author says himself, "She's easily my favorite character, and she's such a versitale walking plot device that I can't help but play with her."
    • Aside from the fact that this story is partially River-centric, the author's also written several T:SCC stories focusing on Cameron and Allison Young.
  • Axe Crazy: River is still more than a little bonkers in this story.
    • Axe Crazy though she may be, River has nothing on Inducer One-One-Nine.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: River and Jayne during "Charity."
  • Badass Boast: at the beginning of Mosaic

 Thug:What's so funny?

Jayne: You. Look. I've gotten into fights with idiots ten times meaner than you two. I fought militia, mercenaries, goons just like you. Hell, I've fought Alliance marines before(...)I've even tangled with Reavers.

    • There's also Mal's heartfelt concern for a dissatisfied customer in Condor:

 Mal: Badger, I've got personal beef with Adelei Niska. And you know I've got all manner of trouble with the Alliance. Now, on top of all that joy, I've got a bunch of happy little low-life Browncoat terrorists who want me dead too. So, you want to join the party, feel free. Just get in line.

  • Badass Crew: The Six Rifles.
    • There's also, you know, the crew of Serenity itself, especially in this fic, although you could argue Inara is not part of this.
  • Badass Preacher: Book. Though he was already a badass preacher in the series, in "Adrift" he charges into the middle of a Reaver horde, whispering Bible quotes while wielding a sword.
  • Bad Dreams: Wash periodically has nightmare about his time in a POW camp during the war. River also has consistently unpleasant dreams that are often mixed in with horrid memories of the Academy. Mal has bad dreams about all of the horrible things he's experienced or been forced to do over the course of his career.
  • Bar Brawl: Opens with one, as a direct result of Jayne's Nice Hat.
  • Batman Gambit: River and Jayne pull one when River talks Niska into executing Volsky, causing him to drop his knife, which Jayne picks up and uses to cut himself free.
    • In the "Silver" arc, River manipulates the rest of the crew into thinking she's too traumatized to help them on the upcoming heist, which gives her an opening to carry out a private mission of her own. However, doing so results in River being seriously wracked by guilt as she prepares to run off.
  • Bedmate Reveal: In "Condor," Jayne learns that Ashley, the woman has just bedded, is actually Kaylee's sister.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: Implied at the end of the "Fourth Interlude," after River passes out from the slew of injuries she's suffered fighting the pirates.
  • Beneath Notice: In "Silver," Inara deliberately disguises River as this, at least in a high-class sort of way. Inara dresses elegantly, while Mal dresses in his usual formalwear, which he looks awkward to draw attention, while River is dressed in an outfit and makeup that is just proper enough that no one notices her next to Inara and Mal.
    • Inducers are capable of making themselves so ordinary to others that they can walk past them without being noticed.
  • Berserk Button: Jayne has one regarding threats to Kaylee, and develops one regarding threats to River.
    • River appears to have one regarding Blue Sun, as in "Mosaic" she goes berserk upon seeing a Blue Sun sign on a building and starts shooting it. This appears to carry over to any of the Academy's test subjects, as Inducer One-One-Nine apparently murdered the entire staff of a Blue Sun lab in "Charity."
    • One of the Hands of Blue learns the hard way that shooting Simon in front of River is a bad idea. She chucks her blade at him from across the room, burying it into his chest, then runs up, rips it free, and stabs him in the face repeatedly in a blind fury so violent it literally leaves her soaked in blood from head to toe.
  • BFG: At one point in "Charity," Mal is held at gunpoint by a mercenary who is seriously compensating for something.
  • Big Bad: Though each "episode" has it's own villain, Adelei Niska is presented as the primary antagonist. Also, there is the mysterious woman in the wheelchair who appears to be in charge of the Academy.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Jayne appears to have developed one in regards to River, after both of them survived being tortured by Niska.
    • River even goes so far as to call Jayne a "sociopathic big brother."
    • In "Hunt", Katie uses her Psychic Powers to supplant one of these on River.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Considering Firefly is the Trope Namer, this should come as no surprise.
    • Colonel Obrin actually accuses Mal of thinking he is a "big damn hero" in "Condor."
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The story is notably more violent than the series itself; all of the "episodes" tend to involve a least one large gun or melee battle against Mooks, with a hefty body count building up as the story progresses. Lampshaded a few times by both the author and the characters, with the author noting that in the first "episode" alone he probably killed more mooks than the actual series and movie put together.
  • Book Ends: The beginning of "Charity" opens with Zoe waking up to find Wash crying in his sleep, and comforting him from his Bad Dreams. The end of "Hunt" features Wash doing the same to Zoe after the emotional wringer she's been through.
  • Break the Cutie: The first few chapters of the first story start off upbeat, with River indicating that while she's still not fully recovered, she's healing. Then Niska gets his hands on her. The next few story arcs have her simply trying to recover from that trauma on top of all the other issues she already suffers from.
    • By the time "Charity" rolls around, it looks like River has mostly recovered and is becoming happy. Then Inducer One-One-Nine mindrapes her and kidnaps her, and the subsequent arc involves being brutally mindraped multiple times by said Inducer, followed by River killing a Hand of Blue in a berserk fury in front of Simon that causes a complete shame-driven Freak-Out when she realizes he saw her rip the man's face apart.
  • Breather Episode: The various Interludes and a number of chapters show slice-of-life moments among the crew in an attempt to break up the action.
  • Buffy-Speak: Jayne in particular does this.

 Jayne: "She goes off tellin her brother I showed her man parts, he's at me.

  • Canon Dis Continuity: The author has stated that while most of the series canon is being used in this story, he is disregarding the "Shepherd's Tale" comic, as the background laid out in that is incompatible with the background he'd originally come up with for Book in this story. That being said, he has also stated he is willing to use elements from that comic, i.e. the interrogation scene.
  • The Caper: Done with a twist in "Silver": The crew originally backs down from the heist in question, until Womack forces them to go on it anyway.
  • Catch Phrase: Used as part of The Reveal whenever the author is being deliberately obfuscating about a character's identity, said characters being The Operative and Jubal Early.
  • Ceiling Cling: In "Charity" River uses one of these to ambush several mercenaries.
    • "Hunt" reveals that all telepaths have an affinity for it, and the Hands of Blue are trained to always check the ceiling.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Mal experiences these in increasingly heavy amounts as the series progresses. Zoe later begins to strain under the weight when Mal is in a coma.
  • Character Development: Significant development for Jayne, Mal, River, Book, and Zoe.
    • Mal develops into a darker character during the Business arc, particularly when he is forced to torture and kill one of Niska's men to find out where Jayne and River were being taken.
    • Jayne notably softens, at least with regards to River, especially after the two of them survive being tortured by Niska. However, he still regards her as insane, unstable, and somewhat untrustworthy.
    • Book has heavy development of his past, particularly with regards to his history before converting to Christianity, along with indications of a past as an Operative, including the fact that he knows the Operative personally.
    • River gradually matures and develops into her own as a functional person, despite her insanity, though she still remains unstable and dangerous.
    • Zoe both softens and hardens at the same time; her maternal and caring side is shown, and is also contrasted with her cold and ruthless aspects, particularly in the later episodes.
  • Chekhovs GunHammer
    • .....which pops up again in "Charity."
    • The knife of Volsky also becomes important later on, when Jayne uses it to escape and cut off Niska's fingers.
    • A literal case in the form of the Lassiter. It was mentioned off-handedly toward the beginning of "Business," and thirty-some-odd chapters later....
    • The drive discharge capacitor is mentioned early in "Condor." In "Adrift," said capacitor explodes and causes most of the problems in that arc.
    • The carpet that Kaylee wraps around herself in the intro to "Silver" turns out to be a flying carpet that Mal, Jayne, and Kaylee used to escape Dumont's mansion.
    • The power loader in "Hunt."
  • Chekhov's Gunman: A number of minor characters either appearing or mentioned in the series make return appearances as side characters or villains.
    • The old man that Inara speaks to at the beginning of the dance in Shindig is a major player in Condor.
    • Colonel Obrin, mentioned in passing in "The Message," also appears in "Condor" as a contact for Mal and Zoe, and later as a villain.
    • Ott and his crew, who were characters who appeared at the beginning of the Those Left Behind comic, are the primary villains of Mosiac.
    • Reavers.
    • Early on in "Silver," there are off-hand mentions of a man named Colonel Dannet, who turns out to be one of the men who worked at the Academy, and is River's target at the end of that story arc.
    • In "Silver," there's a mention of a psychic known as Inducer One-One-Nine. Inducer One-One-Nine is apparently behind everything in "Charity."
  • Click Hello: Book gets the drop on a Talon mercenary this way, after knocking out his compatriots when he wasn't looking - in complete silence.
  • Cliff Hanger: Constantly. Nearly every chapter ends with one, which the reviewers have noted makes the wait for updates painful.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Mal puts it best when talking about the Sword Fight he had with Atherton Wing in "Shindig":

 "It was fair. That's what I call cheating."

    • Jayne kills a Hand of Blue using a bedpan and scalpel.
    • Later on, Mal kills one of Ott's pirates by stabbing him in the eye with a glass shard.
    • River is not afraid to bring a gun to a kung-fu fight. Nor are the Hands of Blue.
      • Nor are the Reavers.
    • Do not get into a hand-to-hand fight with Zoe. Especially if she's got a knife.
    • In "Mosaic", Ott is running away after having barely survived tangling with Serenity's crew, and Mal calmly shoots him in the back. Its one of the coldest scenes in the story, but it fits perfectly with his character.
    • Kaylee, of all people. Power loader!
    • The entire crew, collectively, in "Silver". They got Womack to lay off them earlier by telling him they planted an EMP bomb on his ship, which he found offscreen. Problem is, they didn't plant one bomb. They planted three.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Niska, who deliberately tortures River and Jayne to get at Mal.
    • And Jayne at Niska afterward, when Jayne begins cutting off his fingers.
  • Coming of Age Story: For River, notably; a major part of the story's plot is her development into a functional adult, with the "First Interlude" showing her resolving to move past her trauma on her eighteenth birthday.
  • Conservation of Ninjitsu: In the comic Those Left Behind Ott's four-man crew manages to put up a good fight against Serenity's crew. In this story, Ott expands his crew to a couple dozen men. They get plastered. Either Ott isn't Genre Savvy enough, or River simply absorbed all of their kung fu through proximity.
  • Contrived Coincidence: A justified instance in Condor, when Book accidentally leads an Operative's men to Simon and Kaylee. They both happened to be in the same area, and Book was trying to hide from them before Kaylee spotted him and called his name. Less excusable is them being rescued by a squad of Alliance soldiers that happens to include Ash, Kaylee's sister. The author lampshades this in the author's notes, saying: "What a craaaazy coincidence."
    • In "Last Man," Jayne finishes telling Sheppard Book about his encounter with the Six Rifles moments before Wash informs him the last surviving member is on Glacier looking for them. This gets lampshaded too, it's described as being "the most disturbingly ill-timed news ever."
  • Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing: In "Mosaic," when Ott's crew has captured Mal and his crew, Mal manages to escape by palming a piece of broken glass and using that to cut free. Afterward, Mal uses said glass to kill both of Ott's mooks. Also notably averted with River in the same sequence; she simply gets free by working her way out of her restraints when no one is looking.
  • Cool Old Guy: Doctor al-Rashid.
  • Creepy Child: Inducer One-One-Nine.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Ott's crew ends up on the receiving end of one of these at the hands of Serenity's crew, especially after Jayne sets himself on fire.
    • There's also the opening scenes of each chapter of the "Silver" arc, which depict....someone....being utterly massacred by....well, someone else. At the end you learn it's Dumont's guards being slaughtered by Nemo.
    • A particularly wince-inducing one occurs in "Hunt," with a Hand of Blue facing Kaylee driving a power loader. Needless to say, the Hand loses.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most scenes from River's perspective have her mentally snarking, particularly at Mal or Jayne, when she's being more lucid.
  • Death World: The planet of Silverhold is presented as one, where the terraforming process resulted in the unexpected creation of a deadly, heavy silvery gas that renders it nearly impossible to survive below a certain altitude.
  • Despair Event Horizon: In "Fourth Interlude," one of River's flashbacks shows the point where she finally crossed this during her imprisonment at the Academy. It is particularly potent, as this is juxtaposed with the rest of the chapter, which shows River at her most determined and resolute.
  • Determinator: What with Mal and Original Flavor, this one is pretty much a given. Jayne also shows shades of it, as does Book while fighting the Reavers in "Adrift." River also starts showing signs of it as the story progresses, with her drawing inspiration and determination from her experiences with Mal, Book, Jayne, and Zoe.
    • River fully qualifies in the Fourth Interlude. Damn.
  • Differently-Powered Individual: The Academy uses a naming system for the different kinds of psychics, which is detailed below in Psychic Powers.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Literally. In "Charity", a psychic Inducer distracts River by having her become sexually attracted to Jayne, so she won't notice another Academy escapee. Paired with the Inducer's ability to become literally unremarkable enough that no one notices, and River never realizes she's there until the climax of the arc.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: There's a scene at the end of "Charity" showing River lying curled up in bed next to Katie. Its written like a mother holding a sleeping child, which becomes increasingly disturbing when one considers that Katie has essentially mindraped River into forcibly becoming a maternal/protector figure.
    • Later on, when River tries to rebel against Katie and attack her. The resulting scene where Katie mentally crushes River's mind is written like a rape scene, which is entirely appropriate.
  • Doorstopper: Currently at fifty chapters and counting, with the average page number per chapter coming out at around fifteen pages. That comes out to over six hundred pages if this was an actual paper book.
  • Driven to Suicide: Quite a lot of the Academy's test subjects end up killing themselves, or at least trying to. River attempted to do so when she finally decided Simon was never going to come for her, but was stopped by the Academy guards.
  • Driving Question: Central to the "Charity" episode, which asks why the mercenaries are attacking an otherwise unremarkable village.
  • Drop the Hammer: Mal gets a "lucky sledgehammer" in Mosaic. It periodically gets reused.
  • Dynamic Entry: "Silver." SIMON PUNCH! Also, in the same chapter, River ambushing Dannet via fridge.
  • Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Deliberately referenced by the author, who admits that "Business" is essentially the premise of "War Stories" with different characters and the use of the Alliance and the Hands of Blue. "Adrift" is essentially the premise of "Out of Gas" with Reavers, the Alliance, and Simon nearly dying. "Silver" is essentially the premise of "Trash," only with Lieutenant Womack, the Operative, and River's combat trainer from the Academy thrown in.
  • Enfante Terrible: Deconstructed in the form of Inducer One-One-Nine. Since One-One-Nine is a child, she has extremely poor impulse control, which drives her to kill any Blue Sun employees she encounters, mentally associating them with the Academy. This leads directly to the Academy finding and sending the Talon mercenaries after her, and it is how both Serenity's crew and the Hands of Blue track her down later, as even when she's hiding she can't control her impulses to kill.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The members of the Six Rifles generally go by their nationalities/ethnicities, i.e. "the American," or "the Cossack." The members of the group do appear to know each others' actual names, or parts of them, and the only one whose real name is entirely unknown is the Mongol.
  • Evil Gloating: When Niska captures Jayne and River, he calls up Mal to show them off and gloats about it.
  • Evil Versus Evil: In "Unfinished Business," Niska's men against the Hands of Blue.
    • From "Hunt," the Hands of Blue versus Inducer One-One-Nine, with a four-way gang war thrown in for good measure.
  • Expospeak Gag: One of the chapters is titled "Ponderous Condemned Champions." Also happens frequently with River's dialogue.
  • Expy: The train's engineer in Charity seems suspiciously familiar....
    • Inducer One-One-Nine is a black-haired, nine year-old girl with a penchant for mind-raping people, is psychopathically violent against her tormenters, and her last name is Wade. Hrm.
  • Fake in the Hole: In the Condor arc, Mal and Zoe duck for cover only to find that what was thrown at them was an empty magazine, with the message of "we could have tossed a grenade".
  • Fetal Position Rebirth: Used during the "First Interlude" while River is writing in her journal. She strips naked in her bunk, curls up in a fetal position, and writes down in her journal a personal declaration that she will no longer be a victim or tool for anyone else. For added symbolism, this happens on her eighteenth birthday.
  • Fingore: Niska gets a few fingers cut off by Jayne.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: River and Jayne start off the story still somewhat hostile toward one another, but after surviving their ordeal in Niska's clutches, they develop into friends, albeit friends who still bicker and tease each other relentlessly.
  • Five-Bad Band: The Six Rifles
  • Flash Back: "Condor" opens with a flashback to the Unification War, and other flashbacks to the series itself are often used to highlight the importance of certain scenes. The "Fourth Interlude" makes heavy use of flashbacks, mostly in the form of dreams River has while asleep, flashing back to her childhood on Osiris or her time at the Academy.
    • Much of "Last Man" involves a flashback to a much younger Jayne while he was being hunted by the Six Rifles.
  • Flat What: "Neither Jayne nor Mal spared the thought for a question mark at the end of that sentence."
    • Simon and Zoe have this response when they learn River is buying a sword.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Early on in "Mosiac," Mal warns Jayne to not set anything on fire. At the arc's climax, Jayne sets himself on fire.
    • Early in "Charity," Zoe notes Simon has a vial of a drug that suppresses female sexuality, which Simon is keeping on hand because River is finally coming down off a long-term treatment by the Academy that suppresses her sexual impulses. Inducer One-One-Nine uses River's uncontrolled sexual impulses against her later to distract her.
    • "Charity" also has the decoding file at the top of each chapter. Paying close attention to the file as it decodes would reveal a few chapters early who Inducer One-One-Nine was, especially if one notes the only character in the story thus far with a name that has seven letters with "hry" in them.
    • "Third Interlude" has the "Mongol" make reference to "Andy's old rifle" and a man named "Konstantin" when confronting Jayne, with implications being that the Mongol is one of the six men who came to kill Jayne. In "Last Man" the, well, last man of the six ("The Cossack") has finally tracked Jayne down.
  • For Want of a Nail: Both Wash and Book survive because of this. Wash instead turned in his chair toward Zoe while speaking his Famous Last Words, and thus the spear only sliced across his chest instead of impaling him. In Book's case, Word of God is that Simon got there first instead of Mal, and just barely saved Book from death.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: In Silver, naked Jayne holding a stolen machinegun and spraying fire at a bunch of enemy soldiers.
  • Gambit Pileup: "Silver" ended up being one of these, with competing gambits from Mal, Womack, River, and the Operative.
    • The story as a whole appears to be one of these, with conflicting background gambits between the Alliance, the Browncoats (who the Operative/Nemo appears to be working with - maybe, we're not sure yet what their angle is), and apparently the Academy and John Garis/Echo, who may actually be doing something completely counter to them (again, no idea yet what he's planning, if anything.)
  • Genre Savvy: Mal, who points out that they have a miserable history of keeping prisoners imprisoned right before executing one of Niska's men.
    • Also in Unfinished Business, where Mal gets uncomfortable because the job goes exactly as planned. Things get worse.
  • Girl with Psycho Weapon: Marietta, who is a psychotic, heavily armed woman on Ott's crew carrying a massive chaingun.
  • Glass Cannon: the author's portrayal of River emphasizes this, pointing out that while being supremely agile and dangerous, one solid hit is all it takes to put River down. She gets tougher as the story progresses, but is still vulnerable to things like broken bones.
  • Government Conspiracy: "Second Interlude" implies that whatever the Academy's true goal is, it's something far more sinister than simply creating psychic supersoldiers.
  • Hannibal Lecture: River delivers one to Volsky as he is torturing her, revealing not only the fact that his wife is cheating on him, but that he is plotting to assassinate Niska and the rest of his men.
  • Heel Face Turn: The Operative is working for the Browncoats against the Alliance.
  • He Knows Too Much: A major part of "Condor" involves this, with Book acquiring data on the Academy's experiments. It is implied that the data is enough to potentially bring about a second civil war.
  • Heroic BSOD: Jayne has an extremely brief one in "Business" when River takes a bullet for him. He comes out the other end very pissed off.
    • At the end of "Hunt" River violently butchers a Hand of Blue in front of Simon, and is so ashamed at his reaction that she runs off on her own in another ship.
  • Hero-Killer: Deliberately invoked with the Hands of Blue. Though they haven't been able to kill anyone yet, it hasn't been from a lack of skill or effort; in fact, in both instances where they've fought River, they've handily beaten her. Of the four that have appeared in the story, one had to be hit by a sneak-attack from Mal, Jayne had to pummel another senseless with a bedpan and slit his throat with a scalpel after a drawn-out brawl, another required Kaylee to hijack a power loader to stop, and the last was only stopped when he accidentally triggered an Unstoppable Rage in River by shooting Simon. Pretty much, whenever these guys appear, it's an Oh Crap moment for everyone involved, and for good reason.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: In the "Third Interlude", River tries to sweet-talk a bystander into letting her take his ATV. Jayne demonstrates they don't have time by punching the man off the bike and stealing it.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Colonel Lee Obrin, Mal and Zoe's former commander. Mal accuses him of being no different from the Alliance due to the way he regards River as a weapon/strategic asset instead of a person, as well as the fact that he believes they have to teach people the "correct" way to think.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: River and Jayne. Though not romantically paired up in the story (yet), the two have developed a brother-sister dynamic that often invokes this.
  • I Am Not a Gun: River makes this assertion in "First Interlude." Her fears and insecurities regarding this are explored over the series, culminating in a Freak-Out in "Hunt" when she becomes terrified of what her combat programming is making her do.
  • I Call It Vera: River buys the electrosword that was stolen in the "Adrift" arc and names it "Laertes." Jayne names his revolver "Boo," and his oversized knife "Binky." The Trope Namer herself gets to see a lot of action as well.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Mal and Zoe, with regards to torturing and executing one of Niska's soldiers.
  • Improvised Weapon: Countless.
    • In "Business" Jayne uses a metal bedpan and a surgical scalpel to kill a Blue Hand.
    • In "Mosaic" Mal uses a shard of glass to kill two of Ott's goons.
    • In "Silver", Zoe and Book turn the mule into a giant fragmentation grenade to blow up Womack's ship.
    • In "Last Man" young Jayne turns an entire storage shed into a bomb using propane, gasoline, mining explosives, and a lighter.
  • Incendiary Exponent: in "Mosaic" Jayne, armed only with a knife and a cupboard full of chemicals and an old coat, sets himself on fire to terrify Ott's crew, reasoning that nothing is scarier than a huge man charging you with a giant knife while on fire. "Last Man" implies that Jayne got the notion from how he killed the Brit, who did the exact same thing to him, only involuntarily.
  • Inducers Made Them Do It: River and Jayne in "Charity."
  • Indy Ploy:

 Zoe: "I'm hoping this isn't part of some brilliant plan you've cooked up."

Mal: "Oh, no, I am most definitely making this up as I go along."

Zoe: "That's very reassuring, sir."

    • And again:

  Echo: "Plans are for people who are competent. I'm not. I just have a remarkable proficiency at adaptation."

  • In the Back: Mal has no compunctions about shooting Ott in the back as he runs away. The guy tried to kill his entire crew, after all.
  • Invincible Hero: Deliberately averted in River's case. The author has outright said that he dislikes stories where River is used as the "solve everything" button. As a result, while River is portrayed as one of the deadliest fighters in the setting, she is still quite vulnerable, and has actually been either defeated or suffered serious injuries in most of the fights she's been in.
  • I Shall Taunt You:
    • In "Charity," Mal deliberately snarks at a mercenary holding him at gunpoint, giving Book the opportunity to knock out his comrades and sneak up on him. Afterward, Mal kicks him in the shins.
    • During "Last Man" Jayne taunts the Cossack with a stream of insults relating to his mangled arm and leg to piss him off and draw him away from pursuing Wash.
  • It Got Worse: Happens often enough that Mal gets worried when things are going smooth. Several arcs in particular stand out:
    • "Unfinished Business": River and Jayne get kidnapped by Niska, then tortured for hours on end. Niska tries to collect the bounty on River, bringing the Hands of Blue down on their heads. Meanwhile tensions rise between the rest of Serenity's crew as Mal tortures one of Niska's mercenaries and then throws him out the airlock when he's finished. Things don't start turning around until Niska orders one of his guards to rape River, at which point Jayne sees red. And then the Hands of Blue show up.
    • "Adrift": Everything that could possibly go wrong does so in the very first chapter. Mal gets pinned to the side of the ship by an asteroid because the winch stopped working due to an electrical surge that also wiped out power to everything on board, including the gravity generator (mercifully, the life support is still intact). Simon is in the infirmary at the time, and gets a pair of surgical scissors stuck in his chest. Kaylee's tether gets snapped and she goes tumbling out into the Black, and Jayne just barely manages to rescue her. Once they get back inside, things get even worse as Wash and Mal discover that someone is approaching: Reavers.
    • "Charity." Hoo boy. It starts off with a murder investigation that rapidly turns into the crew fending off an army of mercenaries, which turns into a desperate escape via train. Then there's another attack by mercenaries, this time with heavily-armed gunships....and that's before The Reveal, Mal getting shot and clubbed into a coma, and River being mentally beaten into submission and kidnapped by an insane, murdering psychic.
    • Happens in record time in "Hunt": What looks at first like it'll simply be a story about the crew going to Sirroco and rescuing River goes off the rails in part one, when the Hands of Blue arrive and Katie psychically ends the truce between the four gangs controlling the station.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Subverted. Mal and Zoe are unable to get one of Niska's men to give up the location of Niska's ship. They eventually have to rely on Book and Wash to coax the information out of him.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: Pretty much what Inducer One-One-Nine uses to avoid detection, by making herself appear unremarkable while focusing others' attention on something else in the environment. Toward the end of "Charity", One-One-Nine uses this to sneak River right past the rest of the crew while they're trying to help a critically-wounded Mal.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: an almost infuriating number of teases and clues and hints are dropped about the Academy as the series progresses, though they've been coming in faster and faster as the plot progresses.
  • Joker Immunity: Both played straight and averted. Niska and Womack both survive tangling with the crew of Serenity, though only because Jayne was distracted from killing Niska by River, and no one could stick around to make sure Womack stayed dead when they shot down his ship. On the other hand, Mal bluntly executes Ott by shooting him in the back. Several minor villains, i.e. Dumant, Obrin, and Bascjo are outright killed.
  • Karma Houdini: In "Business," Niska manages to escape a second time after Jayne gets loose and starts cutting off his fingers. Later, in "Silver," Womack manages to survive the destruction of his ship through sheer ice-cold ruthlessness.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Gunboat captain Durant, who cements his Genre Blindness by even saying that "They'll never penetrate our hulls or windows with-" right before an armor-piercing grenade punches through the window of his bridge.
    • In "Last Man", Brayko is killed mid-sentence by Konstantin for protesting that their current course is suicidal.
  • Kill Him Already: Good advice, which both Mal and River follow when dealing with Ott and Si Quan.
  • Knight Templar: Colonel Obrin, who wants to use River's abilities for the sake of the Browncoats. Also, the Operative, who kills an ambulance crew just to protect the crew of Serenity without their knowledge.
  • Lady of War: "Adrift" explicitly invokes this, referring to River as an "Angel of Death" as she massacres Reavers.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Mal's tendency toward A Simple Plan is regularly lampshaded.
    • In the shootout in the warehouse in "Business," River tries to ram the doors to escape, but doesn't break through, to which Jayne complains "that always works in the vids."
    • The sheer number of Mooks the crew fights at the beginning of "Business" is lampshaded with Mal commenting that "it was like someone had found a discount site on the Cortex for hired goons."
    • While Simon is confronting the Operative at the party in "Silver", he bluntly lampshades just how overwhelmingly melodramatic the man is.
    • At the beginning of "Mosaic", Wash confesses to "feel like [he's] only alive because of the whims of some silly god."
    • In the first chapter of "Charity" Mal lampshades the number of references and in-jokes they're using during the voice-recording scene. This goes meta and recursive a moment later when River lampshades the lampshading.
  • Large Ham: In the Second Interlude, Morris the bartender. Then again, that's only natural, as the author commented that the character was inspired by Brian Blessed.
  • Last-Name Basis: The Hands of Blue are only identified by their last names.
  • Les Yay: the brief scene between River and Grace in "Mosiac" is nothing but.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Hands of Blue, whose blue gloves (and undersuits) are actually a strength- and speed-enhancing suit of low-profile Power Armor. They're almost blindingly-fast when they need to be, can tank gunfire (and Inara's crossbow bolts) and hit like sledgehammers.
  • Mama Bear: Zoe in "Charity", particularly when the mercenaries assault the chapel.
    • Then it's called into question when Katie is outed as an Inducer, since she outright states that she was manipulating those feelings in Zoe because she wanted a mother. Of course, Inducers can't do anything with feelings that aren't already there, so she likely does have those tendencies; they were just being driven Up to Eleven by Katie.
    • It also appears to have left a pretty heavy effect on Zoe after she realized what had happened.

 Zoe: "She got in my head."

  • Manly Tears: In the epilogue for "Hunt," Wash has to leave the infirmary when Simon finishes reading the letter River wrote him, because he felt he shouldn't be there while the doctor cried, noting that "it was a man thing."
  • Meaningful Background Event: Throughout the "Charity" arc, there a number of minor scenes involving {{[spoiler| Zoe and a young, terrified little girl from the village named Katie.}} Most of these scenes are small and mentioned in passing, and are generally forgettable. Except Katie is an Inducer.
  • Meaningful Name: The man named Nemo in the Condor arc, because there is nothing left to see.
    • Captain Earnest Townsend, who happens to be captain of an Alliance frigate named the Hemmingway.
    • There's also Echo, which is likely also a reference to Dollhouse.
      • And River's callsign during a training mission at the Academy was "Alpha." Very, very clear references to Dollhouse there.
    • River naming the sword "Laertes."
  • Mind Manipulation: The "Inducer" psychics appear to control emotions and responses in people.
  • Mind Rape: River explicitly accuses Colonel Dannett of the "mundane torture" version when confronting him at the end of Silver. The "Inducer" psychics can do the "psychic attack" variant to people.
  • Mind Screw: Quite a few of River's loopier moments, especially in the two interludes focusing on her. There's a particularly screwy moment where River hallucinates Jubal Early coming after her, which threw more than one reviewer for a loop, as Early actually is alive and is hunting for her.
  • Moe: "Chocolate. Now."
  • Mook Horror Show: In "Mosaic," when River tears apart Ott's goons, the scene shows just how horrifying she is to them.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Inducer One-One-Nine's approach to most problems.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: "We are all sons-of-bitches."
  • Nakama: Deconstructed with Mal, whose devotion to his crew means that he is willing to torture and execute one of Niska's men to protect them.
    • Also, this is the entire reason Mal shoots Ott in the back at the end of "Mosaic." Do not fuck with Mal's crew.
    • In "Adrift," Mal makes the cold, rational decision to let a wounded Simon die rather than risk the crew's lives taking him to a nearby Alliance vessel for treatment. This does not sit well with him, however, and after some prodding from Kaylee, he relents and decides to give the crazy plan to save Simon a shot. Unfortunately, Inara, believing Mal really was going to let Simon die, went behind his back and helped Book steal a shuttle to transport Simon to the Alliance vessel. Mal is not happy, and there are some extremely tense scenes between them afterward. By the end of the arc, though, Inara and Mal manage to clear the air, with Inara pointing out that she only made the choice that she thought Mal should have been making, and that he ultimately did, and Mal reluctantly agrees.
  • Naked on Arrival: The beginning of the "Silver" arc.
  • Nerves of Steel: Zoe proves to be extremely adept at being able to lock her emotions down behind "iron-hard discipline." This proves to be critical in "Hunt," where she uses her control over her emotions to let her ignore the maternal love and concern Kathryn is forcing into her mind and shoot her.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: "So, they're like zombies. Power armored government zombies. Shiny."
    • (The head is the most vulnerable part of the power armor. So you have to shoot them in the head.)
  • No Gravity for You: When the Reavers attack Serenity in "Adrift", Mal lets them board, only for them to discover the gravity on the ship has been disabled (due to damage earlier in that episode). The sudden transition from a ship with gravity and a ship without it turns them into easy prey as they flail about helplessly.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Jubal Early beating up Kaylee's sister Ashley in the "Second Interlude."
  • Noodle Incident: Exactly why Mal is smuggling a box of puppies that ends up with a giant truck full of goons chasing the crew in the Third Interlude is never explained.
    • Last Man appears set to explain one of Jayne's canonical noodle incidents - specifically, the six men who came to kill him.
    • Another Noodle Incident is mentioned in the same story - the "Boros job" that the Six Rifles went on. Precisely what happened isn't clear, but there was apparently a cross-dresser involved, they got into a shootout with twenty federal marshals, and the Syrian removed shrapnel from "new and interesting places" on the Brit.
  • Not So Different: River accuses Inducer One-One-Nine of being no different than the Academy's agents. This causes some consternation on One-One-Nine's part.
    • In "Condor", Mal claims Obrin is just like the Alliance-- ready and willing to trample the rights of the few to make life marginally better for the many.
  • Oh Crap: Niska has a truely epic one when Jayne starts cutting off his fingers.
        • A minor one comes when Niska contacts the Alliance about River's bounty:

  "The next ten minutes were the bureaucratic equivalent of open-mouthed, slack-jawed horror at the realization that River Tam was in the hands of Adelei Niska."

  • Older Than They Look: The author holds firmly to the "canon" dates of Mal's birth, putting him in his fifties.
  • One-Man Army: What appears to be Nemo in the opening scenes of each chapter of "Silver," which depicts him/her massacring more than two dozen armed men with guns using only a blade.
  • One Steve Limit: Two of the gangs on Sirroco Station are called the Iron Talons and Red Talons, on top of the mercenary group Talon. River theorizes that none of these guys are very creative.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: River has one of these following the brutal fight with Ott's pirates at the end of "Mosiac."
    • In "Charity," it is shown why she has this reaction. Whenever she kills someone in close-combat, River is exposed to a full blast of both their emotions and their personal history, both of which are immediately cut off when they die in a manner that is apparently deeply disturbing.
  • Override Command: Hardwired override controls are in in every Alliance ship, apparently. The codes for activating these are known only to high-ranking officials and Operatives. And a certain psychic.
  • Painting the Fourth Wall: "Riverthink," an...odd...way of showing River's confused mental processes. Most of the text in the story is left aligned, but the text during River's thoughts is centered, with a mixture of text changes, including bolds, italics, underlines, and capitalizations. Mixed in with a combination of non-sequiters, Cloudcuckoolander babbling, random thoughts, and semi-coherent perceptions, it does a really good job showing River's screwy mind.
    • In the eighth chapter of "Charity" this gets turned on its head: an Inducer grabs River's hand, and through tactile contact is able to control her mind. This is signified by the text suddenly becoming normal, left-aligned, with no embellishments and the prose being completely clear and lucid.
  • Papa Wolf: Take a wild guess...
  • Phlebotinum Rebel: In addition to River, there are at least three other Academy test subjects who have escaped, one apparently during River's escape and two more later on. One of them is Inducer One-One-Nine, whose name is Kathryn wade, and she is almost psychopathically violent.
  • Plot Threads: The series ties together three concurring plots: Mal's personal war with Niska, River coming to terms with her trauma at the hands of Niska and the Academy, and Book's explorations of the data needle pertaining to the Academy's operations. There are several smaller threads that have developed over the series as well, including Zoe's pregnancy, Ashley looking for Kaylee, Echo hunting for Serenity, and whatever the hell it is that the Operative is doing.
  • Powered Armor: the Hands of Blue.
  • Precision F-Strike: In "Last Man," the Frenchman's response to the American missing what should have been an easy shot is "Baise?" (the French word for "fuck.") This is pretty much the only actual word he's spoken in the story.
  • Pregnant Badass: Zoe, as of the "Mosiac" arc.
  • Private Military Contractors: The "Talon" mercenaries in "Charity," who are apparently part of a big interplanetary mercenary firm called "Skyhawk Intervention."
    • The Six Rifles are an elite six-man mercenary team.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: One of the villagers in the "Charity" episode was forced to commit suicide after being used as a murder weapon by an Inducer; this is one of the clues that allows Book to piece together who was really behind the events of that episode.
    • "Hunt" opens with a particularly chilling example of this as Katie forces a Blue Sun worker to commit suicide by pushing him past the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Psychic Powers: Four known "types" of psychics are revealed in the data that Book recovers in "Condor": Blanks, Kinetics, Inducers, and Empaths, the latter of which River is noted to be the strongest.
    • From what has been hinted at so far, it appears that Kinetics are telekinetics, and Blanks are immune to psychic effects. Empaths are, well, The Empath. Inducers appear to use a form of Mind Manipulation that works on either generating or enhancing emotions and perceptions, allowing them to subtly control minds.
  • Punch Clock Villain: The Alliance. Their soldiers are enemies in Business but actually become allies of the crew in Condor and Adrift.
    • In particular, Colonel Dannet, who was so affected by what he did to the children at the Academy that he retired early and hid out on a Rim planet, just trying to forget what happened.
  • Put on a Bus: Mal after "Charity," after he gets shot and beaten, rendering him comatose.
  • Ramming Always Works: Well, Serenity doesn't carry any guns, but the ship is a pretty damned durable, so it works in a pinch in more than one case.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • When the martial arts master charges the girl with the revolver, guess who wins?
    • When River is on the ground and being chased by pirates in a spacecraft, the backwash from their thrusters hits her, picks her up, and slams her into a boulder, apparently breaking her legs and leaving her immobilized.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Jayne sets himself on fire to save the rest of the crew.
  • Remember That You Trust Me: River and Zoe have this conversation in "Charity" when River becomes worried that Zoe is afraid of her instability.
  • Rescue Romance: Notably subverted with River and Jayne, after they survived being tortured by Niska. The aftermath would have provided a perfect opportunity to follow up with one of these, but the author deliberately avoided doing so to develop both of their characters.
  • Retirony: Played with in the "Charity" chapter "Bastion." One of the mercs named Willis Gardner had decided he didn't like the job and would be leaving after this mission. We only learn his name and this information because River is reading his mind as she's killing him. This is less to establish sympathy for the character, and rather to set up the Out, Damned Spot! moment mentioned above.
  • The Reveal: "Nemo" is the Operative.
    • Inducer One-One-Nine is Katie.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Konstantin is willing to dive headlong into a blizzard and forgo aerial support because he wants to kill Jayne personally. When Jayne kills three of his men and the last one objects to continuing the pursuit, Konstantin responds by shooting him in the mouth and moving on alone.
  • Revenge by Proxy: the entire reason why Niska kidnaps Jayne and River during "Business."
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Jayne corners Niska and slices of several fingers once he gets free.
  • Rule of Cool: Invoked by the author in one of his notes: " River now has a sword that tazes people."
  • Running Gag: "...the not-so-[good/fine/great] ship Serenity."
    • Mr. Quinn cannot ever finish speaking his code phrase without being interrupted.
    • Wash ramming things. He's rammed gunships, drones, and at one point nearly crushed Womack's ship against his hull when the latter threatened to shoot Serenity down.
  • Sanity Slippage: Doctor Kondraki's logs in "Charity" as he apparently falls under the control of an Inducer.
  • Scope Snipe: Jayne pulls one of these on an Operative in "Condor." While on top of Serenity, as it's flying over a city.
  • Sequel Hook: Numerous hooks for future arcs are being dropped in the earlier parts of the story. For example, Book's data needle, at least three other Academy escapees, at least one more of the "six men" who came to kill Jayne still being alive and plenty more.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: In "Silver," River briefly masquerades as Inara's accounting assistant, which involves her having to actually wear some makeup, brush out her tangled hair, and wear a semi-businesslike outfit. The rest of the crew has a muted version of the typical response to this trope, particularly Jayne.
  • Ship Tease: the author has hinted at both River/Mal and River/Jayne.
    • It isn't helped by the fact that the author both openly ships River/Jayne and has no objections to River/Mal. The author is steadfastly neutral in the Ship-to-Ship Combat within the Firefly fandom.
    • The the "Charity" arc has this in spades between River and Jayne.
    • And then brutally subverted. River and Jayne actually do start making out, but this is because Inducer One-One-Nine is apparently distracting River from noticing her by making her focus on Jayne.
      • Except that Induced feelings don't go away. They stay. So from now on, River and Jayne are going to feel a lot of lust for one another.
      • And also, according to Katie, Inducers can't generate emotions that aren't already there, hey can only enhance ones that already exist.
      • "Hunt" has a small scene where River stops to look at Jayne, and he makes her feel, ahem, warm.
  • Shock and Awe: River eventually gains access to an electro-sword which is essentially a Chinese jian that channels electricity.
  • Shoot the Dog: Zoe killing Kathryn.
  • Shout-Out/ Actor Allusion: Countless. The author loves these.

Shout Outs

  • The Biofoam. I can't remember that ever showing up in Firefly, but a dedicated Halo fan knows what Biofoam is, and the canister that sprays it fitting the exact description.
    • Going by the description, its the same stuff that Simon used on Zoe's injuries in the movie. The name is, however, a shout-out to Halo.
    • Mal and Jayne later take on call signs based on Voice Acting roles their actors later played in Halo 3: ODST.
    • Most obvious occurs in Mosiac, where Mal beats down several pirates with a sledgehammer, and River subsequently dubs him Captain Hammer. Along with a few quoted lyrics and lines from the musical, including Someone maternal! and I think this is what pain feels like....
      • There's a sort of Dark Reprise later on when Mal, suffering under the weight of the Chains Of Commanding, pushes everyone else away and tells them "I'm fine," echoing a similar line from Doctor Horrible - in which neither of them are fine.
      • River also has a Dark Reprise when she echoes Mal's earlier "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" line...except this is right in the middle of an emotional breakdown. It reflects the dark nature of the source of those lines in a very subtle manner.
    • In the prologue, Wash comments on River's navigation skills, wondering out loud if she's actually a robot sent back from the future. Later on in "Silver," River is described as acting very cold and emotionless, and almost mechanical.
    • During the climax of Mosiac, one of Ott's goons cries out that she punched out ALL MY BLOOD!
    • A very, very subtle one occurs in the epilogue of the Adrift arc. Wash comments that he hopes Mal won't bake him a "Big Damn Cake," to which Zoe replies that he's probably just kidding, which means that the cake is ....
    • Another subtle one occurs earlier in the same arc, where Mal tells Jayne to go find River, and to beat on the vents with a wrench if he has to.
    • They can't grab Jayne if he's on fire.
    • The author makes a few subtle references to Mass Effect when talking about the technology in Serenity.
      • The executive officer on the Hemmingway is named Pressly, which is the same name as the SSV Normandy's XO.
    • The Bible quotes Book speaks while fighting off the Reavers bear an awful similarity to certain lines spoken by Father Alexander Anderson.
    • "I need a hacksaw."
      • Lampshaded by the author in the notes. "Is Mal channelling some Jack Bauer? Because I think that's Mal channelling some Jack Bauer."
    • In "Mosaic", Wash flies over an area and comments "Pretty. What do we blow up first?"
    • Also, in "Mosaic": "Why so serious, Captain Hammer?"
    • Various bits of information relating to the Academy are steeped in little references here and there.
      • Subject John 000-117, who incidentally also happens to have the callsign of Echo. Later followed by another test subject whose name is Sierra. River, incidentally, happens to be Alpha.
      • One of the doctors at the Academy is named Kondraki. Another is named Clef, and there's also a Doctor Brinks. Another of the test subjects at the Academy is named Wade, and there are also references to "telesthetic amplification" mixed in with the technobabble.
      • The codename for the entire Academy project is Cerberus.
      • River's sixth sense for electronics contradicts the theory of a scientist named Gallifrey.
    • In the "Silver" arc, Jayne comes across an artifact in a museum: an "electrosword" owned by an Earth-That-Was general named "Jingwei."
      • Also in Silver River ambushes Dannet by leaping at him out of the fridge.
      • In the "Silver" epilogue, River suggests a name for Wash and Zoe's child: Caroline.
      • The author wrote the character Dumont with Timothy Dalton's performance as Simon Skinner in Hot Fuzz in mind, though he didn't originally intend any direct reference.
    • In Second Interlude: "Sorry about the mess."
    • In the Third Interlude, River quotes Gandalf at Wash. Also, the chapter has an opening suspiciously similar to Blood Rites, with Mal and the crew being chased by angry bad guys hunting for a box of puppies.
      • Also, in Charity, there's a priest named Father Forthill.
      • The author is an admitted fan of The Dresden Files. The current arc focuses heavily on Zoe and apparently themes of motherhood, and is named "Charity". That can't be a coincidence.
      • Later on, Mal calls Wash "Merlin" in reference to his "aerial wizardy." Wash's response is to outright say he's "more of a Dresden" wizard.
    • No mention of Book's Vermillion-level passcode?
    • In "Charity", while sneaking past customs, Mal and Jayne go by the fake names of "Buck" and "Dutch." There's also a mention of rustlung disease.
    • Also in "Charity", there's a group of mercenaries called Talon Company.
    • The leader of the Talon Company mercs is Commander Bascjo, which is an anagram for Commander Jabsco, who is the leader of Talon Company in Fallout 3.
  • Don't forget in "Condor," with Wash's dinosaur Spartacus.
    • "This... is... SPARTACUS!"
    • In Chapter Six of "Charity," River mentions they could all be killed by a deorbiting toilet. That same chapter also has a captured mercenary who is thin, blond, handsome, rather talkative and forthcoming, speaks with a vaguely Spanish accent, and whose name is "Zev."
  • Inara's high-tech-looking bow is referred to as a "torque bow".
  • Chapter Seven of "Charity" is titled "Crazy Train."
  • In the prologue of "Condor," demons are referred to as baldricks.
  • "Charity" canonizes Alan Tudyk's half-joking speculation on Wash's doings during the Unification War from the "War Stories" commentary, though it's treated a good deal more seriously.
  • River names her electrosword Laertes "after my brother," referencing a Laertes who had a crazy sister.
  • One of Wash's dinosaur battles includes "Falcon Kick!"
  • Mal mentions helping the helpless in "Charity."
  • In "Hunt" Wash turns out to be a Star Wars fan, confusing the others by insisting on calling seedy spaceports "wretched hives."
  • And Kaylee mentions it'd be nice to have a power loader on board;
    • When she crushes a Hand of Blue with the power loader, she adds that she was yelling "Get away from them, you hun dan!"
  • The Fourth Interlude is heavily inspired by the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Zuko Alone."
  • A subtle one: Doctor Abu Mustafa Muhammad Ibn Haroun al-Rashid. The use of "Rashid" may also be a reference to Rashid the Gatekeeper from The Dresden Files.
  • River hallucinates Book telling her to "Look! At! Me!"
  • In the epilogue of Mosaic, when Mal asks River about what happened to her, River starts refering to herself in third person and says, "But she doesn't want to be there. She... I... doesn't want to go back," which is very similar to the dialogue from the I Remember Me mission in Mass Effect.
  • "Blanks," or people who are immune to psychics, are a possible reference to Warhammer 40000, which originated the term.
  • In "Last Man," the flashback to Jayne's encounter with the Six Rifles takes place in a town with a climate that distinctly matches the Northwestern United States. The town is named Fallbright.
  • Per Word of God: "Any perceived similarity to The Expendables is unintentional. Any perceived similarity to Reservoir Dogs is likely somewhat intentional."

  • Shower Scene: A couple of these.
    • Shower of Awkward: Sort of; in "Charity" River asks Jayne to stand outside the room while she takes a shower. This is coupled with some Redemption in the Rain for River, as River has bad memories associated with showers from her time in the Academy, and is facing that trauma by forcing herself to take a shower, and has Jayne stand outside to provide her with a stable mind to latch onto.
    • Shower of Angst: River's Out, Damned Spot! moment in "Charity."
    • Shower of Love: Jayne and Ashley in "Condor"
  • Shown Their Work: The author goes on a short spiel about why Vera's bullets would actually work in a no-oxygen environment, and then comes up with a plausible explanation as to why Vera's bullets actually don't fire very well in a vacuum.
    • The author put a bit of research into Arabic naming conventions, which shows in the "Fourth Interlude."
  • Shrug of God: The final scene of "Business," where River is shown waking up, sitting down next to an unidentified male crewmember, and thanking him for bringing her home, is left open to reader interpretation as to who she is speaking to. The scene is rendered in "Riverthink" and therefore the name of whoever it is happens to be left unclear. It could be Mal, Jayne, or possibly even Book or Wash, depending on the interpretation.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Quite possibly as a backswing to the Grimdark of Tiberium Wars, this story is actually fairly positive. Sure, the series starts off quite dark and brutal, but as it progresses, the crew ends up being better off, River is recovering, Zoe and Wash are expecting a child, the crew has a backup ship stashed away after killing Ott, and the series repeatedly reaffirms Mal's commitment to his Nakama and doing what he thinks is right over what is smart.
  • Stalker with a Crush: John Garis/Echo appears to be one of these toward River.
  • Stealth Hi Bye: River pulls these occasionally, and Inara does one as well, complete with a bit of Lampshade Hanging by Simon.
  • Stealth Pun: The events of "Adrift" force the crew to choose between letting Simon die from his injuries or going to the Alliance for help. This puts them between a rock and a hard place, which is literally the predicament Mal finds himself in for most of the first chapter.
    • In "Silver" the following conversation happens:

 Zoe: Preacher, are you sanguine that this is going to work?

Book: If not, it shall be bloody.

  • Suddenly Sexuality: Subverted in Mosiac, where River has a brief lesbian makeout session. However, it turns out that River doesn't like girls, but she was drunk and confused, and there are hints at other, darker reasons behind the incident, relating to River's past at the Academy.
  • Survival Mantra: For River, "I am functional."
  • Sword and Gun: Both River and Book in "Adrift."
  • Taking the Bullet: In "Business" River spots one of Niska's men about to shoot Jayne during the gun battle after the mule is crashed and moves to block it. The subsequent realization of what River did is what fuels Jayne's subsequent Unstoppable Rage.
  • Tempting Fate: Lampshaded repeatedly to the point where it becomes a Running Gag, with characters mentioning at least once an arc that they're going to get jinxed. Which they do.
    • In "Charity" Mal tries to be Genre Savvy and keeps his mouth shut about how narrow their escape was. It doesn't work.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Lampshaded by Jayne: after he gets free from the binding Niska's men had put on him, he manages to kill all of Niska's men with a knife and then tortures Niska, pointing out that, while Niska likes to torture little girls (River) he does not seem to like when the little girl and the bear (Jayne) fight back.
  • There Are No Therapists: Simon can't find a decent therapist for River, so he turns to the closest thing they've got: Inara. Unfortunately, River is being stubborn and difficult for her to treat, and Inara doesn't want to push her.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: In "Business," Mal spaces one of Niska's henchmen after interrogating him, pointing out that he will not risk leaving a likely gun at his back while he's rescuing his captured crewmembers.
  • Title Drop: The final chapter of the "Mosaic" arc. This itself is apparently a reference to a line in the Those Left Behind prequel comic, where Wash asks Mal where they're headed at the end, and he says "Forward."
  • Too Much Information: Wash's reaction to when River jokes that Jayne doesn't just use gun lube on guns.
  • Torture Always Works: No. It doesn't.
  • Torture Technician: Volsky, whom Niska got to replace the one killed in "War Stories."
    • Mal and Zoe are revealed not to be these in Business.
    • The Mongol appears to be one, but Konstantin refuses to let him "indulge."
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Too early to be certain, but the unnamed village in "Charity" may be one of these.
    • Confirmed. They're apparently being controlled by an Inducer-type psychic.
  • Traintop Battle: Played with in the climax of "Charity" - mercenary troops are rappelling down onto the train, but the crew fights them by shooting at them as they come down, from the sides of the train, as the top of the train has no cover.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Pick an arc. Either River or Mal will get conga'd - possibly both at the same time.
  • The Undefeated: The Browncoats under Obrin's command.
  • Unflinching Walk: Womack in "Silver."
  • Up to Eleven: Part of the Original Flavor is due to the series upping a characters already inherent and memorable traits even more.
    • Inducers have the capacity to do this to human emotions and feelings, aplifying and controlling them to the point where people act completely irrationally around them.
  • Underestimating Badassery: In "Mosaic," Ott's crew thinks River is just a skinny teenage girl that they lump in with the rest of the crew when they take the ship. They only realize their thorough mistake once she starts punching out all their blood.
  • The Unfavorite: Ashley Frye's relationship with her family is unpleasant, to say the least. This means she hasn't spoken with the rest of her family in years. It is strongly implied that this is because she supported unification and joined the Alliance military. She appears to get along decently enough with Kaylee, at least.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Everything in "Charity." No one knew about or noticed the Inducer because she wouldn't let them notice her.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Anytime Jayne sees red.
    • In "Charity," an Inducer forces Pherson, the village's elder, into a violent, berserk fury against Mal that ends with Mal bleeding out and unconscious from a gun butt to the cranium.
    • In "Hunt" a Hand of Blue shoots Simon. River is a few feet away. Guess what happens next.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Inducer One-One-Nine is terrified of the Hands of Blue, and it doesn't help that River likens her to the people who experimented on both of them.
    • The Cossack in "Last Man" gradually becomes more and more unhinged as Jayne kills his team one by one, both in the present and the flashback. He eventually ends up shooting the last survivor of his team in the present when he suggests they retreat and get reinforcements.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: River and Jayne develop into these as the story progresses.
  • Weaponized Exhaust: In no fewer than three instances, someone has used the exhaust of a ship as a weapon. In "Business" Wash uses the plasma from a full burn to blind and heat up the hull of an Alliance gunship, allowing the crew a chance to open fire with their small arms and do some actual damage. It isn't until Jayne uses an armor-piercing shot that he actually penetrates the hull. In "Adrift" Wash blinds a Reaver ship with the damaged engine's exhaust, and in the "Fourth Interlude" River manages to send a pirate ship into an out of control spin by directing her ship's exhaust into the intakes of one of its engines, causing an emergency shutdown on that thruster.
  • Wham! Episode: "Charity." River and Jayne start going at it. There's an Inducer controlling the village, and its Katie. And then Mal's shot, suffered brutal head trauma, and now he's bleeding out. And Katie's mindraped River and now controlling her and making her walk away from the crew.
    • "Hunt" has a less brutal but no less important one, where River, rather than being rescued, flees from the crew out of both shame and fear that she cannot control her combat programming.
  • Wham! Line: "Charity" has one hell of one: "Katie."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: suffice to say, most of the crew are not happy about Mal spacing Niska's henchman.
    • His initial decision to let Simon die rather than risk seeking medical aid from the Alliance was not very well received either.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: When all you have is the ability to enslave minds by manipulating emotions...though in this case, the character is a mentally unstable nine-year-old, and her repeated use of Mind Rape and psychic murder is what led to more violence, which leads to more psychic assault and murder....
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: River, when confronted by Si Quan, does just shoot him.
  • World of Cardboard Speech: Simon has one when Zoe hints that his fear for his sister might get in the way of a rescue operation.

 When I rescued River from the Academy, I had to walk in there armed with only a stun grenade and pretend I was a military officer. The slightest slip-up and I would have been discovered. When we were about to be burned alive, I chose to stand up there, eat my fear, and die with her. When we were arrested on Ariel, I had to control myself while facing death or worse for her. And when we went after Niska's ship, I was in the room with you when you and Mal tore a helpless man apart for information in order to find River and Jayne.

So do not look at me, and tell me I cannot damned well be cold when I need to be to save someone I love.

    • River's letter to Simon at the end of "Hunt" is nothing but this.
  • Worthy Opponent: Si Quan, Ott's resident Arrogant Kung Fu Guy, declares River as one of these. She then shoots him in the throat.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Mal is perfectly willing to belt River across the face when she goes berserk in "Mosaic" and starts shooting up the scenery.
  • Wretched Hive: Sirroco Station, called that by name thanks to Wash being a Star Wars fan.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Womack forces Mal into one of these in the "Silver" arc, with his primary goal being to placate his superiors in Allied Enforcement and keep any evidence from being traced back to himself. Either Mal goes after Dumont and destroys the evidence of the organ smuggling, or Womack arrests Mal and his crew and uses them as scapegoats. If Mal is taken down in the subsequent mission, the attack will force Dumont to flee the planet, achieving Womack's goals anyway. If Mal succeeds, he destroys all evidence of Womack's operations and Womack goes scot-free.
  • You Are Not Alone: Jayne and River while being tortured by Niska.
    • In the flashbacks, after River tries to kill herself, John Garis assures her that she isn't alone.
  • You Can Barely Stand: River and Jayne at the end of the "Business" arc, when they are confronted by the Hands of Blue.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Operative executing Obrin at the end of "Condor"
  • You Shall Not Pass: In "Adrift," when Book charges the Reavers to keep them from getting to River.
  • Your Head Asplode: Zoe smashing in Marietta's head with Mal's sledgehammer.